I certainly feel that I have run out of gas. I was already at this stage before sickness hit me and my bike was stolen this week. There two things finished me off.
I am in a reflective mood, a natural enough feeling I suppose having reached the halfway stage of my time here. I am fairly satisfied with what I have done so far. I didn’t have any specific goals for the first three months; except for finding my feet, getting a feel for the place, and get along to as many rallies as I could. These were fairly general objectives and I think I have achieved them quite successfully.
It’s one thing to read about the politics of a country in journals and books from afar, quite another thing to actually live there for a substantive period of time and learn from that experience. There are so many layers to a country, and Timor-Leste is no exception. What I learned from reading about it in my first year is a world away from what I have learned about it having lived here for just three months.
Even still, after all the conversations, all the newspapers, and all the rallies etc. I feel that I have only begun to scratch the surface of only a small number of aspects of the story here. My knowledge and understanding has improved dramatically; but what I know is still so shallow. Perhaps the greatest thing I have learned here is how little I know. And that is an important point to reach. Prepared with complete modesty to re-enter the field after my week long break in early May, I believe I can crawl a little further along my education about this fascinating country.
On my supervisor’s suggestion, I will take 2-3 days off proper and take a proper break. Winding down and forgetting about it will be difficult. I am an obsessive compulsive with my research, I got to sleep thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it; it follows me everywhere. Being sick was actually a blessing as I couldn’t really think about anything even if wanted to. Stepping away from my research will help give me some distance and hopefully may shed some new light on it. I’ve got a few ideas that I want to develop, turn into short articles; see if they have legs.
I’ve been invited to propose a paper as part of a presentation for a conference in late August. The conference is on Histories of Violence. I would need to put together a half page paper proposal by the end of Monday, not much time, but I have an idea that I might be able to develop for such a purpose. It would be pretty rushed, a fairly scrappy proposal, but it may be worth a shot. Half a page isn’t too bad and I’ve got a topic. Be good practice anyway.
My topic would focus on the deployment of narratives of violence and suffering in the electoral campaigns in Timor-Leste. The political usage of the tragic outcomes of violence has been a common theme here and I think I have enough to turn it into something substantial. I’ll have to cram it over the next two days, but I’ll give it a go. Here’s the link to the conference site:
The language issue here has been quite frustrating. I mean, my Tetun has not really progressed during my time here. I don’t seem to have many opportunities to use it. I need to work harder with it but I find it a challenge. I don’t have a lot of interaction with local people on a regular basis. I try and use Tetun as much as possible but it is limited and I find myself falling back into using Indonesian. English is reasonably common here with the people I am meeting from political parties and NGOs, and I get much more out of these conversations by using English. I read the local papers every day and I feel my reading has improved, so it’s not all bad. It’s the funniest thing. The guys who sell me the paper think it’s hilarious; a malae coming along and buying all the papers every morning. They try and sell me as many as they can, even if they are a day old. Ideally I would do some courses to improve it, and they do exist. I might need to check it out, though I am increasingly concerned about expenses with the loss of my bike etc. And finding time will be hard. When I get back in the middle of May, time will absolutely disappear. Gonna be so busy with campaigning for the parliamentary elections gearing up.
I think I’m done here… I’ll post again sometime during my break in Bali. Until then, stay safe.