The Tetun word for “investigation” is nearly the same as the English one: investigasaun. I learnt this today because I had to report my stolen laptop and camera to the Comoro Police, who told me they could launch an investigasaun into the theft.
I returned home on Sunday afternoon from a weekend diving trip at Atauro. My beatific good feelings towards Timor post-trip sustained me through the shock of realising my electronics were missing, through the tense phone call with my housemate – “how much have you been home this weekend?”, and all the way over to my landlady’s house, where I intended to politely enquire about whether she’d seen anyone unusual entering our compound while I’d been away. As her hands flew to cover her mouth and she gasped, “lakon?!” – lost? – my veneer cracked and I nodded wordlessly, lips pressed tightly together. We raced back to my place together and batted panicked theories back and forth as we searched – have you checked your bedroom? – maybe it was the cleaner? – your friend with the motorbike, who what that? – and continued theorising as we retold the story again and again, first to her husband, then to my housemate, and later, to our cleaner and our compound’s de facto guard, the woman who runs the electricity shop out the front, and then to AVI and my boss and finally to the stern police officer who silently printed my report form for me at Comoro Police this morning.
But in all my self-pity and self-flagellation (why didn’t I back up more recently?!), I’m finding it very difficult to feel really bad about the loss (and I’m aware of how fortunate I am to be able to write that sentence). I thought I’d emerge from that night with my trust in Timor diminished a little – we concluded it was likely the work of someone inside my compound, and I thought I’d be eyeing my neighbours off – but if anything, I’m more enamoured of it than ever from this experience. Without exception, every Timorese person who has helped me with this has been impossibly kind, thoughtful and helpful, and I feel utterly remiss for not knowing how to say thank you for enthusiastically than popping the word for “very” behind my usual obrigada.
My landlady, who, with tears in her eyes, promised to install CCTV cameras and change the locks and who brought her purse over to try and reimburse me for the missing laptop. Her husband, who set out on Sunday night to question everyone on our street, and then came over less than 24 hours later, screwdriver and new keys in hand. Our cleaner and guard, who were hauled on their days off back into my home, waiting politely while I spoke English with my landlady and then shared everything they knew. My neighbour and friend, who woke up early the next morning to lend me a laptop to take to work. My boss, who immediately brushed off the loss of the – work-owned – camera, who empathised with my lost work, who gave me the morning off to go and file a police report. Maria, from AVI, who cleared her morning to translate at the station with me. The second police officer, lipsticked and smiling, who patiently repeated every second sentence in English this afternoon, indulging my attempts at Tetun but making sure I totally understood the gravity of the crime and the process they wanted to pursue. Even Reena, my favourite barista at Letefoho Speciality Coffee, who made me a pour over and commiserated as I tried to use the loaned laptop working from her bench.
My malae friends have, of course, been wonderful – from Tony’s crushing hug as he walked in the door on Sunday night, to Kat copping a spray on Skype last night, and sympathetic texts offering loans from my family today – but this incident was never going to jeopardise the way I felt about them, so I’m feeling particularly grateful for the Timorese people in my life.
I’m not quite ready to say I’m glad my belongings went lakon – although, with more distance, I suspect I’ll get there (insurance money should cover the cost, I lost at most three months’ worth of work, and I’m still safe and healthy and fine, and this matter is as good a reminder as any of how preposterously privileged I am that all those things are true, and I don’t want to ever forget that).
But today, I am feeling grateful for the reminder of how kind, welcoming, forgiving and gentle the people whose community I’ve entered into here in Timor are. And I’m glad that lesson only cost me a couple of gadgets and a pour over coffee.
(The name of this post takes the Three Musketeers’ “one for all, all for one” and adds the name of my suburb, Farol – which this weekend proved to me just how much our community cares. While Letefoho Speciality Coffee, pictured, is technically in next-door Pantai Kelapa, it fits true with the “20-minute-walk-or-less” rule I invented to describe what was within the boundaries of my Perth neighbourhood, and it remains one of the places here I feel most at home).