Start your story with the words ‘loron ida’, one day.
One day, loron ida, about a year ago, I was sweaty and mortified in the secondhand clothes shacks on one one of my first, over-confident OB shopping trips. I’d just tried to barter a $5 price down with what I thought was the Indonesian word for four, but I’d accidentally used six, and the tia had laughed at me as I realised, then dumbly forked out the higher price; burning over my over-confidence, chastising myself for showing off.
A few months before that, loron ida, I’d been panic-stricken and blinking back tears alone in my car, stopped by the traffic police alone at 10pm and surrendering my driver’s license on their request — punishment for not yet having collected my proper car registration paperwork, and the beginning of a bureaucratic tangle that left me feeling frustrated, hopeless and incompetent for a tough couple of weeks.
Last month, loron ida, I took a trip with a few friends to Letehoto, a town deep in the hills of Timor-Leste’s famous coffee forests. Around the dinner table, over plates of pumpkin greens and cups of wine, we told stories together; the padre reminding us to begin with loron ida…
“Loron ida,” I began, “I was in the OB market. The tia said the price was lima dolar, so I said perhaps enam dolar. She said of course, and I gave her dollar haat, four dollars!”
As my table-mates realised my counting mistake they hooted into generous laughter, cracked faces grinning, palms clapping. Then, I told the story of the driver’s licence; hamming myself up as I mimicked my nervous past self forlornly asking at the licensing centre, with its piled-high boxes of old forms and documents, whether they possibly had my license.
Again, we laughed round the Letefoho dinner table. The stories were easy, funny; light. Something to offer. A fun way to reflect on the time and space a year affords; stories that in year one of my time here were tight and hard and embarrassing and difficult; furrowed brow and stomping steps and why is it so fucking hot in this stupid sweaty market. With the adolescent growth of a second year here and another trip round it all gleaming clear and bright; this is funny, it’s allowed to be funny, none of it lasts forever, not even the shame sting of stuffing it up; it’s a story to offer someone else, secure in knowing the rain’s relief will come.