Back to Basics

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We are thankful that this well on the church property provides a constant supply of clean water.

We’ve been quite busy the past few weeks but since Monday it’s been back to basics. We’ve been spending time each day drawing water out of our well and carrying it back to the house in order to cook, bathe and wash the dishes. We’re at the end of the rainy season in Timor but it’s not over yet. The past 10 or 12 days have been near constant rain. That has meant, among other things, that the municipal water supply has resembled what you see when you look at a mud puddle. In fact Monday morning the local authorities just turned it off. Why have a faucet if what comes out is muddy?

Thankfully, we have a well on the property with a rope, pulley and a bucket. Amazing technology! As we’ve been drawing and carrying water this week, I’ve been wondering what would happen if something like this happened in an equivalent sized American or Australian town. I think it’s fair to say people would FREAK OUT. Even conservatives would be banging down the doors of the mayor’s office demanding the authorities “do something about it!” Not in Timor. Here in Lospalos most people don’t even have a faucet in their house and those that do, just go on with life. Some have a well they can use. If not, you just load your 5-liter “jerry cans” in a cart and push it to the nearest well. Several times a day.

We’ve done the same thing this week, and it’s been a good reality check. It’s been a good way to reconnect with something basic and essential.   Amazing how most of us Americans take clean water for granted. I’m picturing manicured Midwestern lawns in late summer that you have to water in order to keep up appearances. I’m picturing cases of those cute little plastic water bottles people love nowadays because “they’re so convenient” – even though you have potable water in 5 different places in your house. I could go on, but you get the point. We take the availability of clean water and reliable government services for granted.

I truly admire Timorese people’s resiliency. They seem to just go on with life no matter what happens. Such is the habit of people who’ve lived through wars, military occupation and a struggle for self-determination. They’re used to unpredictability. They’re accustomed to struggling for the basics. An uncertain future is the norm, not the exception. So flexibility and adaptation, not to mention a relaxed attitude and a sense of humor are survival skills. On the other hand, I’m reminded of something a Filipina friend said a few years ago reacting to people’s admiration of Filipinos resiliency in the wake of yet another typhoon. She said: “F### resiliency!”

Indeed. What people in the world need is justice, not simply the ability to put up with hardship.  In the meantime, life goes on. People all over the world exercising revolutionary patience and resiliency in the face of adversity.

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