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Western anger vs. Timorese acceptance

Thursday 9th July – 7 months, 23 days

In case you didn’t notice from all the complaining about Stuff That Is Wrong With My House, something I find difficult in Timor is the blanket acceptance of things, or lack of things, or brokenness of things. This, combined with the inability to think ahead about things one might want or need, makes for (what I believe is) unnecessarily uncomfortable or unsafe situations. For example:

I’m at work. The stapler is running out of staples. There are no more in anyone’s drawers, there is no supply cupboard. I say, ‘Hey, anyone got any more staples? We’re running out.’

The stapler runs out of staples. No one does anything, until two days later, when I ask again, someone goes ‘Oh yeah’ and buys exactly one box of staples. Why would we need more, mana?

Same thing for toilet paper. Same thing for the toilet (it used to be that it didn’t have water sometimes; now it has no water four days out of five). Same thing for the electricity in my flat, where the landlord didn’t see any problem with the fact that it had been wired up incorrectly and unsafely by her son. It works, right? If it doesn’t work, we’ll just wait for it to work again.

Of course this is an example in itself of my attitude to fixing things and discomfort, and also of Western quickness-to-anger and impatience when things aren’t working. On the other hand, although I’m sure Timorese view this with bemusement, wondering why we get cranky like a child and care so much about things, why we need to plan for the future so much when all they ever worry about is today. I guess I think that sometimes Western-style anger and impatience, if it isn’t directed at someone undeserving, is useful. And I know Timor has been a very hand-to-mouth, day-to-day, traumatised place to be for a long, long time. However … it doesn’t have to be so much like that now. I think it’s reasonable if I won’t put up with a toilet that doesn’t work or unsafe wiring, I won’t put up with not having bloody staples. So I ask someone to fix it or I go get lots of staples and then I don’t get disease, I don’t get electrocuted or set on fire and I have more time to do actual work rather than sit about waiting for someone to buy some staples.

So like all things, I think balance is needed. Sometimes it is good to be patient and not worry. Other times you need a bit of justifiable anger and discomfort to spur you to get things done.

Posted by timortimes 00:55

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