A Travellerspoint blog

Return to work and forms of address

Monday 12th January 1 month, 27 days

Ooohhh one more day of being 26 to go!

I went back to work today. Turns out my counterpart, Herminio, had a motorbike accident during the holiday period – he was on the back of a friend’s bike and they’d been drinking, oh dear – and he went home early to rest his back. They haven’t quite got on to drink-driving laws or education in Timor yet, I notice drink-driving is a bit of a habit with some people (and they aren’t all locals, either).

Something happened to me on my little half-hour walk home today. I got called ‘Mister’ twice by kids. Let me explain a little about this. When you walk down the street in Timor, everyone greets you (unlike Australia, as my housemate Brie points out, where people usually scowl as they walk down the street and ignore everyone else). Usually it is a greeting for the time of day:

Bondia – good morning, to 11.30am
Botardi – good afternoon, to sunset
Bonoiti – good evening, for all the night.
Sometimes you get this on its own, sometimes you get a term of address. Note, the ‘family’ ones are actually used to everyone regardless of whether you are actually related – I get called ‘mana’ and ‘tia’ by perfect strangers:
Alin – younger brother / sister
Mana – older sister
Maun – older brother
Tiu – uncle
Tia – aunt
Senyor – polite form of address for adult male
Senyora – polite form of address for adult female

Now if you are a malae, that is a foreigner (this is a positive, respectful word – unusual, huh?), you also get ‘sister’, ‘brother’, ‘mister’ and / or ‘missis’ from those who speak any English. So I might walk down the road and get ‘Good afternoon, sis!’ from a neighbour. It’s surreal using such familiar words for different linguistic purposes: to say hello, rather than open or close a conversation, for example.

So! Back to my original point! I got called ‘Mister’ twice on the way home today! Usually I don’t love being called ‘Missis’, even though I realise that in Timor I am definitely old enough to be classed as such. When two separate groups of kids called out ‘Hey Mister!’ at me, however, I found my reaction was to laugh and pretend to scold them, ‘No! Lae! Missis, missis!’.

Posted by timortimes 18:18

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