Below is a blog post that was originally published on Marta and Shaun’s blog documenting their time in Timor-Leste. You can find their blog here. Enjoy the update and follow their blog for more great content!
About two weeks ago, we were approached by our host parents asking about something. They seemed a bit nervous, and we had no idea what was being asked, so of course we whipped out our Tetun dictionary. #BreakingDownTheLanguageBarrier. We soon figured out that the repeated word “sarani” meant baptism, and that it was quite possible we were being asked to be godparents.
Now, doing anything in Timor takes significantly longer than in the US. In order to become godparents, we first needed to go speak with the village chief, or Xefe de suco. Timor is organized into sucos, which are then split into aldeias. Each aldeia has their own elected Xefe, and then all those Xefe de aldeias are umbrellaed under one Xefe de suco. Xefes are typically older men who are well connected and respected in their communities.
Our Xefe de suco was very excited to hear that two American Malaes were interested in becoming godparents to a Timorese child. He instructed us to print our baptism certificates (thanks for sending them, mom and dad!) and to go to the town priest to speak with him the next day. He explained that while he was okay with this, the final say was ultimately the priest’s decision. The Catholic Church is extremely influential here, with priests sometimes having more influence than Xefes.
Come the next day, we hiked down to the church, only to find that the priest we were supposed to meet was no where to be found. 😂 In typical Timorese fashion, we sat with the assisting priest and talked about where we are from and what we hope to do here in Timor. Finally, about two hours later, our priest appeared! He had been taken to breakfast by parishioners in the town over.
Over the next hour, about a quarter of the village came to watch the meeting. We handed over our baptism certificates and marriage certificate. It was the first time we saw our parents nervous–meeting with the priest about this stuff is no joke. He questioned our intentions after our two year service, and thought it strange to have two Malae act as godparents and possibly leave for a very long time in the future. However, the decision was ultimately up to our host parents, and we were approved!
About four days later was the big day. We, among about 20-30 other soon-to-be godparents lined up down the aisle of the church. One by one the priest came down the aisle and baptized the 20-30 children and several adults one by one. It was so exciting to be a part of our community in this way, and we know that we will always have family here in Railaco ❤️
Directly following the baptism, we went to a mini baptism celebration with a few of the other families and had our first cake with icing here in Timor. Definitely a treat after what has felt like months away from America! Marta helped cut the cake with the other baptized children. More photos below:
Directly after the baptisms were two weddings, tons of festas (parties!!) and from what we gathered, ten more weddings and parties over the weekend. We were pooped from festas! We did get to learn how the Timorese party though–very different but also much the same. Let’s just say that there was music playing 24/7 this past weekend and that there is plenty of dancing! Our entire training squad was invited, which is again demonstrating the kindness of people here.
Tons of photos, great stories… we have now been in Timor-Leste for one full month! Woo-hoo!
Marta + Shaun