Sister Clare Garcillano SPC
On Saturday, 19 May, I arrived in Dili, East Timor, with so much anxiety. I had finally arrived in my new mission, after waiting for three months. Thinking of what awaited me in this war-torn area and not knowing the main languages made me a little worried. However, I felt some confidence coming to this former colony of Portugal knowing Portuguese. Truly, I did not feel lost at Dili Airport upon arrival. The people there spoke Portuguese, if not that fluently, at least well enough to carry on a conversation. Later I discovered that only those Timorese educated during the colonization by Portugal, which ended in 1975, spoke Portuguese. It is used in government offices and in the business sector and is one of two official languages, the other being Tetum, the national language. Most people can speak Bahasa Indonesia, the result of 27 years of Indonesian occupation. A few speak English, especially UN personnel and the staff of NGOs, many of whom are from Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.