Youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms
Thomas Gray 1716-1771
This strikes a chord with Brian and I, and at the moment more than ever, as we both work with young people in Timor-Leste, a nation emerging from oppression and war.
The majority of Timorese are under the age of 30, and it shows; just stand in the street as thousands file out of schools across Dili, resplendent in their squeaky-clean, distinctive uniforms. They hold hands, laugh, unwittingly cause major
traffic disturbance and simply shine with their energy, hope and well, youth. They have the odds stacked against them for a successful career and financial stability but odds don’t come into it; they have heart. There are simply too many of them for their paths to be an easy one. There are also few employment opportunities, today. The lucky few may get a chance to study in Indonesia, Europe or Australia although the majority will be competing with the tens of thousands of peers with similar education. If statistics are to be believed, things are improving steadily for these young, soon-to-be-leaders of Timor-Leste.
The young guys Brian works with are wonderful young men, in their early 20’s, recently completing their studies in electrical, welding & plumbing trades. My Dad once told me that young, innocent people have a glow that is simply joy for an older person to witness. Brian and I must have slipped into the older demographic, as we truly find it a joy to witness.
Brian refers to his students as “the kids”, with great affection, and they refer to him as “the big boss”. At 6’4.5” his presence is felt in any room but it’s his gentle, unassuming nature that they like.
He has the patience of Job and the wisdom that getting involved and making mistakes gives a person. Add to that a big heart and yes, I think that these young boys have a great Mentor.
The young people I am lucky to work with are also delightful. I bring the average age up by 20 years by being in the building. I sound like a Nanna when I say that it’s difficult to not feel young around them, yet on some challenging days I feel old, out of touch and clueless, but they’re also feelings that keep me on my toes.
As I type this I can hear the usual sounds from over the fence; Latin tunes like Duele el Corazon and Despacito. These embody the spirit of the young people in Timor-Leste today and you won’t go into the street without hearing them. Passionate, Portugese blood definitely flows through many veins here and throw in the affinity they have with Reggae and you have a pretty good feel for the tone of the place.
The Timorese can move and groove and despite their shyness they’re quick to respond to a beat or a strum of a guitar. In the corridors at work I constantly hear them sing as they walk towards the coffee pot or return from a meeting. If the power goes out, which it does often, out comes the guitar and they all adjourn to the verandah for a singalong. Their bodies begin to move and their faces light up with smiles, as my skin tingles. I hope they never sacrifice this joy for a serious workplace like we endure in “developed” countries.