January 12 - 18, 2014: Issue 145

 Sister Manuela
by Lucinda Rose 

We want to get Sister Manuela a motorbike. She lives at the children’s orphanage right near the village of Soibada, however travelling back and from Soibada she walks… along a winding, steep road of rocks that may be dusty,  may be mud, at different places in the year. She is a hardy woman, Sister Manuela. Her skin is deep, deep brown, textured by years of experience and devotion, some of which she tells us by our candle-lit craft nights, and during those craft nights she joins in, cackling in her childlike laugh every time she nearly burns herself. You can tell just by her very presence how devoted she is as both a nun, a leader in the Soibadan community, and as a very human being. Despite her tiny frame, she radiates a strength rendering it possible for her to accomplish anything and everything in such harsh climates with few resources.
The nuns here in Timor are truly beautiful. Maybe it is their habits that tie in at the waist with a white belt and splay out near their ankles, pristine white against their rich skin (I wonder how they keep them so white), their navy veils or long silver crosses around their necks, but each and every one of them warms us with a smile so sincere and genuine it is almost unexplainable. And you can absolutely never tell what she is thinking! There is no need here to walk fast, to run, to rush about or to attack with life with a ferocity so common in the first world; it would be perceived here with bewildered stares. Instead, it is in fact essential to BE PRESENT, to live through life, being, and all finds every mission, endeavour accomplished, often more.
And so we want so much to give Sister Manuela a motorbike. But how will it be maintained? Where will she get petrol from so high up in the mountains? Will she know what to do if it broke down in the wet season, surrounded by mud with a machine larger and heavier than herself? These are all questions essential to consider when approaching Sister Manuela’s transportation issues from a sustainable development perspective. She is so valued by the community – respect radiates from young seminarians and women when they kiss her hands so gently, crowding around her – and you can just see how grateful she is for it when she pinches them, sometimes playfully slapping them about in conversation. A woman who has put out so much love in her lifetime, it is only certain there will be rewards for her. 


 Words and Pictures copyright  Lucinda Rose, 2014.