Back to Timor Leste for a visit. This was my third time there.

I met with an expat therapist who sees primarily foreigners, but some locals often around the issue of trauma and loss. She passed on that in addition to feeling typical grief, she often has to,help them with the community’s perception of them.

If a Timorese suffers something bad, yes, they may feel guilty, but they also have to deal with what their neighbors think.  The communities are close and the general feeling is, if something bad happens, it is because you deserved it.  Your spouse is cheating? Maybe you took money from the till. Lose a child? Children are still too pure, so it must be something you did as a parent.

The country is 95% Catholic, but this sort of reap-what-you-sow, primitive mentality runs older and deeper into the realm of fatalistic animism.

Large saltwater crocodiles ply the waters between Australia and Timor Leste.  Mostly they hang around the sparser populated south coast, but not uncommonly they’re spotted on the north near the capital.

The crocs are seen as the arbiter of God’s law here.  A few times a week the local papers write about a child who didn’t come home after swimming, or a fisherman snatched from his boat by a croc.  

Afterwards the community cluck-clucks and wonders about the victim or the survivors whose only sin may have been they let a child swim in crocodile infested waters.

But, it keeps people in line. People say, “I’ve lived with a pure heart. I’ve got nothing to hide. I can fish without a problem, or I’ll let God decide if what I’ve done was bad enough and they swim or fish regardless of the news article they just read.

“If the crocodile comes, it won’t come for me.”

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