Return

Upon my return to America, Josephine:
the iced drinks and paper umbrellas, clean
toilets and Los Angeles palm trees moving
like lean women, I was afraid more than
I had been, even of motels so much so
that for months every tire blow-out
was final, every strange car near the house
kept watch and I strained even to remember
things impossible to forget.
Carolyn Forché, “Return”

This time ten years ago, I was in my second year at university. Designing the weekly paper, enrolled in intensive Portuguese, and living next to this guy (who is now some famous actor).

I was also raising the rabble (well the little rabble possible at an actually quite apathetic institution) with the East Timor Action Network.

Monitoring the situation in Timor over my amazing ethernet connection, from about November 1998, it became clear something sinister was happening in Timor. By February 1999, we were hearing reports of mass displacement in Suai. Then April: Liquiça. Dili. Unspeakable horrors.

By this time I knew in my heart of hearts what was going to happen… Even prior to the May 5th agreement, it seemed from afar that Timor was headed for catastrophe. I spent June in DC working ETAN: lobby days, events on Capitol Hill.

It crossed my mind to put my name down to monitor the referendum. But I knew at age 20 that I was simply not ready for what was going to happen.

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