Friday, July 23, 2004

Simple family

Today, I decided to have a lunch at Beach Café in Dili. Warm sunshine and cooling breeze, with perfect view of the blue sea. Upon arriving at the café, I quickly ordered the dish, which I had been craving for lately. And sat around quietly all by myself enjoying the pleasant scenery.

When I was about to finish my Rangoon chicken rice, Xanana Gusmao walked into the open room. Foreigners who were sitting on tables near the entrance quickly greeted him, and he was warm enough to chat with them for a while before proceeding to the reserved table. Apparently he was there to join friends of his for lunch. Minutes later his wife and two curly haired sons – Kirsty, Alexandre and Kay Olok – arrived.

I thought to myself, "Wow, what a surprise. I didn't know that the president is coming here."

To make the story short, I was amazed to see how down to earth the first family of Timor-Leste is. Xanana was wearing a casual long-sleeve shirt without a tie. Kirsty wore a simplistic blouse and skirt with her hair tied into a ponytail. Both little boys were wearing t-shirt and shorts without any sandals or shoes on. They were running around bare feet and sitting on the floor preoccupied with their imaginations. Soon after, the four year old Alexandre felt bored and decided to count the lights on the ceiling, scratching a wooden pole and then took a stroll on the dusty street walk by himself while continues to suck the pacifier in his mouth. The bodyguard quickly followed him.

Kay Olok sat very quietly on his father's lap and observed the other people on the table. After realizing his brother was gone, he asked his dad where his older brother was. His dad pointed to the street to show him the direction. The two and a half year old boy followed the direction and walk by himself. His parents seemed to be very confident with the boys and just continue chatting with the family friends. However, almost 30 seconds later the maid got up to follow Kay Olok from behind.

The family didn't fit into the stereotype of first families that I have in my mind. Very casual, friendly, low profile and no glitter. They travel around town accompanied with a bodyguard-cum-driver on a grey Daihatsu Taruna minibus with letter P and R on its licence plate identification. And with their children barefooted everywhere they go. What an amazing way to teach his children not to forget where they are coming from.

Xanana is known as a very friendly person. He chats, listens, shakes hands, and hugs everyone, even with the poor villagers covered in dust. Kids love him, and call him "Abó Nana" which means Grandpa Xanana. Everyone loves him and his family. The family member always have genuine smile on their faces.

Other then him, I don't know any other president in this world who insisted not to renovate the burnt down office building where he works in on day-to-day basis. He even named it "Palácio das Cinzas" – Palace of Ashes.

If only all world leaders are as humble as him.

To view pictures of the Palace (photographed by Joe Harris) go to:


Blogger Indi said...

excellent writing from an excellent brother. how about asking him to appoint you as Minister of Arts?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Gede Antara said...

Karyamu bagus... Bangga saya jadi Pak Lik kamu.
Rangoon Chicken is also my paporite.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Refkele said...

Hello Yodhi,

I love that story about your prime-minister. The reason I'm leaving a comment however is something completely different. I am a woman, living in Holland and my name is...Yodhi. Isn't that funny? I don't think my parents realized it's really a boy's name. What I'd love to know is the meaning of the name. Can you tell me? When I search for 'Yodhi' on the internet, all I get is Yoshi-hits. I did find an article that says Yodhi means 'fight'. Do you agree?
You can send me a message at, if you like.


3:28 AM  

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