Atabae – Ate Logo I Obrigadu Barack

Atabae – Ate Logo I Obrigadu Barack

Atabae – Ate logo i obrigadu barack los husi hau nia laran (Atabae –See you later and I truly thank you from my heart.)

By Heather Henderson

As I sit to write, I hear the melodious, harmonised voices of a group of young girls walking past my house on their way to somewhere. “Ba ne’be?” “Where are you going?” pops into my head. Aaah……. the nostalgia is already settling into the crevices of my heart. These are moments of cultural connectivity I have experienced whilst living in the community of Atabae. Moments to be cherished forever as unique and enriching to my life.

Further to my cultural enrichment and immersion, I arrived to a funeral of the family I have shared my living space with and I am now leaving with another funeral of a family whom I have worked with during my time here. These experiences were all consuming and have touched me in a way that has given me a new paradigm for life and how we, in the west, build our relationships and construct our lives.

Women from the Atabae community singing
Girls from the Atabae community singing

So how should we as invited guests enter into the community that will be our home for an extended duration? Be as water, fluid and able to flow gently, nourish and replenish where needed, but always flow, with the flexibility to change direction at any time. Enter with an open mind and be ready to listen and hear what is happening around you. The sounds here are different to the sounds of our own culture and we have to learn to hear them or we will miss many important things that will guide and direct us along the way.

Open, non-judgemental listening is what I will take with me to my new assignment in Nairobi, to hear and learn the new sounds there. Nairobi will be a completely new environment again. Atabae has prepared me in many ways through lessons I have learned here. I am ready once more for new learnings in a completely different culture. The most amazing experience I have had, and expect will have again, is the sharing of our cultures. I have learned as much as I have taught. How wonderful it is that I have the opportunity to continue to learn from other cultures. So I will be listening.

Heather Henderson will soon bid ate logo to the Atabae Community in Timor-Leste where she has volunteered since April 2013, before commencing a new placement at the Ruben Centre, Kenya.