Place of origin: Fahiten, Tibar (near Dili)
I was sent to the PPATN institution in October 1976 when I was only two years old. We were a group of five children all from the Conceicão family from Tibar. Besides me there was my seven-year-old brother and three cousins. In December 1976 six children were sent to the SOS Kinderdorf institution in Bandung; three of them were my cousins, also from the Conceicão family.
Governor Mario Carrascalão’s visit
In 1984 Mario Carrascalão, the governor of East Timor, visited the PPATN and Kinderdorf institutions. There were about forty East Timorese children in Bandung at that time and we were all called together to meet him.
We were so happy that the governor visited us. We all cried. He gave us a guitar and musical instruments and told us that East Timorese have to be able to sing. Before the governor’s visit we never talked about East Timor at the PPATN institution. We were afraid to ask questions; the only thing we knew was that there was a war and that’s why we had been sent to Bandung. My brother and cousins never told me anything. We all learnt to speak fluent Sundanese and tried to adapt to life in West Java. I guess it was easier for me to adjust than for some of the others, because I had no memories of East Timor. But after the governor’s visit we started to try to talk together in Tetun and to remember our families and the places we came from in East Timor.
This visit by the governor brought a surprise for me and my seven Conceicão cousins in Bandung. When we gathered to meet the governor, those of us living in PPATN met the other cousins living at Kinderdorf. I didn’t recognise the cousins from Kinderdorf because I was too young to remember them, but the older cousins recognised each other immediately. We didn’t know that for seven years we had been living close by to one another in these two institutions. No one ever told us.
The governor promised us that during the holidays we could have a trip back to East Timor to visit our families. We began to imagine what it would be like to go home. We were very excited and the staff at our institution helped us pack for our trip.
Our visit home was important for us to understand ourselves and recall our East Timorese identity. All the East Timorese children from Kinderdorf and PPATN went home for Christmas in 1984. When we arrived we were sent to the Seroja Institution where their families came to collect us. Most children came from Dili, though some lived in Viqueque. This was the first time that I met my older brother. All the children were invited to visit the governor and his wife at their home. Our visit was for one month, but then it was extended by another week. One of the children from PPATN did not return to Bandung. She was sick and died a few years later.
After this visit I began to write letters to my family in East Timor, and in 1988 we had another visit home. In that year I had just finished lower middle school. An entry requirement for the upper middle school was to complete an advanced course and test about Pancasila (Indonesia’s state ideology). As these were held during the holidays I could not get permission to return home on this second trip.
After I finished school I got a scholarship from East Timor to study at the university but after semester four there was a problem and I had to stop. But I continued to live at the PPATN until 1991. In 1995 I returned to East Timor. It was so different in Dili compared to Bandung; I was used to living in a big city. I decided to go back to Bandung where eventually I got a permanent job. In 2003 I saved enough money to make a trip back to East Timor, my third trip. It was much more expensive because this time I had to use a passport to travel there as well as pay tax.
Even though I haven’t returned to live in East Timor, I want to keep contact with my family there. My brother is married and lives here in Bandung. This is really my home how.
See information about the PPATN institution and also the Conceicão family.