Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

Saying Goodbye to Timor-Leste

Dili and Atauro Island. Photo: Nick Hobgood on Flickr.

Usually you say goodbye to a country when you leave it. But I'm saying goodbye to a country I've never even been to. The country is Timor-Leste, a young, deeply-troubled nation in Southeast Asia.

Right now, IFC, where I've worked for the last 13 years, is recruiting for a position in Dili. The job is almost the same as my position in Mongolia now, and I was planning to apply for it. Although there's no guarantee that I would have been selected, I just know in my bones I would have ended up there. I've worked in several post-conflict states before and am used to difficult environments. I also like to run small offices,  especially when my boss is in another country. My experience both in Aceh and in Mongolia would have been directly relevant.

I could visualize myself there, getting new programs going, building up relationships, and becoming more and more knowledgeable of the region. I could see myself diving, biking, and being outdoors. It would have been great fun.

But the vision melted away as quickly as it appeared. The problem is that Dili is really far from Kiev, and Kiev is where my kids are. My wife is back in the Ukrainian homeland and isn't going anywhere. So going to Dili would mean missing out on their childhood, and I'm not prepared to do that.

But the feeling that I am missing out on my destiny is strong. I was born on Okinawa, an island in the Pacific, and spent the core years of my childhood in Africa. I love the sun and the heat and humidity of the tropics. I love jungles and islands and ocean. I love spicy food and grilled fish and eating rice every day. I love the sound of crickets and geckos at night. And I love living among warm, kind-hearted people.

So how is it that a person like me became enmeshed with Ukraine, which is almost the exact opposite of what I love?