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Meeting an actual hero and statesman

If you're going to meet an actual hero, a freedom fighter and former political prisoner who helped birth a new nation--that's YOU, Mr. Xanana Gusmão--you would do well not to be 45 minutes late. Alas, Google maps misled me about how long it would take me to drive from my house to the Pell Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mr. Gusmão and a panel of distinguished experts were going to be talking about the future of Timor-Leste. And then I made a wrong turn at the very end and got lost. By the time I was driving down Bellevue Avenue, past RIDONCULOUS mansions, I was more than a half-hour late. But damn it! I did not drive all that way just to ... go home again.

Finally I found the place. A guy waiting in a bus kitted out like a trolley told me yes, this was it.

The talk was happening in a room with gilded Baroque-style accents.


I entered quietly. There were five people sitting on the panel, one talking about USAID and Timor-Leste, and a moderator standing at a podium, but no Xanana Gusmão. But then I realized that the USAID guy was directing his remarks not so much at the audience at large but at one person sitting in the front row. The back of that person's head, which was all that I could see, definitely looked like it was potentially Xanana's. (Yes, in my head I'm on a first-name basis with him.)

A few other panelists talked, all interesting, though my favorite was a retired US lieutenant general, who talked about the difference, in his experience, between states that succeed and those who don't, post conflict.

There was only time for one question, and then Xanana made a couple of final remarks, the students who had been there all departed en masse for classes, and the moderator told the lucky invited few to board the special trolley bus, which was going to whisk them off to somewhere else.

I hung back in the hallway, hoping to somehow say something, anything, to Xanana. I knew I wouldn't really ask him if he could shapeshift, or if he'd like to collaborate with me in writing a story based on this experience, and I didn't want to just gush that I was a fan, but I wanted to say **something**.

And I got my chance. He walked by and saw my expectant face and stopped and smiled at me. And I started blurting out that one small thing he'd done that made me admire him was get out and direct traffic one day in Dili, when there was a traffic jam. I think I said more presidents should do things like that. But before I got two words out, he had lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, all the while looking at me with an expression of friendly affection.

I can see why people would die for him--or better yet, live and struggle for him. He was EVERY BIT as charismatic as I thought he would be, and then some.


This entry was originally posted at http://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/862895.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2017 10:23 pm (UTC)
Wow, what an adventure!
Sep. 18th, 2017 10:24 pm (UTC)
It was!! Driving really tires me out, so on the way back I had to stop and doze, but all in all, I'm well satisfied!
Sep. 19th, 2017 01:55 am (UTC)
That's really cool.
Sep. 19th, 2017 12:32 pm (UTC)
It was! It was wonderful.
Sep. 19th, 2017 09:18 am (UTC)
Sep. 19th, 2017 12:33 pm (UTC)
I was glad I persevered and made it to the talk--even late!
Sep. 19th, 2017 02:24 pm (UTC)
That is awesome.
Sep. 19th, 2017 02:52 pm (UTC)
It was, truly!
Sep. 19th, 2017 03:11 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that meeting your hero was every bit as wonderful as you hoped it would be.
Sep. 19th, 2017 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you ^_^
Sep. 22nd, 2017 02:07 am (UTC)
:) Good to read! I'm very glad!
Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:39 am (UTC)
If there's anyone of my acquaintance who might have received a similar kiss... :-)

I'm a little embarrassed for you to witness my hero worship! ... I do know that, as a real person, he's bound to have flaws, etc. etc.--I've even read about some--but he does have a great way with people!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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