Lisa Palmer begins this personal account of her decades-long engagements with the island of Timor and the Timorese by describing how “local people stared at me blankly” as she ventured through the empty streets of East Timor's capital, the town of Dili, on the occasion of her first visit to the country. This occurred in 1997; the armed forces of the Republic of Indonesia had been cruelly suppressing the population since their bloody invasion twenty-two years earlier. The intervening time had witnessed little joy among the people and few tourists.

A passenger on one of the ferries that ply their way through the islands of the eastern Indonesian archipelago, Palmer took advantage of a brief stop the vessel made to purchase pieces of the indigenous cloth for which the islanders are renowned.

For many years now, though, Palmer has no longer faced blank stares, for she has come to share...

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