Side by side or miles apart,

sisters will be connected by the heart.


Even if she didn’t tell me I could see that they were related. One of the tell-tale signs was the posture – their shoulders were always pulled back and their gait sure and solid. Then there was the hair; both had a head of curls that disappeared when they pulled everything back into a bun. Lastly, the smile. It was that kind of smile that showed all the pearly whites and reached up to the eyes making them twinkle. I knew the younger one, Theresia, because I had been working with her for almost six years. That she is the younger one was something I had learnt that day she introduced me to her older sister, Ma Ita, when we landed in Ambon in June.

The sisters enjoying the sun, sea, and breeze around Ora Island, Ambon

The sisters enjoying the sun, sea, and breeze around Ora Island, Ambon

The relationship between siblings has always fascinated me. There are those who are thick as thieves, such as these sibling-students of mine. Big sister, I noted, would always patiently wait for her younger sister whose class would run beyond regular school hours. Not a hint of vexation crossed her face. Her aura, in fact, showed pure affability. And there are those who, if they could, would totally disown their siblings for one reason or another. Then there are those who seemed to be distant on the surface and not care about each other, but the truth couldn’t be further than the truth. When a dire situation presents itself, the sister relationship is activated.

Ma Ita and Theresia are thick as thieves, each completely there for the other. Physical attributes aside, there are differences that distinguish one from the other. While Theresia is comfortable with speaking English, something she quickly picked up at work, Ma Ita shies away from me, the English-speaking friend of her sister. To my credit, I did my best to converse with her in my broken Indonesian and we did although they were short chats. Ma Ita, like Theresia, had a knack for posing for photographs; the latter though has the added gift of directing a photo shoot that actually made for fun times and Instagram-perfect shots. As for culinary skills, I’ve been privy to Ma Ita’s delectable dishes which even Theresia ate with gusto. The Ambon condiment of colo-colo, a dish of red and green tomatoes with chillies, lemon juice, and a dash of sugar and salt, has a distinctive Ma Ita touch that is unparalleled by the restaurants in Ambon. I have yet to taste Theresia’s cooking. But both are easily at home with groups of people chatting with them like long-lost friends that even a complete stranger, like me, forgot she was a newcomer into their circle of friends and family.

Siblings, as a rule of thumb, should look after one another, but reality always has a way of reworking rules in today’s world wallowing in animosity, to say the least. These sisters breathe new life to what it means to be connected by blood, by heart and soul, and through the distance. They remind people that what they think is clichéd rings true after all –that blood is thicker than water.


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