Hello from Dili

Hi folks

Welcome to our new blog about living in Dili. After two and a half weeks here, I’m finding it hard to put the experience into words. Hot, tough, ragged, lively, sad – they all sound like clichés. It depends which way you look and none of them seem to do the place justice.

Having said that, Pat and I are both savouring the assault on our senses, and we’re in good health and good spirits. Above is a photo of our new home. Last weekend we moved into a two bedroom apartment next door to our original accommodation (so no excuses for not visiting), still in the same Timorese family compound that includes everyone from babies to grandparents as well as four other VSA volunteers.

There are no street names or numbers but our suburb is called Bidau Mota Klaran, which means ‘the middle of the river’. Hopefully not literally, although when I told the director of the Dili Institute of Technology that’s where I lived, he frowned and mentioned the word ‘flooding’. At the moment that’s hard to imagine. We’re coming to the end of a dry wet season, the river that runs through the suburb is more like a stream, and already everything is brown and dusty. What will it be like after six months without any rain at all?

Senyor relaxes on the front verandah

Senyor relaxes on the front verandah of our new home

Our house is light and spacious. The toilet doesn’t flush and the fridge has no shelves but the lounge has a long couch that even Pat can stretch out on, and there’s a pretty verandah where we mostly sit and eat. At night the high voices of the children playing outside mingle with the evensong of the Brazilian Christian brothers who live in front of us. I think I can make out ‘the pot’ in the night sky but I could be wrong.

Senyora enjoys the front garden

Senyora stands under the big tamarind tree in our front yard. Kids throw sticks into it to bring down its brown pods and suck the sour insides.

Our kitchen

Our kitchen

We cook on a two-ring gas burner (I’m not sure what to do with the muffin trays and patty pans provided by the landlord.) We’re eating simply, mainly fish, beans, rice and eggs, with lots of local veges and fruit like papaya and bananas.

I spend a lot of time peering out the kitchen window onto the main part of the compound behind us. Right now, I can see a hen with a swag of baby chicks pecking through a pile of rubbish. A young girl with her hair in a topknot walks across the brown, stony dirt in bare feet, cradling a heavy coconut. Two black pigs wallow in a puddle beside a satellite dish the size of a paddling pool. A rooster, tethered by one leg, crows in protest or maybe just because that’s what it does – all day and all night. I marvel that already these sights and sounds seem normal.

Neighbouring pigs over the back fence

Neighbouring pigs over the back fence

It’s only a 10 minute walk to the beach front, World Vision where Pat works, and a big open-air fruit and vege market. The other day, as I was walking home with my eggplants, tomatoes and chillies, an old Timorese man stopped me in the street. He took my hand, smiled into my eyes and said some things I couldn’t understand, then pulled me in close and hongi’d me. It felt like my official welcome to Dili.

So much more to say but we want to get this first blog out, then head for the beach on our scooter. Oh, did I say we’d bought a scooter? A 110cc Honda Scoopy which Pat is already navigating like a pro through the crazy Dili traffic. More about that later.

Thanks for all the emails from home. We love hearing your news. Please keep it coming.

Haree dalan (take care)



12 thoughts on “Hello from Dili

  1. Kia Ora Korua
    It is 3am and we are both awake reading your blog – so relieved to see a familiar warehouse chair on the verandah!!
    The photos are wonderful to give us a glimpse of your new surroundings and neighbourhood…….Señor looks very relaxed like a royal O’Neil should …….. maybe he is contemplating how he will whip up some shelves for the fridge I think , whereas Jack thinks he is contemplating responding to a possible very late vocation to the Brazilian Christian brothers.
    We are going well here – Paul Simon concert was a great night out, I have just spent four days working in Nelson, Jack’s hip op is 9 May, we are posting the 560 Icebreaker tops for the children who live on the Nyika Vwasa plateau early today, then moving Aunty Dawn to rest home in the afternoon – she has thought she was living in one already a couple of times so I think it may go reasonably smoothly?

    Love to you both

  2. Hey guys,
    Aren’t you sorry you didn’t use that color scheme for Daniel St? Glad you’re settling in OK. Sue R.

  3. Hi Pip, nice to hear you’re settled in your new home. I loved reading about the girl with the topknot and the old man….there might be a novel in this!!!

    • We’re having a bit of trouble figuring out the rubbish collection system. It lies somewhere between occasional collections and chucking your rubbish anywhere and let a downpour wash it into Dili harbour.

  4. Love your tamarind tree – looks like lots of cool shade in even the hottest times, and so much green to look at even in the dustiest. I’m already looking forward to your next post.
    All the best, Lesley

  5. John Wootton on April 25, 2013 at 6:25 am said:
    Hi Pat and Pip, Julie here,It is so good to hear from you. I have been thinking of you a lot, so much so that I dreamt I visited you over there. There was a VERY large green snake in the tree outside your house and you cooked me the local fare- I’m afraid the cuisine is one I wouldn’t pursue again. However i am envious hearing about the chickens in your backyard. We are loving being here in Waikanae in Camilla’s bach and have had a drink in your honour,

    Hello chaps – well here we are sitting in Lady Camilla’s bach and thinking on ANZAC day of Jock, Bob and Bill, and, as is fitting for those gents, John and I are raising multiple glasses in their honour. Enjoyed the first blog – cool writing Pip…more on those little micro details like the pigs and hens please. Pat, the languages there interest me. Tell me abut the Tetun (or Tetum as some seem to call it) language.
    All the best

    hI pAT AND PIP

    Having a few beers a bit pissed off because MSP just lost to HOBM but getting over it. Den and I believe that since you (pat) haven’t passed over the PP e mail addresses that you clearly wish to hold on to this responsibility and I just want you to know that we are ok with this. So, assuming you will be familiar with the time zones, you can therefore get the emails out at the appropriate times.

    We have toasted our fathers for their respective roles in WW2 and we have toasted you and Pip for being in Dili. We will report on the rest of the evening later, if we can remember it. Tim arriving tomorrow.
    Stay well

    Hi Guys

    I have some nice photos but I can’t put them here o I might try to email them to you. If there is a way let me know. Loved reading your blog.

  6. Loving your blogs – definitely a book in this. Great to see pics of where you are, that the locals are friendly – and the scooter riding skills second to none!

    XX Rebecca

  7. Pingback: Kichen – Sophie Rai Liur

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