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?
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.
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.
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)