Wait your patience

After 10 days in the seductive tourist bubble of Bali, I was determined not to succumb to post-holiday blues. We were heading back to Dili for a final three-month fling before life in New Zealand swallows us up again. There wasn’t a moment to waste.

My good intentions lasted as far as the luggage carousel at Presidente Nicolau Lobato airport, named after one of Timor’s resistance heroes. Think Hokitika airport, only shabbier. ‘Finis’, said the airport attendant as I peered hopefully at the empty conveyer belt which had delivered Pat’s bag – and everyone else’s on our flight – but not my little blue suitcase.

Presidente Nicolau Lobato international airport in Dili.

Presidente Nicolau Lobato international airport in Dili: think Hokitika, only shabbier.

We made our way inside the terminal to the office of Sriwijaya Air, an Indonesian airline. A smiley young Timorese man sat behind a glass wall. At the height of his desk, a small semi-circle had been cut out of the glass. To explain my problem, I had to bend down, twist my head and project my voice through this opening. To decipher his muffled reply, I put my ear where my mouth had been, all the time trying to maintain eye contact. It was hard to feel that Sriwijaya wanted to hear from me. Continue reading


A room of my own

I landed back in Dili last week with the blues. New Zealand is to blame. Our grandkids were too beautiful, our families and friends too hospitable, the food too good, the colours too vibrant. Even Wellington’s lousy summer didn’t really get me down. I’ve had lots of hot. It was a novelty to put on jackets and jeans and not douse myself in insect repellent. I loved the wild beaches, the wind on my face, clean streets, plumbing that works, the comfort of belonging.

Three reasons why it was so hard leaving NZ: our grandchildren (from left) Avah, Rome and Jet.

Three reasons why it was so hard to leave New Zealand again: our grandchildren (from left) Avah, Rome and Jet at the gun emplacements on Matiu/Somes Island on a rare glorious Wellington day.

In the month we were home, Timor faded away. Continue reading

Hi, malae!

When we tell Timorese people where we come from, we often get a big smile and the thumbs-up sign. ‘Kiwi!’ they say. Diak’ (good). This is partly because New Zealanders served in the UN force that (belatedly) rescued them from Indonesian slaughter and kept the peace after independence. In fact, more than 4000 of our army personnel and police were here between 1999 and 2012. From what we’ve heard, they had a great reputation, making friends with the locals and playing soccer with the kids. People in our neighbourhood still talk about a group who lived in a two-storey house round the corner from us about 10 years ago.


Kiwi soldiers lived in this house in our neighbourhood in the late 1990s.

Sometimes we even get a ‘Kia ora’. Timorese seem to have a special affinity with Maori. Continue reading