I have much respect for a place where garlic is sold by the half kilo. Minimum weight.
I think this could be my sort of town – Dili is immensely complex: the very recent history so astonishing, the people so resilient. Dili is large enough to have variety, be absorbed by, and small enough to get around. It has the same population as Geelong or Hobart.
This is an incredibly special time for Timor-Leste – no longer a Portuguese colony, no longer under Indonesian occupation, and now standing as a sovereign nation without the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor. This extraordinary little country is realising what so many people died to achieve – true self-governance. And I’m honoured to see it.
I stayed in a convent while I found somewhere to live. Setting up my flat took perseverance, sweat, USD, and a high tolerance to cockroaches. My first night in the compound was spent in my tent on a veranda: I’ve since made such great progress that I now sleep inside.
Doing anything here is complicated and takes a huge amount of time – having successfully acquired a gas bottle, water, electricity and furniture, I most victoriously drank a bottle of wine. The cockroaches are internally displaced persons; they are confused by the changes to the flat, and the frenzied cleaning, and have almost all migrated elsewhere. Geckoes, crabs, daddy longlegs, an assortment of mosquitoes, and ants remain. I’m ok with that.
In the compound, I practice my poor language skills by trying to communicate with the security men who live in a corrugated iron shack, beside the heavy reinforced gate. Buildings here indicate a history of violence. High fences, razor wire, guard dogs (and chickens), the occasional military presence, are standard. My day-to-day life has not been impacted by any hostility, but I’m under strict instructions to not be out after dark, and to live in a guarded compound. The built environment tells its own story of a city that has been through some very heavy shit.
I haven’t felt unsafe at any point in the last month, I haven’t seen any violence – but the city tells its own story.
The second day in my flat I’m cooking garlic, and in walks a cat. Mister Busa has stayed. I’m happy for the company, and he is happy with the dog food I feed him – cat food is hard to come by. I try not to make any sudden movements, and I like to think that he tries not to attack me – but he always does. He can be a bit scary sometimes, but he likes my company, and I’m happy he is around.
I think this is the sort of place I can be happy. I’ve bought furniture. I’m nesting.