New grooves

If not quite a routine, I feel this week like I’m starting to fall into a rhythm here in Dili.

Every morning, I wake up underneath my mosquito net to the roosters outside my window. My alarm joins the noise – I snooze it, of course – and I drag myself into the shower just before seven, to make sure I have time to fix oats and yoghurt and to make stovetop coffee before I leave for the microlet at 7:50am. I cross Comoro Road and catch the number three from the clock tower, and stay on it until it gets past the roundabout after the Timor Plaza turn, and then I disembark to walk the last couple of hundred metres to DIT for Tetun class.

DIT entrance – the Tetun-for-foreigners classrooms are just out of frame, to the left of the parked motorbike
Every weekday, we have class from 8:30am until 12:30pm, and now that AVI induction is finished I have every afternoon free. This week, I planned lunches with new friends, a trip to the secondhand clothes shops, and a visit to the gym at Timor Plaza. In the evenings, I either cook at home or go out (usually, with either Laura), and I always try and sit in front of my computer for an hour and sort the Tetun words I wrote that morning into my ever-growing Word document vocabulary list, but lately I’ve noticed my enthusiasm for practise sentences and revision waning slightly. Only one more week to go, though – I’ll start work next week and I know I’ll be grateful for every minute of effort I put into my last few classes. (I feel really lucky to have four weeks – everyone else I’ve spoken to got just two).

My colour-coded Tetun notebook – class might be forcing me to abandon most of my perfectionist tendencies, but I’ll still cling to whatever neatness I can in this big whitewash of language-learning

I’ve been gently reflecting on how nervous I felt to start Tetun classes, and how much I enjoy them now and how sad I’ll be to finish. I still find them overwhelming enough that I need to remind myself to be grateful for them, but I’ve lost the filament of ego or conceit or fear that held me back from speaking; that made me cringe that first week; that caused the nerves I felt that Sunday night before we started.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ll feel even more nervous this coming Sunday, when I prepare to start work. I thrive with structure and routine – likely the reason why I’ve so readily seized this brand-new Dili-life rhythm – and by the same token, I’m utterly hopeless with change and newness (the counter staff at Letefoho Coffee now knowing my name and order is to me as comforting as a whole life spent living in the same suburb).

Letefoho LBs 4 lyf 

Which is why I’m actually really excited to start work: as well as the work itself doubtlessly being interesting and my colleagues good people, I now know from Tetun class that I’m likely more adaptive than I realise, and don’t actually need these little routines and rhythms to feel safe and secure and steady: I can go from dreading something to missing it in less than a month, which is a perfect safety net against anything I perceive to be scary.

It’s not going to stop me ordering long blacks from Reena, but it’ll serve me well this weekend as I sidestep stress and find a new groove.

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