I’ve written before about how I read a lot of expat blogs before I moved to Timor-Leste. One post that caught my attention was this poetic, free-flowing description of what this country means to the author, Lizzie, and six months into my own experience of Timor, I’d like to try the same exercise.
All credit to Lizzie for this way of writing — I’m just slotting my own thoughts into her original structure.
What is Timor-Leste for me?
It’s squinting every morning in the bright Dili sun. It’s pastel-painted houses and billboards advertising mi goreng and 4G internet. It’s squeezing past knees and meeting shy smiles cramped together in a microlet. It’s sad-eyed dogs nosing for food in the rubbish pile and putrid square-cut manholes in the middle of the footpath and it’s young men lazing by the side of the road saying hello baby, where you going, and a silent girl tonging fried dosi into tiny plastic bags behind them.
It’s the wub-wub-glub of the new water gallon settling into place and the cool of blue lounge room tiles. It’s fresh coriander and sweet local carrots and tomatoes traded for fish with the neighbour. It’s a bamboo bookshelf and the tip-tap of a coin on a microlet and the way the light changes as the sun sets over the sea. It’s the tinny bass of the electronics shops on Jacinto Candido road, selling speakers and brooms and plastic toys and blasting Justin Bieber with a reggae beat underneath. It’s white rice served in a colander and two queues of people filing neatly down either side and coloured napkins folded into kites and a toothpick piercing the back. It’s the four palm trees on the beach road and coconuts sliced open in front of you.
It’s dancing barefoot under the fans and a hangover on a Friday. It’s red wine from the fridge and friendships on fast-forward. It’s sweat clinging to your top lip and dry dust in your throat. It’s silent stares and betel-stained teeth and an old skinny woman wrapped in a tais and green-and-gold school uniforms. It’s giggling kids and ba nebee? and broken taxi doors and mana Tetun moos! and the joyful wak-wak hoot of a Timorese man’s laugh.
It’s a dropped-out skype connection and buying phone credit in paper tabs from the side of the road. It’s cacti and bougainvillia and bright pink on pastel walls. It’s sugary black coffee drunk roadside on plastic stools. It’s the cool fresh air in the mountains and feeling like home when you come back to hot cement Dili. It’s the step up into a Prado and the Peace Corps in town and $2 dresses hanging at the secondhand stalls and it’s using landmarks for addresses and everyone knowing who lived in my house before me.
It’s mana and maun and I think I’ve seen you around before. It’s hysterical laughter and red rice at Lili’s. It’s all the Tetun words that end in -ilidade. It’s good coffee and cheap tempeh and a clean house and a neighbour washing your car and everyone sharing everything and a coffee after lunch and there’s mushrooms at Kmanek! all of a sudden in the group chat.
It’s a firey sunset every evening and new friends for a lifetime and a chance to exhale. And, for now, it’s normal. It’s home.