Daily life in Dili

A few months ago, I wrote a post describing my working life in Dili. Between the sunsets and the fresh fruit juices and witty friends and weekend dive trips, I wrote, you’d be forgiven for thinking my life glamorous and exotic — which isn’t quite true.

I wrote that post just one month into my working life here, and several months on I thought I’d revisit. Here’s how my days in Dili are right now.

7:00am: Alarm goes off. Snooze it. Snooze it again. Snooze it again. Wake up. Loathe self briefly for indolence, then lose interest.

7:18am – 8:00am: Stumble out of bed to bathroom. Shower, brush teeth, return to bedroom. Select sensible trousers and Timor-op-shop top to wear. Congratulate self on finally binning the pedal pushers.

8:00am: Head to kitchen. Make loud clattering noises trying to prepare breakfast in the dark. Wake Tony. Apologise. Vow you’ll talk to Welly today to get the kitchen circuit fixed.  Chat to Tony. Forget coffee pot bubbling over on the stove.

8:10am: Eat avocado on toast and drink coffee and read the Crikey, Guardian and Schwartz Media morning newsletters, and whatever ETAN has dumped in inbox overnight. Wonder briefly if it’s overkill. Then check Twitter for more headlines.

8:40am: Walk to Comoro Road to catch the microlet.

8:43am: Successfully flag down microlet second-go and touch just three different people squeezing into a seat. Commence sweating.

9:10am: Arrive at office. No one’s here. Enter room. Open laptop. Load emails. Make neat boxed-off to-do list. Recognise that it is optimistically long. Commence work anyway.

9:12am: Exit room to see if counterpart has arrived. No one’s here. Re-enter room.

9:30am: Someone’s here! Get called into meeting. Take copious notes and try and figure out spellings of exotic-sounding Timorese village names.

10:30am: Leave meeting. Lots of handshakes. Take gigantic map out to verandah for a photo shoot. Email shoot results to meeting participants.

10:32am: Return to desk. Ignore environmental angst about AC and turn it right on.

10:33am — 11:37am: Wildly and repeatedly switch focus between preparing a publication on terrace farming, organising annual report structure, checking emails researching messaging, copying photos from USB received in meeting, and checking for counterpart. Wonder briefly whether work style is effective.

11:38am: Turn AC off.

11:40am: Message from friend about lunch. Reply yes immediately. Briefly resume work.


12:08pm: Leave for lunch. Speed-walk down Jacinto Candido Road, slipping around slow-walking Timorese women, mashing phone frantically to tell lunch friend of expected late arrival despite huffy speed walking, stepping in beat with the Black Eyed Peas’ I Got A Feeling blaring tinnily from the speakers outside the plastic shop.


12:18pm — 1:43pm: Arrive at Lili’s warung, perfectly on time, three minutes late, select red rice and three point-point vegetables, order iced tea no sugar, heap chili onto plate, realise it’s friend’s plate, apologise, heap chili onto other plate, see three other people you and spicy lunch friend each know, talk about the morbs with friend, decide on lunch coffee, choose favourite of the two good options (“just not Gloria Jeans”), sit under tree drinking coffee and eating free chocolates and taking with Maria, visit Quilina supermarket for large bottle of cold water, speed-walk back to work and guzzle half-bottle in sweaty haze immediately after returning.

1:45pm: Turn AC back on.

1:47pm: Visit bathroom.

1:49pm: Meeting with boss about selling vegetables to posh restaurants and connecting with exciting cooking event that inevitably descends into a different conversation.

2:15pm: Finish conversation, remember vegetables, confirm meeting actions, return to room.

2:17pm: Check emails. Tick boxes off list. Reward self with quick Buzzfeed-reading break. Wonder briefly when you became Office Worker Stereotype.

2:43pm – 5:30pm: Write terrace document. Send confirmation email from vegetable meeting. Read annual report. Check for counterpart.

5:40pm – 7:15pm: Leave work and walk to UNTL for English Conversation Class. Pretend to be stern when class volume becomes unconscionably loud but secretly love it. After class unsuccessfully try to barter taxi below $2 and return home. Chat with Angelina at the gate. Enter house. Try kitchen light. Remind self to get kitchen light fixed. Take grocery bag of vegetables to friend’s well-lit house to cook together.

8:30pm – 10:00pm: Eat rice and kale and deep-fried tempeh and collapse in satisfied pile on couch. Scroll Instagram. Lose hours of life in an Instagram black hole.

11:15pm: Optimistically set alarm for 7am.

11:30pm: Fall asleep.


The header photo from this post is a street I know well — it’s the street in Farol where I disembark the microlet most evenings after work. 


One response to “Daily life in Dili”

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