Dili, from far away

I’ve been in Australia for three days now. Three days of craft beer and clanging trams and cool nights in denim jackets and ginger beer in lazy parks and water from the tap. From 3,789 kilometres away, I’m thinking of Dili.

From here, I’m thinking of bright squinting sunlight and thick hot air. Of the tall young men who sit on the curb outside my house in singlets and bristly moustaches and say polite hellos every time I leave and of crackling plastic water bottles and the hut-hut-hut of the afternoon boxing club. Of a big plastic green box full of lettuce and coriander and tomatoes and eggs delivered every Thursday, and of impossibly sweet, skinny carrots peeled over a hip-high sink and eaten raw and crunchy. Of the constant, choking humidity, and of sweat dripping into eyes before the heat breaks and the rain comes and the dust of the compound turns to pale brown mud and of my neighbour’s five-year-old who hit her head on a brick last week and who says hello to me in English with outstretched hands and dirty knees and a shy grin.

Of limp green leaves served lukewarm from a warung. Of sunglasses and scraped-back hair and sharp cold soda at lunch. Mix a little ai manas in with your rice and then is it time for a lunch coffee and a long walk back up the hill. Of missing underwear and shoes and towels returning mysteriously days later. Of returning home to a cool clean house with mopped, lemon-scented floors and a full SD card and five new Facebook friends.

I’m thinking of tinny Chrismas carols and fake trees bristling on Jacinto Candido Road. Of dhal for breakfast and a nice dress at sunset. Of a pot-holed footpath pooling with rainwater and of mud scuffing sandals scraped off outside. The power’s out and Sonia’s bought mangos and is slicing me off pieces and Marcelino’s increased my bride price to 70 buffalo and $10,000 and chana masala at Queen Tandoori is $2.50 and the coconut water is room temperature and let’s get another Bintang bo’ot as sweat tickles down your back.

Of snoozing an alarm and sleeping beneath a mosquito net and pink flashing fairy lights and the air conditioning on and a leg stuck out of bed.

Hot and messy and dusty and sticky and warm and close and comfort and home.

The papayas on our tree will be ripe when I return.

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