I felt busy this month, but the scatty, rough kind of busy where you’re trying to do five things and once and not doing any of them particularly well. But on Thursday, the third-last day of this month, as I was finishing up a long skype meeting and wondering what to do next, a message dinged and a friend said want to join for lunch at the beach?
Suddenly Thursday felt like the weekend, late-March like the school holidays, and the rest of the month like permission to take time off and relax. I went to the beach.
Silvery bayside Dili, looking north to Atauro Island.
Something I’m struggling with in my freelance work is managing my time to maximise productivity and give myself adequate rest times. Instead of recognising that I’m productive in the early- and mid-morning, utterly rubbish from twelve til three, and productive again around 5pm, I’m trying to squeeze myself into a 9-to-5 and getting frustrated with how little of my to-do lists I get done. Instead of listening to my tired body announcing it works much better with a Wednesday off than two weekend days in a row, I’m trying to push through a five-day work week because everyone else does it, so why can’t I?
This month wasn’t all about work and scattiness, but I realised this weekend just how much of my energy I directed towards working, planning for work, thinking about work, beating myself up for not doing enough work.
In April, I resolve to calm down.
In March, I travelled.
Green mountains in Ainaro municipality.
I took three trips out of Dili: one a work trip with Unicef, to write some stories for their website; one a trip with Felix to mountainous Maubisse; and one a short weekend trip to a nearby coastal town called Maubara. I love seeing more of Timor-Leste and these trips don’t fall under my “I don’t like travelling” realisation, but oof, I’m glad to be back in my small, steady Dili life after a few big weeks away.
In March, I marched.
Dili stood up for International Women’s Day and I had the privilege of participating in three separate IWD events. A run for equality, panting along the waterfront with hundreds of other purple-clad joggers late on a Thursday afternoon; a panel discussion on the path to preserving the intellectual property rights of Timor’s talented female tais weavers; and a Saturday-morning march and market for women’s rights in this country. I can walk for equality.
In March, I kept cooking.
Korean pancakes, deep-fried filled tofu, sushi and gado gado. A Monday-night tradition kept alive through the field trips and holidays and which I juggled with a new Tuesday routine; the regular morning waterside walk.
I meet Sol and Maddie every Tuesday morning at 6:30, ish, for a morning walk along the water, then a stop at Letefoho for a coffee and a chat. This tradition and their thoughts inspired my reflective blog post, I forgot that it would be fun.
I realised this week that the earlier-than-usual start to my Tuesday tend me to anxiety those days; fretting to fill empty hours with for-the-sake-of-it activities. In March, I’m glad for seeing this and grateful for gentle friends who talk me down.
In March, I worked.
As well as fretting about it. I finished the short-term contract I took on with Unicef and have finished 15 stories for their website. I completed the communication strategy I was working on for an independent Australian filmmaker. I pitched eight times for four successful freelance article commissions and let my writing tracking spreadsheet fall to the wayside because I’m writing every day and don’t need to remind myself to do it. I did four days at AI-Com and helped prepare for a publication launch this week. I re-doubled my efforts with my English conversation class volunteering and have four new tutors starting this week, and two agreeing to step down after difficult time-management conversations.
A favourite photo from an AI-Com field trip to Vermasse, in Baucau municipality, late last year.
I’m typing this out to remind myself that in all the fussing there was some real work, and to share what I’m up to when I use oblique terms like writing and freelancing.
In March, I made some big decisions.
This freelance life may be short-lived for now: in March I spoke with Plan International and agreed to join them as their communications volunteer, supporting their new communications manager from April to December, ish! I’m hoping I’ll juggle Plan with AI-Com and a little freelancing over the rest of this year, but if March has taught me anything it’s to not make myself busy for the sake of it, so I’ll see.
Another big decision I’ll share more about soon: I said goodbye to my tennis-ball-green home in Farol, and moved in around the corner. It’s been the very best decision and a big endorsement for listening to my gut over my high-frequency electric mind.
The house has been repainted since this pretty photo. Pictures from my first weekend in this house, almost exactly one year ago. It’s funny how this place I didn’t even know existed a year ago can be so difficult to leave just twelve months on.
A little sweatier, a little scattier, a little less stuff in the background: a sappy, sticky selfie taken in the last few minutes of my move. Stoked with the year in this place and nervous and excited for the one to come.
In March, I celebrated one year in Timor-Leste.
I wrote simply on Facebook just as hard, much better than I imagined and haven’t reflected more on it yet. It sort of feels like there’s nothing to commemorate, because my newness and my foreign-ness here is ever-present; I never forget I’m a newcomer so twelve months in doesn’t really feel like something to acknowledge. But I’m quietly proud of sticking out the tough parts and growing from the goodness, and my friend who arrived on the same flight as I did took us out for commemorative granola bowls on March second, just like we did on 02/03/17.
A five-week-long month that felt twice as full. This life is rich and colourful and I’m grateful for every tiny piece of it.