June, an update

Mid-way through the year! A watershed month.

I’m thrilled to announce a dear friend finally, finally got through to me about my stress and busy-ness and made me realise how horribly over-committed I was and how desperately in need I was of boundaries and boredom.

I teetered perilously close to a burnout bottom-out and I’m glad for people who care enough about me to pull me out of myself and help me change some things.

In June, I saw my Mum


I’m not crying; you’re crying, my darling mother came from Perth to visit me in Dili for four-and-a-half days at the very end of the month. We have a beautiful time lazing at Atauro Island, drinking coconuts and gin before bold Dili sunsets, and hanging out with my friends at home. I had a beautiful, relaxing weekend and with her support finally made a difficult and anxiety-inducing work decision.

In June, I quit a job

I’m reluctant to share details of this one yet because it’s not quite finalised, but after completely neglecting a very close friend who fell dangerously ill and called me, very gently, on how my busy-ness was making me selfish, I lined up meetings with two of my three jobs to request reductions in my days and made that anxiety-inducing decision I mention above. The meetings were pleasant but messy, and I’ve decided to remain at one and let the other go, and everyone seems to agree it’s for the best.

IMG_2250[1]A work field trip last month to forest-y Gleno, in Ermera municipality

In June, I made big decisions

Quitting the job. Listening to my friend. And, most importantly, putting my health before everything else. Even though I think I’m reasonably self-aware and believe fully in the significant of mental health, I’m guilty of treating my mental health as something different, something smaller, than if I had like, gastro. I’d happily take a day off work if I’m running to the bathroom on the hour, but if I wake up feeling anxious, indecisive and flustered, I push it all down and head off to the office.

It’s just in your head, right?

Yes, and that’s the very worst place to be sick. Why do I treat my mental health as something less valuable than my physical health?

IMG_2023An honest account here of our trip this month to Same, and a tourist-friendly version here

I’m feeling tender at the tailend of the month but have a newfound kindness to myself and feel energised by the big decisions I’ve made and the positive effect this will have on my health, my relationships, my life, over the second half of the year.

Not a moment too soon, because mid-year, I’m thinking about what I wanted to achieve this year and where I think I’ll be in six more months. More to come here.

In June, I camped by the beach

A couple of friends and I drove to Maubara together for Timor’s version of a music festival: a great local band playing for hours under the stars, with barefoot dancing and coconuts and midnight swims and bleary hungover grins over nasi goreng from the food truck the next morning. Before returning to Dili my friends and I went to Maubara village for strong nutty coffee and soft madeleine biscuits at the beautiful seaside Tasi Cafe, which has a 60s beach shack chic interior I bet a hundred cafes Mornington cafes would kill for.


In June, I had some wholesome Timor times

With my new job at Plan International I was fortunate to go to the European Commission’s ‘strong women, strong nation’ concert at the beginning of the month, listening to two girls from Plan’s programs speak with confidence, courage and conviction about issues facing young women in Timor-Leste.


In the middle of the month, Felix invited me to his cousin’s wedding. His little sister showed me how to roll leaves from the churchyard tree into makeshift horns, I met a hundred family members, all helpfully wearing the same colour, and predictably teared up at the vows (even in a language I can barely understand, in a stuffy sticky Catholic church in a country not my own, the vulnerability and hope of gathering together all the people you care about most in the world and telling them this one, I choose this one and will try my best forever to not fuck it up gets to me).


And after returning to Dili from that camping trip, I visited the Empreza Diak market near my house, which brought women entrepreneurs from Atauro Island to sell their handicrafts, jewellery and produce. I bought a reusable bamboo straw, a straw basket to carry my water bottle, and some homemade moringa powder, which is meant to be unbelievably healthy.


In June, I read more

I’m still dramatically behind in the ambitious reading challenge I set for myself this year, but over June I read four books, marking the first time all year I hit my book-a-week goal. Joining a book club, taking quiet time away on holiday, and feeling quiet and anti-social helped me with it, and I enjoyed new fiction and long-neglected non-fiction. I remember the solo lunch I took in the courtyard of Haburas Foundation at the beginning of the month, having just finished my last book and immediately opening a new one over coffee and koto soup. Quiet joy.


If you use Instagram, you can see me documenting my progress with my hashtag #sophieraynorreading.

In June, I became interested in red beans!

This one is small, but I don’t want to miss it out. At AI-Com, an agriculture research project where I work a day a week, they’ve been doing experiments on growing conditions for red beans, or koto. They’re a nutrient-dense staple crop common in thousands of households across Timor-Leste, but a pervasive belief that they can only grow in the mountains effectively locks out families on the coast from an excellent and much-needed source of fibre and protein. AI-Com researchers were successful in growing red beans at sea level in Same, and now one researcher is replicating the experiment in Dili.

IMG_2119[1]Here’s maun Sebas with his week-old bean seedlings in the AI-Com car park

Every week, we’re posting updates on AI-Com’s Facebook page and I’m more invested in them than  ever thought I could be. The seedlings are growing well and last week shot out little flowers, which will turn into seed pods (according to AI-Com’s Facebook’s skeptical commenters, this won’t happen).


Who would have thought. Timor this month this year has battered me a bit (or I’ve overburdened myself and tried to blame it on a country), but there’s a lot of green peeping through, too.

3 responses to “June, an update”

  1. Bondia Sophie! You’re blogs about Timor-Leste are really amazing… I’m about to move to Timor and knowing to barter at the markets in Bahasa Indonesia will really help =) Nat


  2. […] on this blog and repeat visitor will likely know I’ve been feeling less-than-great for a couple of months. But the last few weeks have been a turning point; I bottomed-out with the end of the deadlines and […]


  3. […] just looked back over my June update blog to see what I wrote about last month, and wow, it feels like an age ago (do I say this every […]


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