homegoing — goodbye Dili

Two delayed flights and a sprint through Darwin Airport later she is safely back in Australia and no longer in Dili. To bookend the blog’s return this trip, we need one final post: an update and short goodbye, and a thank you for reading.

When I first wrote on this blog, when I was first living here, I took great care to tell you what happens after you leave Timor-Leste — it was the biggest question on my mind when I was reading expat blogs before my first move to Dili in early 2017. Six months after moving home I wrote:

I felt so invested in other people’s stories and experiences that after they left Timor-Leste and resumed their real lives, I felt like I’d fallen out of touch with an old friend. What happened next, I wanted to ask. Where do you get your groceries now and are the men still awful and do you have a cat and has life sped back up again?

Most of the very few people who read this blog are in fact my friends, or they are friends of friends, and if we don’t know each other in the flesh we follow each other on social media.

Today eight people have visited the blog; on the day I left Dili, it was 19; on Christmas Day, it was four. Most, if not all, of this very small handful of people actually already know that I’ve left and know what I’m up to.

But for the future volunteer who finds this blog in two years’ time, for the couple of infrequent visitors who don’t know me or Felix personally, for any of my mum’s friends she’s sent this link to — a goodbye for now, and what’s next.

I left Dili on Thursday, 3 March, after an unexpected and unannounced 27-hour-long flight delay that saw me sprinting through Darwin Airport, sans suitcase, to make my connection to Perth and get home in time to be there when my sister gave birth. Long story short: my nephew is perfect, and please only ever fly Airnorth airline between Dili and Darwin.

The goodbye with Felix was sad but not awful — now that Australia’s borders are completely, finally open, he’s allowed to visit me, and will do so later this year. I’ll also try to make it back to Dili to spend September with him and our perfect pup, Pepi. After 11 months we’re experts at long-distance, and I’m not worried about this time apart.

I’m writing this post from Perth, the sunny west-coast city where I grew up — on Saturday I’ll fly again (still sans suitcase) to Melbourne, where I live and work. I’ll spend the rest of the year in Melbourne and need to buy a good coat.

Perth is where I was when I wrote that post six months after moving back from Timor-Leste. As I type, I’m understanding the adage ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ — three years on from that first return, I’ve gone around the country, worked four jobs, lived in three houses, endured six COVID-19 lockdowns, and yet few of the constants in my life have actually changed.

I’m writing this post from the Centre for Stories, which is the exact literary organisation I volunteered with on returning home (I’ve stayed in touch and do ad-hoc fundraising work in exchange for office space when I’m back). I just emailed the pharmacist’s manager for a catch-up — three years after helping name the business I’m still writing its website copy and blogs. My dad still annoys me with detailed questions about my schedule. I still love crying, muesli, swimming, good eyebrows, Satchmo, and the farmer’s market. Felix is great, Instagram is great, and the buses up and down Cambridge Street still get me where I need to go.

Looking back on that post and that time, mid-2019 was one of the happiest and richest periods of my adult life. I felt like I had a clean slate and boundless energy. Everything was on purpose, life felt deliberate and fresh; an April morning.

I feel the same again now.

Coming to Perth is always coming home, but I feel like I’ve finally shed the expectations I sketched out here and feel the fond old familiarity without any suffocation. This is the year we start to turn the body back west. The longest way round is the shortest way home.

The blog might come back if I’m in Dili again later this year. For now, here’s the quickest way to browse the old posts, and where you can stay in touch with me.

Goodbye, but it’s only a goodbye for now — the Tetun ‘ate logu’, or until later, or more like see you later. But for now, the blog will pause. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading, and for being part of my time, every time, in Timor-Leste. Even if we don’t know each other you are part of my life here and what makes it so rich and wonderful. See you soon.

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