everything shines just like a postcard

If you saw me stocking up on corn chips at Centro Supermerkadu yes you did, if you saw me rolling round in the waves at Liquica black-sand beach yes you did, if you saw me picking ticks out of Pepi’s toes on the porch yes you did; she’s back in Dili for a whirlwind long weekend and cramming in whatever she can before flying out on Monday afternoon. There’s not a lot to say, but she can’t be in Dili without being in the blog.

We’re eight pm on the front porch with Sofitel-streaked legs and a glass of whisky and lime and coconut water, the dog asleep on the day bed and the table strewn with supermarket reusable bag spilling Pringles, limes, shallots; an empty bowl of guacamole and an impatient wait for Queen Tundriee to SMS that the takeaway order’s ready. Georgia’s tidying her room and Felix is playing FIFA. Pepi — not tick-free but fed up with my efforts — is in rock-solid hibernation.

Feels good being back. A city where you pay cash for everything and it’s always warm and everyone knows your name and you don’t have to change clothes in the evening — for formality or temperature — and you can’t move without passing lush tropical leaves and bright spilling bougainvillea. (Felix wouldn’t let me buy a plant on the way home from Liquica this afternoon; the only downside of the Dili return is he’s let all my houseplants die and smartly isn’t signing himself up to care for another one.)

Dili in full flight as I arrived on Friday afternoon. I’d agreed to carry up some un-courier-able ultrasound batteries for a medical friend in exchange for the cost of a flight to see (surprise) Felix; no leave at my Melbourne job made it a whirlwind four days only. So, we land at 3pm on Friday from Darwin and have to deliver the batteries to the Australian aid office before the end of business hours; feels tight but do-able, probably, maybe. But in line at Qantas check-in we suddenly see a friend of a friend who’s visiting someone we both know in Dili; that mutual friend has a car and works at the embassy and knows exactly where my batteries need to go. Suddenly I have an airport pick-up and a guide and a fresh coconut and we’re in and out of the batteries office in time for a Pateo carpark spritz before Felix finishes work and the surprise gets going (a city-wide soda water shortage topped the spritz with tonic, not soda, and it was almost better, and I was giddy by the time Georgia falsely told him she’d lost her house key and needed his and he showed up at his parents’ house to see me behind her).

Castaway for gin tonics and fried tofu and eggplant and three tables pushed together and suddenly falling exhausted, delirious, at ten pm after three hours’ sleep on Darwin Airport floor (three hundred dollars for six hours at the Mercure, no), back to Bidau with the AC on and a solid nine hours before waking up feeling renewed. Beachside for breakfast, of course, and a series of mini surprises running into old friends and favourite servers, you’re back? just a weekend?! he hates surprises? but he loves me The Saturday quiz we do each week in-person for the first time in months and a highest-ever score thanks to Helder (what shade is Very Peri and where was the Kingdom of Kandy and which way do southern hemisphere storms rotate?), who then helped us through three bottles of red and three vitela with Xian at Prato (Dili’s best steak and my second-favourite fine dining after Nha Casa, even as a vegetarian — order black beans and butter-fried greens and mashed potato and chocolate mousse). Another perfect night’s sleep — Dili feels like a holiday — and to Lauhata today for an ocean swim and coffee and coconuts and four hours at the laptop because she Did Not Have The Leave but the trip idea was Too Good To Pass Up. (If you know where I work and visit their new website when it publishes next month, a quarter of the pages were written at Lauhata Beach Escape.) A singalong to the Spotify playlist Feels Like Home on the bumpy drive back (Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Crowded House, Savage Garden) then back to Bidau for that stupid cocktail I lost my mind over in November 2021 (two parts whisky, one part sugar syrup, one part lime juice, stirred and served with a coconut water ice cube — a simple-sounding but deceptively involved cocktail entirely of my fussy self) out the front with the dog and her ticks and my friends and our chips. I don’t have a smart or sentimental way to say this but wow, I just love this city so very much? The dust and the noise and the grime and the salt and the misunderstandings and everything’s always slow and broken and the 25c market vegetables and the warm smiles and the bright buses and Pepi’s gentle licks and Felix’s parents and the heart reacts to our reunion video and the mountains and the sunset and the streaky pink sky and the pace and the ease and everyone’s on your side.

Leaving tomorrow. A Monday afternoon flight to Darwin, then a wretched 2am departure (we’ll probably be back here together tomorrow night) and a Melbourne arrival at 7am; it’ll be four degrees and chilblain city when I return. But winter’s more than half finished and every day from now on warmer than what’s gone before.

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