The subject line overstates the case, but only a little because our adjustment to the purportedly poorest country in Asia has been a struggle. To give you a glimpse, here is a less than exhaustive list of observations.
- Carry-on luggage has weight limits.
It started badly. For the first time ever, our carry-on luggage was weighed in Rome and we were compelled to leave behind the laser printer and extra toner. The plan was to check three 20 kg pieces to Singapore (one of which was the printer box) and leave the printer with the sisters to bring in the future. Instead of paying an additional 1300 euros, the carry-ons became part of our checked baggage allotment, and the box stayed behind.
- Addresses on mailed boxes need to include the name(s) of the actual recipients.
Two of our mailed boxes of books inadequately addressed simply to the sisters were opened; subsequently, several books, including the three English language curriculum texts and bags of spices disappeared.
- It is hotter at sea level than it is at higher elevations.
In terms of temperature, Dili (at sea level) is not Salatiga (at 3000 feet), where we lived previously. It is HOT. Whenever we are out, I can plan on needing to change shirts and taking a mandi on our return. It can be bearable sitting in the shade with a breeze, but add any activity whatsoever, including walking, and the misery index climbs. On the plus side, the humidity is less than Michigan. We are told it takes at least a month to adjust to the heat.
- Lonely Planet describes Dili as noisy, dirty, and chaotic, struggling to heal past wounds, the scars of which still show.
All true. We spent several of our first mornings venturing out, “xtreme walking”, dodging cars, avoiding potholes and trash, and sweat-soaking our clothes. And poor Sr. Aurora has had to suffer through the contentious Dili traffic, plagued by narrow one-way streets and traffic lights that don’t work, this past week, helping us acquire mattresses, cell phone, and groceries.
- There are people who like cats and people who like dogs.
We like dogs and miss Libby. We have had several and will probably never have a cat. Especially after sharing our ceiling with four adult cats plus an unknown number of kittens who are the source of various noises that can be quite startling and upsetting.
- The presence of a large number of UN and NGO personnel, with western salaries, can drive the cost of living to mind-boggling levels.
We wonder how the majority of the population can make it here. For example, local mobile calls are $.80/minute.
- Running water is optional, a “feature”, that is not absolutely necessary to a well-lived life.
If there is no running water available, then it must be toted by bucket, a fact of life corroborated by most of the people in the world. Our first week was spent with the sisters at Balide, one of the three Canossian communities in Dili. Ninety women strong, they manage an incredibly beautiful life of service and prayer without running water. Our new home has a recently installed water tank that can be filled periodically by electric pump. The neighbors complained to Sr. Aurora about it because using the pump makes their water unavailable somehow.
- The production and harnessing of electricity is a truly marvelous thing.
Its absence on a regular basis makes one appreciate it all the more. It is typically “off” for most of the late morning and afternoon here. The most pertinent consequence for us is that fans are inoperable when they are most needed. This is especially lamentable when you realize that the weather in Dili is similar to that of Orlando in the summertime. It also gives one fresh insights into life in Iraq where water and electricity are not taken for granted either, full battle gear must be worn, and the heat is even more intense.
Now for the jubilations. This side of the ledger is summarized in the fact that we are actually getting settled into our new life. A great deal of effort was expended by Sr. Aurora and Sr. Guilhermina getting the VOICA house ready for us and it shows. It now has a fresh coat of white paint inside and out, a new roof (especially prized in rainy season), a new water tank (important because of electrical outages), and two high-quality mattresses. We luxuriate in the clean bathroom, the large rooms, and having our own life. The school and the Comoro sisters have proven to be all that we had hoped for, as well. We’ve been spending mornings at the school this week. It is truly an oasis of beauty. In the early morning, the twenty minute walk is the best thing that Dili has to offer. And we’ve discovered the library: air conditioned, a stock of English curriculum (that will help make up for the loss of our textbooks), and a good enough wireless network signal. If you make it to Dili, look for us there.
A final note of jubilation…. Luke and Laura are getting married today. We deeply regret not being there to help them celebrate. We pray for God’s blessing as they begin their new life together. [posted by David]