Mad dogs, Englishmen and Expats

Carpe Diem! Notice the low angle of the sun and the glistening faces.

Top of the hill. The hikers refreshing at the Australian war memorial and coffee shop.

None of the above have the sense to get out of the noon-day sun. On Saturday I completed my third “Dili walk” with a group of hearty, slightly insane, and interesting foreigners, mostly from downunder, who think that fun is walking for 3-4 hours on a Saturday morning, first straight uphill, along a ridge, enjoying lovely ocean views and then back down to Dili. The catch is the incredible heat that starts at about 8 am.  We began Saturday’s adventure at 6:15 am to enjoy a few minutes of simply hot before the “oh-my-goodness” hot set in. If I was sensible, I would have done these walks in the cooler temperatures of 3 months ago, but that did not happen. And, as I decided that I must experience the best of what Dili has to offer, I said yes to every invitation of the last weeks.  All slightly tortuous, but still with a strange modicum of pleasure. 

A cashew. Question: where is the part that you eat? Now you see why they are soooo expensive.

 The greatest pleasures of Dili, without question, are the people here. The expats are ALL very interesting.  The common understanding is that the only people who come to Dili are “missionaries, mercenaries and misfits”.  I would concur with that sentiment after my time here. Regardless of their motivation, they are all interesting and many rise to the level of inspiring. I would not, however, include the UN workers in this category, who are overpaid, underworked and love to drive their muscular cars around town in a big hurry.  (My apologies to Caroline, who is a lovely Catholic woman working for the UN).

Our walks allow for different conversations depending on which group one happens to reside with for any stretch of the climb or descent (these walks are mostly uphill or downhill). Today I met Eddie and Andrew, both Aussies working with the Australian Police, Lisa, who provides teaching support for families of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, Bruce, setting up a curriculum for auto mechanics, Chris, supporting the hundreds of NGOs in Timor, and John and Jordan, a father and son with Missionary Aviation Fellowship. The group organizer, Natalie, works with a leprosy mission and the other American, Mistina, teaches at an international school. No shortage of conversational topics at any time.

Seemingly everyone loves having their picture taken.

I learned that one can walk up the hundreds of steps to Christo Rey three times a day and still be overweight, but very fit. I heard a man say that he only appreciated the meaning of children when he had his own and his regret that he had not had them sooner and more of them. I learned that Australia has a booming economy on the surface, but underneath are many hidden issues masked by government control.  I learned that over 10,000 houses have been bulldozed in Christchurch as the result of the earthquake and that employment there is a very dicey proposition (or should I say shakey?). I found that a level 10 homeschooler in Dili is happy to be here and wants to join a group of old people walking in the sun (what planet is this?).  And, most significantly, I have seen a few of the hundreds of Australian and Kiwi volunteers who have given up their cushy lives to serve the people of Timor-Leste with anything they have to offer. Truly a good day all around.   [posted by Rory]

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