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My daily routine

My daily routine begins when the Concern driver comes to pick me up at the team house at 7:45am. My housemates and I climb into the Land Cruiser and we’re at the office by 8am. On Monday mornings we have an hour-long staff meeting.

The security briefing is usually the most interesting part. It’s where you get to hear about street fighting or other civil disturbances, often involving “martial arts groups.” These ad-hoc groups are comprised of disaffected, often unemployed young men who perform various martial arts rituals. Rightly or wrongly, they’re frequently accused of promoting gang activity and exerting their influence through fear and intimidation. 

This morning our security officer shared some bizarre information with the staff. He advised us that next weekend a resistance leader who fought against the Indonesian occupation and who was thought to have died three decades ago may be coming to Dili. According to the rumour, he wants to show that he’s still alive and that he’s now opposing Timor Leste’s newly elected government. No one seems to know if this is fact or fiction. But we’re advised to be alert to possible civil unrest just in case.

For someone who is used to coming and going as she pleases, life in Dili is quite a change. United Nations reports describe the security situation here as fragile. It’s unsafe for foreigners such as me to walk the streets after dark, I’m told, and taking taxis alone at night if you’re a woman is against Concern’s security policy. As a result, Concern staff that don’t have cars rely on a shared driver in the evenings to get around. Every day after work, I try to get out to what people call “The Big Jesus Statue.” It’s a monument of Christ that sits on a hill on the outskirts of Dili. A staircase of about 500 steps leads to the base of the statue. After a sweaty climb to the top, you’re rewarded by glowing sunsets and sweeping views of the ocean in all directions. The frustrations of the day melt as you watch a large glowing ball of orange sinking into the sea.

My time in Dili is a constant reminder of how fortunate I am to normally have things like predictable electricity, high-speed internet, a functional postal service, Skype, my own vehicle, the expectation of personal safety and language skills that people mostly understand. I keep reminding myself that it’s good to be experiencing life in a country with little infrastructure, massive poverty, food insecurity, and so many other problems. While it’s all very frustrating to deal with now, I’m sure I’ll look back on my time in Dili as a very special chapter that taught me humility and gratitude for what I have.