It’s been a week of settling in and getting oriented: last weekend, I said goodbye to the madres and moved into my permanent home in a beachside suburb called Farol. To celebrate the weekend and the good weather, my new housemate Laura and I climbed the hill to Cristo Rei – the Jesus statue overlooking Dili that Lonely Planet calls one of Timor’s top tourist sights, and which feels like the kind of cursory-but-worth-it things you have to do in a new city: the Dili equivalent of seeing street art in a Melbourne laneway.
Ugh, box-ticking is so boring, right?
Five hundred steps take you from the carpark at the base of the hill to Jesus at the peak, and it’s a popular spot for exercising (Perth friends, think Jacob’s Ladder). Laura and I heaved ourselves up the stairs, clumsily navigating around sprightly jogging Timorese men, and in less time than I thought were panting at Jesus’ feet.
Jesus was a gift from Indonesia to celebrate 20 years of occupation – my response to that fact pictured above
There’s a beautiful view of the entire bay, and Laura and I wasted no time in going full cheeseball tourist – filling our camera rolls with shots of the ocean, Atauro Island, and the white-sand beach between the statue and Dili city proper, called Areia Branca – where (other) Laura, Christine and I sat in the sand and drank papaya juice on my first weekend here.
From Jesus’ feet – Dili wraps itself against every inch of the coastline in this picture
We reluctantly descended as the afternoon sun grew weaker – it’s not a good idea to attempt those stairs in the dark. While I was disappointed to farewell the birdseye view, back on flat land we bore witness to one of the most spectacular ocean sunsets I’ve ever seen, which felt like far more than a fair consolation. Pink skies and clouds make for two very happy tourists.
Want 400 more of the same shot? I’ve got them
Cristo Rei ticked off, I spent the rest of the weekend getting acquainted with Farol, including, happily, its proximity to Letefoho Specialty Coffee – Dili’s own specialty roaster and cafe, complete with all the industrial-chic fittings, denim-clad baristas and tasting note cards to make a Fitzroy loyalist feel immediately at home. I tried a walk on the way there – an easy 20 minutes along the beach road, with a decent footpath for about half the way – and caught a quick microlet on the way back, feeling very pleased with myself for immediately spotting the (ah, frankly unmissable) landmark for my house: the beautiful Motael Church, a Catholic church on the waterfront.
I love my little house already. It’s a small green house inside a compound, which is common here, and I live next door to my landlords. It’s safe, secure and fun, with people hanging around and friendly calls of Bondia, bondia every time I enter and exit the compound. My house doesn’t really have a front entrance; when you pull up outside those plants above are what greet you, and that little window is the one from my bedroom.
You pass the plants to get to our verandah, which is lovely and cool and airy, and enter the house at the door at the far end. The front door opens into a large living room-dining room hybrid, behind which is the kitchen, and we each have an ensuite attached to our bedrooms: mine down a skinny corridor back towards the street-front side of the house, and Laura’s door at the opposite end of the lounge room, to the right of the front door.
The verandah, the front door viewed from my bedroom hallway, and one of our garden plants
I’m feeling happy and settled in Farol, and I’m excited to continue my exploring and orienting this weekend coming. My next to-do list items are the essential cultural experiences of visiting the Xanana Reading Room museum, the Resistance Museum, and having some $3 margaritas at the beachfront Mexican place a dangerously close proximity to our little green house.
I think I’m really going to like it here.