I sometimes get the question “what does a normal day look like for you?” as if I have some kind of exotic lifestyle. I wish… sadly the reality of my day is it’s the same 9-5 most people go through anywhere else in the world. It’s just that I get to do it in slightly more exotic locations. I’m not for a highly documented social media life and I suppose that leaves room for conjuring up more beautiful surroundings than is often the case.
Being in Dili, is not so different from being anywhere else in the world. Deadlines, volume of work, intra and inter office diplomacy, meetings… and of course figuring out how to build a social life; acquaintances, making friends, superficial conversations, and confidence to be more open.
I’m working here on assisting the government develop a nutrition information system using what data they already have, or collect. It’s great, and I really enjoy it, despite the challenges that dealing with government brings.
So my day starts like just about anyone else who hates mornings… last minute panic and a rush to get to work on time. I do get a brief exchange in the morning with a very lovely someone and this gets a sleepy smile on my face and is most certainly one of the happiest ways I’ve started my days ever. When I first got here I got a little too accustomed to the nice breakfasts on the second floor restaurant looking out over the bay to Atauro Island. Now, I just eat some cereal in my studio apartment before cycling the 3km to work in easy going traffic along good roads. It’s way more relaxed than my bike commute in Rome, where I would regularly have near death experiences (many of which were at the hands of the local police).
The office is set in a leafy compound and I sit in a corner cubicle, the same as any other cubicle anywhere in the world. Mornings aren’t easy, but again, I get little, welcomed, interruptions that only serve to relax me keep me focused on the greater goals. Lunch is at the canteen in the UN compound (where the office is set) and is surprisingly good (mainly chicken and fish with some veggies), not to mention cheap. The afternoon is a bit of a drag, although typically I pick up towards the end of the day… but as everyone leaves by 6pm, and I have no keys, this is a short lived bout of productivity.
As I haven’t been sleeping so well, by the time I’m done with dinner (recently I’ve been cooking at home as it’s pretty crazy expensive to eat out here, and I’m piling on the calories!) I’m unable to focus or concentrate on much else and regularly pass out on the couch.
Sadly I haven’t found too much to get up to in the evenings. I have one friend and a couple of acquaintances. Although I’m not unhappy with this situation, it can slow up the week, and lead me to feel a little isolated at times. I try and keep myself busy with my photos, and figuring out what all the beasties and fish are called. Weekends are for diving… and quite my goals there are to improve my photography… which I think I’m doing 🙂
As I’ve reflected on before, routine is pretty important. Even if that’s just a good cup of coffee in a cafe with a friendly smile. I have to admit that I quite often find myself wishing away my time on jobs like this. Wishing for the next thing or the next place on my journey. My road trip last year brought me to a point where I realised I was happy doing what I’m doing, and that the life I have is to be lived moment by moment. That I’ve got a pretty awesome future of happiness ahead of me (sometimes the loneliness makes it hard to believe that). The hours after finally conceding to relax with my situation were breathtakingly wonderful. I find myself content with where I am, enjoying as much as what there is to offer me here (work that I enjoy, and lots of diving and underwater photos).
So I find myself happily here in Dili, even though I’m impatient to get on with the next part of my life 🙂
And so being here is as normal as a day in the life from anywhere as it is also a radically different departure from my normal mindset of dealing with a “normal” day. That makes this experience unique and wonderful, as is the events that got me to that place.