IMG_1526I don’t know whether the feeling in my stomach is because of nerves or the antimalarials. I’m thinking it’s both.

Today I’ll reach Dili, Timor Leste, also known as East Timor. I’ll be reacquainted with my Timorese older ‘sister’ and her family. We’ll spend our time cooking and I’ll be learning all about food in Timor. Sister Mana Berta is warm and witty, and she makes a mean pudding. Mana is the way I’m to address older women, and though Berta is just two years older than me, her wisdom makes the title seem all the more appropriate. Moun is used to address men, and so I call Berta’s husband Moun Casamata. Berta is in her early thirties, moved to Dili from another region, Bacau, and as well as looking after her family she works as Secretary for a legal firm. She and Casamata are excitedly expecting their first baby. Casamata’s nephew, Aneu, will be there to meet me when I arrive at Dili Airport. He lives with Casamata and Berta.

I’m on the cusp of seeing Dili for my second time. And I’m full of energy even after a 4am start. I’ve a 3-hour wait at Darwin Airport between a connecting flight from Melbourne to Darwin and it will be onwards to Dili.

The Melbourne to Darwin leg takes about 4 hours. Looking down, the country beneath me is vast but intricate; bright with orange, green and blue. It seems endless yet is full of patterns and shapes unique to our great land. The Darwin to Dili trip is mostly water with the flight time just long enough to scan a magazine and fill out your paperwork for entering Timor Leste.

I remember wearing Dr Martens on a study trip during uni in Darwin. How times have changed. Appropriate footwear? Check. I feel more at ease with this heat than I once did. I’ll phone my dear friend Alex from the airport. I want to cherish the final feeling of anticipation with her. Alex has been my inspiration, an advisor, and a fellow food enthusiast as we have talked for a year about the joy of cooking with others.

I’m looking forward to being in Dili in again.

To relax a little more and uncover more of its layers. I feel excited, energised, ready for this adventure. ‘

I wonder who will be cooking with Berta? Whether they are people she knows or not, and what brings them to hers to join in the cooking?

I’m thinking too of what might go wrong and hope that I can stay calm if…when…things happen unexpectedly.

What am I hoping to achieve from going to East Timor to learn how people cook? A sample of Timorese food and recipes which looks visually stunning and draws both Timorese and foreigners in. Stories and insights from young Timorese women about food, cooking, maybe even the beauty properties of coconut oil. If is ‘successful’ in Dili, a cooking session will be where women are offered or receive a recipe, and where women come to strengthen their networks. And of course to have fun!

I hope, at the very least, it is a fabulous time for all involved.

~ Heidi x

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