My last night in Timor Leste. I imagine it is not the last night I’ll ever be here, not now that I’ve fallen madly for this country. Tonight we sat down to a farewell dinner feast of seaweed salad, a tuna and tomato pasta, and a delicious dish called tukkir. Tukkir cemented my curiosity of Timorese cuisine on my trip two years ago, and it is a dish that is as special to cook as it is to eat.

Making Tukkir is a spectacular thing. Tukkir is described to me as traditional Timorese food made with bamboo as the cooking apparatus. Cuts of bamboo as long as your arm are filled with new harvest corn or rice, other pieces stuffed with meat, goat and buffalo are popular, and thrown onto a fire for two hours.

Today we returned from Atauro Island where we’d been relaxing and holding slow, easy conversations about the Island ways of eating as we overlooked the sea. The boat trip to and from Atauro was the antithesis to our days spent there. We’d chosen a water taxi, a small boat ‘seating’ 6 passengers, to get us home to Dili in half the time of the ferry. I’d thought the trip from Dili to Atauro on Wednesday morning was choppy given it left me a little dizzy and my skin salty from the sea air. The trip from the Island left me saturated and predictably caked in salt. I couldn’t help but feel excited to be on this adventure. Everyday holds something new and most days challenge me. The upshot is that I grow tired in a day and sleep deeply each night.

I last wrote about Berta a few weeks ago when she was off work, sick. She’s now hit the four-month mark and she and bub had a check-up this week. Berta and father-to-be Casamata were glowing and chatty when they returned home afterwards because they’d seen the baby is perfectly normal. In the past few days the little critter has been moving about and giving the odd kick, filling the household with delight.

When Berta left the house looking for banana leaves to plug the Tukkir she took a knife with her. Not for cutting the banana leaves, it turns out, but because the knife keeps the bad spirits that otherwise are believed to accompany pregnant women when they go outside of their home, away. Bless this family in Bedois and their generosity inviting me into their home, feeding me and answering my incessant questioning.

~ Heidi x

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