It can be hard to settle in with a new community in a new country, particularly when you don’t speak the local language. In these situations it is vital that we are patient and polite, never expecting things to run in the same way as they do in our respective countries, and never expecting English to be widely spoken. For many people this may seem like obvious advice, however, experience has taught me that these expectations can be hard to shake even for the most travelled among us.
My personal challenge is patience. I consider myself a patient person when working and travelling, facing daily challenges like figuring out how local public transport runs with a positive demeanour. However, settling in to a new home brings with it numerous concerns and anxieties. Where will I live? How will I get around? What area is safe and where should I avoid? These are different questions to what travellers ask themselves, and bring with them a different kind of anxiety. When my mind is wrapped up in concerns about my future my patience can wear thin quickly.
The important thing for me when I’m feeling this way is to make personal connections. It makes no difference how these connections are made, or what brings us together, so long as I have had the opportunity to get to know a person, or a few people, in a positive way.
Despite the fact that my mind has been preoccupied with trying to find a place to live (will I still be homeless in a week? Oh dear!), I was able to connect with some of the locals who have been assisting me to settle in, thanks to the very fortunate timing of my birthday. My new friend Maria has been helping me become familiar with work and orientation around Dili and, as our birthdays fell on the same day, we were able to celebrate by bringing together some friends for a big birthday celebration by the beach.
Needless to say, the food, fun and excellent company took my mind off my concerns, easing my anxiety considerably and making this week far easier than it could have been.