So I need to get the crap stuff out of the way first.
Understandably, a bought of Dengue Fever is enough to put a dint in even the chirpiest of dispositions. As someone who prides myself on being a 'glass half full' kind of gal, prepared for my first (and hopefully last) Tropical Infectious Disease I was not. Eeeek.
I will spare you the ins and outs as its simply isn't pretty, or entertainment worthy, but if you are curious 'Wikipedia away' for more information. I assure you that armed with this knowledge you will never look at a white striped mosquito the same way again...
But come out the other side I did, still smiling (after a few days there where I am sure Marco thought I was going to pack my bags and defect to Antarctica!), and still happy to be living in Dili (albeit now dressed like a beekeeper and keeping the makers of Aeroguard very happy).
Back to the NICE stuff and I want to tell you a little bit about one of the more famous sites to see in Dili - Christo Rei which we conquered back in early March 14 BD (Before Dengue).
No doubt you are familiar with the image of the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue of another ex-Portuguese colony - Brazil.
Well Dili has its own interpretation and it's quite a lovely experience driving the coastal road and hiking up to the statue itself for a view of Dili from up high.
From a distance if you stand on Beach Road in Dili, the coastline to the right of Christo Rei looks remarkably like a crocodile. You could swear God himself when creating it took out a chisel and cut the mountain like an artist would carve a piece of wood.
Marco explained to me that the Timorese look upon the crocodile as the grandparent of Timor (The Tetum word for crocodile is La Faek which translates as 'ancestors'), and respect and honour the integrity of the dangerous beast, which haunts the lands waterways. So perhaps God carved the crocodile with knowledge of future times, protecting the Timorese people.
A romantic notion? Perhaps. But like I said, I am a glass half full kind of gal.
The statue itself is 27 metres high and perched on a globe, the statue itself made up of 27 separate sections of copper. To visit the statue you must climb around 500 steps under a canopy of trees while passing smaller Catholic monuments on the way up.
The statue was not (as I ignorantly guessed), a gift from another Catholic country such as Portugal but in fact a gift to the people of Timor Leste but Indonesian President Suharto in 1996 to 'celebrate' the 20 year anniversary of Indonesia's 'integration' into Indonesia.
Timor-Leste is a very proud and loyal Catholic nation, so the monument has become a proud part of the landscape for its people, history of its construction aside.
When Marco lived in Timor back in 2009, Christo Rei was part of his regular weekend jogging routine.
Fast-forward almost 5 years later the scene was quite different for our first family outing to see JC.
Marco's desired sprint to the top was hampered but the 10kg Henry perched on his shoulders in a backpack (picture a 16 month old munching on a few biscuits and trying to pull his hair), a determined 4yo Oscar 'doing Army training' and running up ahead while Marco screamed for him to slow down fearful he may fall, and Isabel dressed as a hot pink sequinned mermaid, insisting she climb every single step 'By MYSELF!!!' with no assistance, despite tripping over her mermaid tail constantly.
Then there was me, bringing up the rear dancing from side to side with my Aeroguard and water bottles, expecting to catch any number of my family up ahead if they tripped (good God, please not 90 kilos of Marco). Fair to say the pace was more leisurely than labour intensive.
Our troop also provided Saturday morning entertainment value to the many non-child accompanied groups who passed us up the stairs :-)
But reach the summit we did, and very excited kidlets waving 'we did it!' arms enjoyed the view from the top over the beautiful Dili we currently call home. 'The REALLY big guy' (JC) impressed Oscar, whose neck craned right back to take in the enormous site. Isabel grizzled that she really should have brought her ballet shoes for the hike. Henry grizzled that he dropped his biscuits.
This walk will I am sure be a fairly frequent part of our Dili weekends over the coming years. As the kids grow no doubt the pace, conversations (and wardrobes) will also change and develop with maturity.
I am quite sure our fondness for this amazing country will too.