A beautiful island view in Dili, East Timor.

In a few weeks we will be saying goodbye to our life in Dili. Though I have moved many times in my life – across states, oceans, and time zones – the experience is always bittersweet for me. I feel happy, sad, and a little nervous all at the same time.

We originally thought we would stay in Timor-Leste for 2-3 years, but when a great job opportunity for my husband opened up a year early, we decided to go for it.

Admittedly, when I first found out about a possible move my immediate reaction was PANIC. The change felt too soon, too big, too different. Usually, when it’s time to leave a place I feel ready to go. But this time I had mixed emotions.

Slowly, as the idea sank in I began to come to terms with it. I didn’t think I could cope with a quick move, but when I thought about the possibility of leaving in December (four months away at the time), I found that I could breathe again. As the opportunity unfolded, the possibility began to take root.

When we returned to Dili after spending the summer in the US, I had a hard time re-adjusting. Until then, I had usually managed to brush off the little annoyances by reminding myself of the good things about living here: the simpler life, supportive community, stunning scenery.

Yet with the glimmer of change on the horizon, things began to look a little different. The potholes were bigger, the driving seemed worse, the internet was slower than ever, and the daily power cuts were taking a toll on my positive outlook. Acknowledging the things I would miss – and the things I wouldn’t – proved to be a useful way of preparing myself to leave.

We weren’t sure how the kids would take the news of our impending move, but the impact of our big announcement appeared to be no different from telling them that we’d be having chicken for dinner. “Okay!” they chorused enthusiastically.

To sweeten the deal, we told them that our new house will have a swimming pool. This was all they needed to know. My son immediately packed his carry-on bag (a month early), sacrificing nightly cuddles with his favorite toys to ensure that they wouldn’t be left behind.

Luckily, our kids are pretty adaptable (so far, anyway). We’ve been spending time each day talking about our new home, discussing our travel plans, looking at maps and photos, and getting excited about the fun opportunities in store for us.  Many of their preschool friends are leaving Timor at the same time, which normalizes the experience for the kids, but does make it feel like a mass exodus of sorts. More than anything, I will miss the wonderful families we’ve met here – particularly the amazing mamas.

Shaula says she'll miss coffee on the beach!

Although I am excited about our next adventure, it is never easy to say goodbye to a place you might never visit again. Over the last (nearly) two years, Dili has been the perfect first “family post” for us, and it will always be the tropical setting for our kids’ first memories.

We have all grown enormously during our time here and it has been an amazing gift to watch our sweet toddlers blossom into confident kids – starting school, making friends, trying new things, and exploring the world around them. For all of this – and for everything we have seen, learned and experienced in beautiful Timor-Leste – we are grateful.

And so, it’s time to make the giant leap once again, as we move from a tiny half-island of 1 million people to a city of 10 million and a country of 17,000 islands.

Goodbye Dili. Thank you for everything.

Hello Jakarta! We’ll be there soon.

As a mother, have you found it difficult to leave something behind, whether it be a place or a window of time? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour in East Timor. Shaula can also be found on her blog, Notes From a Small World.

Photo credit to Shaula Bellour.

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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