That warung called Lilis

Three pairs of thongs (jandals) and four months later, I’m nearing the end of my time in Dili. Burger King seems to sense that our time is up and have cut down their burger options significantly. They say shipments have been blocked so they’ve been stuck without half the ingredients for the past couple of weeks, leaving their most loyal customer (Joris) quite disgruntled.

By now I’ve grown very used to hearing the words ‘la iha’ (no have) when the local kiosk runs out of water or the ATM runs out of cash. Four months ago I would have reacted with disappointment and annoyance, but that has long been replaced by amusement and acceptance that this is life in Timor.

Something else I’ve come to accept is that time is a very fluid concept and it’s rare for events/meetings to start on time, if at all. One of the English class students apologised quite profusely about ‘elastic time’ when the Christmas party started 2 hours later than planned. In some way it has made me reflect on my own casualness about time and general tardiness day to day. Maybe I’ll go home a changed person.

While I look forward to the comforts of being home and the very foreign feeling of being sweat-free again, there are many aspects of the life here I will miss. Somewhere top of that list is this warung called New Lilis Restaurant.


For Joris and I, going to Lilis for lunch on Saturdays has become our main weekend activity. Couch sitting being the other activity. Recently, Wednesdays and Fridays have also become a Lilis occasion for Kahu and I (and occasionally Geoff). The dishes are simple and tasty and there’s about twenty something trays behind the glass cabinet to choose from, some more difficult to identify than others. On my first solo visit to a warung, I found the huge selection overwhelming and grew quite flustered when hurried along by the queue behind me.


These days I’m a pro. Or at least I play it safe and stick to the same dishes I’ve previously had. My plate usually comes to $3.50 with my selection of tempe, beans, eggplant and omelete (plus a very generous serving of rice).


Food aside, the thing about Lilis that draws us back again and again is the incredible service and friendliness from the owners and manas who work there. There’s smiles and waves the second we enter and one particular mana has come to address me by my full name (since we legitimised our friendship over Facebook). The amount of happiness is infectious and my cheeks are sore by the time we leave.




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