Watch this space while there’s nothing on it

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here. I suppose I thought I stopped. This was supposed to be an exploration of my time in Peru, my journey learning in South America, an exploration of that foreign identity, and now I suppose I’ve given up on getting back.

I’ve been trying to tackle redundancy and my future. I tried writing for this blog post but it seemed too negative, and not relevant to the theme.

But.

Okay. I’m not sure if I told you if I lost my job as a journalist six months or so ago in the murky months of Covid panic, but I did, and for most of that time since I’ve been stewing in the rental I leased alone. The lease ran out three weeks ago, and I decided to move to the big city…and close to the university I used to study at.

I’ve decided to return to uni. I’m 31. Maybe I might look like a confident 25 yr old but that’s neither here nor there. I’m going to study Government and International Relations because, in my months of doubt I wondered what the point of it all was. And I knew that one can never have too much education and if they have chances to further it then they should grab it. So I took an opportunity.

I want to represent Australia one day. I want to work in an embassy. But people keep assuming I’m going back to South American soon….and I’m apprehensive about that. I don’t think planning to do that is good for me.

A Colombian band I just discovered, and my favourite lyrics in my favourite song.

I’m trying hard to keep a bright face in all of it, but it’s all fitting in for the short term. I’ve found a share house near the uni, I just received the refund for my return airfare to South America that was supposed to happen in April, and I may have a sweet prospective part-time job in the new year. We shall see.

Of course, being in the city again I couldn’t resist but join Tinder again although I knew it would be a mistake because one can easily lose sense of one’s own identity by doing it. There’s also someone I like who I didn’t meet on Tinder, and although I am starting to question the future in it and the timing and all of that, I really don’t need the murkiness or distractions of Tinder to complicate my hopes. But on the other hand I need the reminder I’m my own person with no commitments and the opportunity for new experiences.

And I had a special experience. I saw a Colombiana on Tinder and I super-liked her and although she was aloof for a bit she began to realise that I really was fascinated with Latam, and knew a little bit of Spanish. This afternoon our lengthy conversation on the app was in Spanish and it’s put me in a bad mood. I’ve taken a spanish lesson each week with a Colombian teacher on Skype, but this was real life, not practice, and it made me feel that I had learned so little when it mattered.

I’m troubled by the whole thing though. I really don’t want a latina fetish, and I guess I want to move away from my south american fascination. It’s getting in the way of my life. Somehow every new conversation I’ve had in 18 months drags back to it.

And yet here we are. I’m a more colourful character. I’m passionate. Yet despite popular opinion passion is not sexy or desirable. Passion is alienating, because before you know it you’ve walked away from everything and everyone that could have been relatable.

There’s No One New Around You

DSC_7543
‘Hairy’ stares at the fast crossing glacier stream, wondering how he is going to cross it, in order to follow everyone else. He is in the second deepest canyon in the world. His name means ‘hairy’ in Ayamara, and the entire community know him well and claim him.

For some strange reason I’m second guessing this blog post, which is fitting. I’m trying to write a blog post about the little ways I’m losing my self confidence, and I keep revising the first sentence.

Okay, the first paragraph is done, the momentum is there, I can carry on. I’ve paused a moment. Listening to music. Trying to get to the heart of what I actually want to say.

The best way is to begin with a story.

Last night I went to a colleague’s farewell even though I was sluggish for most of the day. The conversation was good, I was part of a core group of friend-colleagues and the conversation never struggled. But then I met another journalist from another organisation. She began making conversation by talking about a mutual Facebook friend who I have never met before, and then we compared notes about a place called Mount Isa.

DSC_7547.JPG
The local tour guide takes pity on ‘Hairy’, picks him up and throws him across. All Hairy needed was the height and the momentum. He could land on his own four paws.

I lived in Mount Isa almost four years before I went to Peru. I had burnt out from journalism and was broke, struggling to find a job, renting with my grandma. And then out of the blue I had the job offer for Mount Isa, and within weeks I traveled across the country, took the job, rented a room, and plunged myself into a small community in ways that became toxic, because I was trying to be someone else. I did cool things, was flown in charter planes to Indigenous communities, went to outback races, and interviewed my fair share of politicians. I left for Peru confident in my ability as a journalist in ways I was never confident in the previous jobs, and in a way, that I haven’t felt in my return to the career. Lately I doubt my ability. I shouldn’t. I guess. But I do.

And then, across the table, this woman tells me that she was offered the exact same job that I took (same year, same month), and declined it, deciding to work as a journalist in Cambodia instead. My friend suddenly came back with a beer for me because he was predicting how I was going to feel, an awkward unnerved feeling.

It came gradually. It’s silly. Because she was first offered the job that has defined my career, and shaped me, I suddenly felt I wasn’t good enough for it. That today she is the better journalist because she was ahead of me back then.

I know that’s not true. Mount Isa did shape me, improve me, made me a hell of a lot better. And it was her loss for not taking the job…maybe. That’s not my call and she had other great opportunities more suited to her.

But I explain this because it’s one of the little things that’s chipping at the confidence.

One can’t solve a confidence issue by other people reassuring that you’re great at what you’re doing. It doesn’t work. You kind of have to find your own way, your own world that you can retreat to, where you’re an authority in some form or another.

I went to Peru. So every few days here when I feel stuck in the grind again, I throw up a beautiful scene that I photographed in Peru onto social media. People like it, I feel acknowledged, and I carry on.

I want to talk about Tinder and how much I hate it. I went on one date but conversation afterwards by message was forced and it eventually stopped. I hardly match with anyone, although I’m to blame for that too.

When there’s a match, and I write a message, it’s so hard. Often I won’t hear back, and it’s difficult to gauge what it is I’m supposed to say. And then, I’m told by the app “there’s no one new around you”, a lie that is telling me that I am not compatible with anyone around here, not today at least.

This whole exercise is eroding my self-confidence. Why play a game I’m not good at or interested in? I should leave it alone. Enjoy learning to cook. I’m about to bake a cake. I should enjoy the big unit I have to myself. I can figure my way out of Resident Evil. Keep writing. Define myself, and not care how others value me. 

It’s just that people overlook me quickly, as an interest, and it drives me crazy. And there’s that squirm inside me, that breaks out usually in the middle of the week, on a cold night.

What if there’s nobody that’s going to see me the same way my ex did?

 

One date with a backpacker

Chris selfie.jpg

It was my first date since I left Peru. And I knew coming into it that it was going to be a challenge. In a way it was going to be therapeutic. I was right.

She was from Taiwan, picking strawberries at a farm for minimum wage so she could extend her visa in Australia. Where she worked there weren’t any Australians, only other backpackers who spoke in Asian languages. This date was rare English practice for her.

And she wasn’t  great at it. The conversation over coffee, and later over green curry, was awkward. There wasn’t much of it.

I’d been there, in that same situation when I lived in Peru, before entering a relationship, where I went on dates where they couldn’t speak English. Back then I was the foreigner, and they were the local, and I was anxious, and they had all the power, or so I thought. And I was frustrated easily, and felt they were judgmental.

I realised then over flat whites, in a small Queensland city, how exhausting it was to be expected to hold the conversation as the local speaker. It was draining, but I had the luck of being on the other side of the table. Twice, her frustration showed, but it didn’t last long and it wasn’t her fault.

Questions that allowed for ambiguous answers was hard for her. “What is Australia like?” wasn’t going to get an answer, but “is Australia cold?” would.

By the time we went to the local Asian restaurant, and had ordered our food, I had figured out that even though I had no interest in learning Taiwanese, an interest in it was the way to bridge a friendship. I learned to count to three (and absorbed it surprisingly faster than I would have two years ago before practising Spanish), and asked about the objects, “what’s rice in Taiwanese? What’s water in Taiwanese? What’s fork in Taiwanese? What is chicken in….”

And I thought back to the time I was in Peru, and I saw my dating life there in an entire new light. And I saw the people there no longer as impatient, but as kind and confused as to how to bridge a connection.

It has been a while since I have posted. It hasn’t been abandoned. Resuming a normal life after an ex-pat one is still worth recording. It’s been a confusing time, and I have been so busy trying to sort out adulting (finding a place to live, set a household budget, get the hot water working) that I haven’t processed emotions until recently.

The date was healing, and before that I was kind of grieving.

Today I bought wi-fi from Telstra, and now it’s set up and I’m listening to Spotify. I’ve taken a few hours off since the last sentence, with a few old friends from the west coast passing through and inviting me out for a few beers.

 

 

On dating and honesty on an exotic continent

photo gallery.jpg
What ended up being a meet up for coffee ended up being a late night (on a work night) which included a photo gallery, coffee and cake, and deep and meaningful conversation in the plaza de armas. 

It has been at least 11 days since my last blog. My mind has been occupied with the good and the bad. It has thought of Tinder and dating and women and work and students at school, and of struggles and workaholism, and of what I should be doing in my life right now.

I had been on a lot of dates lately, and mostly with the same girl who makes me feel good. It caught me off guard because I certainly didn’t come to Peru for a relationship. It felt like I had finally figured out Tinder just as I met her, and suddenly not only did I have so many matches, but so many girls actually wanted to talk, and hey! Holy crap. Even meet me.

There was the date with the lawyer who invited me to her house where she fed me and tried to speak in broken English. Then there was the date at the shopping centre with the girl who knew next to no English. I don’t know how I thought that was going to work. I suppose it was because she was a really nice person who wanted to see me.

I went on one date (after the clowns date) which ended up in a nightclub. She knew English with difficulty, but as a travelling violinist in a symphony knew much more German. We went to an expensive hipster coffee bar where after the conversation slowly stopped she blushingly pulled out a piece of paper with questions in English to ask me.

I had arrived at that date wondering what the hell I was doing when I had just met another girl I liked and wanted to spend my time with. I thought about cancelling, but didn’t. And all through the coffee as I liked this girl more and more, with her awkward charm and piece of paper, I thought to myself, ‘you are scum.’

As we walked to eat dinner she asked me ‘so are you single?’ and technically I was. But I told her there was another girl I did like, over Google translator, and explained further I was not after a relationship. But I really wanted her in my life, so I begged that we be friends. The friendship continued eventually to the nightclub where everyone stared at me for being a gringo, and gradually we stole the centre of the floor dancing to regatone.

But late that night I felt whatever it was, wasn’t the same as the girl I met on the clown date. And as I took a taxi home that night I felt alone, and certainly didn’t want to push good people out of my life. When I arrived home at 4.30am I sent a tired message to the first girl and said I certainly wanted to keep seeing her.

I deliberately don’t think about the future because doing so only worries me unnecessarily, where I see problems when I am not equipped with the answers. I can adapt with solutions with time and experience that I cannot predict from the situations that have yet to happen. Mountains are much easier to see than the roads and the rope and the boots and the caves.

But something happened in the days after I sent the tired message. I realised that I couldn’t keep going on heaps of dates with different girls, especially if they ended up being really nice girls. It would only get confusing.

And so, when the girls I spoke to who I did care about wanted more detail on our future or our dating, I had to be honest and not worried about being liked by the most people.

The more honest I was the more powerful I felt. Girls appreciated it and to a degree admired it, having had enough lies and double-standards in their dating lives. I discovered that being honest was the fastest way to get what I really wanted. The obstacles or the confusion cleared, and for the first time in my life it felt like the people I knew moved around me and to what I wanted.

But of course, when girls found out that I was dating someone more regularly than once, they stopped talking to me, even if the conversation ended politely. And there is something really sad in that, that by being honest I lost the pleasure of their intelligence and conversations, but I understood that they had for a long time realised something I was only just discovering – you cannot waste time on the things that do not fit to what you want.

 

Clowns on a first date

20180324_191839.jpg

I HAVE a jumble of Spanish in my head and it feels worse every time I try to speak it.

“Porque, tengo, hace, pasado, fui, estuvo.” 

I feel like a bit of a joke at my place of work and everywhere else around me when I do not understand words, or cannot repeat them.

“Cuanto, mejor, vivo, Quiza, talvez.” 

It has been a busy week at work, and I had a two hour Spanish lesson just before a first date. I was frazzled and wondering how I was going to have the energy to make a good impression.

I am not so good with dates. Especially first dates. And especially in this country. But I had to pull myself together. I took a taxi so I could relax a little about not being late, and I waited at the Plaza De Armas underneath a giant and glorious statue.

And as I sat waiting for my date in my flannie shirt (which I wear when I want to make an impression), I saw a group dressed as clowns or with red noses. And one young man in the group locked eyes with me. He pointed at me and suddenly the group had a target. They had a gringo. They walked up to me with loud musical instruments and they spoke to me. And I understood them. And even if I didn’t they spoke clear English for me to fall back on.

And every time I said something to them, especially in Spanish, it was like it was the most exciting thing in the world to them. A bunch of clowns were making me feel special.

“Nombre?”

“Chris!” I said. And they all exclaimed as if it was an exotic name – which here in Peru it seems to be.

“De Donde Eres?” (Where are you from?)

“Yo Soy Australian (I am Australian).” And the clowns exclaimed again as if I had just announced I was a native of Antarctica.

“Would you like to buy a chocolate?” they asked, and it was only a sol so of course I wanted to. They were just at the point of asking me when my birthday was, when my date arrived.

“Mi compleanos es ocho Noviembre,” I said, but I don’t know if I said that right (actually, I had the number after the month the first time but they kindly corrected me).

“Feliz compleanos!” they said, and burst into excited applause as my date sat next to me with a smile to kiss me on the cheek. And then they sang me a happy birthday even though I turn 29 in eight months.

And then after the song they all took turns giving me hugs. And then when they all hugged me, they started again. I had three hugs from some of them by the time they went away.

And somehow this was the perfect way to meet someone new. The tension had broken before we had even spoke, under the shadow of a giant statue in the middle of a Peruvian square with a bunch of musical clowns wishing me a happy birthday – even though it wasn’t my birthday.

Chasing tail? Chase adventure

laptop 2.jpg

ON weekend nights I was getting dressed up, pre-loading on wine and leaving the house late to try getting laid. I would swipe on Tinder but I am extremely fussy, and so, it seems, are the women around me because the matches were few.

And then I just didn’t know what to write besides a ‘hi, how are you?’ so I didn’t even try talking to the matches. I’ve never been successful on Tinder and any dates that have resulted from it don’t really count given that I have already known the women.

This only happened a few nights and it happened because, well, I was trying to escape being myself. I didn’t want to feel anxious about life. I never came to Peru to look for love or romance, but now after three months I started seeing the beauty of Peruvian women properly.

But something was getting in the way. I would always hold back at the important times, as if I didn’t want sex, or a relationship, or a connection, or whatever it was I was chasing. This had been the case my entire life. What was getting in the way? It wasn’t my looks but something to do with my personality, or my behaviour, or my reactions, or my tendency to overshare depressing crap like this, despite it being tempting to blame it on morality.

But using morality for a reason was just a shield, I realised, to hide from the truth, which is that in my heart I’m a scared, insecure man, trying to figure out what I really want as opposed to what I should have, while also being ashamed or too prideful to express it properly.

What was it I wanted? An unobtainable pedestal to preoccupy me? A challenge? A partner? A friend? Stability? Fun?  An ego boost? Connection? Social acceptance?

I wanted magic. A specific moment with someone that matched to me in every way. Our spark would connect us both to a sense of belonging, a feeling that we are perfect just the way we are.  In other words, that perfect person. It’s not exactly something I have confidence finding on Tinder or in a bar anymore. Once, yes. Not after a few years living in outback Qld.

But it took a friend’s blog about Tinder to help me see myself a little clearer. It helped remind me that gentlemen in this world are appreciated and desired, and that the intentions I was chasing, once I did gain enough confidence to properly pursue it, were going to lead me away from becoming that man. And there is no sacrifice in trying to be this man. The reward is great.

The world admires a Superman. They see the glow in the face and trust it, admire it, respect it, react to it.

Last night I went out to try meeting new friends and conversations in Trujillo. There was no agenda but the pursuit for adventure and opportunity. I went with a housemate and a guy she liked to a few bars. By midnight I was restless, listening to the band as the third wheel, but in a bubble from everyone around me.

A few colleagues were at a bar according to Facebook and it looked like they were having such a fun time, that I tried finding out where they were. One thing led to another and I ditched being a third wheel (a bit of a dick move on reflection but I don’t feel too guilty doing what I wanted) and caught up with a friend, from California, who was about to go to sleep.

We went to a cheap bar and stayed there for a while. The main highlight was some guy on the road throwing rocks or ice, or something, at the door. It nearly hit me and we retreated to another door with the rest of the crowd. Police came and arrested him and we stayed on drinking a little while until we moved onto another bar where we met another friend.

The band was incredible, the lead singer was beautiful, and it rocked out to a mix of Peruvian songs and mainstream classics such as AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. We stood at the best table drinking Budweiser on the second floor directly overlooking the stage, and I even danced Salsa as best I could. I watched the crowd beginning to pair up, the laughter, the companionship, the dance moves, the interactions, and I felt empowered, wondering how the same things I was witnessing from home seemed so inspirational to observe here.

I walked my friend back to her place and went inside to wait for my taxi, where her mother was waiting. I was sensitive to the fact that many mothers might disapprove of daughters bringing home a drunk Australian at four in the morning (even if it was in the spirit of safety and friendship, not other agendas) and so I tried to be as polite and charming as I could. But it was a drunk and clumsy charm and could not be credited for the incredible hospitality of this kind woman, who made me a cheese and ham sandwich, and poured me a few glasses of Inca Cola before the taxi arrived.

I arrived at my apartment door at 5.30am shortly after arguing with the taxi driver over the fare, because I clearly am comfortable being an arsehole. I passed out for a while, made a coffee or two, continued reading a historical book about the Spanish Conquest of Peru, before eventually leaving to buy Maccas and washing powder. I’m at the mall now, listening to Avenged Sevenfold outside a Starbucks where the coffee machine doesn’t even work.

 

 

‘If this is a rom-com, kill the director please’

My date last night is further proof of the theory I have about Peru and maybe about life in general. Happiness comes from the unexpected and spontaneous. Nothing great happens from the planned.

Do I sound cynical? Sorry. I’m trying to avoid being negative because when I think about it, I should actually be happy.

I met a girl at a nightclub on Friday night and we decided to meet again late last night. Her expressions like calling me ‘baby’ and phrases such as ‘I love you’ in Spanish made me uneasy. But I thought maybe it was a clingy Peruvian thing.

I left my apartment nervous and excited all dressed up. I was happy. All I wanted was to feel a bit special. I wanted to see myself through someone else’s eyes. I wanted, for a moment, to make someone sparkle.

There was an odd thought I caught myself thinking early on. “How long is it going to be this time before she finds out I’m weird and loses interest? How long until I stuff it up?” But I zoned that out as much as I could.

I was prepared for the cultural differences like the expected assumption I would have to pay for everything. We arrived at a nightclub and we stood at the bar all night drinking and occasionally dancing, but she seemed distracted. When we wanted to talk we used the translator on her phone.

Having an entire conversation with someone written down reveals much about yourself and in this conversation I knew for sure that I project my inadequacies too much.

“I’m sorry I’m a bad dancer.”

“Sorry. I’m a lightweight drinker.”

“I feel embarrassed I can’t speak Spanish.”

And so on and so forth. ‘Wow,’ I thought when I figured this out. ‘That’s got to stop in the future.’

Halfway through the night we looked in each others eyes and I saw something there. Her eyes were beautiful, smoky, angular, but hard. They watched me without any feeling and I thought to myself, ‘she would use you if she had to, and she wouldn’t feel guilty about it because she is cutting herself from feeling. What has she seen? What is she blocking herself from?”

In the taxi on the way home (we were going to our different homes) she complimented me. “I would like to see you again,” she said. “You are such a gentleman.”

And then she asked me something else. She owed some department 100 soles and asked if she could borrow it from me.

“I knew, I knew it was too good to be true,” I thought, and froze her out to stare out the window to avoid looking at her eyes. She kept trying to get me to read the translator. Eventually I did.

“I would not ask again.”

Of course she wouldn’t ask again if she didn’t see me again.

“You must think all gringos are stupid,” I wrote as the taxi arrived at her house. “It’s quite transparent what you are doing. I am a foreigner who is vulnerable.”

As she got out the car she let me read her phone one last time. “I do not think you are silly. Good night.”

“Buenas noches,” I said, still not looking at her. The sound of my voice seemed harsh. The noise of the car door closing was soft.

 

…..

Zorritos - Dede.jpg
I’m Burnzy. I like long walks on the beach, reading, writing, photography, and superhero movies.

If my love life could be defined in a song it would be Kill The Director by The Wombats. I dream of one night singing it badly in a karaoke bar drunk on whisky.

“Carrots help us see much better in the dark
Don’t talk to girls, they’ll break your heart
And this is my head and this is my spout
They work together, they can’t figure anything out….If this is a rom com, kill the director please.”

My love life is cursed. It never goes how I plan or hope. But I can’t take it personally. I’m not a lesser person. Sometimes when I try to make myself feel better I think it’s karma. There have been plenty of women that have reached out to me over the years and they are probably the right women, the good people I could have spent my time with, and I never felt right about being with them. I can’t believe I’m quoting Taylor Swift here when I say “boys only want love if it’s torture”. Maybe I do. I guess I’ve been indoctrinated by the media to work hard in return for love.

I’m not going to stop dating. I’ve learned so much and it was still a fun night, and cutting myself from everyone only makes me the loser.