Normality

 

I’ve started writing again. That’s been one of the changes. Last weekend I told myself to sit down and write for an hour. And not to write something new, but to continue on something I already started.

I did. Then carried on for 20 minutes on the Monday night. And then I did another hour today.

For a bit I’ve felt empty, like I’ve run out of things to say, at least on social media. And that’s okay, maybe, if I’m writing other things.

Now I am. It’s sci-fi fantasy and involves a compilation of works, but the characters are already twisting the story to what they want, and I’m 5000 words in, so that’s a good sign that they are doing that. I just want to write and write and see what comes out of it. I’m hoping for a solid mess of 200,000 words or so. An epic.

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I love my Zelda games. The Great Cataclysm could be about 10 different events in the Legend of Zelda games.

The other night I decided to buy face moisturiser. I’ve rarely used it, and I’ve failed to see the need to put more chemicals in my body. But my budget allows me to buy something for hygiene each week, and I wasn’t really needing much food, so I decided to get it.

I tried it yesterday. My face stung a bit like it was sunburned, and then in the evening, something happened.

On the side of my face, next to my right eye, was a white spot. It became noticeable near the end of my Peru trip, and it was a sure sign of my age. I’ve been troubled by it more, and I’ve been touching it a lot, when I’m thinking.

Anyway, the white spot fell off after using the moisturiser.

 

The same night I went shopping, I bought a muffin tin for apple and cinnamon muffins I’m going to bake for my colleagues tomorrow, at Woolworths, and a work shirt from a clothes store. There’s a cute girl who works there, and I know she’s friendly because it helps her sell clothes, but her interest does seem genuine, like she wants to talk. I joined up a membership the last time we spoke, and she got my birth date, and she seemed so surprised. “That’s my age!” she said.

This time around, we talked about life, and our car troubles, and how she was borrowing her parents’ car. And then she dropped in, “I had to pick my son up.” And I hope I hid my surprise, and I hope it didn’t mean I failed some sort of test.

Girls used to drop in “my boyfriend and I” into the conversation somewhere, if there showed some attraction from either us. Then it got more subtle, and more of the usage of “we” when she did something or went somewhere.

But since coming back to Australia, the women my age who are single also happen to be mothers, and they mention their child. I guess it doesn’t bother me, I don’t want kids for a while, but I suppose then there’s a fear that I need to know exactly what I want. I need to know if I’m going to integrate into another family’s life, and if I don’t, then I should stay out. The time for certainty is now. Or before, perhaps. I’m unsure about when the certainty needs to come into play.

 

I was driving this afternoon for a short while, and even though the car is still making odd noises, after I took it to the mechanic – who discovered a wrecked head gasket – I feel happy, like I’m getting ahead. I live in a nice place, and I’m able to save a bit of each pay. It wasn’t obvious at first, but my work is paying off for me, financially.

Last night I went to Dan Murphy’s, where there was a Chilean brand of wine I liked to drink in Peru, called Casillero del Diablo. I swear it wasn’t as good when I drank the bottle last night, but I still had a good time. There were times I was holed up in my room in Peru, and I’d drink a bottle, and reach out to everyone I could think of.

I tried not to do that this time.

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Let’s say  there is a map with life, all with its big battles. You can take on these battles in any order, and travel any direction. You can find the tools to help you, and the tool you find in the dark time might exactly be what you need for that battle. Maybe. Or maybe I just needed an excuse to use another Zelda pic cause I have nothing else.

I’m working on getting more clothes. Most of the shirts I wear to work were the best shirts I couldn’t bear to throw away when I left for overseas. They were for races and rodeos, and so are a bit expensive to wear out. A pink shirt I wore to work for years, before continuing to wear in Peru, is getting shabby and sun worn. I threw it out today.

It’s funny. Things. You get attached to them.

 

I went to the races with a work friend last weekend. It was the first races I had been to since before Peru. We got drunk slowly and gambled on horses, and I won the first race at odds of 7/1. We met a couple who recently moved to the area, and they met in Iceland. He was Australian but lived in various places overseas for four years, and she was from the Czech Republic. It was a long story but after a year of being friends, they tried to make it work, and she moved to Australia. But all the loopholes they have to jump through, the stress, the difficulty, it seemed to me like it was hard.

And to me, the longer I was with them, the more I felt an underlining tension.

 

Work is okay. I’m finding ways to be more efficient and reduce my anxiety. One good way I found was to try to reduce my talking to everyone, and just work quietly. I don’t need to have a presence, or know everything, or have an opinion about what’s going on.

And I’ve found, by doing that, that I worry less about if I’ve said something wrong, or not doing the right thing.

Another thing I did was I bought a news subscription. When I wake up for work (at 7am, formerly at 7.40am) I switch on the TV to ABC, and then read my news subscription’s email which is sent every morning. It gives me the highlights. By the time I come to work, and I have a news meeting, I feel mentally prepared to know what the agenda of the day is. I’m not spending an hour or two trying to play catch up.

 

I love a good Zelda game. Nintendo released a classic from 1992. A Link to the Past. Geez, it’s good. And hard. And brings in the best elements of legit Zelda gameplay.

 

I guess I’m starting to feel like I’m not playing catch up.

I’m beginning to feel how I used to feel.

 

Argentina and fitting in and whatever

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I’VE found a song on Youtube I’m listening to on repeat.

Song – Nada fue un error

Tengo una mala noticia  
No fue de casualidad 
Yo quería que nos pasara, y tu, y tu 

I don’t know most of the words but it sounds beautiful, and it’s uplifting, and I like the core message that I get out of it. And the second singer, this wavy haired woman with innocent eyes, and a growling husky Spanish tone, charms me. The lead might be Andres Calamaro, an Argentinian who is possibly my favourite singer at the moment anyway, and he  has a cool laid back long haired vibe. I want to be like him, that guy on centre stage singing in Spanish. But I can’t play a guitar, I can’t sing, I can’t speak Spanish. That’s okay. I listen and every time I grab at another word and I try to sing what I do know at the same time they do.

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There was a Rotary Book Fair on the weekend. I went there with a soon-to-be housemate and colleague. I found three books, with one about police corruption in Qld in the 70s which it turns out I’ve already read, some book called Unpardonable Crime, and…a 2004 Lonely Planet guide for Argentina.

I wanted my next travel destination to be Chile. But after I bought Argentina’s guide and flicked through it I became more excited. This was a challenge! The land is massive, a whole new section of a massive amount of land that is monstrous in comparison to Peru. And having traveled Peru I had a context of the size of Argentina. And there was music, and a new history, and a new culture for me to navigate! I met Argentinas when I left Machu Picchu and they were really nice.

Yesss, Argentina. But the guide said I would need six weeks to three months to circuit Argentina. I believe it. So I think this is a trip that could wait after I quit this job, years from now.

Lo dejaste pasar 
No quiero que me perdones  
Y no me pidas perdón 
No me niegues que me buscaste 

I have an airfares price-watch set on Santiago, Chile. Qantas has just come through with a bunch of specials including a return flight next year, which is when I could go on holidays. It’s only $1000 return. I want to go. I’m ready to do so. I just don’t have the money in my pocket to book it. Just yet. I’ll still do Chile. Maybe fly into Peru and say hello to friends and former students, and then bus it south down the border. Or maybe into Bolivia. I still don’t know.

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There is a boxing troupe that travels in certain places. Fred Brophy runs this boxing tent, and he pitched it last weekend. The locals get drunk and then volunteer to take on his boxers. I’ve been in there once.

As I watched Fred, a true old school Aussie, drawl out for challengers to take on his boxers, and as we screamed in the tent for the next blow, “finish him!” I may have screamed at one point, as some of the lads shook the lights at the top of the tent to make the fighters hurry up. I left the tent and drove home, but happy. It felt good to be back, this tent came to where I used to live before I moved to Peru for 18 months.

Tinder hasn’t gone well. I’m a bit confused by that. One time I thought to myself it was a bit like “how to lose a Tinder match in three messages (without using a dick pic).” My soon-to-be colleague says he goes through the same thing.

For a bit when I came back I just wanted to be single, or be a fuckboy for an ego boost, and when that didn’t eventuate, and as time went on I realised I didn’t have the energy to be with a girl who’d even accept that.

I’m okay being single. I guess I just want to be accepted for who I am. I can be myself and loved for it. I want to vent, and I want to be heard. I had that in a relationship. I’m not sure  I get it when people aren’t invested enough.

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My new car!

I feel like something is still missing. Every week I felt that, I guess, but every week I either got a job or moved, or bought new things for the unit, or connected to NBN. This might be the  first week I don’t need anything new. So what’s new?

Los errores no se eligen 
Para bien o para mal  
No fallé cuando viniste, y tu, y tu 
No quisiste fallar
Aprendí

Peru has become a punchline with my colleagues, probably because I talk about it so much. It’s not meant to be cruel, and it isn’t, but it makes me feel a wall is there. I sit at my desk. And the joke is that I want to keep travelling even though I’m happy where I am.

Today a colleague asked me about music, and to give her a list of what she could listen to. And I did. Happily.

Nada fue un error.

Argentina. That idea. Of being on the road. And being exciting to people again

 

 

Bank loans? Stability? What?!

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Three kangaroos talk to each other while my mum and I visit the zoo.

I’ve been fortunate. Already I have found a job, signed a contract, and am ready to start being a journalist again.

And yet I find myself, for the fourth time in a month, staying in yet another house, belonging to a friend or family member. I have to do this until I get paid. In an hour I’ll look at a nanny flat in the new town that I’ll call my home.

It’s a beautiful sunny place. It’s a stone’s throw away from the town I finished high school. Everyone including the electricians in the street will say “hello cobber” and even respond to your response. Automatically I wonder what they want from me. It’s a sign of the emotional defence I’ve had to put up in the 17 months abroad. The defense can go down now.

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The main park in town.

 

I start work in two days. Routine will begin, but for now I have no car and I wonder how I’m going to survive the basic needs for the next week while at the same time making a good impression at my new job.

I’ve survived on a lot of good will in almost a month, from friends and family. It made me wonder how I can get away with doing this again, travelling overseas and coming back with nothing. And with that thought I wondered about my options; credit cards, or a bank loan. From that thought and brief research it made me wonder about the feasibility of a car loan, and an interest rate, and the physical dynamics of it all.

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Eating Tim Tams. I did miss those in Peru.

There were these questions, and I never used to want to know the answers to them, but now I kind of feel helpless not knowing the answers. I look around and see everyone and wonder when they started looking old. When did everyone seem so distant? Did this happen when I was in Peru, or did this happen long before? Did I somehow get through my 20s not bothering to learn the practicalities?

And as I dig into these answers, Peru feels far off behind me. It’s only the people I met there that I miss.

 

 

 

The treasure trove at Granddad’s

Treasure 9

It has been 12 days since I returned to Australia, and I’ve lost count of the hours of video games and the number of coffees I have been drinking.

I have been in Western Australia to visit my family for a week. It has been almost five years since I last saw them. A few days ago, I visited Granddad’s shed to see how much of my stuff remained in boxes. It had been left at Mum’s but I can’t remember being specific about what I wanted kept.

Fearing the worst, I opened the cupboard and pulled out the boxes. There were laughs, and there were near tears. The treasure trove was better than I remembered.

The number plates for my first car, and the die cast Tardis key chain, and key, were there.

There was a book in which I had printed photos of friends and asked them to write a farewell message for me, when I moved to Melbourne for a year. Many have aged…but there was one friend in there who had later killed himself. This was his last message to me, and if I had known what to look for, I might have seen the troubles he shared in his message. Many in the book are still my friends.

 

There was the skeleton, more or less, of my imaginary friend Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. His head was missing, the repainting I had given him had peeled off, his battery was dead, his legs were missing, his wings would not work. He was just a relic.

So many CDs (white metal. A lot of militant Christian metal, that’s for sure), my old Stryper T-Shirt (ever heard of them? Youtube them. Anyway, on the back of the shirt it said ‘To Hell With The Devil’ and I wore it to uni once and freaked out the Gold Coast chicks),  Xbox games, and Nintendo DS games (including my old Pokemon Pearl with its 240 hour game file still intact. 240 hours for one game!!! Are you kidding me?). There was the short story I had published in an edition of the now non-existing writers’ magazine, Wet Ink, which was called ‘lonely Leather.’ Not counting journalism, it remains the only piece of writing I was paid for. I had my aeronautical goggles, the Gryffindor scarf that Mum made me, and the Sonic Screwdriver replica belonging to the 11th Doctor.

There is also some of the more favourable feedback from university assignments.

I suppose I have prided myself on the way I can move from place to place, having to start again from scratch. But really, much of it remains locked in a shed cupboard.

Top 5 Weird or Obscure CDS I Found

  1. The Cambodian Space Project (bought at the Ubud Writers and Readers Fest, 2011)
  2. Johnny Cash’s ‘My Mother’s Hymn Book’
  3. A burnt copy of a ‘Within Temptation’ album
  4. Stryper’s Reborn Album (their first album for more than 10 years, after their controversial ‘Against the Law’ album in the early 90s). Too heavy for conservative Christians, too preachy for the rebels.
  5. A burnt copy of The Doors’ Essential Rarities (which includes a live version of ‘The End’ and Jim Morrison is screaming ‘bring out your dead!’ over and over at the start). “The killer awoke before dawnnn….he put his boots on….ergh!”

Top 5 Video Games

  1. Pokemon Pearl (I tried playing it again. I was in the Elite Four using a level 99 Gengar.  I was bored quickly. It took too long to do things)
  2. Beyond Good and Evil! (This was a cool spacey game with some central American influence done for the Xbox, but this version was republished for the Xbox 360 in part of some ‘three games collection’).
  3. Assassin Creeds (1, 2, Brotherhood, Revelations , 3)
  4. Crash Nitro Kart for the Gamecube (but where the heck is my gamecube, Luigi’s mansion, Smash Bros Melee, Timesplitters 2! The finger points towards my little sister)
  5. Two games in the Prince of Persia trilogy.

 

 

An awkward letter to Mum

 

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“Okay. I haven’t talked to Mum in a while. I should let her know how I’m going…..”

I messaged Mum on Facebook this morning. I wrote:

 

Dear Mum, 

Peruvian women are very beautiful and are really nice and caring too. 

And they know how to dance. 

My date last night brought me brownies that she made that day. 

There is a very good chance I will never return to Australia. 

All the best. Hope you are well. 

Happy Easter! Love, from your scoundrel of a son. 

Not the other sons. The oldest son. Burnzy! 

No, I am not drunk. I am just happy on life. 

Ciao, y Nos Vemos. 

Actually, disregard the Nos Vemos because it means ‘see you soon’ and I am never returning to Australia. 

 

Mum opened up the message at 3am in her time and she responded with this:

 

Ha ha. What was in those brownies? 

 

Chasing tail? Chase adventure

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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.

 

 

Kisses and frustration

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Beer O’Clock completes a frustrating week.  As casa-amigo Nicola might say, ‘this is how I became an alcoholic.’

When men and women greet here in Peru they hug and the man kisses her on the cheek. I find that weird and slightly uncomfortable. A colleague held her cheek out for me a few days ago for me to kiss, and I hesitated, but to refuse to do so would be rude.

But then again, I shouldn’t be complaining.

I find myself making a kissing sound and leaning forward as if to kiss when women hug me, but not actually making the contact with the cheek. I think some are surprised by this.

Women here also touch a lot more, and honestly, back home if I was touched on the arm and the leg and the shoulder that often I would assume they were interested in me. And so it does make me a little uncomfortable.

Once again, I shouldn’t be complaining. But there were years at one point I lived without anyone touching me aside for the occasional formal handshake. For that reason it can be unhealthy living away from family so long.

I’m treating this as a blessing, to learn to be more comfortable with physical touch, since everyone here clearly doesn’t read too much into it.

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I could learn a lot from Adriaan and Amy, who are faking a relationship for Valentines.

…..

I have found myself in a room this week restructuring curriculum requirements for history, geography and economy for four grade levels. This might be easy enough if you were a long-term educator but I was a journalist a year ago, and I find myself having to translate everything from Spanish. While my colleagues, including a translator, support me in this, it takes a long time to complete anything.

I am used to knowing what I am doing and charging forward to complete the task immediately. But I can’t do that when everyone else must discuss what is going on in a language I cannot understand, and then constantly having to explain what we must be doing every time we do something new.

The translator must have heard my tone when we spent an entire day adjusting words and restructuring sentences that had been translated from Spanish by a computer program. “Do you get frustrated easily Mr Burnzy?” she asked.

Yes. When I have no idea what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

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Some nights you need to go home and eat ice-cream.

…..

A few colleagues and my housemates have made a deal that we would complete lessons to learn English and Spanish. It’s a fair arrangement. In my first lesson I was taught directions to get to places. I was focusing on pronounciation so much that I couldn’t absorb the new words. I’m terrible at memory. At one point I was really discouraged and was doing my best not to express irritability, because I recognised the mood for what it was. Later when someone asked me how the lesson was I was honest. I was frustrated.

One of my weaknesses is getting frustrated quickly. It has caused much damage in my life especially in the childhood and teenage years when I could not control myself.  I was the bad tempered freak in the school yard. You know what I mean. Every school has one. I am more controlled now, but it takes a lot of energy not to storm off sometimes. It would be much easier simply to find a way not to be so hard with myself. But so far the only alternative I have is not caring about what I’m doing at all.

And as a journalist frustration only empowered me, but at a cost of making it hard to be around me in my personal life. I suppose that’s why I left it. I guess that’s why I’m here.

…..

I think the turning point for me, the moment I calmed down, was when I took a 10 minute smoko and walked to the community life office to find out who my work secret valentine was going to be. And there was a little girl, the daughter of one of my colleagues, and she waved, and I waved, and she told her mother in Spanish, “he is really tall.”

I lifted my hand to my height, and then to her height, and I smiled, and I said, “and you are really….”

“Short!”

And I laughed and congratulated her for knowing that word in English, and I left, much happier. With all these syllabus examinations and preparation for lesson plan theory, it was easy to forget that I would be working with children and teenagers, and that was the whole point really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tried to kill my roommate Sydney

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Although this picture of me with Trujillo in the background has nothing to do with the story about a rat, I didn’t really want to show a pic of my toilet which was the other option.

Forgive the clickbait title. It’s just that my roommate Sydney is a rat. I don’t like him.

When I say he is a rat I mean that. He is the biggest rat I have ever seen but I have only met him properly once. Two weeks ago I was full of innocence when I opened the toilet lid to, well, you know, and there he was. Staring up at me with a grin on his face and I swear he was as big as the bottom of the bowl. He dived into the water and crawled into the pipe as I roared in horror and jumped back.

I have been searching how I am supposed to get rid of rats from the toilet bowl since then and the only advice I could find was that bleach would help. He returns sometimes in the early hours of the morning, and I know this by the random splashes, the oil stains, the smell, and the splashes on the lid the following morning (and no. Don’t blame me!).

One time at 3am I heard the splash and jumped out of bed. “Die you rat bastard!” I shouted, pouring the bleach into the toilet and flushing, hoping it would reach Sydney stuck in a hole somewhere.

I call him Sydney not because I miss Australia while at the same time hating that Sydney, but because it’s a cool name for a rat. I first wanted to name him SG (for Shits & Giggles) but I did actually miss Australia. I thought it was a bit cute to name my fear. When I was a kid I used to hate going to the toilets because of the spiders (the red backs and the daddy long legs and the occasional huntsman), but that’s nothing to the fear that a rat might jump out with a “taadaah!” and bite your bum.

Sydney and I have an arrangement. I knock on the toilet lid before I use it to give him fair warning and if he’s lurking in there he will nick off down the drain for a while. It’s happened twice.

But the last few days there has been no sign of him, and I wonder where he has gone. Sydney could be anywhere….

If my housemates still read this they are going to murder me. Possibly with the bottle of bleach in my ensuite.

 

 

 

 

‘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.

 

…..

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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.

Life moments I didn’t realise were important until they were memories

 

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1.  The former leader of the Salvation Army, General Eva Burrows, used to be based at the drop-in centre and church I used to volunteer at in Melbourne. She once talked to me about my poetry (bad poetry now and terrible then). The moment was filmed and when she died that moment was played across the world as part of her memorial.

In the video around the split second my exhausted 21-year-old face is shown (during a bad pimple outbreak too), General Eva is quoted saying something from her 80th birthday speech. “The officer must always finish on a challenge. For those who are listening, it’s this; whether you are 18 or 80 ask yourself the question, ‘am I really using my life to any great purpose? I am what the work I’ve done for God has made me by his grace.”

2. Then there was the time I met my math teacher Alan, in Year 9, when I ripped up the detention sheet he gave me. Soon he had to give me the wooden paddle to the arse in front of the principal and he hated doing it. Corporal punishment was so awkward.

When I left home at 15 (technically the family moved across the country and I stayed) I boarded with a few families and these were miserable experiences. Soon Alan and his wife took me in and said I could stay with them until I was married. I didn’t get married and won’t be anytime soon, but because of them I was able to go to university and complete a Bachelor of Journalism. Without their grace and kindness I wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend university. I wouldn’t have been able to better my life. I still am welcome for dinner or a coffee whenever I visit Brisbane, and sometimes I wonder, ‘do I make them proud?’ Sometimes I wouldn’t.

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I must have been 18 or 19 in this photo! I’m pictured with Alan and Barbara with their daughter Jess.

3. There was the time I turned 15 and I was suspended until further notice after shortly starting at a new school. I went to church in high school and learned about forgiveness and apologising, something about seeking forgiveness from a brother you’ve offended before supplicating yourself to God, and as soon as the sermon finished I walked to the principal and apologised for my behaviour.

She gave me another chance to attend school and I changed my life, even when everyone expected I was going to screw it up.

I screwed up once when I skipped out of science class and threw leaves in the window, but my teacher Mr Young said nothing and didn’t even give me detention. Church was great. I hung out with my friends Sam and Jason and cheersed the grape juice in the communion cups and made up our own version to the hymns.

Jason got married two years ago and their wedding was held at the amazing Maleny Manor to the north of Brisbane. I bought him a clock in tribute to his favourite Korn song ‘I Did My Time’ that we used to sing in class. And he made me a groomsman and I had never been a groomsman before. Some friends last. Some transformations can as well.

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4. During my first year of university I studied Arts because I couldn’t study anything better (come to think of it, this is an entry in itself, a careers advisor at my mandatory dole appointment urged me to study at university. I wasn’t planning to). My school marks were terrible (I mean, I tried in the last few years of school but living away from home and tumultuous earlier years left their mark in any subject apart from English. In that subject I was a natural).

During that year I went to a religious concert and a Salvation Army officer spoke about the needs of the homeless in Melbourne. He inspired me to defer university and complete a program for a year.

I saw shit that broke me and rebuilt me. I saw the world was a horrible place, of white and black but grey as well, but what you assumed to be black was in fact only the white hurt and ruined and in pain. What you assumed to be white was only indifference able to keep itself clean by distance.

I connected to a close group of friends, a community, that would have done anything for you. We are scattered now, each with our lives, families and convictions. I returned to university no longer addicted to video games. My creative writing was much better and so were my marks.

Among the many people I worked with was an elderly lady. I can describe her in detail because she was a caricature. This woman had white hair always curled from rollers, and she wore an oversized coat that was supposed to look like fur and she clutched a walking stick wherever she went. Her face was saturated in make-up and her perfume was the cliche of the old – a bitter brew that burned your nose full of vanilla, musk and roses. She spoke properly and some said that in her younger days she owned a hotel, or an island, or something exhorbitant. It was implied among the drug addicts and ex-convicts and alcoholics and schizophrenics and lonely and young parents and destitute and chronic hoarders that I was grouped among that this woman was of old money, but like the rest of us was now broken in some way. But the only damage she showed was age and an anxiety for loud noises, and what kind of damage is that really?

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At a luncheon that the Thai community hosted for the homeless next to the St Paul’s Cathedral near Swanston Street this woman convinced me that I should become a journalist (and return to my degree).

“There’s just so many bad people in that profession,” the ignorant and rather self-righteous version of me said.

‘That makes it more important for you to be in that profession,” she said indignantly. “That’s when you know you are needed in it.”

That’s the story I’ve always told. But actually, I needed journalism. It has been good for me.

5. There was the time I interviewed a teacher who was cycling around Australia doing stupid dares to fundraise for charity. He was 28. He inspired me.

He made me realise I wanted to do a lot more with my life. I wanted adventures. Nothing should hold me back because there were no excuses. So I went on holidays to the UK for a month but that wasn’t enough.

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The realisation came more than two years ago.

I now live in Peru about to teach history and geography.

…..

I am proud of my life and where I came from, but what I suddenly see are the characters who inspired me without me realising it – whether for a moment or throughout the years.