I wrote this while rather scared in Starbucks last Saturday:
The six month lease on the apartment ended today, and I don’t exactly have a long term plan to stay anywhere.
I woke with a hangover at 5am, and helped clear the last of the house. Housemate Adriaan left first (to a hostel nearby), and then Amy left clutching a pot and looking tearful. Nicola and I shared a cab to her new place in Trujillo because the mall was nearby. And that’s where I am now, trying to write with dodgy internet.
In the taxi I found 200 soles I forgot that I had, which I had put with my passport. What a win! When I left the taxi on an unusually sunny day, I walked with a backpack, my wallet, phone (with no credit), and passport. That is all. My suitcase is in my girlfriend’s room, so the sense of freedom or insecurity right now is only an illusion. I still have to go to work on Monday, and I still have relationships here. But it occurred to me that I could go anywhere I want right now. There’s a big part of me that thinks, ‘why not?’
The apartment and the job has kept me grounded for six months. It’s the apartment mostly. When we first moved in I breathed a sigh of relief and in the seclusion of my room next to the garage at the back I had a place to call my own – the first moments of privacy I’d had for two months in a foreign country. We had a lounge room to watch Netflix and our kitchen. I had my own bathroom. And regular commitments to paying rent.
I need the job to make money so I can live. But at some point the job took over. It became everything. I have obsessed over it teaching about world wars, the Incan Empire, and Peruvian presidents. I have tried to be the best at this job and find myself in meetings with parents, and disciplining teenagers.
“Oh here we go,” the most cynical readers might think. “Burnzy is doing the top 10 posts already. He must be running out of ideas.”
But actually, I have way too many ideas and stories because the inspiration here in the Peruvian mountains is incredible. I can describe to you the details in the heights. I could describe to you every detail walking from the main square to my hostel and make it sound like I’m in a fucking carnival. I could share the hundreds of photographs taken of a tragic mass graveyard and analyse in detail my thoughts on God I considered while staring hard at a glacier for half an hour – undoubtedly bringing with it insanity and snow glare.
There are deep and meaningful blogs I would like to write but given I’ve spent an entire afternoon in a bar drinking alcohol it’s probably appropriate to write a topic that’s safer than love, and women, and life, and death, and religion, and dreams, and the aspirations of being the next Ernest Hemingway.
It’s also good from time to time to reflect on the positive. And so, what I give you this time around, is a summary of the incredible moments that have defined me since I made it to Peru two months ago. And you know something? I’m going to be challenged to come up with 10.
There was a night in Zorritos. During this time at a nearby hotel a bunch of elderly guests were dancing. I happened to visit the bar at the time, and uh, one thing led to another. Soon, while wearing a mask the elderly women half my height were sharing the dance floor with me. I was learning the foot work from those watching from the sidelines – who could only teach me with hand motions rather than with language. This was an incredible moment. There was no agenda (which there might have been if these women were 50 years younger). It was just the innocence of a dance.
I was exhausted and sweating by the end. I couldn’t keep up with these ladies.
Shut up. No. I didn’t get laid. Although…you know, as weird as it is to write it…they would have taught me a thing or two.
2) Teaching children the time
I remember teaching young students the time in English. They were rough, mischievous, bored, and into their third hour of lessons when I was teaching them sections of the clock. And yet through physical activities and hand motions I found they were having a lot of fun.
At the end of the lesson, even though the beginning of the football game against New Zealand was about to start which would define Peru’s chances of entering the World Cup, they remained patient, shouting the times that I gave them through hand gestures. This was a powerful moment. They learned and they wanted to.
There’s a moment where you’re swimming in the water and a giant turtle’s head pops out of the surface so close you could breathe on it. It stares at you from the side as it continues swimming….and then it grins.
Before I fell asleep I was shitty that I was spending Christmas alone. And then I was startled by cracks of fireworks exploding in all directions. As I ran out to the balcony all my negativity was blasted away by colourful explosions across the foothills.
5) Dancing with a girl my own age
That’s even better than dancing with the elderly. I can describe one dance in vivid detail; sparkled eyes and laughter at my ridiculous dance moves. Then there are other dances with other girls which were hilarious in that they were awkward (they were all awkward but the first one at least was cute awkward), and those were fun too. Dancing is fun! Why should there be bad dancing and good dancing, only dancing where you enjoy yourself.
I spent ages on a bus which took me almost to 5000 metres above sea level and I walked the rest of the way to a glacier. It was snowing. It stung and hurt and while unpleasant I loved it.
I tried building a snowman and then I took my shirt off with a couple of other blokes who were on holiday from Lima.
7) Shouting ‘Cooee’ from a mountain
Trekking 10 kilometres up a steep incline to 4450 is a struggle but worth it when you stare at a lake in the shadow of a glacier. I watched it from a nearby high point which also overlooked the town of Huaraz in a valley 1400 metres below. I shouted ‘cooee’ from the top and I could hear a harsh echo call around twice. There’s some sort of spiritual wonder to hearing your own sound return to you from the heights – transformed and gravelly like an aggressive crow.
I can’t take the credit for this one, but when the tour bus broke down and a very kind Senorita gave some nearby children Oreos, they wouldn’t leave. When cars would pass they would wave cheerily and I joined in. Soon I showed them the photographs I had taken (of them and of the world around).
I soon learned what one of the boys liked just by the reaction from the photos and soon by what he was saying I was learning a sample of a type of Spanish-Quechua dialect. He loved motocabs and loved-loved-loved flags. He wasn’t a fan of Catholic churches. I helped him take a photo from my camera.
9) Watching a ‘remake’ of Thor: Ragnorok
I visited a school I was to teach at and the students were doing presentations of a sample country. These three countries were America, the UK, and Australia. As I walked into one of the classrooms for a presentation of Australia I was treated to a small play of Thor: Ragnarok, mainly of the battle between the Hulk and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Loki the ‘mischief maker’ was a very vocal student and I soon met him again the following week when I had to do a presentation in a class.
10) Finishing the next draft of my manuscript
I’ve been working on a book for four years. It has nothing to do with Peru and could have been done elsewhere but I completed the next stage this afternoon – and there’s something special about that.
And there you go. I came up with 10. And there were plenty of positive memories spare 🙂