On reaching 30: A birthday monologue

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Back in early high school of the early noughties, when I liked Playstation 1 and Wheatus, there’s one moment I recall in between bland vacant times of no meaning. My teacher’s aid was having a bad day. She was turning 30. “I’m old,” she said, miserably. She was cool, someone allocated to keep an eye on me given that I was on the educational radar – the one to watch out for, a sign of troubling behaviour. She lent me her Playstation games, like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot: Warped.

I turned 30 today, and I’ve been struggling for weeks to write something that was a combination of humble-bragging of my past and a declaration of my positive future. It’s 6pm and I haven’t had a shower, and I’m having dinner with my colleagues in 55 minutes. There’s not a lot of time to write something, if I want it published on my birthday.

I’m tired. I just returned from Perth, where I visited my family for a few days. My mum drove me back to the airport and on the way we stopped at Grilled for burgers. And I told her how I feel that it hasn’t been the same since I returned from South America seven months ago, that everyone around me is starting to look old, even my younger brothers.

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An earlier birthday. Judging from my pimples, somewhere in the early 20s

She gave me the look. The one where her lips are pursed, her eyebrows are raised, and is considering an “mmmm”. And she said, “well you’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. When you were in your 20s you could pretend to be, sort of. But you’re not.” And I had to absorb that for a moment, because in my heart I’ve thought I have the best of both mindsets, where I have experience in my profession, but am young. I guess I felt that everything I was doing was training me, preparing me, building me for something else in the future, when I was in my prime, when I’d have it all figured out and controlled.

Since I came back from Peru, I haven’t felt that. I’ve felt that where I am now is who I am. And I’ve felt a bit flat over it, as I see that I’m still not having much of a social life, where I’m still struggling with work at times and balancing the feelings of inadequacy that comes with it, with the occasional sense of pride that I know exactly what I’m doing. And I’ve felt that everyone else my age, and younger, have established themselves, have their voices too, and are prepared for this world that constantly is being branded as more frightening and dangerous, in its various forms.

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Possibly my 13th? 

As I continued eating my burger, I carried on with my rant to mum. “You know what the population is? 8 million. Sorry. I meant 8 billion. It wasn’t that long ago, maybe when I was in high school in 2006, when we were told it was 6 billion.”

In that time that has been another 2 billion people who now exist, who soon will indirectly compete with me for resources, food, and are part of a collection of experiences that I won’t be able to relate to.

“Haven’t you ever felt the same?” I asked mum, who would by my count be 48. She shrugged, as if she either hadn’t thought of it, or had long ago taken such a thing for granted.

While the population itself doesn’t directly impact why I’m 30, or the significance of it, I am saying there is a lot that can change in three decades, and even in 15 years.

Such as myself.

I was fostered for three years when I was 10, and I left home when I was 15. It was only the other week that I realised the odds of going to university and completing a degree was low if you were fostered, and when I look back to the kids I knew then, I know that I have accomplished much. People over the years have said I’m hard on myself.

I’ve had to be.

I guess what I’ve done though, in the meantime, ever since my Beenleigh Centrelink careers adviser helped me apply for university, is avoid stability. It’s only since Peru that I’ve even taken out a bond, and rented on my own. I kept a job in Mount Isa for more than three years, and I told myself I would serve that time, but I questioned it every six months.

I’ve always wanted the chance to escape, or have a choice to do so, without feeling bad about it. And I can still do that. Being 30 doesn’t change that. Reaching 30 doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a milestone year. And milestones help us to reflect on what we did and what we want to do.

 

That’s where I should wrap it. And I will. Today I didn’t do much. I tried out cricket powder in my breakfast cereal. I signed my rental lease for another six months. I bought an expensive pair of jeans from a store that offered me a 20 per cent discount because it was my birthday, only I didn’t see it until after I made the purchase. I bought Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and tried watching it. It’s not a good movie.

And really. That’s it. And I’m about to go out for dinner. And I’m okay with that. But I’ll have a birthday party in two weeks. It won’t be tonight, because I work tomorrow.

A Scorpio’s Reflections on Peruvian Life

  1. It’s been a year since I moved to Peru. Seeing the Facebook memories from November, 2017, is giving me perspective. This helps give me confidence. A year ago in Mancoura, I was wrestling with the pronunciation of ‘Gracias’, ‘aqui’, and ‘pan’. Today, I wrestle with the usage of ‘estaba’ and ‘estare’. 
  2. The dogs here are surprisingly very well behaved.
  3. It was easy a year ago to think about coming to Peru and the adventure and escape that awaited. But at some point I have to return, and I have no way to do so easily. If you sell everything including your car, and leave your job, and go overseas, it seems romantic, but at some point in time you will have to begin again when you return. 
  4. The best cakes I have ever eaten were in Peru. Peruvians know how to eat sweet foods. 
  5. Intention is always misunderstood in a foreign country, no matter what you do and how hard you try. This is the part where loneliness really affects you. 
  6. Manners are important. The worst thing you can do to block yourself from the surrounding Spanish world is to respond with ‘no entiendo’ when people attempt to explain something to you. And people don’t really know how to respond when you cannot speak enough words. 
  7. The same issues of bigotry, hatred, racism, xenophobia, and even nationalistic pride exists on both sides of the world. But even ignorance of the countries surrounding your borders also exist. I couldn’t believe it when a few people asked me if I was Venezuelan. My first reaction was shock. “How could you think I am Venezuelan?” That was bigotry. Then I realised that people really don’t know the countries outside of their borders. Then I realised that I am the same when it comes to countries outside of Australia. I guess I just assumed that in South America everyone was more interconnected. So I started researching on BBC the countries outside of Australia. I began with New Zealand, where I learned there is a river that legally has the same rights as a living person, and then the island nations that made it very clear to me how much the Americans during the Pacific War influenced the emergence and awareness of such places. 
  8. It’s easier to see the faults of a system when you’re the outsider, the stranger. But then you realise those faults exist at home too. 
  9. Today my students asked me questions about where I lived, and somehow I googled myself in class, and showed them either photos of myself, or photos I have taken. Then they saw a Youtube video of me boxing a Pacific Islander 40 kgs above my weight. This man ended up becoming my housemate. Then I showed the students a video of camel racing. They loved it. And that’s when I realised, I have lived a full life. I knew that already. I guess it’s just that I desperately want others to recognise that. For a moment, these kids did. And it made me happy, and made me feel respected, and made me feel that these kids were seeing a new exciting world beyond the one they had been taught about (the United States!). 
  10. The more you learn, and the more you want to learn, and the more enthusiastic you are about what you learn, the more you want to express yourself. I’ve tried to do it on social media but people don’t seem to like it so much. Self-expression is important but if you are learning far more than you are used to in a short space of time, maybe self-expression should be private for a little while until you’ve truly developed. 

 

Photography is to witness and give | Writing is to push and pull

 

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A Quechua youngster brings his brother or friend in the hopes of receiving more Oreos from a stranger (I wasn’t the Oreo giver).

Okay, so the good news is that these thoughts I shared in the last post of returning to Australia were just sickness-thoughts.

Damn that cuy! (hamster).

I woke up this morning and then did a 10 km trek to 4450 metres and saw a glacier overlooking the lake I sat beside. I had a great time. There were no deep and meaningful thoughts, no contemplation of the meaning of life, no meditations about God.

….

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Amy! My housemate roams Huanchaco.

Bullshit.

Okay, as I sat on the ledge of a glacier lake listening to…what? This was silence but for waterfalls fresh from a glacier lake. The wind blew but there were no roars of a plane vibrating in the far distance which we’ve always tried to zone out when we reflect. It was only the sounds of nature, and the sounds of my thoughts were stunned by the silence of the natural world around me.

As I sat on the ledge of a glacier lake contemplating why my favourite author was Roald Dahl (I always enjoyed his children books because he made his neglected child characters believe in magic in times of darkness, but it’s his adult works like his Tales of Madness that fascinate me because his sense of magic is there, but it’s in the behaviour of his characters who react in the most surprising of ways).

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The statue of Jesus overlooking a mass graveyard from an earthquake in the 70s which killed 12,000 people. Not even the churches were spared.

 

As I sat on the ledge of a glacier lake I realised that no matter what, you always carry your mind with you (the sort of thing that sounds philosophical but my Peru-Hermanos,Guy, would shake his head at, for how wanky it actually is. The sort of thing that sounds wise but is over-obvious that it doesn’t need to be written).

Let me start this sentence again for the last time (I’m starting to think I really want you to know I saw a lake near a glacier). As I sat on the ledge of a glacier lake I wondered at my compulsion to write and my need to take photographs. I’m no good at taking photographs but I enjoy it. It’s my way of trying to give to people. By witnessing. By having nothing to do with their moment.

 

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If I put a photo of Lutie in here he might share the blog post again. Last time he did that the stats increased a ridiculous amount.

Yesterday on the bus I went through my camera to delete old photographs from my old life in Mount Isa, Qld. There were so many photographs I had taken in my job as a journalist, and I realised that while I had a part these were not my memories. Yet at the same time they symbolised all the moments I had absorbed, and taken on. There were cricket matches, scenes of family tragedies (plural), a swimwear comp, and numerous fundraisers and political announcements. These photographs were for other people and I was paid to take them, I don’t mind, but it’s finally time. I deleted them one by one.

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Another housemate, Nicola, caught in the moment.

Today on this blog post I share with you 8 photographs I’ve taken recently, which I’ve taken for people (why 8? I was going for 10 but the net is slow and with the length of the writing eight is a nice round number to prevent over cluttering). This is my expression and it’s different to my writing.

I know how I sound by the way. Wanky. Pretentious. Arrogant. Full of himself. Egotistical.

My writing, which I  assume you’re reading and not just overlooking for the sweet pics, is something different. My writing is completely for me. As a child I used it because of the praise I received (“You’re going to be a famous author one day, mate. The ghosts flew a rocket ship to the moon, you say? Brilliant! You are so creative.”), then I used it to escape by channeling into my fantasies, then I used it for dreams of fame (ha ha ha ha, dreaming of writing the fantasy series), then I did it because I dreamed of controlling my readers’ thoughts and emotions, and then because…because…it fulfilled my life’s purpose. Then I got paid for it, and then it sort of just became compulsion. Mainly because I couldn’t express myself in any other way.

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My most loyal reader Adriaan. Another photo of him in my blog is long overdue.

Life makes sense when I write and if one of you in a hundred read this or read what I eventually churn out, and can’t explain your own thoughts and emotions better with one additional word, if you realise suddenly in your dark times that what you’re feeling has been felt before, that you are not alone, that you are not mad or crazy, then…then…well, that’s why I leave myself vulnerable when I write. It’s necessary.

Add in the typical Aussie self degradation: Look at me being noble and shit. Gets on the nose a bit, hey? I feel it is on the nose anyway.

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Two brothers from Ecuador.

I thought about returning to Australia in my sickness haze, but as I walked I realised that no matter what it goes against my life code. I am a writer. I am at the centre of where I need to be. I can’t give up, because after all, what am I going to write about? What am I going to take photographs of?

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I didn’t take this photo. This photo was taken by one of the Quechua boys who came to visit us as we waited by our broken bus. I showed them my photographs and then I let him have a go at it.

Leaving Peru would be a tale of madness, but without the stories to go with it. It would simply be madness.

Burnzy’s nine reflections today

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Photo: Adriaan Bornman. 

1. I must learn Spanish before I ask for a hair trim in a Peruvian barbershop. Bye bye hair 😦

2. Ego weighs you down (like hair). Beauty is never only skin deep. Only the bitter claim that. It’s pride that’s shallow and paper thin.

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Photo: Adriaan Bornman. 

3. I’ve learned the definition of Schmoodel and I think I am one of those, and I shouldn’t be proud of that.

4. I could learn the blue steel move from this dog! Her name shall be called Mrs Peanut Butter. How on earth did Mrs Peanut Butter get on the roof?!?! I always see her on there every time I walk past.

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5. Amy is awesome. Lutie is not (that’s 20 soles, por favor, Amy. I’ll use it to buy our next round.

6. We can test ourselves, and we can throw our own bloody image on the ground to be swept away by a broom.

7. Huanchaco: it’s all about people and the places you go to get wreckety wreckety wrecked.

8. I should have spoken to this man. He seems to know all. But I didn’t, so now he’s just a shadow in my mind. This is a tragedy, and who knows by how much.

9. I’ve realised that a few mothers of some delinquent teachers are reading this blog (three if we count my own mum). So for your sake I must give you the honest picture of what we do here:

-Day drink sometimes, night drink always. 

-Op shop

-Buy suits!

-Sitting around bludging

-lose a lot of shit

-Ice creams on the beach. 

-Selfies. So many selfies. 

Pizza!

-Rock and roll all night and party every day. 

We eat healthy salads at home and save our money. We play a little bit of monopoly without cheating or blackmail or death glares   before we all go to sleep by 9pm-ish  . Also we go to church and do laundry and look after the cute abandoned animals. The end.