Bueno, solía necesitar tanto tu amor Entonces vine a vivir con eso Últimamente tengo un sentimiento lejano Y todo comienza de nuevo Oh si, estoy bien Solo me siento un poco solo esta noche Estoy bien la mayor parte del tiempo Solo me siento un poco solo esta noche -The Apartment Song, Tom Petty (Google Translated)
I had a bad earache during the week, and on my way out of the chemist, I ducked into the bookstore next door. That’s when I found the travel section, and more importantly, the Spanish book for dummies. It’s been quite useful. The first chapter is taking me through pronunciation of the alphabet.
Last night I squeezed in a Spanish lesson online. I went through a website called Preply almost a week ago, picked a tutor who I thought seemed professional, booked a lesson, and paid.
Then I waited.
It was 10pm my time, and about 8am for her. I was nervous, wondering if she was going to be late, and then she appeared on my screen, adjusting her hair and looking anywhere but at me.
She couldn’t see me, my microphone and camera weren’t working. Gee, that must have been creepy for her when for 15 minutes I couldn’t get it working, because after a while she turned the screen off, and we tried switching to Skype. Even then Skype was a problem for me, I was unfamiliar with it really, but at last, with 20 minutes of the lesson to go, we had it sorted.
My tutor was Colombian, I think, and I was attracted to her. She reminded me so much of the friends I made in Peru, the beautiful colleagues who I never could really talk to for too long, the ones who looked at me curiously in a similiar way, for to each other we were exotic.
In this way she seemed familiar, except she was a more experienced teacher, and natural, but she was testing the areas of my knowledge, particularly when it came to family, and directions, and the time.
Her mannerisms were so familiar, and when I couldn’t understand her, my reactions returned to how it had been in Peru for 18 months. I would awkwardly flounder for words, and say “como?” and while it isn’t the most endearing thing to do, I found comfort because a part of myself that I had forgotten about had returned.
I left the lesson with a smile on my face, and bought more lessons, booking one for Monday and another for the next Friday.
Then I fell asleep, eventually, ready to work on Saturday.
“Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not,” says Uncle Iroh, my favourite character from Avatar; The Last Airbender.
It is only recently that I have started watching the show properly, on Netflix, but I have been doing so in Spanish in an effort to try and learn through my own interests. I think it is helping. Everyone has been noticing some improvement; colleagues, friends, and my girlfriend.
Yes, I have a girlfriend now, and she is Peruvian. We have basically been in a relationship since our first date months ago which I wrote about – but it took a while to become official. Mainly because I never intended to be in a relationship with anyone here. If anything, I wanted to gain more stories experimenting more with dating, but also…deep down, there is the inevitability of returning home to Australia, or to continue travelling the world. All things change or adapt, I suppose, but I suppose it’s just as important to let them in their own time.
I am much better a person to have someone in my life who cares for me, and vice versa.
Sometimes we speak in Spanish, but it’s mainly been through eating dinner at her family’s house and conversing with them without using English. Sometimes I have no choice given her father doesn’t know English (and yes! Meeting a traditional Peruvian father who has never met his daughter’s partner before should be its own blog post). At first I was getting really frustrated and exhausted easily, as I always was, but I am relaxing more now, and with that, enjoying it.
The other day I bought a Thor comic in Spanish…and that has increased my desire to learn (I better learn. It cost me bloody 98 soles). Now I try to learn one phrase a day if I can. Today, I wrestle with ‘No Se’ and ‘No Lo Se’ and their differences (I don’t know, and I think No Lo Se is more like…. I don’t know everything about the subject’. As in; is that true? No lo se.).
My life has mostly focused on preparing lessons for the history classes I teach, and to do so I need to learn more about the subjects. For three of the four grades the subjects have been about the Incas, and old Peruvian presidents. Learning about old political history of a foreign country in a continent across the world is fascinating, but rather difficult to gather as well given old news and facts are mainly in Spanish. I obsess other ways to improve my classes. I consider how I can improve things for my students. Ask my girlfriend how often I talk about work.
It’s sad really, given I left Australia to give up my workaholism. I thought that it was the nature of journalism that did it. But I think it’s just me. I remember ‘Gypsy Amy’ (my housemate) who gave me a tarot reading on the beach of Zorritos more than six months ago. One of the cards she picked up was ‘workaholism’. I can’t remember what she said about it though.
I want Gypsy Amy to give me another reading. But Gypsy Amy lost her cards. I don’t know if there’s irony in this, or if this just tells us everything we need to know about Gypsy Amy’s free spirit 😉
I don’t need Gypsy Amy to tell me this though. Life seems so much easier for me when I focus all my energy on work. Life seems so much easier feeling good about my work. And I know that’s not quite healthy.
This is part of my playlist that I listen to on my Iphone every day, when I am on the bus early in the morning and on my way home from work.
I use it to escape the daily routine, but I cannot understand most of it. Still, a little bit more occasionally I reach a breakthrough with a word, even if it’s only to tell it apart from another noise.
- Bella (Wolfine): Beautiful
- Tres (Libido): Three
...Love me, lie to me, touch me,
Think of me, miss me, hold me…
After a day without you, I can die,
Tell me I lost my reason.
- La Ruta del Tentempie (Charly Garcia): The Route of the Tentempie
…And I will not wait
And I will not run
And I will not win
And I will not lose…
- Estadio Azteca (Andres Calamaro): Aztec Stadium
- Mayores (Becky. G. and Bad Bunny): Greater
…I like them older
Those we call gentlemen,
The ones who open doors and send flowers…
- Hojarascas (Kraken): Fallen Leaves
…I’m not a puppet that gets tangled in your fingers,
No longer pretend,
Because I feel more compassion…
- De Musica Ligera (Soda Stereo): Of Light Music
…I will not send (her)
Ashes of roses
Nor shall I avoid
A secret contact…
- Matador (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs): Matador
…If we talk about killing, my words themselves kill
It hasn’t been very long since the Leon Santillan fell
And now I know that at any moment I am going to be next.
Ahh matador…. Ahh matador.. Where are you matador?…
- No Me Dejan Salir (Charly Garcia): They Do Not Let Me Out
I’m green, they will not let me out
I’m green, they will not let me out.
I can not start, I can not leave,
I can not feel love, that feeling….
I panted, jogging in the dark back to the house, holding a can of tuna and a chocolate bar. A Peruvian singer croons in my earphones and I cannot understand him. My left hand stinks of garlic.
I had done a quick shop run when I realised I had forgotten the tuna for my garlic rice and I only spoke in Spanish. I walked into the store.
“Puedo por favor tener atun?” I said, proud of myself for trying a different phrase. (Can I please have tuna?”)
“Atun?” the shopkeeper reached for the cans behind him. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t seem to register my new phrase.
“Puedo por favor tener atun?” I repeated, just to ensure he heard(Can I please have tuna?).
Yeah, he got it. “Atun?” he said, moving his hand around the different brands.
“Real (the brand), Por Favor,” I said. “Y Sublime (brand of chocolate).”
“Extremo? (largest size)”
“Extrema negra (dark), por favor.” I gave him a 20 soles note, and I said “Buenas Noches,” and he said “Ciao!”
And as I jog past the gym I haven’t been to for weeks, in my blue Llama wool jumper, I think, “wow, I really like this person I am becoming.”
When I try to speak in Spanish my voice takes on a humble tone. It’s almost babyish, or apologetic, and it’s something that I like about myself. “I don’t know everything,” my tone suggests when I speak to anyone in the few heavily Aussie accented Spanish. “Please like me! Please like my words.”
I really want to learn Spanish. I mean, I really want to learn. I didn’t have such a strong desire to do so three weeks ago. But I feel really disadvantaged without it. The faster I learn it the happier I can be in Peru.
The only thing that has let me down my entire life are other people’s expectations and inadequacies, and allowing those to control me. My limitations should never be a sense of shame.
One of the biggest weaknesses in navigating South America is not being able to count higher than six.
The best way to practice counting is to play Bullshit while waiting in line at the Ecuador border. I did this yesterday. Bullshit is a game requiring lies and deceit. The aim is to get rid of all your cards and if you don’t have the card you need, you have to claim that you do. If someone thinks you are lying, they must claim “bullshit”. The cards are turned over, the truth is revealed, and whoever is lying (or wrong) must pick up the deck.
Amy, Nicola, Guy and I traveled to the Ecuador border yesterday with the aim of extending our visas before we travel south to take on a promising teaching position in Trujillo.
It was a confusing mess. Our taxi driver Jorge (Hor:Hey?) helped us but he didn’t know what was going on either, and he knew little English to give us much insight. We were worried we might be denied entry back into Peru, or wouldn’t get the six months we needed (through our ignorance or inability to communicate).
As we waited two hours in a line (that we didn’t need to be in at that point in time, it turns out) I pulled out a pack of cards and we played Bullshit, standing around the deck. I invited Jorge to play which meant trying to teach him in a foreign language, and it only worked because Guy is naturally gifted at learning Spanish.
I decided to try to play while speaking the numbers in Spanish.
“Bullshit! That’s bullshit!”
We started having an audience – spectators that began to understand the rules. By the end of the game though, my brain was about to explode with the numbers I was trying to remember and pronounce (I still can’t get the e in Tres right. It’s embarrassing).
As we were about to be served at the counter we learned we had to go to another line in another building and that we would have to return to this same line later. Fortunately when we returned the line was shorter, but we queued in about four lines by the end.
Four hours after the game of Bullshit, we were struggling to fill out our paperwork without tables. “Write on my back,” Nicola offered to Amy. And Amy started trying to draw on Nicola’s back! Ha ha ha. We were tired.
Finally I was at the counter, confident that with blue eyes and my Aussie charm I might be able to persuade the lady with the stamp that I should be allowed six months more to stay in the glorious Peru.
What I wasn’t so confident about was my ignorance of the Spanish language and my ability to
fuck up burnzy everything up with good intentions. But not today! I carried a slip of paper which said “Seis meses de Peru, Por Favor” (should have had para instead of de, and it would have meant ‘six months in Peru, please”.) and I even had an excuse up my sleeve if they asked “why do you want to stay?”
“La Chica,” I would say. Which is bullshit but it sounds cute.
But I never got the chance to sound like a brainless sap, because the lady at the counter tried to talk to me, and I didn’t understand, and I gave her the paper, and passport and I said “Lo Siento, no hablo Espanol”, and she spoke again, and I looked confused, and she laughed (it’s the, ‘wow, he really is dumb’ laugh and I’ve been hearing a lot of it lately, but it’s actually not a bad laugh).
“Cinco,” she said, (five) and I was glad that Bullshit had helped me with the numbers a little. And I said, “No, Seis, por favor!” and she smiled and somehow I was able to understand that because I had already just been in Peru a month, this year, I couldn’t have the full visa refreshed.
I pouted….I actually pouted! Bloody hell. It was a thinking pout, and then I grinned, and I tried again.
“Seis muy bien!” I said, (six very good!*) and in a tone where I was pleading, but she shook her head, with a genuine wide grin, and said ‘cinco’.
I didn’t dare push it, I was already winning, and I hope I thanked her, I hoped I showed the gratefulness on my face, and I think I did. I left with the final stamp and waited for my friends, and they had gained what they needed to, more or less.
Then we went back to the hotel for a pool party where we could drink as much as we wanted in three hours. I got changed in a red flannie and I sang Mambo No 5 and Black Betty on karaoke, and scared the nearby school children at the party by doing it in a heavy raspy voice, and I drank so much that I threw up by a palm tree (making Australia proud) and nearly passed out in a hammock, and made a real arse of myself. The end.
*With my ignorance of the local language I’ve wondered how on earth I’m still alive. But I am alive and there will be plenty of embarrassing stories to come, I’m sure. Keep safe out there, and I’ll make sure to do the same.