One year in Peru and I’m still learning

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The many faces of Burnzy. This is 1) Halloween Burnzy.

I almost refused to wear a Halloween costume to school today. I hadn’t saved any money from my last pay check, and I spend all my money on living, and really, in the end, shouldn’t I just focus my energy on what is important? Shouldn’t I care more about teaching my students and preparing for it?

I reconsidered and thought that even with no money I could still leave my rented room and walk to the costume store with my girlfriend and at least find out how much it would cost to get a costume. And, as it turns out, there was an entire building in this town devoted to Halloween costumes. Three stories of stores filled with rented costumes of pirates and princesses and supergirls and Mad Hatters and Freddy Kruegars.

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2) Gringo Burnzy.

I decided to wear my signature costume; The Joker. Everyone was as in as mad a rush to get their costume as it would be to grab the last item in a boxing day sale. The fire hazard of the windowless room in the third floor corner was crammed with clothes and people and I needed to leave, desperate for air.

I am glad I changed my mind. Because today at school I had a lot of fun. I had one successful class of teaching (against all odds) before the Halloween dance contest was held. One of my students, who I struggle to connect with despite my efforts, is obsessed with comics, and likes clowns. When he saw me he was shaking with happiness and had the biggest smile on his face. I walked away with warm tears bubbling in my heart not knowing how to express myself, but the costume was worth it for this moment alone.

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3) Backpacker Burnzy. Not to be confused with ‘Gringo Burnzy.’

I watched all my colleagues and even students’ guards drop all day, not just with me but with the other costumes. I saw a teacher I was scared of, who I assumed disliked me, laugh when I smiled because she was dressed as a bunny rabbit.

I believe Oscar Wilde said “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” I think that if you wear a mask, people treat you like a stranger. Wear a costume and people will treat you like a character they might already know, and love, or love to hate.

 

This week I have felt really down, and quite frankly, perhaps for the first time, I might understand the meaning of the word ‘depressed’. It wasn’t just a flat feeling, but like a physical feeling, as if a heavy steel capped boot was stomping on my chest and pressing down, and squeezing, and continuously pushing. The more my body found space to relieve itself from the pressure, the more area the pressure took up. All I could think of was this pain.

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4) Shakespeare Burnzy. Performing the ‘to be or not to be’ scene at school. I think it might be a real skull.

The pressure in my body is a pressure of the external circumstance as an ex-pat. As an ex-pat I have felt that I haven’t been able to express myself properly. Life and the people in Australia become distant and in many ways through language barrier, among other things, kept me distant from those around me too.

In two days it will be one year since I arrived in Peru. There has been ups and downs, challenges like you wouldn’t believe, frustration and pain and misery and so much gaining of knowledge. It’s been a life, not a holiday, and one where presumptions and assumptions and stereotypes and ego have had to break, or bend, or be questioned, or tested.

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5) Jungle Burnzy.

This moment today alone has almost made the year worth it. I created an expression of joy in someone by being myself (by being someone else).

In the last week I have reflected on what to write for this anniversary post. And I was going to write about the mistakes I made this year, or what I would do all over if I had the time again. It just felt so negative though, and needlessly hard on myself. But what I wish I had done is something that maybe I am still beginning to learn. Education and teaching is important, but at some point in the year I immersed myself too much in teaching. I focused all my energy into a job and relationships that doesn’t necessary give back as much as you put into it, not because these are necessarily horrible, but because we and others only have so much to give.

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6) Snow Burnzy.

I caught myself ranting at students last week, who have one last term before graduation, ‘I’m sorry I take your education seriously. Too seriously at times, maybe.’

I could have refocused my energy so that I was a pleasure to be around, fun to be with, a colleague and a teacher to enjoy having. So I have to end this blog on this point, spoken by the great Heath Ledger.

‘Why So Serious?’

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7) Beach Burnzy

 

Gypsy Amy’s teachings on Peru

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Amy is great to have brunch with. But be warned. She is a food-digger.

WHO is Gypsy Amy, and why should you have to listen to what she has to say?

Amy is the friend I’ve known the longest in Peru. One of my first memories of her was after a night at a party hostel in Mancora, in northern Peru. Three of us who had been doing a TEFL course together in a nearby fishing village woke groggily as she said quite firmly, “I am never going to do anything, ever again.”

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I remember Valentines Day, when housemates Adriaan and Amy decided it would be fun to pretend to be a thing. Very cute. Too convincing.

Amy and I moved south to work at a school in Trujillo after completing the course. We became housemates for seven months, and colleagues at the same time, along with others who did the same course as us.

Amy’s read my cards with a turban on her head. We’ve had many drinks and danced with elderly Peruvians. We have been on the hunt for the perfect pizza in Peru. We have fought each other many times, often after a few beers. We’ve argued over dishes, I’ve cleaned her room and used her Netflix, and sworn at her for waking me up at midnight. We’ve procrastinated so much together, which means there’s a hell of a lot more we could have done. We’ve been to the movies to watch something in Spanish and didn’t even understand it. She dropped the popcorn.

Once we refused to speak to each other for more than a week, and we never even told each other we weren’t talking. It was only when I was drunk on a bottle of wine late one night that I forgot we weren’t talking, and the ice was broken. She is one of the bravest and gutsiest people that I know, and has in 10 months become a sister (but doesn’t replace my real and only sister). She will tell you exactly what she thinks, even if you’re not going to like it. And, so, this blog post is long overdue.

I’ve wanted Amy to give her advice about living in Peru for some time, and here it is. Amy’s exclusive voice:

 

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The cards don’t lie…

1) BE EXTRAORDINARY

Actually, you know what, my advice to people who come to Peru is to go do something out of the ordinary. Do something you haven’t done before.

There are so many things here in Peru that you can do, that you can never ever be able to do anywhere else you live (well, it depends where you live).

Go to the jungle, go to a spiritual retreat, try surfing.

 

 

 

2) AYAHUASCA

I have had a couple of beers, because it’s my last night I can drink for a couple of weeks. In two weeks I’m going to do Ayahuasca.

My advice to you is if you do go to Peru, try Ayahuasca for the first time because it’s legal here. Anywhere else it’s highly illegal. Go to the jungle, go to some Ayahuasca. Go to Cusco, go to some Ayahuasca.

I’ve done it six times. It’s my last day I can eat meat. No eggs, no coffee, no citrus. Life is going to be horrible.

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This chica loves living in the beach town of Huanchaco.

3) TAKE ON YOUR FEAR

Get out of your f–king comfort zone and do your greatest fear.

My fear when I went to Bali was the ocean, and I tried surfing. Coming here, I was terrified of Ayahuasca, and I did it.

Do something that you’re not comfortable with doing because there’s so many things you can do in Peru that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with. Go and f–king do it.

 

That’s my rant.

That’s my advice. Do Ayahuasca, or do something you have never done before, or do your greatest fear.

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Australia Day in South America

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Barb and I, token Aussies, eat at a steak house. The woman of Torquay, Vic, is a vegetarian but acknowledged the need to eat at a place that offered barbecue.

Right now I listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 being streamed live. It may typically be the tradition on Australia Day but out of protest and acknowledgement to change the date, so has the timing of the playlist.

It’s the first time I have listened to the Hottest 100 and it’s also the first time I have been out of the country for Australia Day. I guess reminding myself of my country and clinging onto anything that makes it has become important at a time when even the accents have become so harsh to me. Even the sound of my own voice. It’s great being connected to interviews with Aussies across the world (even those mining 500 metres underground in Qld, hiding from the bosses while they listen to this playlist).

Another Australian and I have stumbled onto a barbecue steak house that promises Angus beef. Believe me when I say that in Peru this is as rare as rain in Mount Isa. I was nearly crying eating a ‘cowboy steak’. It reminded me of Mount Isa. It was the first I tasted a good steak since I left the outback Qld town in October.

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…..

Australia Day. I can tell you the trends I read on social media about the day. Beforehand there is the criticism and support for Survival Day mentality. On the day itself I hear about how bad the sunburns are as everyone has somehow had time for five minutes in the swimming pool.

Like my country I am divided personally when it comes to Australia Day and the date of January 26 being used to mark our patriotism. For some the day acknowledges the British invasion and the brutal treatment and destruction against the Indigenous cultures. The first fleet of convicts landed in Sydney on this day in 1788. Personally, who cares when every day should be Australia Day. But there are Indigenous people who see it as a time of mourning. Why not simply change the day for those that matter? Anybody who claims to be a true patriotic should not be able to care either way.

On the other hand changing the date is a manageable distraction from the disparity among the average Indigenous to the average Australian. Health, welfare, income, and education, an imbalance in crime and incarceration are still a massive struggle in the remote communities but instead of focusing more on these concerns there are many who focus on lobbying changing a day.

But who cares what I think. It’s worth reading Waleed Aly’s opinion piece in the New York Times about ‘How To Rethink Australia Day.’

…..

One of my friends is teaching overseas. She teaches in England and left Australia about a fortnight before I did. In fact we’re listening to Hottest 100 right now (we’re on 86) even though it must be 3am in London right now. I guess I mention Jo because we have similiar experiences with the isolation from Australia.

On her first Australia Day outside the country she played badminton after school, and then had dinner at a Persian restaurant with a Carribean West End actor and an Iranian prac student.

“It was great. And it’s the little things,” she said. “There was a starter that was so much like my family’s potato salad that I felt back home. And I should have gone with the lamb…”….

10.15pm: So I’m listening to song 72 on the Hottest 100 playlist. Jo is also listening and it’s 3am her time. The song currently playing is In Cold Blood by Alt-J. The song before that was Nuclear Fusion by King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard. I really liked that one, as well as Cloud 9 by Baker Boy (song 72). I hadn’t heard him before but I am really loving the Indigenous feel to the rap. It’s a consolation that he made it if my mate Lucky Luke doesn’t make it on the list with his song Jacks.

11.12pm: I’d stopped for an episode of Gossip Girl and now I’m back. And alright! We’ve got 21 Grams, by Thundamentals placing 61. But I’d much rather have their song Sally making the list.

“Everybody knows that Sally can’t dance
But damn she’s so fine that nobody’s gon’ tell her
Two left feet, one beautiful smile
Goddamn she’s so fly whenever we’re together.” 

The list is still young and so is the night.

11.45pm: 55) 6 Pack by Dune Rats: “Got a place, where no one’s ever sober. It’s all good, there’s nobody coming over.”

12.11am: I can’t keeping doing this. But yessss……The Smith Street Band makes 49!

12.35am: Can’t do it. Must sleep. Only at song 44. Please let Gang of Youth’s Like a Version cover of Blood make it. And Sally. Tash Sultana’s Jungle will likely make it too. Maybe another San Cisco song.

Happy Australia Day.