A teacher’s day in Peru

7.00am: I spent my first night in my new place in the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo. I do not know where my new place is in the city, so my landlord walks me to my school. It takes only 10 minutes. What complicates matters is I know limited Spanish, while he doesn’t know English.

I arrive at school just in time to hear loud clangs of cowbells. “Happy teacher’s day!” the school’s psychologists shout as I walk through the gates. I really need a coffee.

New Spanish word acquired: Cruzar 

7.30-8am: I have made myself a coffee (with instant which I’ve stashed in my locker for such emergencies. The school has a ‘House’ system named after American presidents. I am in Kennedy House.

Team Kennedy has organised greeting students at the gates with a banner, gifts for our primary school mates, and our mascot ‘Sully’ from Monsters Inc. It takes me ages to realise who is in the mascot suit and I don’t really want to know.

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New Spanish word acquired: Mascota

8am-10.55am: Today is an unusual day, in that it is the first day of exams. This means regular classes are cancelled while the exams are on. Teachers are scheduled to supervise the exams. I do not have to teach or supervise during the math exam. I ensure my paperwork is complete, and I also mark students’ notebooks.

10.55am-12.15pm: The siesta is over. I now have to supervise grade 10 in their business exam. Students either arrive late to class, ignore my instructions to sit down and put their books away, or ask to use the bathroom.

“Why didn’t you do it in the break?” I ask.  I order students to sit before returning to my strike-candy score system. If students have five strikes we practice dictation exercises, and if they have five candy points at the end of class then I give them candy from my candy jar.

Students quickly get to their seats after one girl rolls her eyes and puts a finger to her head. “Bang”, she whispers.

Students finally settle down but they need help from the business teacher, who undoubtedly is working her way through all the classes. Finally she arrives and I bribe her with candy so she can see our class first.

It turns out I am mentioned in the exam. “Mr. Burns wants to stay in Peru forever! But he is a little confused because the banking system is different in Australia. Where should he put his money? A bank or a caja?”

Students find this funny.

When one student hands me her completed exam, I ask, “did you give me good advice?”

“Yes.”

“Am I going to be broke? Or am I going to be rich?”

“Probably broke.”

Another student asks, “are you really going to stay in Peru?”

“…..sure.”

“Will you be teaching here again next year?”

I use the time to receive some important feedback. “That depends,” I say seriously. “Would you like me to return next year.”

“Yes,” she said looking at the candy jar next to me. “If that comes back.”

New Spanish word acquired: Caja

12.15pm-2pm: I have a break for a while because Thursday is normally my quietest days. I use this time to plan what my lessons are going to be like during exam week. Teaching will prove tricky. I won’t teach all classes, and it’s not appropriate to teach heavy or new content between exams. I consider roleplaying exercises for some classes.

It’s teacher’s day the next day but we will have that time off. Instead, we will be celebrating with designated classes from 2pm. One of my students finds me and she gives me a box of chocolates as a gift.

2pm: I arrive to my designated class where cakes and biscuits are being prepared by students and some of their mothers. I take a seat and as food is being passed around, students give us some speeches. Many students that give a speech don’t address me because they prefer to speak in Spanish, but those that I do understand are lovely and encouraging.

“When you first arrived we thought, ‘oh no, another native speaker, we aren’t going to understand a thing’,” one student said. “But instead, we have learned so much, even when you think we are really bored. And you try to make the classes dynamic and interesting.”

Spanish words acquired: The difference between torta and keke

3pm: Teachers gather for their own assembly once the students leave. We collect awards and certificates  and have a glass of wine while we wait. My friends and colleagues stand one at a time to receive their awards.

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5pm: Everyone has left for the day. I mark the notebooks from students and return the books to the classrooms so students can find them first thing on Monday. I am extremely happy with one student’s response to ‘was dropping the atomic bomb on Japan justified? Why or why not?” Most students didn’t bother completing that question for homework. This student receives a gold star from my sticker collection. I rarely give those ones out. I tidy my locker and then I walk home with my laptop and my passport. At some point I am lost but I don’t stop for my phone. I feel rather vulnerable in these new streets during this time of the day. But eventually I find my door. My landlords give me a coffee and some bread and cheese, and we talk in Spanish (as best as I can). I go to my room and fall asleep before 7.30pm.

Spanish word acquired:  Caminar

 

 

Heavy thoughts in sunny Ecuador

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On the 20 hour bus ride.

We are not immortal. Often we are anxious and alone. We are trapped and no mind game or change is going to alleviate the situation.

I wrote that in sunny Guayquil of Ecuador.

And while I feel better now, I did not think I could ever be, at the start of a 20 hour bus trip from Trujillo to Guayquil.

It was two weeks into the flu, with stress over a lot of things t, with the fear that I had a reoccurring stomach bug from eating hamster on New Years Eve.

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At the border to Ecuador. 

So I decided to flush it out. I took heavy antibiotics and since then was in a haze. It wasn’t until two days later on the bus, when I took a tablet, that I knew straight away something was wrong. I was nauseous and dizzy. I passed out over the bus toilet. I could not sit up, the only thing that helped was laying down. But understandably the bus porter wasn’t going to let me do that. He made me sit on the bus stairs (double story) and made me drink cacao tea. It was nasty stuff but he assured me it would help.

I was sick, probably flushing out the bulk of the tablet, where I felt good enough to lay down another 12 hours until we crossed the border.

We crossed familiar territory including Mancoura, Zorritos, and the border, where my journey here all begun. Except now I felt a bit weary. Older.

It is an illusion of course. How much different could I be in six months?

My problem is I am much the same, facing the same problems I had when I left Australia six months ago.

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? 

 

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.

 

Back to work (but in Peru)

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Buenos Dias, amigos! It’s time to get out the house (before 7am) with all the coffee you can carry!

I’VE just finished cooking spag-bog but experimenting with kidney beans. They are undercooked. I listen to Avenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare Album and The Cure, drinking coffee, hoping I’ll finish this blog and have time to read a Russell Brand book, and knowing I have to iron a shirt, clean my travel mug, and make a peanut sandwich before I sleep. It’s an early start tomorrow.

It’s been three months since I last worked. I lasted a while, but the fun times are over (no they aren’t). It’s back to having to be responsible, and I haven’t been happier (aside from the other day when I was raving about my peanut butter and peppermint ice-creams which combined well together).

Today my housemates and I traveled on the bus (in the words of Billy Madison: “back to school, back to school….”) and arrived in time for our first day of training at our new school. We signed a contract last week after six weeks of sorting out visa requirements and school based tests (with Christmas and New Year between this period).

Imagine being in a room for most of a day learning about how your new job is going to work. But 90 per cent of what is being said is in another language. You are the foreigner, but fortunately everyone around you is warm and accepting.

I tell you what. I’ve never been more motivated to learn some Spanish. I’m sick of not understanding the jokes told in that room, and the students are going to eat me alive (that’s a cliche and therefore not to be taken literally. The kids here aren’t really cannibals).

When I was in Year 7 a boy who years before had a car crash needed a support teacher to help him work and to write – but not because he was dumb. He often didn’t understand the instructions and I remember his frustration. Being in the room trying to understand the basic exercises today must have been a little like how my classmate felt. Each of my housemates and I had our own translator, and I knew by the end of the day that I would make many friends among the colleagues. But still, they were a little baffled and amused by the lack of my Spanish ability.

I went to the mall and spent a lot of money. It was mostly on food but to celebrate my first day of work/training I bought myself Adidas gym shorts, and some quirky socks.

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Monkeys were my spirit animals. Now my patronus is an owl.

 

Housemate-Amigo Amy and I caught the bus back home with our shopping, because I was shamed at the cost of the afternoon and didn’t want to pay for a taxi. So I was carrying too many shopping bags when we walked into the cramped bus. I tried handing over bags to Amy, but that was a rookie move because I dropped the mince and the bottle of pasta sauce, which fortunately didn’t break.

And what happened next was an example of Peruvian good nature at work. Several men got up to help hold my bags and as the bus moved around, and I bent forward to retrieve the mince I nearly fell forward. One of the benevolent strangers helped support me.

I felt embarrassed when I couldn’t pronounce Mucho Gracias properly because if there was ever a time I really wanted to say it properly, it was then.

My Peruvian story as told by Instagram pics

Instagram account: @Isa_journo

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“Cya Australia! -November 2, 2017” 

Zorritos

“Zorritos City. The highway. November 7, 2017.” 

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“I am sitting on a beach in South America watching football and drinking beer wondering what the hell I did to deserve this. Its unofficial. I’m not coming back. November 11, 2017.”

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“Viva Peru! November 16, 2017.”

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“Pisco on the beach. A dangerous pixie mix. November 20, 2017.”

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“Coming home after crashing an elderly Peruvian party. 80 year olds do know how to dance! -November 24, 2017.”

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“@Seawitch66 and I sneak in the back of a motocab. -November 26, 2017.”

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“Street Pizza with the Mystery Inc Gang. November 29, 2017.”

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“My name is Chris. I enjoy brooding, music, and very long walks on the beach.
Location: Zorritos, Peru. Photo: @seawitch66. -December 4, 2017″

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“Lads nap time. December 5, 2017.”

 

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“Cute pics with hostel kittens in Peru. I’m the uncle that gives my gatos beer. This is my niche and I’m never going to stop. Don’t hate me that animals love me. -December 10.”

 

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“Celebrating the fact we’re two days into our six day drinking ban. #drinking #failure #hangovers #peru #Huanchaco #brocode @luttti failed first! -December 13, 2017.”

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“Watch out my male model mates! I found a ghetto gym in Peru and already made gains! Training in exile has never been so sexy-awkward! -December 14, 2017”

 

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“Gotta find a way to make this haircut work. -December 15”

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“Meeting @amigos in a snow ❄️ storm! You probably can’t see me I’m so #blanco! First time I have ever seen #snow and it was near #huaraz in #peru. A bit cold though!
#merrychristmas and #feliznavidad  #threeamigos are #idiotas. -December 24, 2017.” 

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“As cool as an #alpaca. This is what I came to see in #peru ! #pastoruri. -December 24, 2017.” 

“Look at life through a glass half full (of #beer) and you see the sunshine! #drinking #life #friends #thankful#glasshalffullmetaphor -December 28, 2017″

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“#nuns at #Huanchaco #beachlooking at the #sunset in #Peru. #capturingthemoment -December 28, 2017.”

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 +#glacier lake mate! Seeing so much #snow lately considering a fortnight ago I’d seen nada! #selfie#peru #huaraz #livinglife #happynewyear — in Huaraz. -January 2, 2018″ 

 

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#popefrancis visits #huanchaco Y #trujillo in #peru #southamerica . The #crowdincluding the clergy leave together! #catholic  January 21st, 2018″

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.

Un momento, dos momento

 

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Some great moments don’t need to be mentioned. The photos speak for themselves. 

It’s a sudden awakening. There are howls and whistles and screams and cracks and yelps from fireworks. My bunk mate Andy below me shouts and we get out and rush to the third-floor balcony to check what is going on.

In the day I would look out from the bottom of a valley – seeing buildings and streets clinging to the steep hills overlooking us. At 12.01 Christmas morning a roar of fireworks are being lit from these streets up into the night, all layered together with cracks of greens and reds and blues. Each street of Peruvians seem to compete against each other for the main attention.

It is the most glorious thing I have seen. I am frightened but laughing and reaching for my phone to Facebook Live this moment. Our street is included as a cluster of neighbours light up their rockets which pass above our faces. Andy and I roar expletives and between the ‘holy fuck’s and ‘Feliz Navidad’s I am laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and it is a moment, by this hill in the night, bright and explosive and loud, I will not forget. Within eight minutes I had the best Christmas of my life – and there was nobody but strangers to witness it with.

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The view from the balcony during the day. 

The show is slowing down 10 minutes later and Andy and I rush to see if the plaza on the other side of the building might have better fireworks. We run out the front door. The group of neighbours see us as they are lighting fireworks. They shout something with the word ‘gringo’ in it and a rocket hits alarmingly close to me. It’s most likely ‘get the gringos!’ and Andy and I keep jogging up the street.

Earlier that day in the plaza I watched an incredible dance. A brass band walks up the closed street guarded by frustrated police officers holding batons and riot shields. These police officers have been watching the Christmas Eve shoppers all day and I swear by the end a few of them want to take a swing at someone, just to have some fun, just to vent their frustrations at the rudeness.

The dancers take their graceful steps. Most of the dancers look like the ‘Big Bad Banksia Men’, but in the likely event you don’t know Australian fairy tales, I must avoid metaphor and describe them properly.

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The plaza. 

There’s 20 dancers in black masks which have red lips and grotesque blue eyes. One of them has an unlit cigarette in his mouth. They wear wide brown sombreros and heavy boots, and they clutch folded whips. There are two dressed in clown masks and they hold some boom-shaka-lakas (okay, I’m making up a word but it’s appropriate) which make grinding noises as they wave them around to scare away the pressing crowds who want the closest angle to take videos and photographs with their cameras. Some of the mothers are even using their children as cute hostages to get in closer. That doesn’t stop the threatening clowns from holding back the circle. The clowns have no mercy. You know why? Because they are clowns.

Arm in arm with the biggest and ugliest mask is a beautiful woman with icy eyes and a rosy smirk (who can resist such a woman?). And they proudly lead the dance with casual struts. A boy who can’t be more than seven-years-old is dressed completely in a white cow costume and he dances too, and closes in on the main couple. They are a cute family there, in that main street, in front of the plaza and the fountain and the glorious church.

And as they dance to the trumpets the sun shines on a spot on one of the mountains tipped with snow high beyond us. And this moment also is glorious.

Nobody can possibly be so lucky to have two amazing moments in the day.

I am.

Some of us seem to think sex or even alcohol is the answer to replace hurt or unwanted memories. Maybe so. I happen to love both, and tried both, but they tend to be an expression of my mood. They don’t exactly create happiness if I don’t already have it.

The trick is to find another way, and maybe at long last I’ve figured it out. The trick with coming to Peru or overcoming pain in life might not have anything to do with finding yourself as it is to be more of yourself.

I’m not talking about being ‘more’; ‘more healthy’, ‘more athletic’, ‘more sexy’, ‘more wealthy’, ‘more knowledgeable’, ‘more desirable’, (more superficial). I know, I know, this is all a familiar tangent of the self-righteous, and I’m sorry about that.

But what I’m talking about is having more moments like the fireworks in Huaraz on Christmas morning. The majestic moments that burn in your brain you can’t ever forget, so that they become you. Those moments where you remember laughing, the ones which weaken everything else that came before it.

 

Ferris Burnzy’s Day Off

 

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“Let my Burnzy go…..”

I know I’m in Peru and it’s sort of expected that I have exciting adventures every day. But there reaches a point where you need alone time and a completely uneventful day to just gravitate back to who you are.

We moved into a hostel about two days ago and so yesterday was the first time in almost a week where I had my own space and my own room to relax. I found Cadbury chocolate in a small supermarket (holy crap you have no idea how amazing that is!) and I just locked myself away, listened to music and blogged. And Facebook messaged friends from home, as friends knocked on my door to see if I’m alive and to see if I wanted to go to Trujillo.

“Burnzy.”

“Burnzy.”

“Burnzy.”

“Burnzy.”

It was Ferris Burnzy’s Day Off, and sometimes there’s nothing special and exciting about doing that. Some days you just have to be anti-social and recharge, because the world out there gets a little overwhelming at times. Almost every word is in Spanish, it’s crowded, and doing things with your friends sometimes takes a lot longer than it needs to be. The bill at restaurants gets irritating as you each try to break your 50 or 100 soles note.

You don’t have to seize the day all the time.

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Punch buggies everywhere! Now I have bruises on my shoulders.

Gosh I feel like such a typical introvert, but that’s okay. I’m not afraid of being on my own (with the voices of Tash Sultana, San Cisco and Iron Maiden in my headphones). I just wish I hadn’t cancelled my Netflix.

On another note I’ve been burnzying my way through cash, and I’m lucky that my company unexpectedly paid me the leave they owed me or I would have been screwed. Most of that is because we’ve been planning for our future living arrangements, but it is a humbling reminder that I need to start eating meals at home instead of eating out.

I wanted to go see ruins today but I think maybe it’s a good idea to avoid doing much sightseeing and spending until I start earning an income.

I’m trying to normalise my diet before I start going to the gym, so I’m trying to find oats for porridge. None of the stores here seem to have it. Avocado is easy to track down, and so are bananas, but I can forget about Greek yoghurt. I can’t seem to find honey either.

The food here is good, but my metabolism has suddenly increased, and therefore my energy levels crash rapidly. I have been getting hangry, and quickly. I ate spaghetti last night and then needed to order a Hawaiian hamburger because I was still starving. I’m too old to be having a growth spurt.

 

El Gringo Idiota

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The highway that passes through Zorritos. 

It’s 5am in the morning, the waves crash on the beach to my right as I lay on my bed, and the race that stops my nation has come and gone while I was sleeping.

Fortunately, the mosquitoes seem to be somewhere else but it may be that the glow of the laptop will tempt their return. It is a worry. The mozzies seem to like me more than the others, and given that I  am currently in a mild malaria and a dengue zone, a dice rolls every time another itchy dot shows on my skin.

I have repellant and I’m using it more, but I would say that the type I have is most effective within two hours.

So I currently stay in Zorritos, a small village along the highway. As my Kiwi neighbour Guy, who does the same course I do, points out in my last blog I described Peru as a ‘small fishing village’. I was obviously referring to Zorritos.

It’s a small place, and tourists are almost unheard of unless the surfers wait for transport on their way further south to the surfing city of Mancoura. It means we do stand out, and we are looked at, but I’m assured this is a safe place, and that this is curiosity and not a sign of bad intentions.

My Spanish is terrible and I do rely on the limited skills of Guy to get me by sometimes. I know “please”, “hello”, “goodbye”, “good morning”, “good afternoon”, “very good”, “gringo”, “apples” “thank you” and “El Robo” (as in the dog steals your breakfast if you’re not careful) and this is usually enough to get me by. I also keep “idiota” in reserve to use soon (as in El Gringo Idiota/ white man is an idiot). Sometimes “how much?” also comes to me, like when I asked for potatoes (in English) at the markets.

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A laneway near my accommodation. This is not the Peruvian flag. This is the Ecuadorian flag as we are close to the border. 

Also doing the English teaching course along with Guy and myself is a Canadian named Barbra, who witnessed this exchange and bailed me out .

Chris: Potatoes! (points at them). Cuánto cuesta? (How much?)

Spanish lady: ?????? ?????? uno kilo. (translator comes to the rescue. “1.50/S.”)

Chris: For what? One? That’s expensive.”

Translator: I don’t know. Ounces?

Chris: Kilo! Si!

Spanish lady: ??????? ?????????

Translator: We are from Canada and Australia.

Chris: (looks at Spanish lady’s daughter sitting nearby bearing witness, and in the driest, roughest Aussie accent…) G’Day mate.

(Everyone laughs. Tension breaks).

Spanish lady: ??????? ???????

Translator: What do you think of it here in Peru?

(Chris stares blankly at Spanish lady for two minutes trying to find a word I can use. Muy Bien (Very Good!) would work but I forget I know this phrase). Perfecto!

So anyway, this is all good fun.