What you just do.

Being an expat in a country very different to your homeland creates a battle between the heart and mind so equal in artillery and strategy you think you’re going crazy at the indecisiveness of it all.

The opportunities while abroad argue ‘for’ being in a foreign land. Then, the unprovoked memories of the familiar and comfortable act as cues connected to an identity that makes you you. Logic says stay, you’re lucky. The heart says go home, you’re lucky there too.

Who am I without driving my children to swimming lessons, play dates, the shops, the Dentist, the Doctor or anything at all? Who am I without kissing my children at the school gate and waving them off as they make their way across the quadrangle then returning 6 hours later to take them home? Who am I when I don’t see the dirt marks on their laundry, fold their clothes or curse over missing socks? Hear their praises or see their scrunched up faces over a meal I prepared in the hopes it both nourished their bodies and pleased their little taste buds. Who am I when I can’t shop online, visit a fully stocked art supply store, find an art teacher, buy clothes that are my style, order a soy decaf cappuccino or even read a magazine? Relying on others to do the things I would ‘just do’ at home is an adjustment I seem to be resisting to say the least.

The things I used to do at home are either done by somebody else or just not easy to do here. Since a large part of what we do accumulates into the whole of who we are, it seems an obvious thing to say that I don’t just miss being home, I miss being me.

On the flip side, the opportunities to do things I would never do at home either due to lack of time or availability are endless here. I already find myself in situations I never thought I would ever see myself, doing things I never thought I would do. I have private tennis lessons, I’m learning a new language, experiencing a different culture and forming friendships unlike any before.

Although still unfamiliar here and despite feeling a little (or a lot) lost at times, I’ve found the answer. It is a simple matter of mediating between the heart and the mind and letting each have their turn to rule.  This creates a medium between the old you that has always been and the new you that will meet you in the future.

And how does one manage that?

You ‘just do’.

One more thing I am doing is taking advantage of the wonderful local craftsmanship at a much more affordable price to frame drawings I would normally store in a draw somewhere. Here is my first of many yet to come.

Mum, you will recognise this drawing from my first 8 minute life drawing exercise that you liked the most.

Framed nude drawing in charcoal

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Returning home

By far, the hardest part of our little get away was the return home. My things were in this house that we now live, in a country I have yet to successfully converse with, yet to feel embraced by familiarity or calmed by memories of contentmet, and yet my things were here, in this house that we returned to.

After we did return, I sort of stumbled around in a mild daze with aimless motivation. I did a little washing, sorting through the new Christmas toys, finding places for new things and of course, the good old clean out the fridge routine. Thoughts of the new year rapidly approaching niggled like an optimistic friend trying to cheer you up when only sinking into a pot of chocolate would do. Yep, hubby was going on his next rotation soon, something none of us have become accustomed to, if one ever does.

It didn’t help that the bike I had held at a local home/store was sold from under my feet. It was a gorgeous vintage bike with a really big brown leather seat and matching timber handles. I turned up to collect my bike after the required repairs were to be completed only to have a different one shown to me.  This time I surprised myself as my spanish was very clear, I was handed my money and I left. I’m sure they learnt a new english word in the process – ‘unbelievable’. Yeah, I was really disappointed, ‘unbelievably disappointed’

Punta SalWell …. not to worry (insert saying of doors closing and opening etc). We bought a new one and it’s a boy … he has a few Moustaches on the thing that guards the chain so naturally his name will be Mr.

It’s nice to have my own set of wheels again, some independence without explaining to anyone what I want to do or where I want to go, in a language I don’t speak. So real or not, I have a new set of wheels. Welcome to the family Mr. Mr.

A little get away Part 2

Now onto Punta Sal…

Punta Sal Resort, North Peru

Punta Sal Resort, North Peru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming from Australia, there is no doubt that we are spoilt with the beaches with white sand, clear waters and friendly hospitality. In Northern Peru, I found the sand not so white, the water not quite as clear but the hospitality …. every bit as friendly.

The feelings of isolation were ever present with views of the untouched surrounding us from all directions. If you want to get away just enough to subtly be reminded that you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth then this is your destination. Our three bedroom bungalow provided the necessary modern comforts whilst the layout insisted that relaxation is best experienced outdoors. Perhaps if my boys were a little older I would have absorbed the outdoor lounge and dining room for the relaxation it virtually shouts but instead there was no escaping the water squirting from their newly acquired toys … nice move Santa.

Watching the sunset off the deck and seeing the meagre scattering of lights along the waters edge breaking through the dusk is enough to convince you that relaxation is an achievable physical state, not just something to dream about. Even the dancing crabs along the shore and the cool sea breeze soothing our sunburt skin were very persuasive. Then I realise this new found sensation called silence was due to iPads.

Back to Punta Sal … the menu is heavily seafood based with ample cocktails to choose from. There is a swimming pool, fuseball, table tennis and pool, water sports and fishing … just seems like an all round place for everyone. Me? What did I enjoy? Wi-fi on the beach, sounds of children laughing and the familiar sun, the one and very same, from home.

Just Me

No photos, no art, no nothing that I usually do on this blog. It’s just me today.

As you all know, I have moved to Peru from Australia with my husband and three young boys. Re-settling in a new culture with a different language, unfamiliar processes and roundabout logic has added to the stress of just being at home with three young boys for months on end. No school, no daycare, just one long long extended school holiday. Oh dear. Exactly.

My point? My biggest lesson so far is an answer to a question that I wasn’t exactly asking myself to begin with. That question being why is it so hard to ask for help?

Here’s what I think. Asking for help is the recognition that most things are bigger than your pride. It is accepting that some things mean more than how you feel about something and facing the reality that my world is not within my control afterall. I have had to ask for help repeatedly here and as a result, my feelings of independence and perception of capability has plummeted to a new found low and it’s exhausting! Fighting your pride that is.

What makes it harder is when your foundations have changed. My husband lives and works at site and my mother is in another country.

But on the up side, there is an up side, meaning I can only find myself again from here right? Stop worrying about all the things I can’t do and focus on the things I can do. I may not be able to order pizza, find a gardener or a plug for the sink but I can face my reality, swallow my pride and ask for help.

Now please excuse me, I need to write a letter of immense gratitude to playstation.

My new identity

I know, these are the best years of my life, rearing children but time out for mum is vital. So imagine what it would be like to have a driver? I mean, I usually pack all three kids into the car, drive while instructing them to stop fighting, explaining where we are going, negotiating treats and surprises and then having to shuffle them through the car park like a border collie herding sheep. With a driver, I have someone who helps shuffle them through the car park, carry my bags, read the road signs, concentrate on the road rules so I can concentrate on the demands to stop fighting, answering endless questions and negotiating the allocation of treats and surprises. Sounds nice but not entirely considered a luxury.

So …… what if I had someone at home who could look after the children at any time so I could pop out and do my own shopping without any of the above concerns? Brilliant, and trust me, it is. So I am sitting in the back of a car, by myself right, no kid noise, fights, cries, tantrums, wish lists, cuddles (miss those) or runny noses. Nope, just me, my thoughts and pen and paper for that ever elusive shopping list.

So I’m feeling pretty special right? Just popping out without having to organise a babysitter before hand, just hanging in the car with my very own driver, relishing the city of Lima, the colours, the contrasts, the interest, the unknown and endless possibilities. I mean, I am living in South America!!  All of the sudden, with this new realisation remembered, I begin to feel pretty tough, like I have been let out on good behaviour. Yeah, you heard me, I’m bad ass man. I’m just cruising around Lima South America. ‘Hey! You lookin at me??? Well you should be’. You get the picture right. Then I decide to turn to my driver to soak in the whole atmosphere, after all, he’s my compadre, my partner in crime, we’ve got this you know!

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Feeling pretty special, I expect to view my driver/security guard with one hand on the wheel, the other on the windowsill with a slight slouch to the left and a possible subtle movement to the beat on the radio. Is that what I see as part of my new identity in South America? No, instead I see my driver bopping side to side like a metronome with the same amount of badass grace as a nun. I’m thinking it’s just a cover …. right?

Just Pondering

Being my first time in another country I realize how little I have pondered all the things worth pondering and if you know me at all, you know I love to ponder.

My husband visited a steel fabrication yard, massive in size yet disorganised in some form of calm chaos. The welding exceptional, faultless even and all from men living in shantytowns with homes constructed from tarps, broken pieces of timber and scraps of bricks. Despite which end of the economic spectrum one may sit and regardless how far the two extremes may lie, we all do the same thing in the end and that is make the best of any situation.  Some just try harder than others, learn more in the process and accept the things they cannot change. I wasn’t one of those people so as I drove past homes transformed into places of business along a dirt road in a dessert, surrounded by nothing but mountains of more dirt (like the dust weren’t reminder enough), I found myself a little jealous but grateful. Jealous that I didn’t make the most of the opportunities I had with the same amount of dedication and determination as what we have witnessed here but grateful I don’t have the time over to try again because what I saw looked like hard work.

So the first thing worth pondering is opportunities, something I have clearly thrown a blind eye towards.

There are opportunities and then there are the opportunistic. It’s true; crime and corruption exist here but we see crime in all shapes, sizes, forms and economic circles all over the world. There are many many more honest ones; the eager one and then you hurt his feelings. Well maybe not you, but me.

We went shopping for furniture at what would be best described as the markets. Hundreds of small stalls of furniture well under what you would pay in the shopping malls. Simon and I were advised that bargaining was the norm so when we attempted to bargain I was surprised to get the reaction I did. The look on this young mans face, patient young man with the language barrier taking up a great deal of his time, was a look I misinterpreted at first. I assumed he was annoyed and a little surprised perhaps. We agreed to go half way but I couldn’t let go of that look he gave me.

After weeks of this look haunting my memory, I finally settled on the fact that I offended him. It was not a look of eagerness to make a sale but one of eagerness to provide a quality piece of furniture at a great price, by far the best deal in the entire premises. Perhaps a family member, his father, uncle or grandfather made the furniture. I have seen many furniture making shops/homes on the side of road in many districts and there would be many more I would never see in this vast city with millions of people. Is it possible that when we bargained, we belittled?

If I could take that moment back, I would. Of all the people and organizations and shops we have dealt with to find our home and furnish it, this young man, the one with a beat up station wagon and torn sneakers, provided the best and most professional experience we have had to date. Thank you young man.

What would one feel when you are proud of what you have, what you can make with what you’ve got and the length you can go when you don’t look too far ahead?

Freedom.

I need a tan. My arms are blinding me while typing on the computer.

The gift at our fingertips

If I could choose my preferred way to be enlightened, entertained, escorted and enamoured or surprised, scared, shocked and soothed, then I would choose photography. I would choose a medium that could tell us how it is with a glimpse of what was and an idea of what could be. You see, it isn’t spelled out to us as would be seen in a movie or a written story. Nope, the eye has to piece things together by connecting both the clues given in the story and the emotions that we have stored from past experience associated with those clues. It is a perfect marriage of logic and heart, science and faith, what was and what could be, fact and fiction.

Well I have managed to talk myself into becoming obsessed with the gift at our fingertips, what about you?

 

A little advice that I try to follow is one that I have only ever heard from my mother … ‘always let your eyes fall on good art’.

Advancing on this gift available for us all does not start with choosing the best lens type or camera body, acquiring technical ability or technical understanding (thankfully for me) or even creative ability. The first step is to train your eye by feasting on the work of others. Choose work that surpasses your own expectations, speaks to you, seems effortless and most of all, choose work that make your eyes feel like they are being fed. You don’t have to like the story or understand the concept or even like the content (although it does help). When your eyes are being fed, you don’t even know what you are looking at exactly, you just know that it looks right.

Where can I start you ask?

Eugene Smith is a great starting point.

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Edward Hopper – I know, I know, he was a painter but I personally think he has a photographers eye with how he accounts for lights and darks in his compositions.

Edward Hopper, Sunlights in Cafeteria,

Edward Hopper, Sunlights in Cafeteria,

Edward Hopper, New York Office, 1962

Edward Hopper, New York Office, 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, here is a link to a website with a banquet of photographers so help yourself!

http://vervephoto.wordpress.com

Do you have a any favourites? I’d love to hear them as I am always searching for a photo fix.