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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Lunahuana, where I expected to meet Zorro

Lunahuana Peru

 

Luscious clumps of grapes dripping from vines with leaves twice the size of my outstretched hand. Rocky roads, dirt roads and pot-holes too numerous to ignore. The distinctive sound of a full and fast river, the feel of fresh air in our lungs and the sight of mountains layered with glorious shades of blues and greys.

Seventy cents for six mangoes, the smell of charcoaling chicken and colourful soda’s displayed at every turn and other nook and cranny. Jewellery stalls, restaurants galore and rows of rafting boats, quad bikes, life jackets, oars and helmets.

A mixture of ancient and current with the occasional sprinkle of the new.

At the centre of town, an elevated crucifix dwarfed by the surrounding monstrosities called montanas.

Such montanas are softened from the plush clouds in the evening, and in the morning so noticeable is the top layer cracked from intense heat, however from a far enough distance appears to be covered with a blanket of soft fur.

This is Lunahuana.

Located approximately 140km south of Lima, yet takes 3 hours to travel from Peru’s capital.

Our destination, La Confianza, was well worth the extra-unexpected bumpy travel time. I managed to take advantage of the pinky dusk light highlighting the softness of this quiet and remote location.

Seriously though, I honestly thought at any possible moment I was going to personally meet Antonia Banderas as ‘Zorro’.

Alas, we met Pedro and his dog Pisco who both became our hero’s. Pedro opened up his home and made it ours, fed us with many dishes of scrumptious Peruvian food, organised our every need from taxi to rafting and at the end of our 3 night stay, waved us off like much loved friends. And Pisco? Well he entertained our boys, escorted us on our walks and greeted us in the mornings with the exaggerated wag of a tail only a Labrador can master.

Pronunciation day

I have found a new appreciation for tourists, complete with their blank looks suggesting a few quid short, not to mention their broken English and difficult pronunciations. It’s understandable now that I am sporting the same simple blank look, especially at the most important part of the day …. while ordering coffee.

The line is getting longer as more people join the queue but I don’t let pressure quench my determination. I continue to practice my pronunciation under my breath while keeping two boys from either punching or squeezing each other and picking up the youngest boys shoes and socks off the floor all because we came to a halt. Yep, the line just keeps getting longer and it is almost my turn. Ah, there is the other sock, boys are punching again, Beau’s flinging his arms around, now Austin is tickling Loxley which is why Loxley is now screaming …. loudly. Beau stop swinging before you … oh too late. So sorry, perdon, perdon, ooh you are lucky you didn’t knock her coffee right out of her hands. Austin I said no tickling and definitely no peek-a-boo, I can’t concentrate with Loxleys half scream/laugh. Beau – seriously?? Those arms need to be strapped to your side – I wonder if I could legally do that?

Okay, here it is, ‘Buenos dias, puedo tener cappuccino soja descafeinado’. It’s not perfect I know but I am concentrating on pronouncing the main words and letting them fill in the bits and pieces and rearranging the grammar. You see, the other day I ordered six bottles of water. He asked me how many and I said ‘seis’. He looked confused so I said it again, and again and again. Then a kind gentleman stepped in on my behalf and said ‘seis’. Apparently all I had to say was ‘seis’. So my pronunciation obviously needed work.

Anyway, back to ordering my coffee. She repeats back to me everything but the descafeinado so I say it again to which she replies with a puzzled look, something I was becoming quite akin to. I attempted it two more times and then just gave up for the sake of the people waiting behind me but also for my own faith that I will one day speak this language.

I had resigned myself to drinking the real stuff, which I really wanted to anyway. Ever since my arrival, almost two weeks ago, I had been too scared to pronounce this word, so it was always ‘cappuccino’, but the problem was, I was becoming dependent on the caffeine and turning into a grouch until I had my coffee and I am already a grouch because the kids woke me at 5.30am so I really didn’t need to add to the mix, hence why today became the ‘pronounce descafeinado’ day.

Just when I thought I was going to enjoy one more day of the real stuff, it suddenly clicks and she asks ‘decaf?’

Our attempt at taking family photos in the park…

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Someone else’s neighbourhood

In my last post, I included photos taken from my new neighbourhood of San Isidro in Lima, Peru. It is a suburb full of contrast and textures, luxury and detail.

In this post, I have included some photos from someone else’s neighbourhood. Just pictures taken while driving in the car in this busy beehive of city.

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It really is a photographers dream here! The best part – I’ve only scratched the surface.

Authenticity

IMG_0591In preparation for our big move to Peru, Simon and I undertook Spanish lessons. Our pronunciation, thought to be quite good for people who hadn’t learnt Spanish or any language for that matter, was only the beginning considering the task ahead of us. Peru is not a country with a high level of English speaking locals. In fact, it is one of the lowest, so Spanish, even in its basic form, would be helpful to say the least.

Being my first time overseas also, I was becoming increasingly excited at the challenge, particularly with regards to communication. In fact, this excitement grew and grew until it flourished into a childhood fantasy, one in which I would imagine the first authentic Spanish speaking experience as a child imagines the first time they lay hands on their very own scooter (iPad, xbox, whatever it is these days). The thought, an elementary one I realise, of being able to communicate a message using different sounds to what I have been using all my life was something I could not wait to experience for myself.

I would chuckle about the imagined possible mispronunciations such as the unfortunate situations requiring the roll of the ‘r’, which I cannot do. This isn’t too bad, my tutor tells me, I may ask the driver to bring around the dog instead of the car but thankfully there is a wonderful thing called context.

I have been training my boys to speak some Spanish such as hola and adios, gracias and counting to ten. Little did I realise they knew more than me thanks to Dora the Explorer. Upon this discovery, I checked when Dora was scheduled on television and would ‘read’ a book while the kids worked on their Spanish.

As our flight was to Santiago in Chile I should have expected that Spanish speakers would be among our fellow passengers. My husband conversed with one such passenger, overtly excited to hear of our moving to Peru with our three young boys. I could hear what English sounded like from Spanish speakers but what about Spanish? My excitement grew at all the adventures ahead; it was finally within my grasp, staring at me just out of arms length. Yep, I am ready. My bravery has been recharged since my ski trip, there is no turning back now so let me at it! I was pumped, anticipating the take off in the big plane when the Spanish speaking man sitting in front turned around and offered my first authentic Spanish speaking experience by saying “hola” with a friendly wave of his hand. Oh wow, I thought to myself, here it is and I haven’t even arrived yet, haven’t even left the ground in Australia. The very thing I was wondering about, imagining in many variations was finally here, it has begun, yippee! In my eagerness to experience what I have been so keenly anticipating for months I offer a little wave in return and respond with nothing other than “hello”, of course.  Hmmm, note to self: speaking another language isn’t just about understanding it but speaking it.

What’s happening?

I am learning to speak Spanish. Being new to the whole second language thing, I am beginning to learn what ‘loose translation’ really means. Who knew not all words were directly exchanged within two languages?

Logic says I need to have a garage sale. Do I really have to? Can’t be bothered. Requires too much organisation, bleh.

I have a new photo of me that sports a lovely green tinge. Flawlessly green in fact. Just stunning. Normally I wouldn’t care about such things…. Its just, this photo is on my new passport, the very thing that will be my primary form of identification.

Kids have their passports too. Austin charmed the whole post office with his useless efforts of not-smiling at the camera. I couldn’t look anywhere so I wouldn’t encourage him. Simon was laughing, the people in line were smiling but Austin just couldn’t stop his wide smile despite his mothers efforts to instruct him otherwise. A ‘NO PARK’ changed it pretty quick and all of the sudden I became very unpopular with everyone! Go figure.

I will miss my room. My room that witnesses me haphazardly, simultaneously and experimentally doing stuff I love. Is it possible for a heart to literally feel heavy because mine does. The great big windows, ohhh and the light, ohhh and this desk space, ohhhh it’s too much … change of topic please.

I have never been overseas but that is about to change …. Permanently …. Or for about 18 months permanently I mean. We are moving from Australia to Peru. Despite my lamenting and seemingly ungrateful attitude towards this new adventure I am actually looking into adult nappies. Nah, really looking forward to the culture shock, always wanted to know what a freight train would feel like upon impact. Oh I’m just being a dramatist. I am so excited. Like really excited, like I can’t wait excited!!!!!!!! Yes, I’m yelling!!!!!!!! Excited !!!!!!! There should be a singing exclamation mark, one that can be used to indicate that I am singing the words … like …. I’m so excited%%%%%. Work? What about …. I’m so excited”””””””. Better?

Well better get back to varnishing my childhood diary or drawing my nostril or wrapping a room in calico (ah, I’m going to miss my room).

Photo by: Vibe Images

Photo by: Vibe Images