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

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.

While standing on a street

Today I was standing on the footpath with our bikes waiting for Simon to have his haircut in somebody’s tiny lounge room. Why not? Her home is situated between a florist and home needs store on one side and on the other, a shop slightly bigger than a vending machine offering chips, sodas, cigarettes and ice cream. Hang a sign on your front door and business starts to drip in.

While waiting on this footpath, the shade from the trees planted on the side of the road and the shiny footpath leading my eye in opposite directions bore enough resemblance to home to remind me that I wasn’t at home. A sudden surge of panic rose through my chest in search for an explanation and thankfully, my mind obliged and reassured my panic that home is only a plane trip away. No need for specifics on costs or time, it just needs to be possible.

Once I had that out the way, I could focus on the present without wanting to hyperventilate (might I add that my husband finds my neurotic need for drama amusing and possibly even endearing). So I began to enjoy the swarms of mist surrounding me, even ever so fleetingly for the refreshing change from the humid globs of air. This isn’t a cool breeze that I am referring to but the mist we typically see streaming from a sprinkler, except here it is directly from the sea over a kilometre away. Standing here likens swimming in the ocean, finding the cool spots and the warms spots, the association almost a purposeful toying with my fondest memories of swimming in the gorgeous beaches back home.

Truck in PeruThe sounds and sights of cars that belong in scrap heaps continued to astound my sensibilities. Their ability to keep a car alive beyond its last days is either foolish or genius. It doesn’t matter if you can visibly see parts under the car or hear them scraping the tarmac or doors delicately jangling in place or roofs secured with duck tape. While here, I have chosen to believe Peruvians are natural engineers and magnificent mechanics, able to assess and fix anything. This belief system helps when entering a cab with the back seat dissipated into almost nothing or the smell of petrol penetrating my nostrils. After all, the need for safety here is a myth, especially when all accidents are just freak accidents. So long as the door can close and I can buckle my seatbelt, I’ll be fine. This country is leading the way in the future trend of rustic vehicles after all.

My mind digresses, back to the street. Amongst the rattling engines I hear Latino Spanish from children choosing their ice-cream flavours and adults using big stationary boxes we once knew as pay phones. I peak around the corner into the hairdressers lounge room eager to catch a glimpse of the delay. Instead I am met with a faceful of conversation. These people are a reserved bunch at first but once they decide to open up, out flows a shower of expressive versions of vowels and consonants, focusing on particular favourites such as o (oh) and a (ah).

After a mini Spanish lesson I retreat to the street again where sights and sounds are becoming familiar, like a certain humming in a Latino rhythm. Then, as if on cue, completing the picture and topping the experience, one of the many stray dogs makes an entrance. Beautiful colour on the dog, even though it is missing a tail and possibly the tops of his ears, nevertheless, he seems to be on a mission and forges ahead to some place, leaving behind only the echo of his un-groomed paw nails hitting the cement intermingled with the toots of cars and the scraping of their parts.

Living or observing

What is it about walking in the forest or hiking through the bush or climbing a mountain? If the trees meld into each other and the trail continues around each corner and the dirt looks the same on the ground as your forehead then what is it about these places that draw us to them?

Is it the quiet and tranquillity from the sounds of running water or dancing sunlight under the trees? You spot a bird or hear their songs; you smell the wet soil or kick up the dust, absorb the cool or sweat out the atmosphere.

Is it the uninterrupted sky or the wide view below, the isolation, desolation or danger waiting in the wind? Is it just different to what you see, touch and smell daily at home or do these places demand attention, a sort of acute observation birthing an intrinsic appreciation?

Does our location (home or away from home) determine whether we are a worker or a sightseer, whether we are a liver or an observer and if so, what happens when you suddenly live in a place that you would normally just observe?

I went to Barranco, the art centre of Lima with a reputation any Bohemian would be proud of. It has a fascinating history but you can read about that elsewhere I’m sure.

For me, the streets formed the never-ending trails and the lovely lace like patterned gates likened canvases hung in a gallery. The bright coloured buildings mimicked large randomly coloured wildflowers planted in a semi-uniformed pattern. Admiring the craftsmanship in age old carved doors, no different to inspecting the intricacies in nature. The traffic appeared to follow some form of deceptive order, similar to that found in an ant’s nest.

I came to the conclusion, in answer to my own question that living is observing and observing is living and anything other, either, or, is incomplete.

The streets and colours of Barranco …

Well I’m quite happy now. I have made a case for the benefits and importance of one of my favourite pass times – observing.

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.

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.

The same and the different

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Unprovoked images of NSW countryside have been flooding my mind. I see the rolling hills in all shades of green and brown, large grey rocks scattered over hardy grass and sturdy tree trunks supporting the voluptuous sprays of eucalyptus leaves. The water in Lake Jindabyne, the location of our last stay in Australia before departing for Lima Peru, looked calm and inviting despite appearing like shattered glass jutting into the surrounding mounds.

In such visions I can almost smell the familiar sun-rays hitting the wet grass under my feet. I must be missing home? The warmth from the fire in winter, the comfort from the sunshine in summer, the sound of the cicadas on a summers evening, the songs from the birds at dusk, the ‘yes love’ and ‘no worries’? Yes, I think I am missing home.

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I realise how easy it is for everything to be either practiced with complacency or experienced from inexperience. Just a whole lot of living the old and the new, the same and the different really.

When the new and the different outweigh the old and the same, I search for a safe haven. I imagine sitting under a gum tree overlooking the wind in the wheat fields or walking through a sunlit forest after the rain, or watching the whitewash of the ocean against the steel blue stormy sky on a freezing cold day. Yep, I think I’m all newed up. Need a little of the old so I am munching on a milky way.

But!!!! The sun has finally made an appearance here in Lima. I have been relishing its magnificent saturation of warmth …. a welcomed familiar sensation and thankfully a global one.

Thought I would share some photos of the Malecon in Lima Peru. Still taken on my iPhone from inside the car I’m afraid. Call me the world’s laziest photographer if you will.