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.

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.

Finding my right arm

I have found my right arm and now that we are re-united I feel complete.

After tasting sugar laden breads or crouton textured toast in this country I began a search high and low for something referred to as bread with only say, 4 ingredients. When I found, time and again, the same unrecognisable ingredients (and not just because they were in spanish) on each and every bread packet, I simply went into a state of disbelief, lost my right arm and viewed a future of absolute disrepair. Who can sustain themselves on fairy bread?

Well I have done it! I have found the best bread shop. It is rustic, it is earthy, it is authentic and it is only two blocks from where I live. Could it get any better? Yes it does, they also have the best coffee I have tasted here in Lima (note I said Lima, not the world). If I had to turn myself into an object it would be either a bread pan or a coffee cup so needless to say, this place is my home away from home.

Pan de la Chola is the name and one bite of their bread convinces you that this simple fair is made from ingredients of substance. Freshly ground flour from their own stone mill, water and salt are the only ingredients except for perhaps the occasional olive, nuts and seeds and of course their very own traditional sourdough starter.

While savouring the tostados con matequilla y mermelada along with my hot americano, I admire the bread-maker skilfully folding each dough before placing them back into their containers to rise further waiting for that magical moment they will be ready for baking. It is a labour of love and I have had to remind myself that I am a married woman.

Not a bread fan? Well I don’t believe you exist but if you do exist then you can choose from other organic options but truthfully, lets not digress ….

If only you knew, could grasp, comprehend or appreciate the absolute magnitude that this place, and its proximity to my home, tickles my fancy, brightens my day and of course returns to me, my right arm.

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.