Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On having left, but not behind.

It's one in the morning bolivian time and I've just watched a video my dad sent me. Of course, I'm crying. If I had opened it at a different time of day, in a different swarm of feelings, I would be smiling, laughing, aww-ing. Timing is everything. 

Like the time I gave my brother the scar between his forehead, probably one of my earliest most traumatising memories. The timing of the hard plastic edge of the swingset hurtling into his face. And I thought it was all my fault, I hid under the bed and cried while they took him to get stitches. When they came back to find me they told me it wasn't my fault, silly.

My family has always been good like that. A lot of people leave home because there is nothing good for them left there, all the conversations are too loud and sharp, the looks mean or absent. There are entirely too many people who have no choice but to leave their families rather than stay in a ticking bomb. I know because I have worked with them, travelled with them, lived with them. I struck gold in the lottery of life and this has never been why I leave, left.

I have a well of strength infinitely deep that I go to draw from when I am fatigued, hungry cranky, lost in my purpose or confused in my relationships. This I credit to my home and the people that grew me up and around. Yes, I just wrote grew me up and around. Because that's how I write in English after almost a year in a spanish speaking country, yo. 

You can leave because you know you have love and warmth and soul to come back to.
You can leave because the same ones who taught you hello are the ones who will swallow their tears and say goodbye with a smile
You can leave because they were the ones who nodded their heads and said, go for it.
You can leave because you carry them, no matter the weight, in the suitcase of your heart
You can leave because they send you ridiculous videos and messages and all at once you're ambushed by love being sent from far, far away
You can leave because you can come back, anytime.

I've felt the pull of home stronger now than I have at any other time I've been away. This may be because I know it will be like this for a while, that the choices I am making for my life may mean I will continue to miss out on Easter Egg Hunts where Phil pushes Gel into the bush just to get ahead, or Christmas where we've all stopped pretending it's about gifts we mostly don't like anyway and are increasingly bad at pretending we do and go straight for the food binge bender and Remember When stories. I will miss out on new jobs landed, graduations attended, funny jokes at the dinner table, sibling banter and disgustingly fat movie nights. 

It's rare moments that hit me when I realise how much I am missing out on by being over here. How do you figure out the equation of greater or lesser than when on the one hand you have the moments in the lives of those you love and on the other the life you are living yourself? I am spoilt with having left, but not being left behind. I can still feel the familiarity and love of all My People despite the oceans between us and the abysmal bolivian internet connection.

I am rich in luck and all the good things (my family sent me tim tams and nutella) I know that this is where I'm meant to be for now and all I have to do is go to that infinite well of Everything I've Ever Needed, draw a bit of water, and go on my way again - to The Worlds I want to live in and fall in love with for a while.

'Cause I can go back anytime anyway, Silly.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ya, listo.

Nearing the one year mark of my residency here in Cochabamba Bolivia and time is nearly up. I've been looking up flights to Colombia, the weather of the town I'll be living in for three months in Ecuador, trying to rearrange my flight yet again, hopefully for the last time, to be back in Sydney at the end of November.

It's strange how quickly things become invisible to you once you are in it. Before arriving here I never could have imagined The Normal everything would feel and how soon. I've gotten used to putting toilet paper in the bin because the pipes cannot flush it down, gotten used to tripping over on the sidewalk that looks as if there has just been an earthquake, gotten used to buying my groceries and snacks and goods from a plump bolivian lady with braids and a pleated velvet skirt - a cross between a stocky Pocahontas and a sassy school girl.

There have been a few dawning facts about the future that have shaken me.

I am only now realising that the Sydney I will eventually go back to will not be the same. This is due to the fact that my friends have not stagnated while I've been away and many will not be there when I get back. In a selfish and thoughtless way I assumed that all my friends would be waiting happily for me to get back. I was mistaken - they are busy conquering their own mini-kingdoms of professions and dreams. I love them for this and wouldn't have it any other way, except that I would have their kingdoms a little closer to mine. But I've grown out of my middle child jealous bitch primary school days and am immensely happy and mama-hen proud of all of them and eternally grateful that they let me be their friend.

Since my 2011 year in Spain I've planned my life in blocks of one year. My five year plan (my cousin tells me this is because I am an Aries and I'm methodical) reads as a randomised selection of countries - one year in the Philippines, a year in either French polynesia or the South of France or Belgium, a year in Jordan, a year in New Zealand, a year in Melbourne or Adelaide, a year here, a year there. I've only just realised when I live or go overseas it doesn't actually have to be 12 months. Yes, a normal person would realise this but I'm going to attribute this to my starsign.

Despite feeling like no matter what I do I will always feel like I'm dressing up and playing grown ups, I wake up and own my life - the live-in boyfriend, the (minimal) paying job I actually love, the bill-paying and life-decision making.

It's been great Cochabamba but time's up. As the Bolivian's say...
Ya, listo, un besito, ya mamita, listo, chau, chau chau. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Hummingbird

The first time I saw a hummingbird I was sitting in the Plaza 14 de Septiembre here in Cochabamba with a friend who pointed to the tall tree branches above where we were sitting. There it was, wings beating rapidly - a flickering hologram. It was impossibly still, its body hovering, its long pointed beak first before the rest.

Hummingbird or picaflor here in South America has another meaning too. One of the cheeky teenage boys I worked with last year was always harping on about the girls he was with. He would boast about juggling various girlfriends, making sure they were all in the dark about each other. Zulema, one of the teachers at the centre yelled, Eres un picaflor! meaning You're a hummingbird! seeing as he was always jumping from flower to flower.

I've spent the last two weeks jumping from place to place in Bolivia and Peru with my cousin, one of my dearest friends. We had never travelled together, despite both having lived in Spain for a year and done a fair bit of travelling between us - we were finally on the same continent at the same time. Two hummingbirds on the same flower at once. After all our fluttering around we were crossing paths. 

We ran around the beautiful Colonial city of Cusco shellshocked at its cleanliness, modernity, narrow cobbled streets and large people-watching plazas. We spent almost an entire day on the outskirts of the city, amongst hills and streams where Peruvian families washed their clothes, where llamas grazed and were chased by dogs, where an Andean band played folk music that echoed through the valley. Somewhere between Cusco and the journey and trek to Machu Picchu we compared notes on life.

We were both hummingbirds who had worried our families with seemingly directionless change, a hop on hop off bus of not yet adult life characterised by beautiful pictures and low bank accounts. But we were different in many ways too, our flights were spurred on by our distinct passions. When we stopped to examine the charters of the past few years, it was evident that we were flying to and from different things and where we were now was in the place the other had been.

More than twenty three years of my life have been spent in my own company and I'm now in the process of learning to share my time and self with somebody else. On the other hand she has spent many years being somebody's other half and is only now learning to be on her own. We were and are both being pushed from life long habits, forced to reconsider ourselves and who we are within new contexts. She, laughing at my questions and insecurities, and me smiling slyly at hers.

Picaflores fly through the rapid beating of their wings which allows them to be weightless in the air or disappear from view completely. But they are always moving, never stagnant. They are always drawn by new scents, new flowers and intoxications. So it is with us. Same bird, different flower.

We never stop moving from flower to flower. Once we draw all we can from what was once a place we wanted to get to, there is always the draw of a new scent waiting. Something unexpected - lifestyle, mindset, relationships, location, jobs, safety-nets.

I've always watched on the sidelines as others seemed to jump from first loves to new loves back to old boyfriends and potentials. It was with curiosity I witnessed so many get togethers, so many break ups, so many get back togethers, so many break up agains. Now I am on the other side. My family and friends have watched as I jumped between my own flowers. I was caught up sprinting between projects, volunteer work or new ideas sparked by growing or rejuvenated interests, fanciful dreams of living overseas and learning multiple languages, of possible career paths - all the elusive and intoxicating lure of a great perhaps.

Having spent the most amazing week of my life in the sacred valley in Peru with more adventure, companionship, lucky good weather and laughter than one could have hoped for - I am now living the great perhaps I've always wanted. True to nature, there are novel dreams being born on new definitions of great and perhaps and that's something that I hope never ends.