On trying to be that foreign gentleman


 

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Saying goodbye to Mount Isa, my home in North West Qld. Photo: Jemloco Images.

When we visit a place far  from home, we absorb a new role.  Something different to who we normally are. A facade without us even realising it. Sometimes it’s a facade encouraged by others around us.

Some of us might like to pretend to be the super-fun drunk foreigner, others maybe might like to pretend they are some brooding philosopher, and even still others may want to be the drug experimenter or the womaniser.

I put on a role for Peru. I wanted to be the foreign gentleman. Someone acting out of honour not because of fear, or not because I don’t have the capacity to be bad, but because I know I can be this guy. I wanted to be a man who didn’t use people, and who made them feel so much better about themselves. And there is a power to being who you want to be. There is also a danger to thinking you’re the innocent, the good guy, because in all likelihood that’s not true, and you judge yourself too much when you fail.

 

I just want to be proud of myself.

And I am. I am bloody proud of myself, not because I’m in Peru but because of who I was before that and because I know there is a community in Mount Isa that supports me, no matter how distant it is. This community is used to distance anyway, that doesn’t stop it from being there for me.

But being proud of yourself is a daily battle, and when you take away everything that is part of you (your job, your friends, your car) and you move overseas and don’t even know where you’re going to be in a week’s time, it puts on certain pressures.

I guess in a way having the role of good guy gets in the way of the other role I should be having. I am the storyteller. I was running away for stories, and I have them, I suppose.

 

 

The stores stock beer and shampoos and tampons and chips. No paper. One store sells board games. At that time of the night and in my sickness haze, I consider buying scrabble as a gift for a friend, but no, that’s stupid. There’s a fine line between being considerate, and an awkward friend.

My sickness seems to disappear along the road at night, although at that point I’m not sure if it’s night or the early morning. Spanish words call out along the store fronts of the promenade as the lighthouse shines down at us. Groups sit outside stores eating food, dancers outside the bar beaches sniff cocaine, and motocab drivers yell at me asking if I need a taxi. A bouncer promises me ‘chicas, fucky fucky’ and somewhere then, after ages of being unable to find paper and pen to write with, I realise this world around me is superficial bullshit. Right then I hate it and this isn’t why I came here.

Earlier that day the party city of Mancoura seemed a much nicer place. Not quite as harsh, or not quite as extreme. I sat sunburnt under an umbrella with my lunch and yet another beer with mates when one of the many hawkers walked up. This one was different from the ones carrying cakes or sombreros. She was a small elderly woman clutching a plastic bag. She had few teeth but it actually exaggerated the loveliness of her smile, and even the kindness that glowed in her eyes. She spoke to me in Spanish and I said the few words I knew like “no comprende”, “no hablo espanol”, “lo siento”, “idiota” and when she knew this was true she said one word, again and again, but I didn’t know it.

I saw her later and I waved ‘hola!” but this time I had a translator, and he exclaimed, “she said you’re beautiful.” It’s in the same street I was in 12 hours later but the feeling I had then was the anti-thesis to the zombie haze of the night.

This better feeling was similiar to that of a week earlier in this same hostel when I was on the dance floor trying to dance to spite the superficiality of it. This Peruvian girl turned to me, and she said “you’re Australian?”

“Yes.”

“You are fucking beautiful.”

And I thanked her, and it meant a lot, and I focused back on my white-guy, strictly non-latino dancing. It took me a week to figure out how she knew I was Australian. She would have seen it on my Tinder profile, and I forgot that could happen considering I hadn’t even thought about using it in a week.

I’m not sure why beauty is so important, and I hope they meant that it shone from the inside, and I think it did when it came from the old hawker, because I trust her eyes. I trust the eyes full-stop.

I’m not sure why I made the tangent to beauty, or more strictly to a self-endorsement of praise of myself (isn’t that so wanky?) but sometimes the praise from others helps the facade so much better. If I’m the beautiful foreigner then what an honour that is. It’s better than being the bad guy, the fool, the arsehole.

The point of this blog post really was that I was searching for meaning, to be a better person than I found myself to be, this cold and distant figure in control of his words and his world. I was sick of easiness and compromise, and I just wanted those fairytales I used to believe in (we all know the ones), and that’s why I chose Peru.

 

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