The year started pleasantly enough. I had mild poisoning from eating a quarter of a hamster, which is on my Peruvian bucket list.
That’s appropriate given that at some point today the ‘cuy’ was likely to be the thing on the list going to kill me.
I exaggerate. A lot. But I have been asleep most of the day in my hostel and actually feeling miserable. I’m feeling lonely and isolated that I even wonder about returning home to Australia.
I realise now as I hear fireworks exploding outside in the streets somewhere to my left that this is sickness depression talking. These feelings aren’t real. I hope.
I wonder about eating that cuy. I had felt like a monster when I tried it out. You could see its paw. It tasted okay – its skin was kind of like a leathery crackling but I feel nauseous even thinking of it. See, what I wonder was, ‘was eating the cuy worth it?’ Straight away you would say no given that trying it has caused a lot of pain. But it was an experience, and I certainly have a story to tell.
Last night I was with a friend as we watched the fireworks along the plaza de armes in Huaraz, and in theory this should have been a perfect moment for me. The sickness was starting to set in but I’m not sure it could account for my odd mood as I watched the explosions whistle over the numerous Christmas decorations. But I felt an overbearing loneliness just for a moment, feeling that something was missing, as I summed up the year that had been.
And it hadn’t been pleasant. It began with being burgled as I was asleep, continued with a break-up and carried on into the later months of drifting, insecurity, and the mind games that came with it.
When I decided to come to Peru I figured there was a 50-50 per cent chance I was going to die here. Not by my hand! I mean, there was yellow fever, and muggings, and dangerous animals, and cocaine fields, and even landmines.
But the scary thing is that I didn’t care. Maybe it was the arrogance of a man in his late 20s who hadn’t felt intense physical pain for a while. Or maybe it was because I hadn’t yet understood loneliness. I’d always loved loneliness, but didn’t comprehend yet the idea of being sick without support.
But then something changed in that I stumbled into competing in a modelling competition – and by a bizarre twist I ended up competing in the nationals in Cairns. Don’t get me wrong, my photos aren’t anything to brag about, but after I left feeling like I was in some sort of brotherhood, and after I took on daily gym sessions and ate a diet mainly of bananas, Greek yoghurt, oats and chicken, I felt different about myself. I suddenly cared more about myself and what I was doing, and I had hope and a new direction.
I was scared about going to Peru.
And then I flew there and met a bunch of people and faced new experiences and challenges. I felt the highs and lows and the powerful feelings in between those. I lost a sense of control and even the illusion of confidence I thought I’d had
“Fuck the ghosts of last year!” I told my friend halfway through the fireworks. And I stood there genuinely believing it.
Like many of my friends I ran away to Peru to hide from something. Except that demon took a different form, and so I had to confront it, or run away from it. I’m still confronting that desire to be liked by everyone, and running away from it (“I don’t need anyone but myself!”), and returning, and confronting, and I’ve got to admit it’s all wearing me down. It’s why Australia is starting to seem appealing in my dehydrated phase.
He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
And living actually matters.
My favourite part of New Years is typically writing a bunch of resolutions. Last year I wrote four pages worth. I haven’t written any for this year yet.
As I stood there watching the fireworks banish the ghosts as if it was some traditional Indigenous smoking ceremony I realised that maybe writing resolutions is the wrong thing. Maybe what I had to really do was reflect on the past and decide what I needed to learn on.
Or so I thought.
But then again what good does that reflection even do? It’s sort of useless. So far it’s really only been good for depressing blog posts.