The lows and the highs of this life


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The graffiti in Huanchaco at night. 

I remember at a rodeo telling a PR associate that I was going to be moving to Peru to teach. And I remember how he branded it. He described how many women I would likely ‘meet’ (especially if I continued my gym and diet regime). And there was something else he said.

“The best part will be when you wake up in the morning,” he said as he held his bourbon and coke. The noises of the bronco ride, the clangs of bells and exclamations of the MC, echoed behind us down the hill on one side, while on the other the TV glared by the bar. The important Rugby League game with the Cowboys was playing. More people focused their attention on this.

“That will be the best part,” my associate said. “When it all becomes your normal life.”

And lately I wonder at that. Because I have long since been in that stage.

I am in no rush to return to Australia but there’s no denying some sort of magic from the novelty has faded. I wake at 5.30am to prepare for work, and then teach students who are mostly bored of my classes. Between classes I always have to prepare for something (whether it’s exams, or the next bimester’s structure, or some sort of paperwork).

I have fought the flu for a fortnight, my visa runs out this week, and there’s one more thing…I’m broke.

It’s funny the mood you’re in when you count the soles that you have left. The stress builds when you wonder if you have enough money to catch the bus at the end of the week, when you cut short the money you spend on food, when there’s no water in the house because its your turn to pay for it but cannot afford the phone call to ring the water delivery guy.

While I am being negative right now I feel it’s important to share these lows, as much as it is to share the heights. I have done much here that I am glad I experience. I am glad to teach, overall, and I am mostly glad to be living in a house in the one place in Peru. I am learning a lot. There’s just a strain in doing so.

I guess I am living a true life now that the novelty has faded.

My students and some of the teachers refer to me as Shakespeare. On World Literature Day I had to quote Hamlet’s Soliloquy (The ‘To Be or Not To Be’ section). I dressed in black and held a skull. But the more I think about it… the more I think I was given an actual real skull. The teeth were at risk of falling out and they had roots. Everything inside it was rather lifelike.

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My students are bored but many of them do like me…or at the least, can tell that I like them. “Mr Burnzy!” I heard in the basement corridor one morning, and I looked around and saw nothing. I recognised the voice of a young student. I thought he must have walked up one of the two staircases but when I returned to the elevator I heard him call “Mr Burnzy!” again.

I surprised him by jogging around a corner to see where he was hiding. We laughed and went our different ways. But I glowed. We both had a lot of difficulty with each other six weeks before (language barrier).

I looked after a Grade 7 class while they did an exam. The youngest I normally teach is Grade 8 and for a while I have been warned about their behaviour. It took them about 15 minutes to realise I knew no Spanish and that was it, their discipline was gone. I had to write on the board that I did not understand Spanish, and I may have wrote a few things to caution them they could not muck around with me.

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One of the louder boys who would not be quiet gasped. “Mr!” he said, putting up his hand.  And he looked terrified. “In Australia, do they eat MEN?” (He knew little Spanish but enough to think that ‘mean’ was ‘men’ and that I was a cannibal).

“Si,” I replied, licking my lips and looking down at him. “Personas deliciosa.” And he gasped. I quickly said I was joking but he was a model student the rest of the time.

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