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just a bit of flux

awake at 6 from a dream of people flying away, rolling a cigarette and floating up and backwards as if pulled by invisible strings

awake to a pale sky and swifts diving past my window in groups or through the sky alone

the sky has woken up now too and is blue, the moon still up there waning full

the swifts flash gold on the underside of their wings and they scream in the morning air as the sun warms the chimney tops and makes shadows of the wrought iron railings, slender grey against soft yellow stone

i sip green tea and think of Scotland, of how i’ll miss the swifts and the gentle light

*

the end the end the end of a thing, or just a bit of flux

away to Bayonne on thursday for a capoeira festival, then to Edinburgh, Sheffield, and Latitude (wearing a dayglo jacket and pointing people to the toilets for Oxfam), then Edinburgh, Berlin, and eventually Shambala, and all 5 drury siblings reunited, bustling our way to MK for a celebration of love, togetherness and family.

my bag is very-almost packed and i’m very-almost ready to leave Montpellier

ready for a new adventure, my loves, i’m coming for you!!

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Pondering in May

The heat of this morning has broken to forgiving rain, and I have my windows wide open. The year is slowly winding down to a close; people are packing up and leaving one by one, and I have a feeling of trying to define and therefore capture forever the intangible sense of the herenow; as something slips away the instinct is to tighten my hold, to record the sound of the rain or the way the light falls on the buildings in the evening, to start taking photographs right at the end, to prove that we really were here. It is good to remember that things don’t really end, they just change shape, and that to let a time or a place transform me, to take what I have learnt and make it part of myself, is the best and only way of holding on and of giving thanks. 

My reckoning of this city is a lot, lot less idealistic than it was when I arrived; the poverty, crime, stark social divides, and unseen ghettos sit uncomfortably against the backdrop of bustling squares, pavement cafes and cobbled streets that I first saw in this, the 8th largest city and the fastest growing in France. There are lots of complex historical and political reasons for the state of social division which exists now between people who consider themselves to be native French and the first and second generation immigrants, suffice to say it is not all croissants and cream in this charming tourist destination. There is also a huge number of homeless people who wander round in raggletaggle groups, and of Roma gypsies, whose children play the accordian and beg for change around the tramstops and  outdoor cafes. Attitudes towards the Roma people are, as in most of Europe, notoriously negative; the children are mostly shoo’d away and their mums determindly ignored.

Montpellier is a really beautiful city. and people choose what they want to see. So the tourists photographing the opera crop out the scruffy, drunk guys sitting on the opera steps, and we make jokes about ‘creepers’ and don’t walk home alone.

These problems are obviously not unique to Montpellier, but they do stand in stark contrast to the mental image held by tourists and students who are drawn in their thousands, and they have slowly dawned on me over the last few months. I feel very lucky to have been able to spend a year here, and to have had the time to form a fuller impression and a better understanding of this city (and country). Like I said it’s beautiful here; really pretty and picturesque, imbued with a sense of tranquillity, especially in the windy old town, and a great leaping-off point for adventures to the rest of France, and Spain.

It has been a chilled year. University work was minimal, and my brain feels a little fuzzy at the edges – pretty sure Edinburgh will set this straight with a shortsharpshock – and I have been gloriously, and sometimes overwhelmingly, footloose and fancyfree. Living in France has its own challenges (!), and being alive and conscious is a muddled and searching experience at the best of times, but I am very thankful for the time and space to take it easy and figure things out a bit more. I have been in a state of heightened oscillation – I imagine a taut telephone wire vibrating  imperceptibly quickly in a strong wind – for the last few years, and it has been intense. I feel a lot calmer now, like some kind of stability has found its way to my core. I am still ultimately baffled, and I still feel sad sometimes, but the wild, twitchy madness is on the downlow. There are people to thank for their parts in this, but I will save that.

For now, I have a month or so left here, then a summer of adventuring. Then back to Edinburgh for some blustery winds and hard work, my old capoeira group, and Edinburgh darlings. The world is filling up with connections, gold threads spread across the surface of the earth, a tangle I am glad to be a part of.

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Tips to my England

So these last weeks something has been playing on my mind. Whereas the country of Chile and the Chilean peoples are in fact ridiculous in more than one way they have begun to make more sense to me than my own dear homeland in other ways.

My time here has dwindles to something impossibly and dangerously short meanwhile I swing from high in love to downright denunciation of this country. Less than four months left. It’s seems a lot when you convert into hours left, trying to tame to tigers of School 6, Lautaro but my weekends left here are suffocating few. 

So dearest England and inhabitants, take some tips from Chile. 

1) Be painfully honest. My Chilean parents were delighted when Beth returned from holidays thinner than before and me fatter and proceeded to exclaim loudly and pinch cheeks. One of my mates here loves my nose because it’s “intense” and my teeth because they cause his mind to think of beavers scurrying in the wilds. When your tired or ill they call you “ass face” meanwhile pressing warm things and paracetamol your way. See, be honest but do it with love.

2) Forget about political correctness
There is a real obsession with people of Asian origin here. When we arrived it was shocking to see the Chinese impressions. Chileans claim they can speak Chinese by pulling their eyes to the sides and shouting in short hard syllables. Now it’s become impossible funny. I dread to think how Beth is gonna cope with the diversity at Edinburgh when she starts Uni. God forbid she tries Chilean/Chinese skills on anyone.

3) Talk to strangers until they get uncomfortable.
Give it a go. Just go up to someone. It doesn’t matter at all who it is as long as they are capable of nodding and smiling and talk, just talk about anything until one of you suddenly has something to do. This is great when you have an hour wait at a bus stop. At first we sort of were polite then shuffled away with excuses. Now we see there is NO HARM staying where you are and half the time this stranger lets on something interesting you didn’t know before. Hey, everyone has something to say.

4) Feeling it then go ahead and put your arm round someone’s shoulder or clap them on the knee. If their hair looks fluffy, ruffle it or their face cheeky then pinch it. Go for a kiss on the cheek or the head. Clasp them to your side like your very own brother. Love is shown here not hidden.

5) Dance, jump, clap, cry. If your a mother cry loudly when your child leaves you for school if that’s how you feel. If your a kid and see your favourite English teacher then don’t think about them. Just launch, fly and land hard and painfully.

Be like a puppy really. Obviously there is more to Chileans than this (loads more, loads, loads more) but this is the bit I’m gonna miss because it doesn’t come out in the stoic British soul, I find and I’ll have a broken Chilean heart and have to cry thoroughly if I come home and no-one says I look fat etc.

Will continue with travel updates shortly

Loads of love,

Aminaxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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La Paz, Sucre, Uyuni

Took a bus to Puno on the Peru Bolivia Eastern border and woke up shaking and sick. Had a dubious hour of wretching in the bathroom where by the sounds of it everyone else was having the same problem. Somehow got through the next ten hours of the journey, including the border crossing and loading into a rocky passenger boat to cross lake Titicaca without too much problem. Did have to pour all my drinking water down the toilet to, along with that of two other girls which was a bit embarrassing. Took loads of painkillers and pills and slept the rest. Now in La Paz. It’s the morning of about the 28th, Monday. The bed is comfy and my stomach seems calm. Only drank water until the evening when I had two cereal bars and some chips from English pub. Bumped into half of the Chile PT volunteers completely by chance. They were in our hostel and everything. Did about a million double takes  then they commenced with the dryest British humor. I had forgotten about that haha.
Today we ventured into La Paz which is in smelly abundance and is crushed and smeared down the pavements. A casual ally revealed numerous stalls with bunches of tiny rigamortis alpacas hanging from the barely fluffy necks and roads speared upwards at unexpected gradients. You can hardly see two metres from your face or feet because you gotta keep an eye on the boiling activity, not get stepped on, run over or pickpocketted. We found mounds of softest coloured alpaca fur. Hoodies, scalves, blankets and tiny little ponchos. The tourists are all adorned with these, they’re too good to pass off. Now we are too. Today we bought everything we wanted then in the evening dined out in a beautiful restaurant called Marrakesh and the owner, half Moroccan, half Bolivian, insisted on us drinking an abundance of sweet mint tea with such warmth. It smelt delicately of warm nahn, spices and incense with photos of Quabah, Mecca and Islamic Calligraphy on the wall. I sank gently into homely memories. He passed us a book full of pictures of the sky and told us to use a page how we wished. When we left he hugged us both and told us we have a home there and please come back for tea and baclava. We tipped out of Morroco and back into the quietish backstreet of La Paz with a light step and warm tummies. Ping pong tournament at the hostel. Notably met a chill guy from Arizona who was a pleasure to talk to and was working on fading out attachments. He was very calm after many, many travel high people.
Went to Tiwinaku ruins today, I think I heard they were the oldest in the world but like children we were sleepy and uninspired and abandoned the guide when we could to play with this kid dressed as evil spider man (who actually discovered a pretty interesting prohibited room that was under repair but full of ancient Pacha Mama relics)
We live in luxary in La Paz, fresh fruit juices on every corner, swathed in 100% alpaca wool and buying exotic musical instruments. Our tummies are round with bitter chocolate and tasty food. The poor thing about Bolivia is unnerving and sad. Just remember that it’s good to spend money buying the wares.
Luckily we came across more Brazilians. There is a good bunch of them and they all have card games and an array of Portuguese swears to teach me. Troco is a mad complicated card game that I didn’t understand at all but won every time.
We decided not to cycle death road too many tourists slipping off and breaking things. Wouldn’t be fair on the Family really taking the risk. Gonna go a zipwire and maybe absail a tall building instead.
We extended the stay in La Paz, there is something attractive about it’s mess. We never did anything just walked around and looked at things, letting our eyes penetrate one more layer into the wealth activity. There are so many poor people. The city runs on street vendors who encourage you with all their will to buy something then expect you to try and haggle the price (which feels a bit weird as it’s already TOO cheap for some good quality 100% natural handmade thing).

Done a wiz job making it into a minibus to the zipwire (two public buses hopped, a short taxi ride and we’re on the way)  (it is actually a good few hours away with no easy or reliable method of getting there). Also managed to chat to someone in Portuguese because he didn’t speak English, Spanish or French so that’s great that against all odds I’ve subconsciously learned, roughly, how to talk another language.
Dreamed we were in deep snow last night.
We did the zipwire over death road. It was a pleasant and tranquil activity whilst being mildly exhilerating. I watched the birds and considered that this was probably the closest I’d ever get to flying like them. Beautiful place. Hot and humid with massive leaves and mangos and bananas growing. We hitchhiked back simply as a matter of ease and safety. Some Argentinian youngsters had just climbed into the back of the truck headed for La Paz and there was space for two more. It definitely felt safer than the buses as he drove a lot slower along death road and the open air views were  incredible. We watched clouds gather as we climbed into the mountains and felt drops of rain. It became freezing within the hour but all I had was a light jumper and plastic poncho. The driver stopped the van and said there was space for two in the front and the others pushed us over. He told us all about Bolivian politics and economy as we watched snow storm start in the cold heights then dropped us off in La Paz, refusing any payment and waving us away with happy eyes.
Arrived in Sucre, relieved. La Paz was grinding me down with all it’s fumes. We’re in the real, secret capital now where the walls are white washed a new every year and the plaza pretty. Have our own double room where I can do yoga and play charango. I bought one yesterday. It’s incredibly pretty and makes a sweet twangy sound. Last night the bus was sweltering hot from an everlasting heater along the edges. Journey dragged on and on. Someone casually unwrapped their kitten from one of their bags and accidently released their inpassionate grip on it when they fell asleep so it climbed everywhere and was CUTE. The hostel is great and personal and fits with my PMT. There is even a good group of gringos downstairs laughing loudly for me to be angry at. Had various attacks from water pistols and balloons as it’s near carnival. Need to find me a super soaker.
Sometimes it hits me how far from home I am and how little I know what home is.
Been good tourists. Not only did we go to Jurassic Park (Dinosaur museum and longest dinosaur footprints in the world…I don’t believe they are real however) and also went to Casa de la Libertad where the declaration of Bolivian independence was signed with a friend we met back in San Pedro. It had some cool furniture and lots of dodgy portraits. I dunno if Bolivians are famous for their skill in portrait but I have my suspicions.
Finally the world got too abstract to have kid fears. Scene is the same as before, too hot on a summer night with the sheets all twisted up. Adult voices in the street and orange glow in strips across the pillow. Difference is the slow deliberate Spanish, the strangers in the house all around and the absence of my parents. Not only is it not scary in the slightest, I don’t feel alone or anxious either. Just trying to balance in my palm that slippery dream of home. Often I get tired of all this mucking about and want to make it an unquestionable reality.
It’s carnival day “Con Madres” today. It’s celebration for the women pretty much so the whole market where they sell cows heads, fruit juice and brick a brack is closed at 12 and the owners get together with sisters and daughters to drink uncanny amounts of chicha and laugh as their sons launch water attacks on tourists. We got into the hostel with our minds on a change of attire and afternoon nap followed by hot chocolate but the hostel owner tipped paper confetti over us and pressed numerous glasses of chicha into our hands. He ended up in a sleepy slump on the sofa and we sneaked off.
Cafe culture. We are so middle class, ordering tacos and sipping fresh lemonade for lunch with a view of the homeless in the plaza. Will be good for us to live off rice in Argentina.
Carnival today. Plaza chock-a-block with mad kids with spray foam, water bombs and an occasional bucket of water. We battled through having multiple attacks from both short and long range kids and adults with exceedingly good aim, gasping as a cold balloon smashed on the back of our head, laughing. Had a 2ltr bottle full of water and tipped it over a couple of close up kids. Very satisfying. People’s carnival vitality is admirable. They have water fights for weeks.
Our night in Potosi was very high up at 4,090 metres (too high to be that great at breathing) and we slept for 12 hours. In Uyuni now befriending bandy legged chilean band with juggling balls and drums, snotty children that respond well to head pats and admiring the carnival effects. Most important day today Ch’alla (Pacha Mama offering day) Fire crackers exploding outside all enterprise. They make a mini bonfire in the street outside each little shop and pour sweeties, confetti and chicha on it then look satisfied and relatively unphased when it starts exploding under their feet. The market is a racket. Brass bands thudder by every two minutes with streams of drunk dancing bolivians chasing them.
Start of three day Jeep tour tomorrow and we have crackers and biscuits galore.

—End of Diary 23/11/2012-12/02/2013—

xxxxxxxxx

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Colca Canyon to Machu Piccu

Following the nap on route. It was a sunny day.

Breakfast was bread, ham, cheese, pieces of salted roasted corn, olives, amazing energy drink made of soya and a cup of tea. Changed of of my clothes from the night before in the restaurant bathroom. Finally at 10.30 we started climbing down the Canyon. Our group was separated from the Brazilian locura- a welcome break after so many days of intense sun filled energy. Haha, they’re mad when they’re all together, never need to sleep or anything. So we with a German couple of Gals and two guys from Columbia who are all really sweet and lovely and it’s us two and our guide Jose is subtle spirit. We slid down zigzag paths on crests and crevices of the magnificent grass caked bodies of mountain sheer walls of blockish rocks in columns and far below some mules pick their way along a rocky path. Condor passed on by below- beautiful white on top of the wings in the sun. Steep path up for the next bit- lunch in the canyon. Continue through beauty of this valley. Avocados, figs and other things I’ve never seen before growing in the sunny trees. Sun was out and some clouds got caught on rocks jutting out from mountains. Along down over the bridge. Up, along, down.

Now we are at a little place in an oasis village. Can hear the savage river crushing itself about below. Played cards in the candle light. Then ate soup, rice, veg, chicken. Everything looks pretty in the candlelight and it soothed loneliness till it disappeared completely, very almost. I’ve felt good today, without sleep at very high altitude and a hangover. Felt strong and fresh by the afternoon. Just one candle to light the room. I’ll think of the canyon tonight, how it’s full of layers, fruit, green, water falls seeping or crashing down to the seething river and the crumbly paths by concave slopes that skid down several hundred metres yellow with a dash of pink in the extremities. And how the sun sets into the mountains and the rain unloads generously ontop of everything. Tomorrow we climb out.

Wake at 4.30 in the dark of our wee hut. Are some cake in the chilly air and trailed out and up in a sleepy line. Path was pretty tough in the tender hours and sun rose quietly onto the other side of the canyon behind my back. Pretty sweaty and pretty achey and stopping every bend in the path to breath the thinnish and thinning air and look at how big things were. More distance gaping behind my back every 10 mins. Got to the top after 2hours 15 where Juanluca (columbian friend) was looking pretty unphased physically and pretty chuffed at the puddle of actual sweat he had squeezed out of his T-shirt. Jorge (other columbian friend) trotted up on a mule several minutes after me and the rest of the crew a half hour later. Calm breakfast in good company then settled into minibus back to town.

Bus to Cusco

Made it to Cusco in 10 hours and settled into our 14 bed dorm. In the one day we’ve been there we booked Maccu Piccu then I watched three films in a row, piled into duvets with some scruffy, sweet types.We explored monday night with Aussie friend. First we played cards then darts then cards then pool (scooped up a lonesome Brazilian along the way) then we all went to do kareoke. Turns out both Aussie and Beth have immense singing voices and cracked me up singing high school musical duet. Inside the clubs everbody can dance salsa.

Now we are in Aguas Calientes. Forest on high mountains climb up on all sides and water moves like mushroom clouds of an atomic bomb. Leavers and ramps and bridges cross the river elegantly and guys work hard inching their ways up the steep pavements pushing or pulling waggons of beer and dripping sweat. Place is full of tourists. Bumped into 3 people we know already. Buses reverse in the narrow road until their buts are jutting out over the river. Intense game of watching people pass.

This hostel is run by incredible competent children who seem to do everything from checking  in guests to room service to formatting the PC. All in order for Machu Piccu tomorrow. Got loads of snackies. The town is busy with laughter and cooking meat. Everyone seems to be having a great time. We’ve eaten out three nights in a row now (and so far have found no more chicken foot soup as in Cusco) and feel pretty pleased with ourselves. The football pitch outside acts as a plaza and is full of tumbling kids and strong lads.

Sitting over ancient Machu Pichu village. Early afternoon in the sun temple. Made of smooth careful granite bricks. Roar of thunder just knocked through the mountains. They look like a pomegranate that has been split open and all it’s fruit sticking up.

Last two days in Cusco. Beth got ill and vomited a load of times in the Inca Express (posh train that takes you to Machu Piccu). We variously ate food and bumped into familiar faces. The chocolate museum deserves a book dedicated to it. It saved us. We were both feeling ill and queezy so shuffled in to gaze blindly at the exotic history of chocolate with a warm bowl of cocoa tea, handed to us by a dark eyed little Peruvian man with a hidden choco passion in his face. We shared mayan hot chocolate- it was thick and rich with honey and chili and pretty much blasted my bug away. We watched Expendables in a heap with canadian friend Zachary to the thump of house music. Next day free walking tour in the city. We sprang through about 15 really interesting places and were alternately charmed and impressed by the guide who dripped with a wealth of quirky facts. Massive range of free samples (molly wouldve been buzzing). Spent a middle class afternoon sipping mango juice and prune tart in the super organic shop. Peru and former Mayans have got the health thing down. Loads of seeds and grains that made them full of energy and really hardcore. They were onto something. I think we are loosing the scent.

Leave that for now. Next installation soon. Still at home in Lautaro. Very achey after finding some of the guys and did some much missed capoeira 🙂 Should be back at work tomorrow and our resolution is to be better teachers with more fun and games xxxx

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Step across to Peru

Now updating from safe and sound at home in Lautaro (yes I made it!(Betty too))

Arrive in Arica. After the pampering of San Pedro it’s weird to be back in a real city rather than the make believe rural beauty. There is a dock (from what I can see from the flat rooftop) and a cliff that stops bluntly before the sea like the snout of a beached whale. The low streets are littered and strangely enough it rained a few humid drops this morning. Hostel feels like a comfy shared student house, run by some young french people. I have study urge for all languages as usual and wish I had a Portugues dictionary. Do french for time being as so far the Brazilians are ausentes. May not be long before the influx- we’ll see. Had two very good brekkies. Keeping budget very low. This morning I let my dry humor out on some Australians who seem to be even dryer. Can get back to the earnest delight of S. Americans right away. Also a Mum and little girl were here from Poland. Kid looked like Madinah and was bilingual.

Funny how seamlessly I’ve started to move on. Attached to where I am in a few seconds and forget it as soon as I arrive in the next place… Ran up the hill to the cliff earlier and strolled along the beach today. Content of this hostel are friendly but all too European. Feeling South American sick and want to speak Spanish. Feel separate from the ultra coolness of latin beats and sports on the sand as night moves in.

Success. Settled on bus for Arequipa in Peru. Pressing 37 and rather sweaty but it’s okay. Im quite content. Taxi man saw us safe across the border with a little advice to stash our remaining oregano down our trou. I didnt do that but ate all the bananas and tomatoes in the queue. Yesterday we had mucho spare time in Arequipa and were’t inspired by the restaurant options so crept around pugnant rockpools, smelling the good smells and seeing how fast crabs can run. We also watched some turkey vultures eating a seal pup and heard the shouts of its mother from the rocky sea. Sounded like a human.

Then we walked back and wrote a song called desert puddle.

Experience of Peruvians so far is positive. Very helpful and sweet. Nice slow accents with a pleasant snipped end to each word and sentence  However a north american lady stormed into the bus company office and was super maleducada and insolente. Just embarrassing.

One of my first tastes of homesickness or something of the sort. Just arrived in Arequipa tonight and landed in a quiet hostel. The bus ride dragged on the steep roads, scary overtaking, early evening and finally rain. Bus was searched like three times and driver had an obsession with stopping for ages. I didnt mind all this too much but family is on my mind. 

Arequipa got a little loco. Dropped a note into the guys hostel (friends we met in San Peds) in the hope that a good coincidence would chance us to coincide. They materialized in the plaza spot on time like it never happens with some of the gals too. There followed a  happy lunchtime Brazilian affair. The restaurant was very Peruvian and wooden with waitresses in straw cone shaped hats. Guinea pig was picked to pieces completely, thoroughly- tongue, brain, eyeballs and tiny wee heart included. Portugues was uttered in delighted excess.

The way to move around Arequipa seems to be in one of the 7 billion taxis there and we flushed through its system a fair amount of times that day. Breakfast was a pancake and jam then fried egg and bread with mango juice and tea on the rooftop. Settled my little sad soul after lying like a baby in a cot facing hideous clown faces drawn on the wall. So day was a rush of beeps and cars slamming on their breaks. Intersections of colours like the abundance of fruit spilling down in tears in the mercado. 2 mangos for 3 soles. Skidded to a halt near the maze hostel and entered- turned 10 corners, ascended 5 flights of stairs and walked through a garage, balcony and two yards to cook spagbol in the kitchen with nice friend Tana. Made massive amounts so involved as much of the hostel as possible. High on tired, planning for party and for 2.30 wake up to go to the Colca Canyon. 

Insert here: Im sat in a deck chair inside the biggest canyon in the world. Its saturated with water vegetation and fruit . Grass is spongy and tin roofs dripping from downpour. Its getting towards dusk. Our room is a clay house with two beds and a wooden little table with a candle on a colourful peruvian throw. It’s stunningly beautiful here like nothing I’ve seen before.

I left last night for Wildrover hostel/bar renowned for it’s party to meet friends. Enter raucous bar, chicos absent. Quickly found some very blond german girls and talked to nice groups of various chaps and girls for some time. Great company and great conversation but I suggest that anyone going to high altitudes drink no more than one unit of alcohol because I had two and dont remember the rest of the night so clearly. Found my way to the tour bus by three which was already crammed with partying Brazilians. Climbed around the bus eating whole avocados until daybreak then fell asleep for 10 mins.

Pause here before the arrival at Colca Canyon. Im gonna go to bed and continue writing tomorrow maybe 🙂 Love xx

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