I Probably Should Be An Adult By Now

Yep. At 34, I probably should be an adult by now. That said, I don’t currently feel like an adult, nor do I feel like I am ever going to progress towards being one. I write this as I sit on a camp stool at my desk. My desk is not actually a desk, but a whole bunch of storage boxes that I stacked up, threw a piece of $5 MDF from Bunnings over the top of and then covered it over with some $2 a metre material from Spotlight. No. I didn’t sew it. I used a whole bunch of pins to keep it there because I couldn’t be bothered dealing with superglue. As you can see, I am at the height of adult bedroom decoration. I don’t even have a proper bed, just a mattress on the floor. And you know what? I am actually quite happy this way in my kiddie fort built out of non-adulting materials. For some reason, I find something comforting about it.

Maybe this has something to do with values. I spent quite an amount of time in the last few years pondering what all of the stuff actually means. I certainly can’t say, to quote Marie Kondo, that having a bookcase “sparks joy” for me. What “sparks joy” is being comfortable enough in an environment that is mine but without the feeling of being excessively tied down with stuff. That feeling makes me feel tied down to one place way too much. Maybe I am not quite ready to let go of nomad lifestyle just yet.

Adulting also requires a job. And I am about to start one. And that is scary. But not as scary as signing into a job forever because I have chosen for my job to be flexible and at times of my choosing. In any life adulting requires paying bills and that requires making money, but career focus is not something I can say that I give too much of a fuck about which is also strange for a 34 year old. As I always say, “was great at their job” said nobody’s tombstone ever. Mine will probably say “never effectively learned to adult”.

Dating is also an inherently adult trait and I have been doing a fair bit of it in recent months. I can’t much say I have the adult feeling of having to put up with many of them for too longer a period of time. The truth is, I just can’t see myself adulting enough to be in any kind of serious relationship. Especially if it requires adulting enough to look after another human. That is high level adulting and not something I am capable of while I am sleeping on mattresses on the floor and working at makeshift desks and stealing fruit to eat from trees down the road that overhang the sidewalk.

But then what is adulting? For the better part of my grown life I have made my own money, fed and looked after myself and travelled a very large proportion of the world. Sure I don’t have a lot of impressive furniture, I am fairly makeshift, I don’t have a permanent job but I still manage to pay the bills, and I haven’t found a person I consider worthy enough to keep around for a long period of time. But does that make me less of an adult? Just because I choose to do it differently from the everyday societal norms? So I pose to you….. What even is adulting anyway? Because screw it, I think we need to redefine.

 

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“6’2 because apparently it matters”

I was chatting to a guy on Tinder the other day who cleared this up for me. He asked me what I was looking for and I told him that I was looking to meet people and have some good conversations. He told me that this was the most loose answer to this question he had ever received and that most girls seem to have a long running checklist of things that they want and if you don’t have just one of them, see you later. And apparently size matters….. If you’re not tall enough to be a foot taller than her when she’s wearing her heels, then adios. No go. Even if you get along really well, have similar things in common, great sexual chemistry…. Too bad, you’re too short.

Well you know what I have to say to this? Fuck heels for one, you will never catch me wear them, but wow. How limiting? By attacking this question of what I want with a long standing checklist of physical, not even person attributes, I am limiting myself completely to the world of men with really great personalities that might be a bit on the short side. Some men, bless them, are owning their “Dad bods” these days and just don’t seem to give a shit, and to those men, I salute you. Well done for owning your shit, because confidence is far sexier than a hot, arrogant, 6-foot something-or-other wanker, of which many of the super good-looking, “I’m cool with all my muscles doing a shirtless gym selfie” are.

But the same also has to apply in reverse. I am no oil painting. In the land of Tinder, I am definitely not a hot-looking person with my tits all over the place, taking duck-face selfies for Instagram. My photos are fun and show that I am a real person with interests and a sense of humour. And many men check that and move on. But you know what? Good riddance, I don’t want to talk to you if you’re shallow.

What is it with our society right now that is lending us to believe that our most worthy self is the one that looks good and that our other personality-based attributes count for nothing? I guess for the most part you can’t demonstrate real personality through the likes of social media for one, and this seems to be the way that people these days are putting themselves forward. And seriously, you need fuck all intelligence to be able to do this.

As I sit and chat with these frustrated dudes from Tinder, I wonder if they realise we, as women, feel the same way about them and their choosing. And often this isn’t even for a relationship but for whatever brief tryst the majority can get before they move on. Maybe I need to start seeking other dating sites that are not Tinder to do so…. Ah but heck, who am I kidding? It’s way too fun! I’ll just be chilling here swiping right and left. And you can rest assured, my height bias is non-existant. Let’s hope you throw some of your biases out too and let the nice people have some luck!

Trying to Retain Your Second Language

In the last year, I worked my arse off to become proficient in Spanish. Speaking another language was not something that was held in high regard as I was growing up because in rural, very white Australia, it was not something that people ever used or valued. But as I started travelling the world I learned that there was real value in learning a new language because it allowed you to communicate effectively with so many more new people in the world, and these people have so many different things that they can teach you. Not only this, but studies have shown that learning a new language can change your brain and help to ward off dementia and other issues later on in life. So off I went to Spanish school and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

After four months of studying in the school and another eight months of travelling around Spanish-speaking countries, I would think in Spanish, eat, breath, and sleep Spanish and it came so naturally to me. I didn’t have to really concentrate too hard on what I was doing anymore because it became a habit. And then I went home……

After family members getting in my grill about not wanting to listen to Spanish music because it sucks and annoying me while I was trying to watch movies or TV in Spanish, I felt like my language skills were waning. My biggest fear of losing something I had worked so hard to gain was rearing its ugly head. It was most evident to me when I made the massive screw up in conversation talking to a friend of mine in Spanish. We were talking about me going out on the weekend and I said to him “No hay problema, voy a compartirme…. (There is no problem, I am going to share myself)” Comportirme in Spanish means ‘to share myself’. As opposed to ‘comportarme’ which means ‘to behave myself’. Which is what I meant. This was a monumental fuck up and one that I was aware of and I knew. As we continued to text, I realised just how many mistakes I was making because I wasn’t practicing. It made me sad and frustrated. So I set about a program to try and keep it. Here is what I have been doing:

Watching Television

I started out watching Money Heist on Netflix, also known as La Casa de Papel. It is originally in Spanish so I thought it would be great. However it is in Spanish from Spain so at first I found it super hard to decipher and found they were speaking too fast, so I had the subtitles on as well. There were a whole bunch of new words that I learned, having to stop the show all the time to look it up. For example ‘joder’ which means ‘fuck’, or ‘follar’ which means ‘fuck’ or ‘coger’ which means ‘to take’ but also ‘to fuck’. So I am now well-versed in the art of Spanish vulgarity. For listening purposes without subtitles, I find The Good Place a great one because the voice overs in Spanish are quite slow and easy to understand.

Reading Books

I got a bit ahead of myself before leaving Colombia and decided that I would buy a whole bunch of second-hand Gabriel Garcia Marquez books for about a dollar each. The only problem is that Gabo (as he is so affectionately called in Colombia) is a really difficult read in Spanish to a native reader let alone to somebody who has only been speaking Spanish for a year. I took to the online library and found a whole bunch of kids books and started reading about a kid that ran away from home. Great read….. I also recommend newspapers, online articles and reading books in Spanish that you have already read in English, such as Harry Potter because familiarity with the story helps when you get lost.

Online text conversations

One of the best ways to keep up the language skills is to have online text conversations with friends that you have made that speak the language also. These may be friends from language school, online communities or my personal favourite, boys I have met on Tinder that are just passing through or now live here. Talking online gives you time to be able to process what has been sent to you and then to have time to think about how you are going to structure your response. It also allows you time to look up words that you don’t know.

Meet-Up Groups

This I find is the best way to get involved in keeping your language skills. In this setting you actually have to think fast enough to speak and while having text conversations are great, the speed of thought involved with face-to-face conversations is much faster and it is one of the first things to go when you stop living in a place with native speakers. With the large abundance of people looking to meet one another, Meet-Up has become a great way to find communities online that allow you to go along and engage with people that speak the same languages and want to practice. I have met some great people in these groups and they also teach you different slang from their native language while you teach them the same for your native language. It is a great way to make friends and get involved with people who have the same passion in common.

Learning a language and keeping it is hard. But if you put in the hard yards and keep plugging away at it little by little, you will be able to retain most of what you learned and then continue to progress. Good luck with it all!

 

Think Your Job Sucks? Five Jobs That Suck Worse Than Yours

Everybody likes to piss and moan about their jobs every now and then and how much they totally suck and how much they hate them. Most of the time I love my job and even then I still bitch and moan about aspects of it. Every time I want to complain, I think back to some of the shittiest jobs I saw people doing around the world as I travelled. Here are ten jobs that are guaranteed to be way more rubbish than yours and will give you a new appreciation for just how easy most of us have it.

1. Sulfur Miner, Kawah Ijen, Indonesia

These men walk 3km up the outside of a volcano and then down into the abyss that is the crater of Kawah Ijen to collect the 60 to 80kg of sulfur in their bamboo baskets that they then carry back up to the top of the volcanic crater rim and then 3km back down the hill again. They do this a total of twice a day for a measly pay out of approximately $10-$15 USD a day. They are paid approximately 900 Indonesian Rupiah per kilogram of sulfur. Majority of them have severe lacerations and scars in their shoulders from carrying the baskets and their life expectancy is shortened due to the constant breathing of the noxious sulfur dioxide fumes that come out of the crater. These men however are marvellous and you can read more about it in The Marvellous Men Of Kawah Ijen.

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One of the sulfur miners getting prepared to go up to the crater rim from the centre of the crater.

2. Leather processer, Fez, Morocco

So these guys literally take the skins of the cows or camels and then they soak them in giant vats of pigeon shit which has a high content of ammonia. Not only is this really bad to be breathing in, but it is awful for your skin. I would be pleasantly surprised if any of these guys live longer than fifty years of age given the sheer amounts of chemicals they are exposed to. After they jump in the giant vats of pigeon shit and pull out the hides to rinse them, they then shove them into giant vats of natural dyes (natural also doesn’t necessarily mean good for you. Pigeon shit is also natural) and then they colour the hides for use. I honestly don’t know how they do it. It’s awful.

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The grey pits in the front are full of ammonia from bird poo and the dye vats are in the distance. You can see some hides on the rooftop drying on the right.

3. Porter – Nepal

These guys, in all kinds of shitty weather, are trekking food, building supplies and two to three persons’ worth of luggage at a time at high altitude for days and days at a time. Many of the villages in the remote regions of Nepal do not have access via road, so the only way to get supplies in is via helicopter, which is expensive, or to have a porter carry it for several days. Sometimes they even carry the most precious of cargo…. one time they even carried me when I nearly died (This Week I Almost Died ) over rock walls to put me in the helicopter. Anyway, the point is, carrying forty kilos or more of other peoples’ shit for days at a time uphill at altitude is a really shitty job and the pay, yet again is a pittance.

Two of the porters with their heavy packs and the head supports they use to help save their backs from ruin, struggling their way through the snow.

4. Mule – Everywhere in the fucking world

If you’re a mule, life sucks big time. Not only are you constantly being made to carry all manner of heavy shit up hills while a human smacks you on the hide for motivation to keep moving, sometimes you even have to carry said humans, because they are too lazy to walk themselves. I at times want to start a ‘Save The Mule’ campaign because they look utterly fucking miserable every single day of their lives. Especially when they are having to carry some fuckwit lazy tourist along a massive five day trek because that tourist wants to go ‘trekking’.

A Peruvian mule on the Salkantay Trek, chilling out before no doubt lugging some lazy arse up over the pass.

5. Silver Miner, Potosí, Bolivia

I have written about the conditions here in a previous blog (Shit I Learned In The Potosí Mines) and it is fair to say that conditions are absolutely appalling. You are breathing in dust that gets into your lungs and is killing you most of the time by the age of forty. Sometimes, accidents happen with explosions and people end up in pieces and dying. It is hot, miserable and dangerous work. Mostly for an absolute pittance.

Inside the Potosi mines, a worker is offering ritual sacrifice of coca and booze to Tio in hope that they will survive the day’s work.

So next time you are moaning about how shit your job is, spare a thought for this lot that are put through the dangerous and shitty ringer every day to make less than what you probably make in ten minutes.