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.

 

“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.

 

What I Reckon: Churches

The thing about travelling Europe is that the biggest sightseeing attractions are usually churches. Well I haven’t even made it to Rome yet and I am sick of fucking churches. Don’t get me wrong, they are some of the most incredible examples of architecture in the world however my issues lie more with what it is that the churches represent. And again I am not talking about the ideal of God. I am talking about the largest and richest organisations in the world (the Catholic religion) hanging about with their hands out everywhere you go. Ten euro to get in here, donate money to us there… you know what? I’d rather donate my euros to the homeless person sitting in your doorstep with no food. And in fact I have done this out of spite to church workers getting pissy with me for not donating.

The other day I was in Porto, Portugal. I went inside of the Santa Clara church. That place is mind blowing. And the reason it is so mind blowing is because it has over 500kg of gold, a ‘gift’ from Brazil back in the days when they were a colony, gilded all over the walls, the roof, everywhere. The place is literally lit up with gold to the current tune of 18 million euros in a country that is facing financial crisis. For interests sake, there is another church there in Porto with over 600kg of gold gilded on the walls of that one. The thing that bothers me most about this is the hypocrisy.

“Love thy neighbour”. But not enough to feed them with 40 million euros of gold we just acquired into our possession that we could use to feed homeless people and ensure that everyone has enough to be comfortable. Instead we shall take the gold, slather it on the walls of our institutions to make them look pretty while the hungry and poor look on and get told that it is perfectly acceptable because God is above them and he needs gold walls. That life is suffering and as such the Bishops can sit on their pedestals with their full bellies and dole out supposedly comforting ideals of how this is God’s plan. I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure that God would not agree with greed and gluttony…. another of the commandments? Right? And yet gluttony is what is written all over the walls of majority of the churches I enter. It’s perfectly acceptable as long as it’s the Catholic Church doing so, but anyone else needs to haul their arse to confession for being a bad human.

I know this is probably hugely controversial, especially to those who are religious, but right now the good human in me wants to go back there and scrape all the fucking walls and give the poor family of refugees or the father of two who lost his job a shot at having some dignity and food on the table and in their childrens’ bellies. Surely kindness and sharing are far more important ideals than making everything look excessively pretty and over the top in a building that people go to to pay their respects. In actuality, all it is, is a power play. The Catholic Church flexing their muscle over the general population to show how much bigger and better they are than you. So that you can stand in awe at how much they have and be scared of their power then do exactly as they say. Do watch yourself. You better toe the line, confess all your gluttonous sins to the hypocrites and then put 10 percent of your wages into the box on your way out the gold plated front door. Otherwise God will think less of you for not being a good charitable human. End rant.

What I Reckon: Globalism vs Nationalism

It is a hard pill to swallow. The truth is I feel like I have been choking on it for a while now and there is nothing to do but continue choking on it.

As someone who has travelled the world and been welcomed with open arms to so many places, I consider myself a global citizen. I consider myself a person of the human race before I consider myself Australian. And I know that this particular sentiment may be seen as unpatriotic and I’m sure that writing this will also lead to someone telling me to fuck off to wherever I think is better than the “lucky country”. Because that is the glorious kind of inclusive country I come from where all ideas of others are respected and considered. As long as those ideas fit within the realm of closed-minded, social expectations.

The truth is, the more I read in the news, the more I start to resent nationalistic ideas as a whole. They are human constructions that allowed us in the past to have common ground for co-operation but now, it appears to be a construct used to discriminate against those who are believed to be “lesser” humans. A person cannot actively choose where they are born, their colour, their gender, their sexual persuasion, or how much money mummy and daddy have in the bank. And yet these days unless you’re born a straight, white male in a well off country with a fucking silver spoon in your mouth, you’re a lesser human than everyone else with little to nothing to contribute.

The rise of fascist white supremacy groups throughout the United States, Australia and the UK disgusts me. It shows that, if anything, we have forgotten what happened when one particular fascist leader got it into his brain that all those of Aryan blood were better than everyone else and the others must die for it. 8 million of them. And while we are all well and good to sit there and say how terrible World War 2 was and how awful these crimes against humanity are, in the same breath we are spouting racist, Islamaphobic bullshit that comes from a place of fear, lack of critical thinking and misinformation. We clearly as a species have learned nothing from the past. And as clearly as that screams, my biggest fear is that we are bound to repeat them.

The reality of the current terrorist movement is that a very small amount die to create a mass movement of fear within others. And if you add all of the people that have died in acts of terror across Westernised countries over the last few decades, it is only a fraction of a percentage to those killed by heart disease or diabetes, or car accidents… what is more, it is substantially less than the number of other Muslims killed within their own countries by fellow Muslims. But again, this isn’t reported on the news because it isn’t considered worthy of our time or knowledge. These lives matter less.

What I would like to see is the walls of religious and national identity break down. I would love for nothing more than to live in a world where everyone can look at each other as fellow humans and accept that person for the joys and things they have to offer. But unfortunately I don’t see and end to this “them and us” mentality that plagues the world right now. As far as the ideas of humanism have progressed, there is a regression seen in the likes of Brexit and Mexican-US border walls. The politicians leading our countries are more than ever being congratulated on their spouting of racist, homophobic ideas instead of those that are inclusive to everybody that lives here. The message is becoming abundantly clear. Toe the line. Either get on board with the movement or fuck off. Well I think I’d rather fuck off than accept this thanks. My conscience is too strong to allow it.

 

Sledgehammers and Slow-burners

The dating world is a brutal place. Most of the time you will find yourself meeting up with people that just aren’t a good fit for you. Disrespect, lack of things in common, complete indifference to anything going on in your life to the point where they can’t even formulate a question, all manner of faux pas. But when you do find those people where there is an attraction and you have things in common, I find things go generally one of two ways. You’re either smacked with the love/hormone sledgehammer and fall so hard and fast that it doesn’t even make sense to you. It is so intense you can’t think straight. Or you wind up with what I like to call a slow-burner, someone that just creeps up on you slowly and continues to surprise you and pull you in little by little each time.

In the game of attraction, sledgehammers are definitely more exciting. It is like you can’t even breathe the air that they occupy without feeling completely drugged up and intoxicated. You hang on their every word, feel like this is it and everything that you have ever wanted after a week. The sex is amazing and all you want to do is be around them all the time. It is dangerous, exciting and total lust at its finest.

But in my experience, the sledgehammers stop you thinking and seeing straight. And before you know it, you miss all of the deal breakers, the manipulation, the games. They invade any rational thought that you have and replace it with the excuses you make for yourself because you don’t want to let go, it feels that good. Before you know it, you’re so far gone that you’re acting like a crazy person, constantly checking for messages, phone calls, any kind of gratification you can get because you’ve developed an addiction. This isn’t love. This isn’t even healthy. And once you recognise it, it is then time to put the hard yards of rehab into place and ween yourself off to avoid the ultimate heartbreak that will ensue.

The slow-burners, however, those are the ones you want. Those are the men that you actually see for who they are warts and all and choose them because of the small quirks that give you that tweak of nerves in your stomach. The ones that work to give you that confidence in them, little by little each time. That impress you with something new that makes you want them just that little bit more. They are the ones that you’re not obsessing about because deep down somewhere you know at some point you will hear from them. They are respectful like that. That you can trust where they are and what they are doing. Because there are no games. You get to know and respect each other and things develop out of a place of friendship and then one day you wake up and realise you made it there without even knowing. This is your person.

It’s not crazy and intense, it is sane and solid. It isn’t a rollercoaster that takes you on extreme highs and lows, it’s a scenic drive through the most stunning of landscapes. It isn’t the situation that ultimately turns toxic and winds up in the most erratic of screaming matches, it is the situation that holds you confidently high with who you are and supports you along the way. It is not the one that fizzles and dies in three weeks, but the one that lasts a lifetime.

So the next time you find  yourself standing in a situation with a sledgehammer, take the time to slow down and seriously look at what you have in front of you. As easy as it is to get caught up in the awesomeness of the moment, you are most likely missing some of the biggest red flags that you can find in relationships. Try and divert yourself into the slow lane and open your eyes to what it is that you really have in front of you and whether this is the best thing for you. If not, start again and maybe next time you meet a guy, try and do away with the hammer and pull out a candle. Who knows? Maybe this time you’ll be surprised by the outcome.

A woman's lifelong aversion to the word 'No'….