If you ask me now when I decided to move to Australia I can’t tell you the exact moment. It could be when I ran up path to the Sun Gate to reach Mel as she was arriving there via the Inca Trail to view Machu Picchu for the first time; after 3 days of being apart I realised I wanted to follow her. I suspect though, as everything else in life, it was a process. And like almost everything else in MY life, a very intense and quick process.
I remember when Melissa left the first time, I really really missed her. When she left the second time, I just wanted her back. So yeah, that had to do with it. Oh, I know what you are thinking now: ‘romantic fella’. I won’t disagree with you, that description suits me. And I won’t try to list all the other ‘reasons’ that I invented to feel less stupid and fragile about leaving my relatives and my home country. So yes, I am that silly guy who goes to the other side of the Pacific to give love a chance. And trust me, at 32 I am well aware of the dangers of doing stuff like this. So let’s just say that I feel more comfortable when the odds are against me and, whatever happens, Australia is too much of an attractive destination to think about it twice.
To make me feel more comfortable I quickly learnt that I had relatives where I was heading: Melbourne. Also, because I had been working with an Australian company in Peru, I met many aussies whom I had lead on trips around Peru, some of them from Melbourne. After posting on Facebook where my next adventure would take me I started receiving invitations and hoorays. The gut started twisting but the feeling was right.
The first step was to start gathering the necessary documents that the visa required. This subject was particularly scary for me. Though I have been an immigrant a good amount of my life, it has never been easy and it has always been quite anecdotic to go places with my Peruvian passport. This is not the blog to discuss what I think of immigration but I’ll simply say that immigration needs to be seen as anything but a problem for the world. In this sense I was happy to be heading to a country that prides itself on a multicultural society.
After looking into the possibilities, Mel and I decided that the best shot was to ask for a student visa. The process was long and tedious but little by little we got the papers and requirements in order, I contacted an immigration agent who counseled me on schools and visa protocols and pretty soon I was sealing the envelope that would go to the nearest Australian embassy in Santiago. The waiting had begun.
Meanwhile I was learning how to use Skype while I was still working and traveling around Peru leading groups. I would tell them that maybe soon I would be in Oz and they would wish me luck. They told me stories of places and got me prepared for what awaited me. Every single one of them said Melbourne was a beautiful place to go. In my free time I dreamed about all I could do down under, all the new bird species I’d be able to watch, if i should be really concerned about swimming or surfing in the oceans with all the sharks and crocs they have, all the music festivals I’d be able to go. But there was also the flipside: would I be able to find Peruvian food, Pisco, spicy sauce? I was gonna miss out on the Ornithological Congress in Cusco. And mostly the doubt that can always haunt you when you are about to make such a big decision: am I making a smart move here? However I formulated this question I was not ready for the answer. It would not hit me until a little later. Things started feeling as if I was leaning over a huge abyss and I was about to jump. I had my parachute but I hadn’t heard the weather forecast.
The waiting took on a dramatic charm when the embassy called regarding my visa precisely when I was of of reach at the Bolivian high plateau. It got worse when my visa tramit was delayed due to the plane crash of a Chilean plane that killed a locally famous TV host and his crew, producing so much social upset that the president declared a 2 day holiday in Chile. If it wasn’t for the era of information (read: Internet) I would have thought the embassy was shut or that I had missed my chance to get a visa. It was around this point that my mother told me that it was ok to get more than 5 meters away from the phone and that my immigration agent recommended I stop calling the embassy 10 times every day asking for news.
After 3 long months of gathering documents, getting them stamped, photocopied, notified, legalised, filled out, emailed, scanned, etc, I got the visa and things started going very fast. Had to buy a plane ticket, go to the bank to sort out my accounts, visit friends and family members whom I sadly suspected I would never see again due to their advanced age, pack my bags and leave all my other stuff in storage and amid all this try to enjoy my nearest family members. I think I managed pretty well while I was busy doing all this, but it still hadn’t dawned on me the big emotional charge all this meant. Mel would tell me while chatting that she couldn’t believe how brave I was and I didn’t really understand what she meant then. To me it was an exciting next step; a whole new and gigantic country to explore with some of the strangest wildlife in the world. Goin’ to Australia offered the possibillity of goin’ further to even more exotic places such as Asia and Africa. And I had family members to meet and friends to see again, not to mention the woman I love! I felt like I had won the lottery and was on my way to claim my prize.