Category Archives: Immigration

A Peruvian in Australia: Getting Around (Part 2)

The Grampians

The Grampians must be one of the classic family holiday spots for Victorians. It definitely seemed very popular when we went camping there in November last year. We chose a campground at the heart of the Grampians: Hall’s Gap, a little village with a few restaurants, bungalow facilities, a nice museum of aboriginal history, an information centre, petrol station, etc. From here most hikes or roads leave from into the Grampians National Park. Mel was a bit curious and concerned about the accessibility, as in early 2011 this area had suffered from floods and mudslides and fires. We realised that one of the main roads was still under repair and to get to one of the main spots we would need to make a huge loop by car on what otherwise would be a 5km drive from Hall’s Gap.

The Grampians and Hall’s Gap down in the valley

But the weather was lovely, the people were happy and as soon as we set up our camp we were out looking for hikes. First we walked to a lookout point up on a mountain from where we could see massive flocks of Cockatoos flying across the valley, filling it with their loud calls that reminds me of those from macaws. The kangaroos were there too, in large groups, not shy at all, grazing next to the paths where people walked.

A Mob Of Kangaroos

But the highlight was definitely the circuit we did on day 2, when we walked for most of the day, to The Pinnacle, a lookout point at aprox.1200meters , and a circuit of beautiful avenues carved in ancient rocks where once water must have flown. I don’t want to seem rude but it is funny how when aussies refer to the Grampians they refer to them as ‘high’ mountains. You need to have in mind that the highest point in this big island is Mt. Kosciuszko at 2228 meters. So for me, having grown up in Cusco at 3400masl, surrounded by ranges well above 5 or 6 thousand, that was a bit…well, no disrespect at all, it’s just a simple way of saying how context is such a big thing in our lives.

The Pinnacle

We were able to witness the damage made by last years natural disasters when we walked by forest that had been burned. It’s very clear how the fires are such a big part of nature’s cycles here. The winds are strong and the heat is too, the land is flat and when all of these factors conspire, fires are the result.


Ballarat is one of Australia’s 20 largest cities and it only has 90 thousand people. It’s only an hour and a half drive from Melbourne, a reason why many of its inhabitants move to the bigger city looking for better opportunities. But there was a time when Ballarat possessed the bigger opportunities and attracted people from all over the world because of the gold that was found there. Nowadays the most popular attraction in Ballarat is Sovereign Hill, where a gold processing facility has been kept and well maintained. Visitors get to be dressed in the old fashion, just like we do in Peru with the visitors to Lake Titicaca. If you are thinking that it sounds like an amusement park where you get to see how the miners lived, you are right. If you think it’s boring, you’re wrong. Every detail is been taken care of and walking into Sovereign Hill seems like a passage back in time, to the 1830’s, when immigrants from all over the world were coming to this new continent in search of wealth and fortune. If it wasn’t for all the visitors…we did go on what probably is the busiest day in the year, but still managed to enjoy it!

Old shop in Sovereign Hill

Demonstrations on how lollies were made the old fashioned way (with the old-fashioned machinery and tools and all!) were so inspiring – we still have lollies from that visit a few months on! Another show on how a gold bar is melted and poured was particularly beautiful and entertaining. They had a whole foundry still working and it’s so impressive to see that machinery not only working but to imagine all the effort it actually took to make it and all the thought put into it. That’s one thing I love about old machines, they actually look clever. Modern stuff just looks pretty and disposable, utterly incapable of being appreciated for its charm. Just mass production.

And as you walk by you discover the whole village: the bar, the bakery, the mechanic that repaired the trolleys, the bowling saloon, the school, the Chinese neighbourhood (someday a whole district), the gold-wash area. We actually walked down into a mine. I couldn’t but sigh at the light years between this, still a working small mine, and the mines that I saw in Potosí, Bolivia, where the health and safety conditions are non-existent and when you sign the waiver it says clearly that there’s a chance you will die buried in the tunnel!

Chinese shop

So far I think Ballarat has given me that sharpest impression of what Australia used to be when it was founded. It reminds me what a young nation this one is and how fast it has gotten to where it is now.


Mel had to work in Sydney and Brisbane and I decided to tag along. I had miles on my account so I traded them to do my first domestic flight in Australia. Besides, Brisbane has a reputation for sunny weather and chilled out people and is close to some of the biggest tourist destinations in the whole country: Gold Coast and Noosa.
I had contacted my friend Renata on e-mail and we were plotting a visit to a nearby beach. She, a marine biologist, and her boyfriend Nick also a biologist and a surf enthusiast, named a few amazing sites nearby that were ideal for camping, hiking, surfing and just relaxing. I was reassured by Renata that sharks don’t eat people and that it is easier to die in a car accident and that’s all it took to sell me.

Mt. Glorious forest

I purchased a train ticket online to go from the Brisbane airport to the city, and in Melbourne I got a bus ticket to the airport. It is quite surprising how the second largest city in Australia (and the current most liveable city in the world) has such a weak and inefficient public transport system. There is no train to the airport. If you don’t have a car you have to go to the city centre and grab a bus from there that costs AUD$17 and takes 45 minutes with some traffic (not talking peak time). In comparison, Brisbane has a train that takes you straight to the city centre in 20min and costs AUD$14.

When I arrived at the airport I hesitated about where to go. The domestic area had only computerised check in and a few attendants. This is funny about Australia, everything is automated: when you go to the supermarket you weigh and pay for your products at automated check out machines. The idea is the same at airports, and since pretty much everyone has a frequent flyer number or a reservation code, there is really no need to hire staff to check people in. But I didn’t know how to use it, and also I was travelling on miles so I thought it better to contact a real person to help me out. I wondered though how these systems would fare in Peru. My first response is that in such a corrupted society as ours they would probably not do well, but then again, why think so bad of my own people?

The weather forecast (yes, I now use the forecast – I have an app on my Iphone that I check every morning) was not kind on Brisbane: showers for most of the weekend. Ironically that would turn out to be the last super hot weekend in Melbourne with temperatures of 38C! With Mel and I both recovering from a flu, the Brisbane weather was no real help to improve. But a new city it was and it needed to be discovered, so rain or shine, out on the streets I went, to the CBD, the Royal Botanic gardens, Southbank, the Gallery of Modern Art. Brisbane seems like a smaller, tropical, more relaxed Melbourne. I liked it lots on first impression. With Renata and Nick we went to The Joint Pub to get a glimpse of the night scene. We also drove to Mt. Glorious for some hiking and birdwatching in the beautiful rainforest. Mel and I visited the West End and dined at a Greek restaurant in a popular part of town. Not soon after we were considering the idea of moving to Brisbane someday to get more sunshine (I know, right!) and outdoors.

City contrasts



Filed under Alternative tourism, Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Trekking

A Peruvian in Australia: Friends Found Faraway.

I have friends that I made a long time ago. I even say these days that my best friends are those I haven’t seen in ages. Just the other day I was talking to one of them: Fufo, who lives in Sweden. It was the first time we had talked on Skype. We haven’t seen each other’s faces for, like, 7 years, at least. Now he is married to his long-time girlfriend, Nancy, whom we used to hang out with back in the days of Mexico.
It is hard not to be melancholic when one is away from home. Friends from a distant memory, far from home like me (or at home this time) is all it takes to feel better. They have seen me in other places and situations and know me better than almost anyone in Melbourne. They are friends, new friends, becoming friends, whatever you wanna call them.
I have had the luck to meet with several people I met over in Peru as far back as 2004. This happened with Catherine D, whom I met during my days as a bartender at the Flying Dog Bar in Lima. She showed me a cool pub in Melbourne’s CBD that I would have never discovered on my own, nevermind it being so close to my prior school! And where does one begin to resume 7 years of life and how on Earth one got here? We tried and promised a BBQ soon to meet our significant others.
I’ve also met with a couple of people from my tour leader days. It’s funny to see them in their country, doing what they do and telling them my stories as a tourist here. We have switched roles now and meeting with them actually brings lots of perspective to my life. That’s what happened with Catherine S, with whom I went for a drink and caught up in Fitzroy, one of the liveliest neighbourhoods of Melbourne. We had dinner at a super busy and popular veggie restaurant there and shared a couple of beers. Melbourne is becoming a mecca for small breweries and artisanal, organic beers. I don’t think I’ve been so happy beerwise since my days in Belgium! It was weird at first to meet. We hadn’t seen each other in at least 2 years, when she was in Peru and we walked the Lares trekk together. But it was great to see her and know she is well and nearby, so next time I promised to pay her a visit and go surfing together.
With Shalla I also went to Fitzroy while she was visiting Melbourne, something she luckily does frequently. She is somewhat of a music guru to me and we always talk about music and share new bands. We still have a pending date to go to a gig together. But we did go to a rooftop bar and talked for hours and hours reminiscing of the days when we got stranded in Aguascalientes due to a strike or a mudslide (whichever happens more often in Peru) a couple years ago. How time does fly! She gave me some clues about how to become a radio announcer, one of my long-time procrastinated dream-jobs.
Meeting these friends has brought me perspective. Not only perspective, but help. Zoe, with whom I struck a friendship after chatting at Positive Bar (best pub in Puno, Peru) recently contacted me. She is running a café here in Melbourne, Per Diem Café in Richmond (excellent coffee by the way) and she needed staff. I was in need of a job because the starting months of the year are really slow in the Hospitality bussiness, where I have my other job. She remembered something I didn’t: when we were in Peru I sort of organised a trip for her and her mum, who were traveling independently with little knowledge of the places. I guess I helped them out by just doing what I always do. Now I have a job in a cafe! How’s that for good karma ?
Life takes interesting turns. It’s like 6 degrees of separation all the time with me. And I love it. The idea of people traveling over the world, settling in places or just venturing to exotic places, meeting others, sometimes friends, sometimes lovers and then moving on, yet carrying all that memory. To me that’s the clearest way of expressing what interests me the most in this world: chance, coincidence, the unknown, love, choice.
So now, I’m about to catch a plane to Brisbane for my first aussie domestic adventure. Mel is going there for work and I decided to join her. I have traded my miles flown with LAN and so the trip is free. But there is another reason that I’m exited about going to Brisbane: I’m gonna get to meet with my friend Renata, whom I haven’t seen in what must be around 15 years at least! We were friends back in the days when I was studying secondary school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Then I moved to Mexico City and I lost track of her. It was a few years after, with the marvel of email, chat and later Facebook that I started contacting a lot of friends whom I never got a chance to keep in touch with. Renata was one of them. We have continued our friendship ‘virtually’ all these years. And in a couple days we will meet. How will we recognise each other after all these years?
Well, the good news is that we did recognise each other! She came along with her partner Nick and we headed to a cool pub in Brisbane (The Joint) on one of those fews nights when the gods decided it was time to rain, and rain it did for all of the day and all of the night. Under a ceiling that cared little about doing its job, we begun to catch up and all of a sudden I was telling stories of my time in Europe, of when I left Mexico, of my journey to the jungle of Peru, of how I got to Oz…
She and Nick are both biologists and while she studies the ocean and its inhabitants, he studies birds. Together with Mel we visited Mt. Glorious the next day, and though it was still rainy, the forest was beautiful and with Nick´s help, I had the luck to spot a couple of never before seen birds. At one point, while driving back to Brisbane, I started sharing a story with everyone of how we used to hop in the back of a friend’s truck with buckets filled with cold water. We would drive to a nearby posh club and just splash the hell out of the people queing at the entrance! I had forgotten that Renata was there on that truck! Suddenly, as if a plug was removed, memories started pouring in. It is true what they say about memory: it is a muscle and it does need exercise. But how to remember so many things, so many wonderful things!? And what an amazing thing memory is that it can take you back so long ago!

Mt Glorious eerie forest

I am so happy to see someone that I enjoyed talking to so much when I was younger and how she has grown and how our paths have crossed again. It makes me happy and makes me feel lucky to witness that. Normally people meet again after so long when they are 45 or something like that and cliché says they are usually dissapointed and end up depressed of the meeting. I don’t like judging people but I like seeing the people I care for well and happy. In my case meeting all of these friends is a proof of the magic of travel and life.


Filed under Alternative tourism, Australia, Birdwatching, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Education Abroad, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Work

A Peruvian in Australia: Schooling

I came to Australia on a Student Visa. I came to study English. Quite a few people were surprised by that but I was actually interested in studying English at an Academic level. The whole idea was always to study to pass the IELTS test. IELTS is an organization that certifies your level of English and together with the TOEFL are the most accepted English language certificates over the world. My immigration agent had recommended a school and the pictures of it and its location had seemed promising since before leaving Peru.

I have now spent 4 months studying English; the last 2 months specifically studying for the IELTS test. The first 2 I was placed by my institute in the Advanced level class. I also spent 2 weeks in Business class between Advanced and IELTS. I was back in class at 32! This was not an easy task but definitely an interesting one. It felt like it must have felt for Dave Grohl to play drums on the Nirvana Unplugged album. If I remember well his words – he said it was like ‘playing inside a crystal cage’ that he could break at any moment so he had to be real delicate at not smashing his drums. Yeah, it kinda felt like that.

The transition involved taking the train every morning and discovering the world of one of the most hated public companies for Melbournians: the train company. Stopping at 10 stations in about 35 minutes to reach the CBD (you should know what the CBD is for Melbourne if you read this blog somewhat frequently; if you don’t, please refer to the post named ‘…First Impressions of Melbourne’), I then walked two blocks everyday to get to school on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street.

The location is one of the liveliest and more emblematic corners of the city: Flinders Street Station, St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square, the City square are all in the vicinity. One of the first things I looked for on the student roll was for other Peruvians. I met a few. But most of the students coming from South America came from Brazil or Colombia. Most others were from South Korea or Japan, perhaps China, and more from Eastern Europe and Spain. But whatever nationality, school was a boiling pot of different cultures and young people looking for a chance in another country, adapting, learning, looking for a job, renewing their visas, having a good time. People like myself, missing home, looking ahead, with someone else back at home or here at a new home. I miss school mostly because of those people, travelers like me. Other than that it’s been very interesting realizing that I am still the same kid I’ve always been in class! It’s incredible how little one changes from the essential self one was at 8 years old until one is an adult! I should thank my teachers for having the patience with me as I kept interrupting their class,tryng to entertain everyone by being the tour leader/storyteller that I used to be back in Peru.

My English course wasn’t cheap but it was the best way to get back together with Melissa. The price has meant that I have appreciated it and was more critical too. That was a new experience for me because my previous studies during high school and my degree were at public schools, and though before that I was at a private school I was too little to care about the money. It also made me realise that in Peru we have a very good level of English and that our education is not as bad as everyone would think. Or, to say it differently, that education abroad is not necessarily light years ahead of ours.

Since we are on the subject of schools, let me give you an idea of how important International students, as we are called here, are to Melbourne’s economic health. The industry of Education produces around AUD$ 4.5 billion every year only from international students and is Victoria’s first export and at one point just a couple years ago there were 400,000 students in Victoria alone. A year of study in one of the most reputed universities in the city is a little more than 30 thousand US$. Certainly Aussies have  more benefits compared to International students, yet this is not always the case from what I’ve heard them say. And Melbourne seems to be a mecca for people of all over the world that come here to study. You see it on the streets, on the news, everywhere. Some critics of education in Victoria mention that this bussiness dependency is what has damaged the image of the Victorian educational system.

Nevertheless the laws are changing, accordingly. Australia has a very agile legislation that covers a wide set of areas. And though they can’t stop the influx of foreigners without damaging the economy, they are controlling it pretty well. As an immigraton lawyer was explaining to me a few days ago, a lot of students come here not to study really but as a way to stay in the country. Because of this the government recently introduced a rule where one needs to demonstrate to them the ´genuineness´ of one’s intentions to study here. If they see that a doctor is applying for a hairdressing course, they most probably will refuse that visa.

A few days ago I learnt my results from the IELTS and I was gladly surprised with an 8 out of 9. The IELTS is not just any English test. They want to see a certain structure in the writing, they use different accents in the listening section, they like you using idioms in the conversation, and the articles they give you to read have complex academic style. You can have a perfectly operational grasp of the English language and still fail the test (though technically you can’t not pass the test, but of course as the test is a requirement for visas or uni enrolments, certain scores are requested by these institutions). And then there’s all the hype around it. I gave my test at a conference room with other 600 students. The organization was massive, you could smell the stress in the room and it was such a serious bussiness that there were vigilantes checking passports on the tables every 15 minutes (people have in fact gone to jail for trying to impersonate a student at the IELTS). And it’s not cheap either, 330AU$ are invested in it, so not reaching the score you want can be a high price for a student. I would like to thank my teacher Ruby Brunton who taught the structure that the test required and with her help I’ve improved my writing enormously. Thanx Ruby!!!

Now that I’ve got this first chapter closed my next step here is to renew my student Visa to study a Certificate III in Retail Tourism for 6 months at a local college. I’m sure that could be a very interesting experience. Back at uni! The last time I went to a university class was around 10years ago in Mexico when I was studying Journalism. I went to my orientation a few days ago and the University campus is pretty, similar, though much smaller, to that of my uni in Mexico City. My aim is to learn at this course how to create a tourism product and learn how to use the software that is necessary at a travel agency. In the future I would like, with these tools, to create my own travel agency or, more modestly, work in one.

Hopefully I will get myvisa renewed and then you can continue reading this blog entries as a Peruvian in Australia, cause a Peruvian back in Peru doesn’t seem like a very exciting title!


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Education Abroad, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

A Peruvian in Australia: Work (or the lack of it)

Finding work was one of my main concerns before coming over to Oz. My student visa allows me only 20 hours of work per week which is alright but my main worry was the fact that I was going to start all over again. Whereas in Peru I had been a successful tour leader with excellent job opportunities I decided to quit all that. I knew I would have to work as a waiter, cleaner, or any of the jobs usually no else wants. My friend Johan, also from Peru and a guide there as well, has found this new beginning quite difficult in Australia. Here he works cleaning and that change meant an obvious punch to his self-esteem. I have been feeling a bit like that, back home I was the man with the knowledge  and the know-how. Here I’m another immigrant without a clue, and I feel so minuscule when I have to pull out my map to find my way around.

But still, the possibilities to find a good job are always there. Always positive, right?  I was aiming at finding something in the tourism industry where I have been working for the past 8 years. I contacted my previous employer in Peru and they offered me a job, it was perfect! I was going to be selling and advising on how to sell South America. Sadly the chance fell over when I learnt that they needed a full-time person with the proper visa. Pretty soon it dawned on me that it was going to be impossible to find something in the tourism industry so soon. I then decided to leave that for later and meanwhile dedicate my time to learn how things work here and to know the history and facts and practical info that I will be needing in a hopefully not too far future. As part of that masterplan I have enroled myself in studies for a 6 month Tourism course focused on the retail industry. There I will learn the tools to create and sell product and the software-knowledge to work at a travel agency.

You know what it feels like...

Money has been an issue though as it is not flowing in as I would like it to. I am amazed at how much I have been able to stretch my savings. Of course I have an advantage that many immigrants don’t: my partner. Mel is been crucial in understanding this whole situation and more than once lending money for what I need. Luckily we foresaw all this and since the early days when we met in Peru she said to me ‘look, I don’t need a provider man, I need a man that loves me, so I’m happy to help you now’. I’m thankful for that and aware that when the table turns I want to be ready for it. Even though it has been a bit of an issue for me. You see, I was raised in a traditional Catholic,Latin American, struggling, middle-class family. Whether I like it or not, there is some macho training in me, and having less money is not the comfort zone of your typical latino male. Of course there’s a lot of bloodsuckers out there who make a living like that, and I don’t mean only latinos, but that’s a whole other animal. For my own peace of mind I have had to find a job, at least a little one that helped.

Family is always a blessing in difficult situations and it was through my uncle Alex and his wife Cecilia that I was referred to an events company. They hired me right away and after investing my last bucks on my uniform I was ready to get my first cheque and cash-in. Weddings, graduations, special events, functions for companies, etc. I’ve been working as a waiter and a bar helper at these and the job has been going great, very fast-paced and surrounded by good people. The hours went by quickly until 2 am every weekend. Until Christmas came…

I missed my last day of work because of playing football (soccer). I did not warm-up or stretch and I forgot I’m not the guide who climbs mountains every weekend or goes on treks every other day. At the end of the game my back was killing me and my leg was limping. Oh dear, welcome to the 30’s! And then Christmas came and everyone went on holidays. In Peru we call it ‘the January steep-climb’. Everything slows down, people are still on holiday, the new year has just begun, people are relaxed, others try not to spend anything because the holidays left them indebted…and there’s no work.

So back to the work chase, printing CV’s, posting adds on the web, walking around with resumes at hand and a pretty smile. This chase can be depressing. Some of my school mates can’t believe that I find it so hard to find a job. Maybe I am being too picky? But I am looking for all sorts of jobs: waiter, barista, cleaner, Spanish teacher, writer, nature conservation volunteer, translator, guide. I’ve had a couple of funny anecdotes looking for a job too. I went to see a bar where they needed a manager. That’s a fun job, I used to run a bar some years ago and it was fun and active. But this was not the case. I learnt what the word ‘bogan’ (Aussie redneck) means when I saw the clientele. To describe the place may I use the words of the owner ‘we don’t warm up partygoers, this is where they come after the party’. Then I went to see an Italian restaurant where they needed a waiter. The owner asks me how to carry 3 dishes and I show him how. He says that’s not the way to do it and I ask him to show me how and he says ‘you are supposed to know that, i’m not telling you…’ I’m still wondering what secret way that is because where I work now I carry 3 dishes and they tend to stay on my hand.

I’ve tried to keep a balance between jobs I have to take and anything I really want to do. Recently I came up with a couple of ideas, one for a tour where I could be the guide and another one for a radio show where I’d be the announcer. Both are doable projects but they need a lot of input and with lots of luck they will pay little or not too often. I need to tell myself the quest is hard ’cause it must have a good surprise for me later on and difficult times create character. I’m lucky to have a supporting partner and to be very stubborn. But I knew this about the world of the immigrants, work (or the lack of it) is an essential part of it. It has made me remember when I used to work and live in the USA with Mexican illegal immigrants, or when I lived in Europe and performed all sort of jobs to get by. It is when I look back at my path that I find the strength and trust in myself to know that I will make it, it’s just a matter of patience. And a little of good luck too.


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Work

A Peruvian in Australia: Navidad!

Christmas in a foreign country. That could be the definition of nostalgia for some. I had a great time spending Christmas with Melissa and her family in Ballarat. In fact I found out it’s not so different from Christmas in Peru. We got together, cooked, ate lots of yummy food. I prepared a Peruvian dish and brought panetone, known as Italian Christmas cake, something we also have in Peru thanks to migrant Italians who are also abundant around Australia. We had it with hot chocolate and that to me is like a photograph of Christmas back home.


With the firecrackers and fireworks it is a little different because in Australia people actually respect the rules and rules are abundant here. I only saw one firework rocket sent from across the street. We were wondering if it was an ‘authorised’ launch or not since you need a permit from the local government to do so (You need a permit to build a tree house in your backyard here! but that’s another story…). This is ridiculous compared to all disasters that have happened in Peru because of the abuse of fireworks even though the government tries to control the powder flowing through the markets at Christmas-time. And then it looks great in the night sky but it’s also the wave of noise, the terrible powder smell and all the poor dogs that have to be sedated or that just go crazy behind the couch or below the bed. Somewhere in the middle perhaps? I’ll let you know what it´s like in New Zealand when I go there…

With Mel, I walked around the block to see the lights the other homes had set in their front yard. In past years, she told me, there would be buses with tourists coming to see the light display. This year the show was a bit more humble and except for the house that had a ‘snow machine’ (just foam really, but don’t tell the kids) the others were pretty standard lights and nothing Santa would have disapproved of.

Rudolph leading...

Speaking of Santa, he got me some Peruvian Pisco and running shoes (no relation there). I’m really happy with my gifts and have to admit I was a bit embarrassed not to have been able to buy any because money is still not running in as much as I’d like, though I have a little job that has been very helpful. But Melissa had a bright idea when one day she got home and said ‘We are gonna make our own cards!’ So we spent 2 whole afternoons making cards like little children in school, with the glue, the scissors, the shiny paper, the snowflake paper-cutter, the buttons, the bells, etc. That makes me feel a bit better, that I didn’t just write Merry Christmas on my ‘wall’ or send a forward (which is alright too and which I also did) but I actually made some cards with my hands!


With the holidays here it’s hard not to look back at 2011 and think of all that’s been accomplished, started, left undone or even thought of. If the holidays didn’t do that then it must have been that I went to the movies to watch Melancholia on the 21st of December. How’s that for coincidence, a movie about the end of the world exactly one year from what so many are sure will be the last day on Earth. This year has been an amazing year! Whether it’s the one before the last or not. Things have certainly accelerated and every year it’s clearer to me that wherever I aim I actually hit the spot.

This year I met Mel, I traveled so much, I returned to my studies, I started seriously writing this blog, made new friends and saw old friends, said goodbye to relatives and some said goodbye to me but we all know love is in between to keep us close. This year I started again, at 32, just when I was getting comfortable. That should prove if I am brave and clever enough or the opposite, but wherever the next Christmas (or the ‘end of the world’) finds me I’m sure I will be able to say I had not a boring moment and I learnt a lot. I may have left my home in Peru, but I have found one here with Mel and her family and I’ve also been reminded of my extended, larger home… this beautiful place called Earth.

This year I wanted to come to Australia and here I am finding my way around and writing my last blog of the 2011. I hope it finds you well and I hope you continue reading next year. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and an excellent 2012.

'til 2012...


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

A Peruvian in Australia: other Peruvians…

One of my main concerns when going to Melbourne was how much I would miss Perú and how difficult would it be to find things from home there, not to mention other Peruvians. Beforehand I knew I had a cousin in Melbourne living with his Peruvian wife and their 2 children. That was a start. But us Peruvians are famous for, among other things, finding it difficult to adapt to other places abroad. Though once we do we adapt totally and we even change our accent and forget many traditions. I didn’t all that to happen to me. Twice.

I think one of the main things we miss from home if the food. Peruvian cuisine it not yet so renowned around the world and so it’s not easy to find our dishes abroad. I don’t know why being so vast (we have more than 400 national dishes!) it’s not yet widespread. I guess precisely because of what I meantioned earlier: we adapt to other cultures. I guess we also stop cooking our dishes.

I packed 3 different sauces in my handbag before flying out of Peru. They wouldn’t last forever but at least they would during the transition period. I also packed a bottle of our national liquor: Pisco. My mum promised to send me food recipes and I was a bit concerned about my cooking abilities. Having lived a traveling life eating out was the most common thing and when I was home my dear mother would pamper me every time not letting me cook a single meal. If anything I was the King of Pasta.

The 3 sauces did not only not last forever but were never opened indeed as they were confiscated at airport  security (you kidding right, a spicy sauce seen as a weapon is either too much paranoia or a good laugh. What’s wrong with the rules!!!). This meant the Pisco was drank at generous gulps between Mel and myself. I was left thinking I should’ve brought 2 bottles.  Anyhow, I did find more Pisco in the bottleshops around Melbourne, mostly Chilean Pisco (if you can call that Pisco) and some Peruvian. The problem was the price, while in Perú a bottle of that brand was 10 dollars here it was 65! And that’s just a decent brand, nothing like the one I brought. So now I rely on anyone coming from Peru to bring some of that devilish liquor to this far land.

As for food, there’s not much Peruvian offer except for Nobu Restaurant which offers Anticuchos (Beef heart skewers) and Tiradito (Peruvian-like sushi), the others are different types of food. Not to mention that the prices of restaurants are quite high, as most things in Melbourne are. Why is it that cities that have a ‘vibrant’ economy are expensive? Because of all this I am surprising myself by turning into a quite accomplished cook. Mel is my fan number one and we have already enjoyed Papas a la Huancaína (boiled potatoes in creamy chili sauce), Arroz Chaufa (Chinese-Peruvian Rice), Tallarines Verdes (Pasta in Peruvian Pesto sauce), Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Stir fry), Quinoa and other yummy things.

Rocotos rellenos

Papas a la Huancaína

I’ve been glad to find Quinoa, perhaps the healthiest cereal on Earth, in Australia. In fact it’s becoming quite trendy and well-known. The other day I found a Quinoa dish in a pub in Brunswick! Also Stevia is available. For those who don’t know Stevia is a South American plant that replaces sugar without the effects of sugar, being ideal for diabetics or people on a diet.  Both very healthy items. One unhealthy one that I miss a lot is Inca Kola, Peru’s most popular soda that (according to most people tastes like bubblegum) almost impossible to find here. But luckily there is Cream Soda, which looks different but tastes just the same!

Stevia sweetener at the market

As for other Peruvians I’m glad that I have found a few. At school I looked at the student list and found about 5. I made friends with 2 of them: Pedro and Johan. But most South American students from my school are Colombian or Brazilian. We get together every Thursday after class to drink beer and talk in Spanish about our impressions of Melbourne and to feel less lonely on this business of immigrating to other countries. Johan for example has a very similar situation to mine, living with his Australian Girlfriend and being from Cusco where he was a guide. In Pedro´s case it is his sister who is with an Australian and he came here to look for opportunities instead of the UK. I’ve met other Peruvians too at work, where my manager and her husband are from Lima. It’s very interesting to hear their own impressions and how they go through the ‘cultural shock’ that supposes to be here.

In general Perú is pretty popular in Melbourne. On the mX (a freely distributed magazine) I’ve read a couple articles on Machu Picchu and at travel agencies they usually offer talk on the Incan city that has become a major attraction here too. A few weeks ago on SBS channel there was a show with Bruce Parry visiting the Peruvian Amazon. And just the other day I went to St Andrews market, a hippy like market where everything organic and cool and environmentally responsible is welcome, and there was a kid playing charango (Andean guitar) and zampoña (Andean panflute) and asking for coins to go on a musical journey to South America.

After visiting the Immigration Museum I learnt that Peruvian migration has not been as big as others in South America (Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil) to Australia. But I am glad that I can meet other  countryfellows here. I’m starting to think that us Peruvians are like the Irish of SA and you can find us anywhere.


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

A Peruvian in Australia: Getting Around (part 1)

A few days ago a friend of Melissa was asking her where has she showed me around. We were impressed of how much we´ve seen in such a short period of time. First we visited Healesville and Marysville, two villages not far from Melbourne. The first maintains an animal Sanctuary focused on Australian wildlife. Here I saw my first live Kangaroos and Koalas. Also venomous snakes, many possums, Tasmanian devils, Dingos, Wallabies and some of the strangest animals I have ever seen. Even Platypuses, they are all here present, alive and seemingly happy.  We even had the chance to see a Wombat being cared for by a nurse who told us he was an orphan. For the birds they had large aviaries that represented their habitats. We had a chance to see Helmeted Honeyeaters, of which is said only 80 pairs remain in the wild, not far from the Sanctuary.

They also had a show where trainers ‘introduced’ parrots and prey birds to the audience while the birds performed their acrobatics barely above our heads. I didn’t know that Australia is considered the ‘country of parrots’ with 56 species present. We met a few Cockatoos that were trained to talk and were quite funny, and Parrots of gorgeous colours.  This was very unusual ‘cause in Peru green is the main colour of most of our parrots since 60% of my country is Amazonian evergreen rainforest that makes a lot of sense, but here there is gray, vibrant red, bright pink, creamy yellow. The reason is not the of the landscape but the lack of large mammal predators that threaten the parrots.

Barking Owl

Black-breasted Buzzard

The prey birds were incredible. An owl was sent by the trainer to catch his ‘prey’ among the sitting crowd. He proved his point. The Barking Owl made no noise and was so accurate when moving between our heads that it was both scary and impressive. A falcon showed us how he uses a rock to break the hard shelled eggs he likes to eat. The ‘wham’ that he produced every time he hit the egg was so loud it might as well had been thrown by an adult person. And he wouldn’t miss! On the third try the egg was broken and the falcon got his prize. But the most impressive was a massive Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the largest prey bird in this country.

We then went to Marysville following a beautiful winding road in the middle of a forest that had noticeably been damaged by a fire. Mel told me that Marysville had been practically wiped out of the map by a fire just recently. She wasn’t joking. The town, though peaceful and pretty, was in honest reconstruction and everywhere there were bulldozers and trucks and signs offering houses. She told me that some inhabitants didn’t want to leave their houses and they died in them. It was treated as a national tragedy by the media. I had heard about the fires in Australia but this was my first time looking at an area that had been badly hit by them. I was shocked.

Burned forest near Marysville

A bit further up on the road we stopped at a waterfall. Mel was so shocked to see that all the forest around the creek was just recovering yet it was far from the dense vegetation that once kept this place secret. But people were still visiting and if no more fires showed up maybe the forest will recover in just a few more years.

Great Ocean Road came after. Perhaps this is the most popular visit to do when in Melbourne. Most travel agencies will offer this tour that takes busloads of Asian visitors to see the 12 Apostles, a spectacular series of rock formations on the wild southern Australian shores. Eroded by rain and wind, the 12 Apostles are no longer 12 and someday will be none but meanwhile it’s quite a sight. Though a couple Brazilians at school told me later that any road in Brazil is like that and they were not impressed, and I found it similar to Paracas National Reserve in Peru, Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles are a beautiful scenary, specially under sunny weather, which we luckily had.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

In truth 12 Apostles is the end of the road. On the way there the ‘road’ goes through gorgeous little town like Lorne and Apollo Bay where Melbournians come to spend the summer days. On the way, a famous surfing spot is Bell’s Beach, where the movie Break Point was shot. I am in fact tempted to go back there to camp and swim a little. But I must confess that I’m a bit concerned about my safety in the Australian waters since as soon as I got here I heard of 3 mortal shark attacks. People will say ‘keep between the flags’ but who´s telling the sharks that!?

We rented a lovely cabin at Apollo Bay and Lily had lots of room to go around and run free. Oh, I didn’t mention, on this trip we decided to bring Mel’s Golden Retriever Lily.  Should someone had told her that there were sharks in the water I don’t think she would have minded. What a big mess Lily did in the car: sand, water and golden hairs all over the place! But we were one happy family on the way back.

La playa with Lily


Filed under Alternative tourism, Australia, Birdwatching, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing