It's not a perfect metaphor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On blue water.

All I seem to do lately is run away. Today I left the farm I was on for over a month and was previously happy. I had been having issues with the farmer there. Lately, whenever we were in the field or alone (or even around other people) he would make comments about my work ethic, my fashion sense, my attitude... When he realised that I was no longer responding and pretending that it was banter, he continued. And when I stopped responding even with single syllables ("yeah.." "oh?" etc.) he began making comments about how over-sensitive I was and how I need to "toughen up a little bit". And when he knew he had completely crushed my self-esteem for the umpteenth time that day, he would say "come on, I'm just teasing".

I used to really like this man and I think he liked me. I suppose that the stress of living, working, eating etc. together has put a strain on our relationship and for whatever reason, he had decided that of all the people on his farm I was the most useless. I felt like I was choking every time he was in the room, knowing that another insult was headed my way just as soon as he could find a way to frame it as a joke. When I thought back to the last time I felt so powerless and unhappy in this way, the only memory I had was high school. Early high school.

When I told him this morning that I was leaving, he took several opportunities to insult me again and list the qualities about me that needed to change and that had made life on the farm difficult for the past few weeks. I began crying. Unfortunately, the farmhouse is over a hundred years old with paper-thin walls. My entering my room was not enough to stop him hearing the sobbing and entering, without my permission, to tell me the things I "better do if I wanted to leave today"; basic kitchen chores (scrubbing the kitchen floor, wiping the counter) and listening to him some more. When he was done for a second time, I packed the last of my things, did the jobs he had suggested and called a cab. On my way out of the farm, he followed me to the taxi asking me why I would do this to his partner who had been so good to me.

At this point there are a few things I should say. This man's partner is one of the most beautiful people I have ever encountered. She was truly supportive of me when I was heartsick, when I was homesick, and when I had poison ivy... she's great and I love her. But she hasn't been around for the last couple of days and it is when she's not around that any and all positive influence she has on her partner disappears and he continues his blunt and passive aggressive behaviour toward the people who piss him off. I am one of these people, evidently. Why I piss him off, you ask? I am not the most talented person in the field, despite how much I enjoy living on the farm. He likes to point out that I am a slow weeder or, when I am going fast, a careless weeder. There are many other farm skills of mine that are also under par, including washing harvested vegetables quickly enough and storing them properly. Indeed, my abilities involving dish washing, tea-making and other chores are also disappointing. And unlike some of the other volunteers on the farm, I don't elect to work full days in the field, choosing instead to stay inside and make bread or process vegetables once my obligatory hours are done. And this week I've had poison ivy covering my legs. I requested not to be in the field at all because of the soreness and itchiness becoming unbearable in the heat. In his eyes, and I mean this in no way sarcastically or self-pityingly; I am a lazy person, less focussed than the rest of the people on the farm and not emotionally open to him.

His resentment of me grew, and due to his, mine grew in retaliation. But only one of us was expressing these feelings toward the individual in question so I suppose mine may take longer to subside. When I inhale and exhale and imagine I'm with my family on the beach, everything feels a little more bearable. But today I felt like dying and the strength I needed to get out of that house exhausted me.

I don't know where all this ugliness came from or in whom it was worse; him or me. I just know that this past week has been one of the loneliest times in my life. I finally feel sort-of safe. So I'm dreaming of home until this starts to feel good again, or my journey across the sea has to begin. Right now I think that if I dove into the Australian ocean and swam until I couldn't breathe, I'd still be further from drowning than I was today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And it makes me cry.

It's 3am on a Saturday morning where I am. I'm being kept awake by seriously horrific menstrual cramps (sorry for anyone who is made uncomfortable by that possible over-share but it's true. I also haven't showered in over three days now, had a hair cut since nine-year-olds did their best on my 'do in May, or worn my retainer since I left Australia).

I could talk about farming some more but I think you've had plenty of posts on that. Hopefully you're beginning to get my point that I enjoy this. I may have overdone it with the last one but I miss writing, real writing, and this blog seemed like one of my only outlets for that. Truthfully, the satisfaction of knowing that every vegetable on your plate has come from the field is what makes what I'm doing seem special to me. Otherwise, my life is as it’s ever been. Only half-lived by me.

Do you wanna hear some stuff I've been thinking about?

I miss home a lot, but in this abstract and furry way. There's a haze around the edge of my memories about Melbourne; a city I never knew I loved this much. Idealising it, I suppose, but also seeing it clearly for maybe the first time. The list of things I miss is almost general. Compulsive movie-going at the beautiful Westgarth Cinema, the fact that my best friend lives ten minutes away by foot, shopping on Brunswick Street, Elizabeth Street eating and all its crumminess, that you can get a chai latte anywhere, impromptu and lengthy chats on the Federation Square steps, the filthy trains and glorious trams, the relatively mild but still somehow and somewhat unpredictable weather...

Basic, huh?

People, though, are sharp and clear in my mind…when I remember to recall them. Which, admittedly, is not as often as I could pretend. I'm not too sorry about that though, because that heat- the one that plunges silently down my throat and through my heart to settle in my stomach when I remember something gorgeous that a loved one does or says- is only so potent because it's unexpected. I'm sure people know this because they've been surprised once or twice by how much they missed someone they forgot they were taking for granted.

And I am, you know. Taking a lot for granted.

I've been thinking about how self-indulgent this trip is. I knew all along that it was a selfish endeavour but some things made me examine it in a less "yeah, it's a 'me-me-me' thing but what are you going to do? I wanna discover more about this magnificent creature called Hannah" way. Someone was talking about the divided opinions on Eat Pray Love* and how some say it is heart-wrenchingly wonderful and changed their life and others argue that it's self-indulgent twaddle (I write this as I discuss myself in great detail on a little-read travel blog. Snort.). I allowed that both books and people that are about travelling to foreign places for indefinite periods of time in order to create a new and/or improved identity are enabled only by a wealthy and indulgent culture that encourages and accepts such behaviour. So what the bloody hell have I been doing, huh?

Yeah, I'm a hypocrite. Experiencing a "journey" that the majority of the world's people will never get to take while I spout socialist-sympathetic rants about equality and decency in how we live our lives. My trip is about money and class and education and the ways in which that has made me feel entitled to this pursuit of enlightenment and self-fulfilment. If things were different; maybe I'd be more sorry. I'd have donated my savings to a hard-working and under-staffed, non-government organisation that would try to save the planet and not just my soul. I'd have stayed in Melbourne and changed my life there and then just because I wanted to and I didn't have to be shocked into a re-assessment of my values and habits.

But things are not different.

I did travel across the world to pick beans and get an accidental and uneven tan. I did fall in love with a boy who doesn't love me back. I did begin to reassess my ideas of beauty and humanity, even in relation to myself. I did carry a- far too heavy and over-packed- backpack through four countries, thus far, just to discover that all I needed was a cotton dress, credit card, boots and a notebook. I did nothing last weekend but watch movies because I was tired and visiting Toronto was beyond me even though I'd promised to do it soon. I did kiss the Blarney Stone, take a picture at Niagara Falls, gaze at the city of Edinburgh from inside the castle walls and walk across London's Tower Bridge. I did feel far more impressed by the act of swimming alone in a lake, the texture of fried bread fresh from the pan, and the way people look at you when they know they're probably saying goodbye forever.

And I did decide to settle down here for now in order to assess all this. My first farm, first Canadian love. My head was all wrong; I was tired and emotionally broke. Soon, I think, I'll be ready to go again. Do that last bit of moving about, of meeting new people and ogling at places, before I come home. The conclusion I've come to is that though for many people the only and best choice is to figure themselves out well before they're nineteen and travelling the world just 'cause they can, the one I've made is to do it this way. I want to finish this, I guess, despite the burns homesickness sometimes leaves on me and the ideological qualms I have with the way I decided to facilitate this personal growth.

I think I’ve said plenty- too much, really- for now.

* The basic gist I get is that it's a middle-class, middle-aged woman's quest, while en route around the world, to find herself. Haven't read it myself and am actually now desperate to.

[I dunno if everyone realises just how much these blogs are written "on the fly". I don't ezackaly draft them and goodness knows I do a shoddy job editing. I read a couple of them back and thought "whoa, that was bad". This is sort of a record for me as much as anyone reading back home so I suppose it doesn't really matter. But I wish I could do this better.]


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