To a large extent I felt proud of myself. I had travelled alone to a very distant land to a culture that was quite different to my own, grappling with a new language. I had stripped myself of the familiar patterns that hold a person’s character in check. I grew up in a small village and later moved to the city. The cities in Ireland are like small towns compared to other cities of the world. The impetus for positive change is much slower when you are enclosed by tightly held expectations of the status quo.
In later years I traveled further but not like this, not so independently. There was more to it of course. I was here to figure something out, to fix something, to rid myself of a constraint, to know my strength, to challenge an old belief that no longer served me, to realise some part of my dream, any part. After all the effort, all the struggles, all the fears, I finally felt I deserved something better.
But I was beginning to realise that I was in trouble here in this far away place. I wavered between pessimism, optimism and realistic thinking like the exaggerated lines on the heart monitor of one who’s condition has not yet stabilised. I bought Paulo Santo, pieces of wood burned by Peruvians for cleansing negativity. I practiced self healing through reiki meditation, I walked regularly, I huddled at night alone in the darkness of my room with the cold wind sometimes blowing through the crevices of the doorway. I smiled at the beautiful faces that greeted me each day. I kept myself busy.
People in Ollantaytambo didn’t ask me too much about my business in Cuzco. I had got them used to the fact that I didn’t feel the need to explain everything, something that previously felt like lying. And I didn’t ask too many questions about their business either.
Thus I never did discover why a glass cake display got smashed to smithereens and angry Quechua speaking women were demanding answers at the door of a particular establishment one morning.
I didn’t ask why a certain person quit his job so suddenly and went to work for someone else when it was obvious there had been a disagreement.
I didn’t talk too much about the break-up of an intercultural marriage and the closing of a business the couple had shared, when I was visiting on the day they officially closed the doors of that business.
And I kept quiet about affairs of the heart that were revealed to me. A young man falling in love for the first time, feeling scared, confiding in me as if I were his older sister and a young woman exhausted from her lengthy work hours suffering from loneliness and longing for romantic love.
I was eyes and ears to the troubles that confronted others around me. I was not so self-absorbed to think I was the only one with troubles and fears but I was intent on dealing with things once and for all.
I had lived in avoidance for so long just because I was a coward with no self-belief, just because I had been born female and found plenty of reasons to tell myself that the world was a dangerous place.
This was a silent battle, nobody could see it looming but myself. The Indians of those old western movies were aligning themselves upon a distant hill ready to attack. They might reduce me to a scalped skull by the time this was over but I had committed myself to a war of sorts. I was in for it.
This was a silent battle. I asked no questions and I answered to no-one.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)