The summary of latin America
Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
27Trip End Dec 15, 2006
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Well - the time is finally upon me to depart Latin America and head to London. In just 3 more days I will head to Mexico city, hop on a plane, and commence the slow process of forgetting all the Spanish I worked so hard to learn. Travel is a mixed blessing.
Since I returned back from Cuba time seems to have moved incredibly fast. We first travelled inland into Mexico and stopped at the ruins of Palenque. These were very similar to those of Tikal but with nicer weather. We also made friends with a new group of Germans who also have asked us to stay with them in Berlin. It is an interesting thing travelling and meeting people. We have been on the road for 8 months and have been invited to stay in Germany maybe 5 times and to stay in Holland maybe 3. Ironically, I have met only 1 Italian who I became friends with and no-one from either France or Spain. Every traveller we met had a different explanation for this but it is, at least, curious. Part of it has to do with the sort of travellers one meets on the road. the Germans, the Dutch and the Israelis all seem to be intense path-beaters. The Israelis seem slightly different though as they usually are all the same age and all at the same point in their lives (almost every one has just finished their compulsory military service). I think partly as a result of this they tend to travel together, stay together and speak Hebrew almost exclusively. This may explain why we don't have any where to stay in Jeruselum. Other nations, however, seem not to travel at all or only for a very brief time. Americans particularly fall into this category. The poor guys seem to be working themselves into the ground, they never seem be able to take a holiday. We have met Americans who were shocked at the very idea of taking a year-long holiday. One was even offended by it, demanding why on earth someone would want to do that. Neither have we met many Asian travellers, it could be the language but who knows? It has been a very interesting year.
Anyway, from the ruins of Palenque we travelled to a beautiful little town called San Cristobal. It is high in the mountains (giving it a much nicer climate to the beating-heat of the rest of Mexico) and is the classic UNESCO-listed colonial treasure. Louise and I spent 1 more week having 3 hours a day of private Spanish classes there. Most people now seem to agree that we REALLY CAN speak Spanish which has made both of us, obviously, very proud. My teacher, Luis, was an incredibly rare and individual Mexican. He had studied Medicine but, due to pressures of a large family and the poor medical salary in Latin America, had gone into business post-graduation. He obviously had a keen business sense because before long he was travelling the world. He had a love of languages (he spoke around 8) and spent 5 years in America running a cultural-understanding-and-language school (there are some quite deeply ingrained stereotypes in the US about Latinos and vice-versa - he was trying to change that and teach Americans Spanish). Through that venture (and his 5 restaurants back in Mexico) he made friends all around the world and had spent most of his life exploring. He loved to simultaneously learn a new language, culture, cuisine and people all at the same time. When I met him he had just returned from Japan which he loved. He also (quite similarly to me, actually) was a keen guitar player, a vegetarian and very interested in Buddhist philosophy. He was a fantastic person to learn Spanish with as we usually just went out for a couple of hours, had coffee, and talked 'crap'. Great time.
So... I am now at the end of what has been an incredible 8 month tour of Latin America. After such a long time I think it is only natural to wax lyrical about how one feels and what one has learnt. I have had an incredible experience here, no other way to describe it. Almost every aspect of my life has been affected in some way by this trip. Some of what I have learned probably sounds quite trite when you read it, like something so obvious that it almost evokes a sense of bathos. However, I thought would write down some of the things I have learned probably more for my own sake as anyone else's. Feel free to read it as you see fit.
Medicine - it has been an incredible experience to take a breath of fresh air from the driving force (vacuum) that has been my life for the past 9 years! It is something I wish I could convince every doctor (who has the opportunity) to do. When I left I loved medicine (though was maybe a little burned out) but was confused as to whether a future in medicine (more academic motivation) or anaesthesia (more financial motivation) or finance (mostly jealously of my friends who's lives seemed so exciting) was the best choice. 8 months on the road have changed that and medicine is, without a shadow of a doubt, the life I was meant to lead. This has been profoundly influenced by many of the people who I have met along the way - without a doubt the happiest travelers I have met were not the wealthiest (often not wealthy at all) but almost all loved their jobs and had the maturity to enjoy taking breaks from them as well. Most of them weren't doctors but they all helped make what had previously been one of the most difficult decisions for me incredibly easy - I am going to be a physician and, amazingly, St. Vincent's has let me back in to do it.
My Relationship with Louise - This is an almost impossible topic to even begin to discuss. I have now spent almost 24 hours a day with her for 8 months without a break. I really doubt there could be a more trying test of a relationship than that. We have both seen (I hope) the absolute worst and the absolute best in each other. We have been closer to breaking up than ever before but at the same time my greatest memories of the last 8 months all involve her. Our relationship, at least, has matured. We really have become best friends and have discovered that we can see the worst in each other and keep going. I think, on reflection, that is a pretty amazing gift for any relationship to have.
Other stuff - Some things I left behind in Australia I haven't missed at all (when I thought Iwould) where as other things I have missed almost daily. Almost all of the 'luxuries' I had in Australia (nice car, great clothes, fantastic food, incredible place to stay - thank mum) haven't really bothered me at all. I have found that I am almost exactly as happy lying in a filthy bed, freezing cold, in the mountains of Bolivia than I was in a magnificent house in one of the nicest suburbs of Melbourne. I have, however, missed things like Aikido incredibly. Funny, considering most times I go to Aikido I tend to spend an hour and a half in pain. The fact that I will have to put off getting my blackbelt for at least 2 more years due to all the time I will be studying for my FRACP exams is a little daunting, though. This trip has also re-awakened a deep love of language in me. I studied German for 8 years in school (including an exchange program overseas) and then, as medicine commenced and priorities changed, my skill and interest faded. Well, learning Spanish rekindled the flames and now I can't wait to start leaning Japanese!!! My love of guitar is just a strong as ever (my little Martin-backpacker guitar has managed to withstand some incredibly brutal beatings) and I can't wait to start studying classical guitar. I am more convinced than ever that sticking the vegetarianism is the way for me to go and I can't wait to get back to Australia and see all my friends.
Anyway - Thanks to anyone who managed to read through all those words - I am truly stunned by your patience.
Hope to see you all in the future, It is time for me to get on a plane