Sep 10, 2016

Places That Hold Mirrors Up To You.

I travel for many reasons.  To escape to somewhere new and absorbing, to recharge my batteries, to simply spend time with loved ones.  If you're a long time reader of this blog, I'm sure you know the way my trips and holidays roll.

But I've never travelled for the reasons Emma Ayres did in 2015 when she went to Afghanistan for the year after six successful years as the voice of mornings on ABC Classic FM's breakfast program.  I remember being an avid listener to breakfast during those years her gentle husky voice recounting her adventures cycling and of life in general in between discussing the morning's musical programming.

I'd idly wondered about what she'd been doing since leaving the ABC and I found the answer in this interview published in today's Sydney Morning Herald.  Emma left Australia for Afghanistan in 2015 to teach music at the Afghanistan International Institute of Music.  It was during that year of trying to live in one of the poorest, violent and most oppressive countries in the world that Emma found himself forced to confront who he really was - transgender and trapped in a female body he despised.

A lifetime of being androgynous and oblivious of his body in a country relatively free of strict gender stereotypes and divisions had previously made it 'easy' to live a life of lies and deception.  But Ayres paid a high mental price for this freedom and became severely depressed about his identity and life in Australia at the time he accepted the position in Afghanistan.  There was no sitting on the fence in Afghanistan.  Ayres was continuously addressed as 'Miss Emma' by her students and had to adopt traditional female dress.  He resented it all and with those feelings came the freedom and inner peace to stop hiding and become who he was meant to be.
Ayre's housemate in Afghanistan, Jennifer Moburg once remarked to him that living in Afghanistan 'holds a mirror up to you'.  Just surviving each day requires fear to be overcome, strength to make do with the very little in front of you and a determination to not let the grim realities you are faced with define and confine your life.

Eddie's (Emma's new first name) story of his year in Afghanistan and the quote about it being a 'mirror' country to visit got me thinking.  Would I ever be brave or driven enough to walk away from the life I have now and move to a place so jarringly different that I'd be forced to see who I really was as a function of just trying to survive each day in my new home?  What would be my tipping point to make the move?  Where would I go?  What would I do once I got there that would make me confront myself?

Did you read Eddie's interview in the paper today?

Have you ever lived in a place that changed the course of your life by making you aware of who you truly were?


  1. Oooh, thought provoking.
    In answer to your question, not really, but I enjoy travelling alone in anonymity, as I can be myself. Interested to hear other stories!

    1. The anonymity. I enjoy that too about solo travel.

      SSG xxx

  2. That interview was amazing - I too loved listening to Emma Ayres on the radio, and was so happy to see he is living life authentically and happily!

    I lived in Scotland for a while, and that really helped me learn how to be self-sufficient and alone, without panicking. It was life-changing :)

    1. Hello Louber

      It is a happy ending to what was a very painful and draining journey for him.

      Thanks for sharing your own experience too.

      SSG xxx


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