I was 22 when a friend persuaded me to see a psychic in my home town on New Zealand’s west coast. At the time I was studying science and psychology at university, so I told myself psychic predictions were fanciful. But I was curious too. Like most young women, I wanted to know when I would meet the man of my dreams.
After I left the psychic’s cramped, crystal-filled house, I felt strange, like she had just read aloud something not yet written. She told me I would find the love of my life at the age of 32 or 33, and I would end up living in South America. I was a little furious about the first prediction – I didn’t want to wait 10 years – and thought she was crazy about the second. Kiwis travel and live in the UK, Australia, perhaps North America, but we don’t live in South America.
I filed her predictions away, but every now and then I would recall them, especially after a relationship failure or loss. I was 26 when I met the man I thought was my soul mate. Daniel had deep, sad eyes and was intensely sensitive. Three years into our complicated relationship, he took his own life, unable to continue his painful battle with depression. I was devastated by his loss and remained single for a long time after he left this world. The years that followed were a blur of grey and sadness.
By the time I turned 32 I was still numb and unable to move forward. I started thinking about the psychic’s words. I began researching South America and became fascinated with Peru – the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, the Andean peaks, the rich indigenous culture. I thought a journey there might shake me out of my rut and bring new hope into my life. I also secretly hoped I might meet the man the psychic had seen in my cards. Her words were the needle of a compass and I decided to follow it, as I had nothing to lose. So I booked a ticket for a three-month trip, firstly volunteering with street kids, then travelling the country. Working with the children, with their huge smiles and hugs and joy at the smallest things, I could feel my heart begin to thaw.
Afterwards, I travelled to Cusco, a captivating city in the clouds that was the former capital of the Incan empire. In the early hours of one morning on the dance floor of a nightclub, I met an Argentine surfer with high cheekbones and a handsome jawline. It was bonfire at first sight and we spent my final weeks in Peru wrapped in each other’s arms. When we parted, we made a vow to see each other again, somehow, somewhere.
My flight back to Australia had a 12-hour stopover in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital. My Argentine surfer, who still had some months to go on his South American odyssey, had arranged for his friends to pick me up from the airport and show me the city. At lunchtime, they took me to his parents’ home where we had a delicious asado (BBQ). I was so moved by the warm welcome and awed by the city’s leafy Parisian boulevards that I made another vow. I would make it back to this city and soon.
Back home, I quit my job as a psychologist, sold everything and returned to South America. It had only been a few months since our heady romance, but the Argentine surfer had already moved on. Shattered and humiliated, I picked up my backpack and took off travelling around various South America countries, hoping that if I kept moving, I could leave my heartbreak behind.
Days before my 33rd birthday, I arrived back in Buenos Aires. Alone in the vibrant city that can eat you alive if you’re not careful, the psychic’s words rang in my ears. Somehow, even though I didn’t really believe them, they gave me hope and determination to make a life for myself in Buenos Aires. It also helped that the local men were devastatingly good-looking and seemed intrigued by this Kiwi girl with wild curls and terrible Spanish.
I found a flat to share with other foreigners and a job as an English teacher. I started to fall in love with Argentina, and with only a month to go before my 34th birthday, I went out one evening to a heaving, Moulin Rouge-style nightclub. Midway through the night, two hands grabbed mine and I looked up into warm brown eyes and fell sweetly under a spell of a tall, handsome man. His name was Diego and he spoke very little English and my Spanish was still pretty awful.
Our relationship wasn’t easy in the beginning, but somehow we made it work. It’s amazing how much you can communicate with touch and patience. In some ways it was a blessing that my Spanish was so poor because I couldn’t express my neediness or anger about the gaps between seeing him. When I really wanted to know where the relationship was going, I would write my complaint in English and then painstakingly translate it into Spanish. When I’d see it written there, it’d make me laugh, and I’d rip it up and decide to just go with the flow and live in the moment. It worked. Some months later Diego texted: “Te amo, I love you”, and things moved forward, relatively smoothly, from then on.
We got married, and four years after we met, we had our wonderful little boy who really sealed the deal for making Argentina home. I still teach English and have published a book, Picaflor, about the life-changing journey that brought me to Buenos Aires. Argentina is not an easy country to live in, but the people really band together and enjoy life a full, and it’s one of the few places in the world where you get kissed and hugged 20 times a day.
In the end the psychic’s prediction came true. I met my husband when I was 33 and I made South America my home. I’m still sceptical about psychic predictions, but I’m more open to the idea there are things we don’t understand and that believing in something can be magical, whether it comes from inside us or from the universe. It can give us direction when we’re lost, and hope and energy to carve out a path for ourselves in this crazy, beautiful world.
About the author: Jessica Talbot was born in New Zealand. When she finished her Master’s degree and a post graduate in clinical psychology she moved across the sea to Melbourne, Australia. After working at a child and adolescent mental health service in Melbourne for seven years, she needed a big change in life. Following a strange prediction from years before, she flew to Peru to work with street kids. That adventure turned into a book that began in the lofty Andes of Peru – with a tattoo and an Argentine surfer. She has been living and working in Buenos Aires for the last ten years, a fascinating and complicated home that she shares with her husband and son.