The Next Step "O logras ser feliz con poco..."

corey mark la paz

“Mi madre hablaba como la aurora y como los dirigibles que van a caer.” – Vicente Huidobro

I’m exploring options for the next few week/months/years/decades/millennia of my life after flying to Lima next Tuesday. At first I thought I’d stay in Lima a week and then make my way into the mountains.

But now I realize I have…

Options?

Option 1: Play it safe

Stay in Lima a week or two, go to small town outside Lima, go to Huancayo, a city six hours east of Lima located at 3,400 meters above sea level in the mountains, stay a couple weeks in Huancayo since weather wouldn’t be hot and it has cheap Airbnb’s.

Make way into the jungle…

The jungle.

Option 2: José Mujica

Stay a week in Lima, make way to Cusco, make way to Puerto Maldonado, cross into Brazil, go to Rio Branco, see a bit of both Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, make way into Paraguay, then Uruguay, drink mate with José Mujica, then make way down to Buenos Aires, down to Chiloé, then Ushuaia.

Fly to Svalbard.

Option 3: Paraguay

Make way to Bolivia, spend a couple weeks in Bolivia, make way to Paraguay.

Paraguay looks…nice.

Option 4: English, mate, Svalbard

Fly to Santiago, fly to Valdivia, make way to Chiloé, stay with Marcela and Pablo on their farm for a couple months, teaching English, writing, and drinking mate. Then make way to Ushuaia. Fly to Svalbard.

Option 5: The southernmost “community” in the world

Choose one of the above, and in addition to going to Ushuaia also go to Puerto Williams, Chile, southernmost town in the world, and from there take boat to Puerto Toro, southernmost community in the world. Learn how to catch king crab.

Option 6: Babies

Make way to Córdoba, Argentina through Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay. Meet girl. Start pronouncing double “l’s”  like “sh.” Starting pronouncing single “l’s” like “sh.” Have 3-30 children. Stay forever.

Option 7: None of the above

Miss flight to Lima. Stay in Guadalajara.

 

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Turning Left

el terrible juan guadalajara

“The only way round is through.” – Robert Frizzle 

This morning I woke up and did something I’d never done before when leaving the house: I turned left. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, turning left, but since I’ve been living in the house where I’m currently living, every single morning, when I’ve left the house to walk to work, or to walk to Starbucks, or to walk to similar cafe where I digitally scribble in this blog, I’ve turned right.

Of course, my reasons for turning right are manyfold. I love walking down Calle Libertad. It’s leafy, it’s airy, and if the time of day is just right you feel like you’re soaring rather than walking, such is the air of tranquility the street creates, the foliage. I also turn right because the places I usually go to, El Rincon del Mate, el Expiatorio, are most expeditiously reached by turning right. To turn left leaving my house would not only take me into a shabbier neighborhood, it would also add at least five minutes to my walk. To turn left would take me onto the busy Avenida de La Paz (I hate walking on busy streets), and it would also take my by an Oxxo, Mexico’s most ubiquitous gas station.

But of course the main reason I always turn right has to do with habit. It feels comfortable. It’s what I know. And thus any other scenario, turning left, for example, going straight and running into the building across the street, taking off my shirt and standing in the middle of the road screaming, would feel uncomfortable. We’re creatures of comfort — this is one thing I’ve figured out in my 34 years — and change scares even the most intrepid explorers.

After turning left and walking a few blocks I was immediately confronted with an arresting sight. As some of you know may know, I’m currently in the market for new lodging, a new apartment, a new abode, a new dwelling, new “digs,” as it were, and it just so happened that staring me in the face was a big banner that said, “For Rent. Shitloads of space. Roof terrace.”

Actually, it didn’t say shitloads of space, but the amount of square meters listed on the banner deserves no other moniker. The most intriguing part, though, was the terrace. Ever since a few days ago walking by a beautiful house with a veritable forest on top I’ve decided that the ultimate thing you could do in Guadalajara would be to have a terrace. I’m talking about terrace with a view and shade and most importantly, obscene amounts of plants. I’m talking about a jungle. I’m talking about a place where you step out onto the terrace and a Virginia Creeper wraps its tendrils around your neck and asks for the password. I’m talking about a place where you get lost and when you finally make it back to society you realize you’re in Belize. In short, I’m talking about the ideal roof terrace.

So of course I took a photo of the phone number for the apartment and plan to contact them sometime later today to see how many gross tons of bio-matter they think the roof terrace could support, and thus figure out if this might be the place for me.

After seeing this apartment I walked down Calle Montenegro, taking in the sights. There was a place called El Comedor that looked peaceful and elegant, with delicious food. There was a hotel called Hotel Isabel that looked suitable for visiting family members or friends, should that ever happen. And finally there was a restaurant called La Menuderia which specialized in menudo, a soup people have told me I must try but that in my obstinacy I still haven’t. And then I got to El Terrible Juan, my second favorite cafe in Guadalajara, and realized I’d been on a veritable odyssey, that my morning had been completely transformed, indeed my mentality had been transformed, and all because I’d turned left.

And so tomorrow, and later today, and for the rest of this week, I might not always turn left when I leave the house, but I will strive to do one thing each day in a similar vein. I’ve been complaining about my life getting stagnant in Guadalajara after just two months, but it actually might not be so difficult to remedy. It might just involve continuing to step outside my comfort zone, continuing to explore, continuing to meet new people, and of course, ideally, a roof terrace with a shitload of plants.

Sunday Night Thoughts #7

cachemira guadalajara

I’ve given Bill a fighting chance. I found some special potting soil for him, what they call “hummus” here, and when I asked the guy if it’d be good for an aloe plant his eyes darted side to side and he said, “Uh…yeah.”

So I assume it’s perfect.

There’s a Czech couple staying at my house. They’re the first people to stay here who consistently use the kitchen and even sit on the couch where I usually sit. For some reason I find this unacceptable. Last night the boyfriend rolled a cigarette on the coffee table in the living room and left bits of tobacco all over the place. I was seething.

This last week was a good week. I had a new student who pays almost triple what my previous in-person English job paid. The woman I’m working for also does something no one has ever done for me in previous teaching experiences: She helps me find material. I say to her, “We’re going to work on the present simple, adverbs of frequency, and possessive adjectives,” and in my inbox she leaves a veritable mountain of relevant ESL activities. It makes my job a lot easier.

Despite all these positive developments I feel like I’m starting to stagnate a bit, which means I must do something to push the envelope. I must push myself to work harder, or write more, or write better, or participate in more activities in which I can meet people. I still have very few friends in GDL. I have no friends in GDL. So instead of going out on a Saturday night and dropping 300 pesos on wine, I should drop those 300 pesos on dance classes so I can become the next Jennifer Lopez. Or Ricky Martin. Or Enrique Iglesias. Or Shakira.

This idea is something I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, but one which I can’t reiterate enough and that occurred to me at various points today and on my walk back from the grocery store just now. I know I said last paragraph that I must do things to push the envelope so I don’t feel stagnant. But a counter argument is this, and this is something that actually is true: Our time on this spinning rock is damn short. You will not be happy once you make that money. You will not be happy once you get that job. You will not be happy once you meet that special someone. If you can’t be happy right now, at this very moment, then you will never be happy in your entire life. I don’t care if you just broke your arm. I don’t care if your boyfriend/girlfriend just left you. If your happiness is dependent upon external factors, you will never be happy.

Anyway, even if do feel stagnant I can’t go anywhere because now I have Bill (my aloe plant) and Bill hates to travel. I told him I’d take him first class to Colombia and he started to wilt. Bill’s idea of a perfect Sunday is to spend 14 hours sitting still, and then twitch slightly when the sun almost hits him. He’s teaching me how to meditate. And I’m teaching him about classical music. Today I played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and he remained impassive throughout. Bill’s health is precarious.

I also bought a book today. Los cuadernos de Don Rigoberto by Mario Vargas Llosa. Apparently it’s an erotic novel. Travesuras de la niña mala is one of my favorite books in Spanish, by the same author, and it’s also erotic in parts, but eroticism certainly isn’t what you’re supposed to take from the novel. The takeaway is that we’re all lonely, some of the time. That we’re all alone, some of the time. That we all talk to aloe plants, some of the time.

[Update: The Czech guy just washed his dishes. They also just gave me a plate of cheese and bread and figs. They are currently my favorite people in the world.]

A special thanks to Bill for his spiritual support.

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How to Kill an Aloe Plant

aloe savila mexico

Two weeks ago someone gave me an aloe plant. They said, “Water it once a week.” Since then, I’ve been steadily killing it. Today I finally googled “aloe plant care” and read a bit about what you’re supposed to do. You’re not supposed to leave it in direct sunlight. You’re not supposed to water it more than once every three weeks (according to this site), and most importantly, you’re supposed to put it in a planter with good drainage.

I’ve done the opposite of all of these things.

And now the plant is dying. In fact, there may be no saving it. Today I found a planter with holes in the bottom. When I went to transplant the plant, who’s sort of named Bill but will be re-christened if he lives (I’ll let Patreon subscribers name him), I saw his roots. There was mold growing on them. They were black and brittle. I recoiled in nausea and chastised myself for letting things get to this point. I felt like an early settler crossing The Rockies whose foot has been numb for three days — ever since the blizzard — but he’s too scared to look at it. When he finally does he almost vomits. His foot has gangrene. It’s rotting.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, I just don’t know what it is. 

So now Bill is in a bigger pot with adequate drainage. I don’t know if he’ll live. The best thing to do at this point is to let him be. The reason I’ve killed him is a strange combination of paying too much attention to him and completely neglecting him. On the one hand, I paid too much attention to him, watering him every couple of days, putting him in the sun because I thought this was what you’re supposed to do, while a nagging voice said to me, “You really should research this a bit and figure out how to take care of these plants.” But I was too lazy. Too lazy to take 15 seconds to  google something. So in that way, I completely neglected Bill. I failed him.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, and I’m starting to get an idea of what it might be.

In a completely unrelated bit of a news (see: directly related) I have a new English student. He’s moving to the US in a couple months, and thus quite motivated. Yesterday, however, I discovered that his English, while somewhat competent on the surface, is actually in need of a major overall. I had him conjugate the verb “to be” and he could barely do it. I had him conjugate verbs in various forms of the present tense (negative, questions, negative questions), and he could only do it with much help. And so I realized: We need to start from the beginning. We need to go slow so he understands everything, and only then can we continue to more advanced structures like present perfect and simple past and the various forms for talking about the future. I like to think about it like building a house. You can put the prettiest coat of paint on a house, but if the framing is done wrong you better start over. And so that’s what we’re doing with my student’s English.

There’s a metaphor to be had here, and I think I know what it is. 

In a final bit of news, I’m trying to learn how to be a competent person, a competent adult. I’m trying to build the best life possible for myself here in Mexico, but I suspect certain habits are holding me back. I try meditating one day, and writing, and going on long walks. I try alcohol. I try food. I try talking to friends and going on Tinder dates and watching chess videos and immersing myself in work. I’m starting to wonder if I have more in common with Bill than I thought. I’m starting to wonder if I’m in the wrong planter, if the instructions I’ve gotten are maybe just a little off, and if I should do a bit of research and figure out how to really take care of this human being that is myself.

Because I feel like I might be doing exactly what I did to Bill: I’m paying attention, just in all the wrong ways. It’s like I’ve gotten an instruction manual for a human that isn’t even me, or some kind of general instruction manual whose tips need to be custom-fit before they can be effective, and the the challenge becomes how to do that. Strangely, I think Bill might be able to help me here. I think he might have some of the secrets. Which is why it’s imperative he doesn’t die. It’s imperative I find some good soil for him. And most importantly, it’s imperative that, at least for the time being, I leave him alone. 

Is there a metaphor here?

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