I started by leaving the house. When I left the house I noticed there was a security guard at the gate, so I talked to him for a bit.
“Good evening,” I said, “My name is Mark Wetzler, first of his name, and I’ll be staying here for a week.”
He didn’t understand “Mark” but when I spelled it for him he said, “Marcos,” confirmed I’d be staying a week, and said, “OK.” I then exited the community and turned left on Paseo de la Cultura. My final destination: A mall called Aventura Plaza.
After a few minutes of walking I passed a park in a different gated community where I’d done exercise earlier. I did pull-ups. I’ve been doing pull-ups for over a week now, and have the pecs to prove it. My lower back is firm and it’s now more comfortable for me to sit with good posture than to slouch. I didn’t think doing pull-ups could change my life in so many ways, but it has. My IQ has also gone up.
I then walked down a long alleyway. This is a secret road taxis use to avoid traffic and construction. It’s also a non-secret road used by walkers to not have to walk as far. Then came the main road, which was under construction. It was dirt. The cars were traveling slow and you could see the dust kicked up by the cars in the headlights. There were quite a few people out, strolling about, heading home. I wondered if any of them were heading to the Adventure Plaza. Could it be? Were we all on our way to some kind of adventure? I was eager to find out.
I got a bit lost trying to take a shortcut. I saw what looked like a park and thought, God, I love parks. I’m going to go to it. But then when I got there the streets were significantly darker, so I asked some passersby if I could get to the Adventure Plaza through here. They looked at me like I was daft. “The Adventure Plaza,” I said, “I want to have an adventure. I want to buy some churros.”
“Ahhh,” they said. “No, you have to go back to the main road.”
Within five minute I had the entrance to the Adventure Plaza in my sights. The glow from the stairs illuminated the parking lot and leaked out onto the main road. So many people were walking towards the mall. So many people on their way to have an adventure. I was one of many.
When I got close to the mall I noticed people carrying Starbucks cups. Wow, a Starbucks, I thought. This is a fancy mall. There was the department store Falabella looming in the distance. There was the Entel store. And there was a stand selling churros.
My particular adventure began with entering Tottus, the massive grocery store that’s like a nicer version of Wal-Mart. I walked by the computers first, allowing myself to be swept-up by the space age technology. The flat screens. The curved screens. The TV screens. Bigger and bigger and bigger. And then I got to the bakery and there was freshly baked bread and throngs of people scrambling to get their hands on it. I joined the river of humanity and when the opportunity arose lunged at a pair of ciabattas, put them in a bag, and brought them over to be weighed. Then I looked at eggs. Free-range, close range, on the range. There was a buffet that had soups and purees and cured meats. There was a produce section with mangos and papayas and carrots the size of my index finger. There were apples — oh, the variety of apples — and I stood looking at them, not daring to move lest I wake up from the dream that was having so many apples in front of me.
Finally I decided on my various wares. I had eggs, bread, butter, a carrot, an onion, and some sunflower seed oil. I walked around the store a little more, not wanting the adventure to end. There were some girls giving out wine samples. There was a girl giving out sausage samples, and I ran after her to try one. “Can I try your sausages?” I said, out of breath.
“Welcome to Adventure Plaza,” she said, and handed me a pair.
Then it was time to check out, and I was sad. The adventure was coming to an end. I put a chocolate bar on the moving belt in front of the cashier, and she rang me up.
“You look sad,” she said.
“The adventure is over,” I said.
“Was it everything you wanted?”
“It was…” I gasped. “It was so beautiful.”
She handed me my receipt and my bag of goods and said have a nice night and when she said this it was as if a spell had been broken. The adventure truly was over. I was just in a mall in some random city in Peru. I’d just bought groceries and now I had to walk home along a dirt road.
On my way out I passed some people on the way to the Adventure Plaza. They had a glint in their eyes. They didn’t seem to be present. They were excited.
If only they knew, I thought. But they will.
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I’m in Arequipa. I survived the 18 hour bus ride, which actually turned out to be 16 hours. And I say “survived” because there were a few times last night where we took some turns and I thought, This bus is going to tip over. This is bus is going to tip over and we’re going to go careening down a 500 foot embankment, and I’m going to be OK because I’ve got my seatbelt on. Because I did have my seatbelt on. I was probably the only one, lying there completely flat, as we careened around these turns, with my seatbelt on.
I slept about eight hours which meant I was only conscious for eight hours of the bus trip. And for the first two hours I was completely absorbed in the novelty of being on one of Peru’s nicest buses, the Cruz del Sur Confort Suites, a bus dedicated entirely to first-class, VIP bus seats. These seats lie down completely flat. You get two meals. And granted, the breakfast this morning was probably the closest I’ll ever come to being in prison, but it was food.
For hours two through five I was absorbed in my dinner, cold chicken and rice, and also the movie Thank You For Your Service. I also watched the movie Paris Can Wait, and tried to extract from it what women really want out of a relationship, and came to the following conclusions: They want impromptu picnics by the river with Frenchmen, dining out, being ushered around the French countryside, and chocolate.
Then this morning about about 10:30am we rolled into Arequipa, and I had a distinct thought: I want to keep going to Chile. But of course I can’t, because I’ve already booked an Airbnb for the week, and I have classes to teach, and the real reason I want to go to Chile is because I feel comfortable there and I keep going back to Chile and I’ll probably always keep going back to Chile until one day I marry a Chilena and we live in the woods. Her name will be Josefina or Penelope and we’ll keep sheep and goats and chickens and tend to the land and make 15 babies and forget about modern society, especially things like Instagram and assault weapons. Why does her name have to be Josefina or Penelope? Well, it doesn’t have to Josefina, but it definitely has to be one of the two.
The Airbnb where I’m staying in Arequipa is far from the center and only rents out one room, which means I’m the only one here, which means I’m chilling in the cavernous living room in the semi-darkness, typing away on my laptop, not thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow. Not even thinking about what I’m going to do tonight, or what I’m going to do in the next 15 minutes, or 10 minutes, or five minutes. Not thinking about what I’m doing right now. Just breathing and sipping tea.
But mostly thinking a ton.
And the street is called Jirón Arica. The address is 131. I’m on the couch. I’m about to drink black tea mixed with a small amount of sugar.
Look at this f#@king vicuña (alpaca???). Look at the way it extracts sumptuous morsels of biomatter from an otherwise barren landscape. Look at Misti in the background, in all of her nearly 6,000 meters of glory. Look at this alpaca’s (vicuña’s????) fur and imagine yourself wearing a shawl made from it. Imagine yourself naked in said shawl. Imagine yourself itching.
Seventeen and a half hours. That’s how long the bus is supposed to take. Of course, I’m hoping the driver has a bit of lead in his soles and we make it there in 17 hours and 20 minutes.
Also on this map you can see: My proposed route for after Arequipa, going up to Puno, by Lake Titicaca, into Bolivia, and then down into Northern Argentina (aka “The Inland Route”). You can also see the ALTERNATE ROUTE, which would take me directly into the heart of darkness, aka Paraguay (aka “The Alternate Route”). You can also see some black lines I drew on Chile, just because it looks kinda cool, and some pink polka dots on Brazil, for the same reason.
So that’s the plan. If the bus has WiFi I will try to post a blog from the bus, since that would be novel. I’m also going to try to read a novel.
Look, I know money is tight, we’re all struggling, and diapers are expensive, but with just $1 a month you can literally make my dream of becoming a full-time blogger/traveler come true. That’s about $0.03 a day. Once the penny gets phased out it will be like $0.00 a day. So think about it:
Now, most people would call it in an inconvenience, having your card used for attempted fraud in Florida, but I call it in an invitation to adventure. For one, it simplifies my life greatly. I now have to go somewhere and stay there at least a week until my card gets there. I cannot continue traveling without that card. Do you know what it’s like to not have to pay foreign transaction fees? Actually, you probably do, because lots of cards offer no foreign transaction fees. But I’m not talking about no foreign transaction fees. I’m talking about something completely different. I’m talking about…..freedom.
That would’ve been a sweet segue to talk about my new Chase Freedom credit card, but the card in question is actually my Charles Schwab (RIP) debit card. What happened was the following: I went to the grocery store to buy some stuff and my card got denied. Naturally when the grocery store employee told me my card had been denied I called her all sorts of filthy names.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked her.
“No,” she said. “Who are you?”
“Mark,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m kind of new here and it’s always nice to make a new friend.”
And then today when I was trying to buy a pecan roll the same thing happened, my card got denied, so I had to call my bank. I talked to Matthew in Indianapolis.
“Matthew,” I said, “I’m in deep shit. No one will take my card. I’m in Peru, Matthew in Indianapolis, Peru.”
Matthew assured me everything would be ok and then told me someone in Florida tried to use my card to take out 600 bucks.
“Matthew, I don’t have 600 bucks. Do you understand?
“Then they tried to take out 300,” he said. “They must’ve been trying to get around the limit.”
I wondered what kind of slimeball was doing this. For a brief second I wondered if Matthew was actually the slimeball, if he was in on the whole thing, and if I could trust him.
“Can I have your social security number?” he said.
“How about you give me your social security number, Matthew?”
Matthew told me the following: my card had been compromised and they needed to send me a new one. And for that I’d need to stay in one place for at least a week.
Matthew, I said, I have a blog called Ordinary Nomad. This demands that I be transient.
I asked him if he wanted me to lose readership.
Of course Matthew doesn’t want me to lose readers, and he said as much.
“Here’s what I can do,” Matthew said. “If you stay on the phone with me I can lift the block just long enough for you to go to an ATM and get some cash out.”
This of course didn’t help much because I don’t have a Peruvian simcard and have to use wifi to make calls, and there was no ATM in the cafe where I was.
But I had a better idea.
“Matthew, what about this. Can you lift the block long enough so I can buy my pecan roll, and then put it back on? I know it’s a bit ridiculous, but could you do that? I was hoping to hang out in this cafe for a bit.”
“Sure, no problem.”
So I ordered my pecan roll while Matthew figuratively stood beside me on the phone, providing moral support from many thousands of miles away.
And I don’t know what the moral of this story is. Staying cool when things go wrong abroad? The amazing benefits of the Charles Schwab debit card and their customer service agents? Or the beauty of the pecan roll, and how if you have to decide between one last ATM transaction and getting a pecan roll, well, it’s not really a choice.
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Monday afternoon in Lima and I’ve just done my pull-ups and now I’m drinking instant coffee in the kitchen preparing to walk to Plaza Salaverry to buy boxers. I need boxers. If I buy boxers, I can delay doing laundry a few more days.
I just sat in bed listening to Vivaldi and looking for a cheap bus to Tacna. And by cheap, I of course mean as expensive as possible. This is because I want a lie flat bed if I go to Tacna. Anything else would be a wretched disappointment. 160 degrees? No. The bed must recline 180 degrees. It must lie flat. For this I’m willing to pay top dollar.
My friend Jenny sent me a song called “Hallucinating” but I don’t like it. There are some rice puddings on the middle of the table and I’m wondering if one of them’s destined for me. I’m pretty sure one of them has my name on it, despite not actually having my name on it. Last night the Spanish guy came back from being out of town a few days. It’s still not clear what he does or where he gets his money. Today I said, “Hey, what’d you do the six months you were in Asuncion.”
He looked uncomfortable. “We, like, barbecued and stuff,” he said.
“Cool, man, barbecues are cool.”
I didn’t mean to make him think he had to explain himself to me. He can only barbecue from now until the day he dies as far as I’m concerned, and I wouldn’t think less of him. I’m sure he’d get good at barbecuing. I’m sure he’d develop coronary disease.
The real question, of course, becomes whether or not to have a second cup of coffee after I finish this one. And the answer is of course yes. The answer is mind-numbingly yes. I’ll have another one, and then I’ll walk to Miraflores, and do pull-ups and think about my English classes for tomorrow. Today’s, with Elena, was wonderful. We practiced the prepositions in, at, and on for awhile, and then we learned bedroom vocabulary. Since the activity was from the British Council, some of the words were words I wouldn’t use. Like “chest of drawers” instead of “dresser.” The word “drawers” was particularly hard for her to pronounce. Drawers. Drawers. I said just think of it like “drors,” and then she got better.
A plane flies overhead. We’re close to the airport. When planes fly overhead during my classes I mute my microphone and hope I don’t have to talk. Sometimes I just type. I don’t think my students have noticed yet. But it’s hard to tell.
Is there anything worse than a soft mattress? I mean, sure, I know there are worse things. I know getting bamboo shoots shoved under your fingernails is probably worse, but the more I think about it….is it?
Yesterday I went to La Punta with Clara and Cristina. Clara is my host, and Cristina is one of the other guests here, from Venezuela. And La Punta is a neighborhood, as the name suggests, on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, as if saying to the rest of Lima, “I want to get away from you.” It’s also next to Callao, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Lima, possibly another reason for its fleeing geography.
As we were approaching Clara said, “Watch how the houses change.”
And indeed they did (change).
Once dilapidated houses with exposed bricks became multi-level condos with cream-colored sides, terraces lush with plants, soundproof sliding glass doors. The houses here were from yesteryear and I immediately felt like I was back in the Caribbean, in Cartagena or La Habana, exploring the malecón, looking for Gabriel García Márquez, gazing upon peaceful inner courtyards, denizens sipping lemonade and wondering, “Should I take a dip now? No, maybe later…”
Apparently La Punta is a zoo in the summer. Not an actual zoo, of course, but it FEELS like a zoo because of the quantity of people on the beach, the full buses, the yachts buzzing in and out of the harbor, the vendors hawking wares left, right, and even center. When we got there and began strolling the waterfront, palm trees towering above us, elegant houses to our left, Clara said, “That’s my yacht right there.”
“Oh, cool,” I said. “It’s not as big as my yacht, though.”
Then we talked about how great it would be to have a yacht, to be eating ceviche on its stern, gazing into the blue water.
Then we came to la punta de la punta, or, the end of the point, and I saw waves, their tops clipped by an offshore breeze, an island visible in the distance obscured by a wispy marine layer fog, and I thought, I must go swimming. I must go swimming now. I took a quick detour to change into my swimsuit and then I was plunging into the water, cold at first, gliding underneath the waves, the preoccupations of life on shore receding behind.
After this we walked around the point a bit more, and then made our way back to the other beach, where there were less waves. We walked slowly. We talked. It felt like we’d traveled back in time and that everything was simpler. At the other beach I went swimming again, and Clara dipped her feet, wobbling on the smooth, cobblestone rocks. Cristina also dipped her feet. A group of Americans approached the water and inexplicably did not go in, opting instead to stand on the shore and observe. Meanwhile I tested the upper reaches of my lungs, imagining myself to be like Kevin Costner from Waterworld, gills behind my ears, clad in tattered leather. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams, traipsing through a corn field, building a baseball field, talking to Terence Mann. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, befriending a lone wolf on the frontier, becoming accepted by a group of Indians, marrying a squaw. And then I stopped imagining what it was like to be Kevin Costner and imagined what it would be like to be back on the beach, though this wasn’t something I didn’t have to imagine. I could do it. And that’s what I did. I lay on the beach, roasting in the sun, feeling the hot rocks beneath me, listening to Clara and Cristina talk.
Eventually, unfortunately, it was time to leave. We walked by the yellow house I’d decided was my favorite on the way in, and Clara took a picture. “I wish I could freeze this moment,” I said, and I did, I wished I could freeze that moment. It felt like one of those summer afternoons when you’re 12 years old and the sun is warm and you don’t realize you won’t live forever. I didn’t realize it was still possible to have moments like these in your thirties, and now that I know it’s possible I want to have more. Yesterday, at La Punta, with Clara and Cristina, was a good start.
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I’ve been asking myself a certain question for the past few days: Is there a tapeworm living in my stomach? The reason I’ve been asking this question is even though my diet has been considerably better since leaving Mexico (i.e. not binge drinking and ice cream), I’ve still felt bloated most of the time. In fact, until about four minutes ago, I’ve felt bloated pretty much ALL of the time. And I know you probably didn’t wake up this morning and think, “I want to know about Mark’s bloating situation,” but it’s something that must be talked about.
I’ve already settled into a routine in Lima. I do the following things: Get up, rate Instagram ads, go to Cosmo Beans, write, drink coffee, eat Cosmo Bean’s crappy food, come back to my house, teach English classes, rate Instagram ads, and then make my way to El Pan de la Chola, Lima’s premiere cafe for people with tons of money who cannot live without things like almond croissants and “extracts.” Here I drink an americano and generally, from caffeine overload, slip into a state of quiet madness. I scribble in my journal. I fashion exclamation points and haphazard parentheses. I look around at the other customers, one of whom yesterday was a guy with a hairless dog who kept putting his paws on the table (the man, not the dog). The dog was adorable, but the guy less so. The situation was less than hygienic, but I’m by no means a health inspector.
After El Pan de la Chola I usually take a walk around the beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores. Yesterday was no exception. First I walked down Avenida José Pardo, home of such places as the Hilton DoubleTree and the Brazilian embassy, and then walked along the waterfront. The waterfront is Lima’s best feature. It’s essentially a many-mile park on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with palm trees, walking paths, and a touch of salt in the air. There are also exercise stations located about every 500 meters, and my new routine (as of yesterday), is to do as many pull-ups as I can at each station. So far, my record is three (give or take). But I have no doubt soon I’ll be doing many more, possibly to the point where I draw crowds. My goal is 50 perfect pull-ups (going almost all the way down but not quite, out of respect for my elbows). When I’m able to do this I have no doubt the stars will align and we’ll experience some kind of astrological event not seen previously in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our ancestors. Orion might do a pull-up hanging from Cassiopeia.
Yesterday, after the pull-ups (grunting, nostrils flared), I made my way back to Magdalena del Mar on foot (foot). It was about four kilometers. I didn’t really want to walk, but didn’t see much other option since the buses were crowded. As far as I know, Lima doesn’t have a metro. It appears there’s one under construction. But as far as a working metro, one you can actually ride on that takes you from place to place and doesn’t just exist as a fantasy inside human brains, Lima doesn’t have one. But I could be wrong. I’m rarely wrong, but I could be.
When I got back to Magdalena del Mar I headed directly for Santa Rosa, the pastry shop of yesteryear, as my host described it, actually using the word in Spanish for “yesteryear.” The greatest thing about Santa Rosa is that the display case is about five and a half feet high and all the women working there are about four and a half feet high. This means that when you order something you sort of see their faces behind the counter, and then a hand reaches up and puts your arroz con leche on the counter, takes your money, and then reaches back up and deposits your change.
Yesterday I sat there, devouring my crema voleteada, which is essentially flan, in fact it’s flan in every way in that it looks like flan, tastes like flan, feels like flan when you pick it up and mash it together with your finger and smear it on your forehead, but isn’t flan. Or at least it isn’t called flan. I’d like to know what would happen if I went to Santa Rosa today and ordered “flan.” Would they give me crema voleteada? Would they make me leave? I intend to find out.
After Santa Rosa I noticed a health food store next door I’d seen before but never gone in because it doesn’t have a sign and I was a little worried it might just be someone’s house. But it was indeed a health food store, complete with organic vegetables and things like maca powder. I must have had a wild look in my eye, because the girl at the counter asked “Can I help you?” as if implying something psychiatric. I said, “No, thank you” and continued to browse, since browsing is one of my strong suits. And then I walked back to my house, where I rated more Instagram ads before going out to dinner.
And that’s my little Lima life.
I got off the plane in Lima and tried to change money. The day before I’d been paid 1,293 Mexican pesos. This is about $71 USD, or 230 Peruvian soles. My goal was to trade these pesos mexicanos for Peruvian soles, and lose as little money as possible in the process. I’d asked about Peruvian soles in the Mexico City airport and the woman looked at me and said, “I have 10.” I said, “No, thank you.” She said, “Have a nice day.” I said, “You also.”
But at a different place in the Mexico City airport I didn’t ask about Peruvian soles. I asked about dollars. And this person had more welcome news. “I’ll give you $69 cold, brittle American dollars for your Mexican pesos,” he said (paraphrasing). I said, “Sir, that is wonderful news. What other wonderful news do you have for me today?” (again, paraphrasing). He said, “Kindest of sirs. I understand you’re going to the South American capital city of Lima, Peru. May I ask, kind sir, what you intend to do there?” (slightly paraphrasing). “That is a wonderful question,” I said, and I proceeded to give him an explanation in which I invoked the following elements, not necessarily in this order: Sir Isaac Newton, the strength of the Yen, hopscotch (the game; not the book by Julio Cortazar), compact objects, black coffee, tamales dulces de rajas, foxholes, rabbit holes, jell-o (sp?), continental breakfasts, Amazon (the company, not the rainforest), the Peruvian national soccer team, the US national soccer team, Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund, Prussia, Swabia (a region in Southwestern Germany), Baden Baden, and finally, chess. He handed me the dollars and I was on my way.
On my way to Lima.
The next night I was sitting in my Airbnb when a Venezuelan woman who’s also staying there walked through the living room on her way out to the street to buy some bread. I don’t know how we got to talking, (in my advancing years I’m less and less loquacious), but we did, and it was a charming conversation. Ah, yes, now I remember: I asked her how her job had gone. I’d learned previously she takes care of seven children in the afternoon, and I asked her how that had gone. I told her I didn’t think I could do it, even though at the exact moment of pronouncing these words I knew it was a lie. I was trying to ingratiate myself with her. Of course I could take care of seven children. It wouldn’t be at the top of my list of favorite things to do. I’d probably rather lie on a beach and look into Adriana Lima’s eyes or watch a Dortmund game alone, from the comfort of my couch, screaming at the computer screen, but I know logistically, if I were tasked with taking care of seven children, I could definitely do it.
“I don’t really like kids that much,” I said, “Except my siblings’ kids. I have seven nieces and nephews.”
“But could you change a diaper?” she said.
“Yeah, I mean, I probably could. I don’t think I would love it, but I’m sure I could.”
“What I’m really asking is: Do you want to be a father? I’m asking because I want to be a mother.”
The way she phrased it it felt as if she were saying, “Do you want to be a father in the next 15 minutes? Because I want to be a mother in the next 15 minutes,” but of course I knew this wasn’t what she was saying. And I said, “Yes, one day I would like to be a father.”
“All in good time,” she said. “You’re still young.”
“Not that young,” I said. “I have a lot of gray hair now. I’ve gotten so many gray hairs over the last three months in Mexico!”
She asked how old I was and I said 34. I immediately thought about how she might be older than me, and if I said I felt old at 34 it could be taken as me saying she was ancient at whatever age she was. It turned out she was 38. Her name was Cristy, and she was from Caracas. We didn’t talk much about Venezuela. The only said, “Things aren’t that good there right now,” and I didn’t ask more. I actually would like to go to Venezuela, and would like to go soon, but it didn’t seem like a prudent time to mention this.
We talked for a little longer and I found myself wanting to talk more, but she had to go buy bread and I had to return to my job of rating Instagram for the same cold, brittle American dollars I’d exchanged the day before. After finishing the job I went out to look for food, and found some in the form of two pieces of bread with oregano and meat at the grocery store for about 30 cents. Then, after talking to my wonderful Airbnb hosts Clara and Gabriela, I went back out to look for even more food, which, at their urgings, I found in the form of two empanadas from a place called Bon Ami. The empanadas were delicious. I ate them out of their styrofoam container on the way home, dodging traffic, dodging an old dog who looked like he’d been in a few fights and survived them all and had no grudges to bear against the world, enjoying the Lima night that’s never too cold, at least at this time of year. Then when I got home I hung out in the kitchen a bit talking to Clara and Gabriela, and they told me about various sights in Lima. I wished Cristy were there, so we could continue our conversation. But she was already in her room, talking on the phone. Eventually I went to my room, where I watched chess videos and read my book about uncontacted tribes in Brazil. And then, at precisely 11:30pm, I put my phone in airplane mode, stopped reading, had one last drink of water, and turned off the light.
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The other night I woke up and thought someone was in my room and let out a yelp and then felt ridiculous and wondered if I’d woken up the neighbors. There’d appeared to be a black shape in the doorway, a man approaching me, but it was just a combination of the upper part of the door and my early morning brain.
The night before I’d gotten spectacularly drunk with Jason and Gizelle. I had two Licor 43s mixed with milk before meeting them, then beer, then mezcal, then more beer. I don’t remember going home. I do remember being at home and making myself yet another cocktail of Licor 43 and milk and then drunkenly messaging Yunuen telling her “My name is Mark” and “I’d like to meet you.” The next day I contemplated saying, “I’m really sorry for the drunk messages last night. That’s not cool,” but within a day she responded, “I think I’d like to meet you, too.” Then last night she texted me a litany of things that “weren’t cool” about me or how I’d treated her. She said it wasn’t cool the way I’d talked to her at the end of our relationship, when we were “breaking up,” that it wasn’t cool how I’d written so many times on this blog that I had no friends in Guadalajara when I knew her, that it wasn’t cool I referred to her as “someone who gave me an aloe plant” or “Y” when really her name is Yunuen. I read all of these message and went into a brief depression, which I combatted by watching chess videos. I was already feeling sad and melancholy and weird about leaving Guadalajara, in some respects like a failure, and getting these messages didn’t make things better. I responded, “Thank you for sharing how you feel and what you think,” and this morning went into an inner rage about the messages. Why the hell would she send me that shit on my last night in GDL? Why would she send it in the first place after a month of no contact?
I get to the airport this morning at almost exactly 4am and give the driver a 10 pesos tip. It’s the first time I’ve ever tipped an Uber driver. I woke up last night at 1am, 2am, and then 3:15am and got up for good. I lay in bed for a moment, checked my phone, and then I got out of bed and carried the glasses of my own urine to the bathroom, where I emptied them into the toilet and then peed. I’ve been peeing into glasses for the last two and a half months in the room where I stayed in Guadalajara to not have to leave my room. I’d pee in a big jar and then the next day surreptitiously ferry it to the bathroom, where I’d empty it and then wash it.
People filter into the waiting area for the flight to Mexico City. An announcement comes over the speakers for a Volaris flight somewhere. There’s a commercial playing on the TV over and over. A kid to my right just got told by his mother to get off the railing. A guy in front of me is taking pictures of his friends. I count the money in my wallet. Twelve hundred pesos. I need to change this in Mexico for Peruvian Soles if I can, and if I can’t I need to change it to dollars and then Soles and thus get screwed on the exchange twice. But the alternative is waiting until Lima, where I might not be able to change it at all.
There’s an announcement for Copa Airlines flight 723 to Panama City.
The last announcement for the Volaris flight to Mexicali.
Our flight is supposed to board in 15 minutes. Thank God for aisle seats. People are still filtering in and I think about how I’ve been here for almost an hour and a half. The air smells vaguely of farts. My stomach has been severely messed up since the night of drinking. I didn’t eat dinner last night. I had a chocolate croissant. And this morning the only thing I’ve had so far is mineral water.
Finally they make the boarding announcement for our flight, and I put my computer away and go to the bathroom one last time. I get my ticket out, and hope there’ll be plenty of overhead space. I think about what I should do on the flight, and decide I’ll read my book about uncontacted tribes in Brazil and listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
The woman takes my ticket, rips off the stub,says, “Buen viaje,” and I walk down the walkway and get on the plane, touching the metal outside of it in the superstitious way I’ve done for many years now. On the plane one of the flight attendants says, “Buenos días,” and I make my way back to 15c, where there’s enough overhead room for my bag, and then sit down. I watch the people shuffle slowly down the aisle, and get out my headphones, put on the Autumn part of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and close my eyes.
And that’s how I leave Guadalajara.
Feeling anxious. Tomorrow’s my last day in GDL. And the two companies I worked for here both owe me money, and I think there’s a decent chance one or both might try to not pay me. Which, financially, is not a big deal, but I fear how I might react. I could see myself making something of a scene. And I don’t want any scenes tomorrow.
Sitting at home now, playing chess and thinking about whether or not to drink milk. Or have more spinach. Or have water. Or go lie in bed and read my eBook about uncontacted tribes and wonder if the neighbors’ dog is going to bark and if I’m going to have to yell at them. My flight to Lima leaves at 6am which means I have to take an Uber to the airport at 3:45am. Then a flight to Mexico City. Then the flight to Lima. Get to the Lima airport, go through customs, and take an airport to my Airbnb in the quiet neighborhood of Magdalena del Mar, two blocks from the malecon. Teach English on Thursday. Teach on Friday. Walk to Pan de la Chola and get overpriced baked goods. If I remember correctly, their almond croissants are divine.
There’s a decent chance this blog URL will change tomorrow, though I’m not sure to what. It might change back to whereswetzler.com. It also might change to something else. It also might not change tomorrow, since there’s no hurry. But I sold out calling it Ordinary Nomad. I don’t like the word nomad, since I feel it’s overused and misused. So why did I pick it? I thought I had to cater to the masses to have the blog get popular. But fuck that. That’s exactly how you kill a blog, or, at the very least, kill your soul. So the URL is probably going to change, and probably soon. Maybe in conjunction with the trip to Lima.
Had a frappuccino with J and G at Starbucks on Chapultepec. How ironic that a week before I leave I make friends. We got pizza at Little Caesars tonight and sat on the planters in front of the University of Guadalajara, eating our pepperoni pizza, drinking our Dr. Peppers. And I was truly happy. In that moment, talking to them, I was happy.
And then I came home and ate raw spinach and now I’m on the couch and it’s so damn hot and I really hope the neighbors’ dog doesn’t bark and I hope they pay me tomorrow and A’s not a jackass and that’s about it. And I hope I eat better, but that’s not something you hope for, that’s something you just do.
“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…
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…
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.
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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