The Lima Diaries (part one)

lima peru

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.

lima peru kids playing soccer

Children playing soccer at a school on the Lima waterfront.

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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Is Interjet a Budget Airline? Guadalajara to Lima: A Review

interjet mexico city lima

Yesterday I flew the Mexican airline Interjet from Guadalajara, Mexico to the illustrious city of Lima, Peru. Which means I’m now in Peru. I’ll give you 16 opportunities to guess what I’m doing at this exact moment. Coffee shop? Damn.

Yes, I’m in a coffee shop called Cosmo Beans located in the homey Magdalena del Mar neighborhood where I’m staying for a week, drinking an americano I expected to be much (much) better. It tastes burnt. And to top it off they served what I thought was going to be sparkling water in a small glass next to the americano, which is something they usually do south of the equator and is awesome, but instead it’s just still water.

But back to Interjet. Interjet, with their marketing and logo and whole vibe they give off, seem like a budget airline. And they sort of are. But they have many characteristics budget airlines don’t have. For example, I could’ve checked a bag yesterday weighing up to 55 kilos. Fifty-five kilos! I barely weigh 55 kilos. I could’ve checked a mastiff, or a crate of iron ore, but instead I just checked my duffel bag, which is getting really annoying to travel with, but contains my tent and sleeping bag and so I can’t ditch it.

I had aisle seats for both flights, which was fortunate, because they didn’t let me choose my seat when buying the flight. The first thing I noticed upon sitting down was how much legroom I had. At least it seemed like a lot of leg room. I’d gotten up at 3:30am that morning, and was pretty out of it. But it seemed like quite a bit of legroom, and also the aisles seemed wider than normal. Everything seemed more spacious than normal. I put on the song “La Follia” by Vivaldi and we taxied to the end of the runway, and took off just as the song got intense. I don’t usually listen to music when traveling, but this was a good decision.

On the flight to Lima the flight attendants served mango granola bars and sandwiches on orange bread with lettuce that look like it might’ve been from sometime in the late 90’s. But it was better than nothing. The couple next to me proceeded to order every sugary drink they could imagine, and I realized why Mexico’s obesity problem is starting to reach epic proportions. The flight attendants were very nice but one of them was speaking in her “flight attendant voice,” i.e. a voice you could tell she used for a job she didn’t really like dealing with less-than-grateful customers. There was an Argentinian guy across the aisle who somehow got drunk during the flight, despite the fact that I only saw him drink one beer. He wore sunglasses for 98% of the flight. When we landed in Lima it looked like an inch of stubble had grown on his face, and he seemed thoroughly hammered. I don’t know what happened.

All in all the most important thing about Interjet is something I still haven’t mentioned: the price. My flight to Lima from Guadalajara cost $175, which you can’t beat. Which means all the previously mentioned things are just luxuries. Legroom on a budget airline? Free food and alcohol? A checked bag weighing as much as a small manatee?

Which begs the question: Is Interjet really a budget airline?

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And That Was How I Left Guadalajara

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.

Sunday Night Thoughts #11

bosque los colomos

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.

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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“I’ve always considered latte art ephemeral” Another morning at Cafe Blé in Guadalajara

ble guadalajara

I come to Blé again today because even though I don’t want to come here everyday because it would be expensive, it is more or less the perfect way to start a morning. A matcha latte. A thick piece of toast slathered with butter and raspberry jam whose seeds you can taste. My seat in the corner where I’m able to observe the rest of the cafe, observe Ulises, the owner, as he goes about his business, and look out upon the street.

Ulises asks, “Can I prepare you anything?” and I say, “Lo de siempre, el latte matcha…” and then trail off. I take my seat in the corner and pull my laptop from its case, which is actually just a tattered merino wool shirt. I plug the charger into the wall and then insert the little magnetic piece that connects to the computer. I turn it on and see that the battery’s at 19%. This is probably because I was playing chess last night before I went to bed. I’ve been playing chess against the computer more lately, because I do it on an easier setting, and thus win more, and thus it’s more satisfying. Even when the computer has one second to think between moves it destroys me. And this is one of the lowest settings. But when it’s only allowed to think three moves ahead I can usually beat it.

My latcha matte comes and I comment on the design and Ulises talks about how latte art is “ephemeral” and how some people notice it and some people don’t. We talk about for-here cups and to-go cups, and how a latte having a design and being served in a ceramic cup can influence its taste, or at least our perception of its taste. I make a comment Ulises doesn’t understand and rather than I explain myself I let it linger. My Spanish feels poor this morning. I’m unable to express even the most basic things. I probably need mate, and I probably need to play chess. I’ve been playing chess and watching chess lately to the point where I see the pieces moving sometimes as I lie in bed, waiting for sleep. Supposedly, chess is becoming more popular. But isn’t that what people’ve always said? Isn’t that what people have always said about American soccer? Though that might actually be true. It is true, even if soccer’s popularity still blanches in comparison that of basketball or football. It’s hard to be an accurate judge of the popularity of something you’re involved in.

The toast Ulises serves me is almost two inches thick. I take the spoon and hack a wedge of butter onto it, and it’s real butter, not margarine. Margarine is huge in Mexico, because people think it’s healthier than butter. This, of course, is a travesty. Margarine is a disgusting mix of chemicals and oils. It tastes like refuse. It looks like refuse. It has a disgusting sheen to it, and I actually thought the butter at Blé was margarine until Ulises corrected me. Now that I know it’s real butter, it looks and tastes like real butter. I don’t know how I ever thought otherwise.

Within a few minutes the toast is gone, and the matcha latte is quick to follow. I sit back in my chair and look at the blue door across the street. I listen to the reggae or jazz or ska or whatever it is coming from the speakers. I listen to Ulises talking to a customer. They talk about expensive coffee, and I think back to the time in Buenos Aires with A where I tried the most expensive coffee I’d ever had. It was also the best. It was a Geisha bean from Panama, and it tasted sweet and caramelly.

My time in this cafe has almost run its course, and I wish I could relive it. I wish I could walk in again and order a matcha latte and slice of toast, and greedily dig into the toast as soon as it came. I could, of course, repeat this experience, but it would be disappointing. I’ll have to wait till tomorrow, or the next day. The plate that once held the toast now only holds crumbs, and the cup that once held the matcha latte now has a green stain where the steamed milk once reached. The latte art is long gone, as if it never existed. And it’s ephemeral, or we call it ephemeral, because it existed for three minutes, or less, and then was gone forever. But I wonder if everything isn’t ephemeral.

 

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Spring Break Svalbard! Or, the longest flight in the world

How much would it cost to fly between the furthest south airport in the world and the furthest north? How long would it take?

This was what I was thinking about as I lay in bed last night, in only my boxers, attempting to escape the Guadalajara heat.

But of course I couldn’t just let this question fester.

So I got to work.

ushuaia to svalbard

Too long to fit on Google Flights’ maps.

Our adventure starts on May 19th of this year in the wonderful South American city of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ushuaia is known, amongst other things, as the furthest south city in the world. Technically, Puerto Williams, Chile might be further south, but technically Puerto Williams might not be a city.

From Ushuaia we get on a $170 flight to Buenos Aires, where we stay a few days, dance a little tango, drink a little (we get mildly drunk) wine, and have dinner at 11pm, because that’s apparently the earliest it’s sociably acceptable to eat dinner in Buenos Aires on a weekend.

Now we need to get to Europe. So, we board a non-stop (!) flight from Buenos Aires to London, operated by Norwegian Air UK, on May 22nd, for just $574.

buenos aires to london norwegian

We’re getting close.

Fortunately, we only have one night in London. I say fortunately because London is expensive, and probably rainy. The very next day after arriving from Buenos Aires we get on this gorgeous, sleek flight from Heathrow to Svalbard with a sumptuous layover in Oslo, i.e, nine hours, i.e. long enough to walk to the gas station and get a hot dog, before heading to the Spring Break capital of Norway: Svalbard.

london to svalbard SAS

At 78 degrees north, Svalbard is one of the furthest north inhabited places in the world, and definitely one of the most accessible. It boasts the furthest north commercially accessible airport in the world, no work visa requirements for American citizens (as per the Treaty of Spitsbergen), and for having a law in which you must take a rifle along when leaving the city limits in case of polar bears. How many other cities do you know what have this rule? Exactly. Grab your bikini.

The total price for this jaunt, between the furthest south airport in the world and the furthest north, using the route I found last night, would be just over $900. If you bought the tickets all at once together it would cost over $2,000.

So again, grab your bikini, because: Spring break Svalbard!

 

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“When you like what you do, it’s really easy” A morning at Cafe Blé in Guadalajara, Mexico

ble cafeteria y panaderia guadalajara mexico

Photo credit: Blé’s Facebook page

I wake up at 7:11am, 19 minutes before my alarm’s set to go off. My alarm never wakes me up. I’m terrified of the sound, so I always wake up before it goes off. I lie in bed for a few moments, feeling confused. I get up to go to the bathroom, but there’s already someone there, and so I go back to my bedroom and brood. It’s a good morning for brooding. I didn’t sleep that well, I think because of all the caffeine yesterday. Yesterday I drank mate, which I had been drinking from time to time in my favorite cafe, El Rincon del Mate, but now I have a bag of the stuff, I can make it whenever I want, and so yesterday my intake was increased.

While lying in bed someone comes into the kitchen and starts making breakfast. I immediately want to strike them. How dare they make such noise. I think it’s Rodolfo. His phone beeps from time to time from (probably) messages, and I want to get up and scream at him to turn it off. But instead I lie in bed rating Instagram ads for Appen, the job I still haven’t been fired from. I rate six ads in 21 minutes, deliberately taking a long time to do so. If I rate the ads too fast I won’t work the full hour, and won’t get paid the full hour. So I take my time. I minimize my usage of my phone’s speech to text capabilities, since that generally makes things go way faster. While I’m rating I continue seething at what’s going on in the kitchen, the beeping of Rodolfo’s phone, the sound of whatever he’s frying, probably heated-up chilaquiles from the day before. And then when I’m done I get up and get dressed so fast I almost pull a leg muscle, and then storm out of the house in a huff.

And all is well.

It’s cold outside. Daylight savings just kicked in, which means what’s 7:30am used to be 6:30am, which means when I wake up it’s much colder, and in the evening it’s hotter longer. The temperature change came quick. In February it rained and I wore my hat everyday and sometimes even my wool jacket, and now every night while going to bed I lie on top of the sheet with no shirt on, covered by nothing, listening to whatever TV program my neighbors are watching. My neighbors are an older couple often visited by their wayward son who has a dog that might be a boxer or a pitbull. They  mean well, but I don’t know how conscious they are of how close I sleep to the entrance to their house. I essentially live in their living room. I can hear almost everything they say and do. I can hear when they yell at each other. I can hear the dog eating its dog food outside, and I can hear the woman filling up her bucket with water every night, though why she does this I still have no idea. I’m separated from them by a single plate of glass, and in the middle of the window there’s not even glass; it’s just a sheet of plastic. To say the neighbors and I live in close quarters would be a statement.

I get to Ble, the cafe I’ve been coming to lately, and say hi to Ulises, the owner. There’s no one there. I’ve only ever seen one customer there besides myself. We make two seconds of small talk and I order the matcha latte and slice of toast with butter and jam I get every time I come here. There’s good, hipster music playing on the speakers, which he quickly changes to something softer. I wonder if this is for my benefit.

The first thing I do when I sit down is deactivate Facebook, and then I start looking for flights. I think about where I’d like to go in 2018. I decide the following places are must-go’s: Svalbard, Norway, and Bergen, Norway. Svalbard I must visit because it’s the furthest north place in the world that has commercial flights. And Bergen because my favorite author, Karl Ove Knausgaard, lived in Bergen ( for 14 years?)  and wrote Book 5 of his series My Struggle about it. Those are the only two places I must go. There are other places I’d like to go. I’d like to go to Siberia. I’d like to get lost in a small, Russian town. I’d like to go to Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. I’d like to go to Vladivostok. I’d like to go to South Korea. I’d like to go to North Korea. I’d like to go to Bhutan. I’d like to go to Japan. I’d like to go to Little Diomede Island, and Big Diomede Island, and Quebec City, and Chicoutimi, and Ushuaia. But Bergen and Svalbard are the only places I must go.

I sit in the cafe staring out at the street, listening to the music, wondering what I’m going to do until I teach online at 2pm. I’m getting sick of teaching online. I’ve stopped planning the classes, and the quality has suffered because of it. I don’t care. These classes will run their natural course. My teaching career will run its natural course. I think I’ll always be a teacher in some capacity, from time to time, sporadically, but I think what I teach will vary, and that will allow me to keep my sanity. I think about how I have exactly a week until I leave for Lima, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I think about the chess video I’m going to watch when I get back to my apartment after Ble, the mate I’m probably going to drink, and the Instagram ads I’m going to rate. I wonder if something extraordinary will happen today. I decide it probably won’t, and the thought briefly makes me sad.

And then I get up to pay and leave.

 

A special thanks to EAW and RR for their contributions to this blog.

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Struggling

karl ove knausgaard

Sitting in Starbucks in Providencia talking to my friend R. R is a writer, as in R actually gets paid to write. I’m also a writer, in that I also get paid to write, though it’s not my full time job. Someday it will be my full time job. Of this I’m completely sure. But right now it’s not.

This morning I woke up and prepared mate. First I poured a bit of the leaves into my gourd, and then poured room temperature water over the leaves several times, not drinking it but rather spitting it into the sink to get the powder out.  The powder’s a result of the leaves being in packaging and getting ground into a fine dust; too much powder means an upset stomach. While I was doing this I heated the water, close to a boil but not quite, and then sat in the living room sipping the delicious, barn-flavored tea.

While I was sitting there I began to think about my upcoming trip to Lima. I’m staying in an Airbnb for $10 a night in a neighborhood called Magdalena del Mar, near San Ysidro, near Miraflores. Whenever I’ve gone to Lima I’ve essentially gone to the same places, i.e. Miraflores. This is where almost all tourists go. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, right on the top of the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You feel like you’re in Santa Monica, or Venice, or San Clemente, or Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz, or Pismo, or Marina del Rey, or San Onofre. But you definitely don’t feel like you’re in El Segundo.

But this time I’d like to see more of Lima. Would I like to see more of Lima? Actually, I might be pretty content just staying between Magdalena del Mar and Miraflores. My Airbnb is two blocks from the boardwalk. I envision myself taking walks every morning on the way to a cafe, smelling the Pacific Ocean.

R’s talking about how she’s thinking about buying some KOK, aka Karl Ove Knausgaard, aka the author you should be reading right now, and I said, “Have you ever read him?”

“No,” she said.

“Christ, R,” I said. “Start now.”

“Where should I start?” she said.

“Book 1.”

I think the frappuccino I just drank has started to kick in, because I feel a little jittery and a little excited. In approximately two hours I’ll feel the opposite. Is it worth is? Absolutely. Because when I get home I’ll just have a little more mate.

“I just ordered it on Amazon,” R says.

“Mother of God,” I responded.

I hope R likes his books as much as I do, though that might be impossible. I think the only who likes KOK as much as I do might be Zadie Smith, who once said, “I need his next volume like I need crack.”

Not that Zadie Smith has ever smoked crack. But you get the idea.

Brazil Visa Now Way Easier to Get The River of January awaits

brazil

As if you needed another reason to go.

The Brazilian government has recently said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Hey, remember how our visa used to be super annoying (you had to get it before leaving the country) and also super expensive? Well, we decided that was lame, so now instead of charging $200 we’re only gonna charge $40. Oh, and also: You can get it online. What do you guys think?”

To which any of us in our right minds responded: Shit yes, how many sick days can I take this year?

Having to get the visa beforehand and also the price are the two things that’ve prevented me from going to Brazil all these years. I did go for one night during the 2016 Olympics, when the visa requirement was briefly waived. I crossed the border from Uruguay to a place called Jaguarao, where I stayed a few nights illegally, waiting for the veritable free-for-all the would be the lifting of the visa requirement. Actually, this didn’t happen (the free-for-all). In fact, the border control guys looked confused at first, but then the guy in charge reminded them that it was open season for foot-loose and fancy free Americans, and they stamped my passport and let me through.

(The best part of my time in Brazil was by far the bus ride to a city called Pelotas where I met two Mormon missionaries who sort of tried to convert me, to which I said, “Let the conversion begin.” But then, if I remember correctly, we couldn’t go into the center where they lived/worked because there had to be a man present and there was no one around. So I ended up getting the next bus out of there.

The second best part of the trip was seeing massive capybara alongside the road on the bus back to Uruguay the very next day).

“Why have you not tried feijoada yet?”

Why would you want to go to Brazil? Sorry to answer a question with a question, but: Have you tried feijoada? Have you listened to spoken Brazilian Portuguese? Have you seen the white-sand beaches with warm and only in some places (massively) polluted water? Have you seen pictures of Fernando de Noronha, the island paradise I, with the statue of Christ the Redeemer as my witness, will one day visit?

If you’re ready to take advantage of this thrice in a lifetime opportunity, the first step is to visit this website from Brazil Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You DO NOT need to go through an agency to get the visa. You DO NOT need help getting it. You can do it all through this website via the online form. The visa fee is $40, plus $4.24 in processing fees, for a total of $44.24. It’s good for 90 days.

The newfound ease in getting the Brazil visa might represent a general trend in ease of travel for US passport holders in South America. Argentina lifted their (once $160) reciprocity fee in March of 2016, as has Chile, though it still exists for Bolivia ($160), and Paraguay ($160).

The change from $200 to $44 is not insignificant, but the ease is even more attractive. Now, there’s no reason for anyone of us not to have a brief but terrifying encounter with a pitviper in the next few months. Or at the very least stroll the beaches of Copacabana and consume a heaping plate of feijoada.

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Sunday Night Thoughts #10 Taking advantage of new subtitle capabilities.

Chilling at home in Guadalajara after four nights in a small town near Ciudad Guzman, next to the Colima Volcano. It’s strange to be back in GDL, which after almost three months sort of feels like home. Emphasis on the “sort of.” There’s only one place that truly feels like home for me. It’s the Northwest corner of United States, and specifically the Northwest corner of the Northwest corner of the United States. I won’t give it away completely, but its name rhymes with “Preattle.”

A week from Tuesday I head to the South American capital of Lima, where my life, at least for the first couple weeks, will probably continue much like it has the last few months in GDL. I’ll do my Instagram job, I’ll teach online, I’ll walk around, I’ll go to cafes. But then after Lima I’m hoping to get off the beaten path a bit. So far the top two destinations in mind are Bolivia and Brazil. Brazil recently made their visa for Americans much cheaper, and much easier to get. Before it cost around $200 USD and you had to get it before leaving the country. Now it costs $44 and you can get it online. So, the Amazon?

I still really want this blog to be successful, and to do that I think I need to start doing more things worth writing about. Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” To be honest, I’ve been a bit frustrated with how slow the progress with this blog is going, and I’m not exactly sure what to do. A writer friend of mine said I should make a decision: Either make it super introspective, first person narrative, basically embracing the journal angle to the fullest, or write things that people might find useful, like travel tips, reviews, etc. So far Ordinary Nomad has been kind of a mix. When it comes to blogging, I don’t really know what I’m doing, despite having done it for a long time. I know what I’m doing when it comes to traveling. I know how to find the cheapest flights, good, cheap lodging, good restaurants and cafes, and I have an ability to get myself into interesting situations, in places most people don’t go. But so far it hasn’t translated to blogging success. And it’s frustrating.

I’m waiting for my pizza to come, which is sausage and black olive. This is my new Sunday tradition. I order a pizza and I sit watching an episode of Black Mirror, or YouTube chess videos. In El Fresnito I played a lot of chess, against the computer, because at night there wasn’t much else to do. And thank God there wasn’t much to do. The best moments this weekend consisted of lying in the grass and looking up at that clouds.

I hope this post finds all of you well, wherever you are in your corners of the world. I like to imagine where you are, you few readers, when you read this. New York? Seattle? Somewhere in the Philippines? This blog, weirdly, gets a small trickle of traffic from the Philippines. I have no idea why.

I awoke this morning full of hope for April and for the future, and that hope continues. It was right around the height of this hope that I took the picture featured on this entry, from a bus window, of the Nevado de Colima. I realize the horizon line is tilted. But I like this photo because it’s ordinary. Even if that’s something I don’t want this blog to be.

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Can I Get a For-Here Cup? Flying too close to the sun at Cafe Lapso in Ciudad Guzman, Mexico.

Ciudad Guzman, located an hour and a half south of Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, is supposedly fresa. Fresa is the Mexican word for posh or snobby. It’s usually possible to tell if someone is fresa by the way they talk. This is especially true in Mexico City, where the fresa accent is generally very nasal and makes you want to stick an ice pick in your ears.

One place that’s undoubtedly fresa in Ciudad Guzman is a cafe/bookstore called Lapso. It’s fresaness is reflected in the prices and the fact that 70% of the clientele order frappuccinos. It’s fresaness is reflected in the hipster music coming from the speakers, and the beautiful courtyard in the back, complete with plants, fountain, and a winged statue of Icarus.

There’s something extra special about courtyards in Mexico, because usually they’re somewhat unexpected, and a welcome respite from the chaos of the street. Lapso’s courtyard is one of the most peaceful I’ve ever visited. One could be forgiven for coming here, ordering a cappuccino, and spending six or seven hours listening to the birds and basking in the greenness of the plants.

Getting this for-here cup was a battle.

My only gripe with Cafe Lapso is that it lacks identity. The cafe area inside makes you feel one way, the bookstore another, and the courtyard in the back yet another. For example: When sitting in the courtyard I feel as if all is right in the world, and a little bit like I’ve just entered the Garden of Eden and will soon be ashamed of my nakedness after biting into a pomegranate and talking to a snake. But in the cafe area inside I feel like I’m in a cafe that’s trying to be cool and mostly failing. And in the bookstore area I feel angry, because there aren’t any Roberto Bolaño books.

Upon ordering I asked if I could have my cappuccino in a for-here cup, so as not to waste paper. I was dismayed to learn they didn’t have any, but then the employee informed me I could use one of the employee cups.

“OK,” I said.

“But just so you know,” she said, “If you come in the afternoon my co-workers probably won’t do it. Because if someone overhears you they might want a for-here cup, too.”

“OK,” I said.

While she was making the coffee I looked for the Bolaño books and, upon not seeing any, began muttering mild profanities under my breath. But then the cappuccino was ready and I made my way to the courtyard and all was peaceful. The sun had just retreated behind the building. From my corner I could see the statue of Icarus, standing in the middle of the courtyard and thus fully-exposed to the sun’s rays. The cappuccino started to kick in and my brain started to accelerate. I started having grandiose thoughts, thinking about traveling to exotic locations around the world. Even though my body remained below, mentally I started to leave the courtyard and soar overhead. Suddenly, I was a bird. Anything was possible .The world below was just a distant memory. I flew higher and higher, screaming with delight. But then I noticed something was keeping me from flying higher, and that’s also when I noticed the blazing sun, and felt the wax dripping down my back.

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