The (Great) Secret


“Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know that is happening we are fort, fifty, sixty…”Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle Book 1

Lying in bed this morning, I have a choice to make: keep going with the tradition of posting one post every weekday at 9am Pacific time, or possibly write something better and more polished but don’t post until later.

I elect to go with the former.

Wednesdays are my big day, my teaching day, where I teach at Vancouver Language Centre and make almost no money, then teach at the US Consulate and make almost no money. I don’t know why I’m still doing these jobs. I took them because I wanted to see the inside of the consulate, and because I wanted to mingle with people from the consulate. And I’m sure the consulate is paying Vancouver Language Centre a good wage, but what they’re paying me is despicable. It’s offensive. But at the same time I don’t want to put my two weeks in just yet. Because while it’s offensive, it’s something. The days I teach class in person are my best days.

I get out of bed to go turn on the hot water heater so I can take a shower hopefully before my first class, which is online with a girl in Alicante, Spain. Rodolfo — I think this house was his great-grandmother’s — is directly outside my room making noise. It’s as if his only goal in this moment is to make noise. I open the door and he’s standing there crumpling a plastic bag. “Buenos dias, Mark,” he says. Usually he says, “Que hay, Mark?” I’ve never heard anyone else in Mexico greet in this manner. It’s an antiquated way of saying, “What’s going on?”

This house isn’t perfect but I don’t want to leave it yet because I’m going to Sayulita near Puerto Vallarta next week and don’t want to have to pay for a place here in GDL while I’m gone. The other day I found a nicer place that’s in a much nicer area and costs about the same, but I don’t want to pull the trigger just yet. I want to pull the trigger when I get back from the beach. Because it’s strange: Even though my current place is kind of awful in some respects, I’ve grown attached to it. I know how everything works and where everything is. Rodolfo and Adriana, the owners, are good people. I have my seat in the living room  where I sit in so much you can see an imprint of my ass. I’m adverse to change.

Last night after captioning a 55-minute documentary about surfers and sharks I walked to the Soriana and, deviating from my new “rule” about not drinking on weekdays, bought a 16oz. “Vampiro,” tequila mixed with Sangria and lots of sugar, and came back and stood drinking it with Rodolfo and Adriana in the courtyard. I told them about the time I was in Alaska walking behind a brown bear carrying a pistol. The point of the story was to get them excited about Alaska, to tell them how beautiful it was, but the whole time I couldn’t stop thinking they might not even be that interested, and that my fluency in Spanish when telling stories might leave something to be desired.

The water is probably hot so I get out of bed. This is one of my favorite times of day, showering. The water pressure is abominable but the temperature is hot and study. After drying off I go to my room and see a message from Maria, who asks if we can have the class 15 minutes later. When I woke up this morning I secretly hoped one of my students from the consulate would cancel so my day would be a little less stressful, so I’d have more time to prepare for classes, since if the consulate people cancel I still get paid. But these extra 15 minutes are good, too. I bring my computer out to the living room to sit in my customary seat, and Maria is already online. She tells me about her husband’s routine, practicing the -s ending on third person singular in simple present. He getS up at 7am. He takeS care of the babies. He prepareS the formula. Spanish speakers, even advanced ones, are terrible with this. I still don’t know why. English conjugation is not hard. There is only one change to remember.

The class with Maria goes well but could’ve gone better. After saying bye I look at my phone again, and there’s a message from one of my consulate students saying her daughter’s sick and she won’t be able to make it to class today. I let out an almost audible whoop of joy, and then instantly feel bad because I’m essentially celebrating a child being sick.

But this gives me time to go to Starbucks and drink my customary Youthberry tea and work on the blog. This gives me time to prepare for my 11pm classes, and to have breakfast. This gives me time to re-read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Saga, published in The New York Times Magazine, and find a quote for this entry (even though I end up choosing a different quote). This gives me time to go over to the internet cafe and print out some activities on the Spanish subjunctive. This gives me all the time in the world, and makes me realize the quote from Lao Tzu is right:

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.


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