Lazy Lima Days

As of today I’ve been in Lima for five days. I got here on Tuesday, April 10th, 2018. I plan to stay at least until next Saturday, at which point I might go north to Trujillo to surf the legendary left-point Chicama, or head to the sierra, or head south to Chile.

Magdalena del Mar, Lima, Peru.

The thing I’ve liked about Lima so far is there’s almost always been someone to hang out with, whether it be Clara, the Airbnb hostess, her cousin Gabriela, or Cristina, one of the other guests. This is something I didn’t have in Mexico. In Mexico I spent most of my time by myself, watching videos on YouTube or walking around between various cafes, consuming, consuming, consuming. Not that I don’t consume here. Right now, for example, I’m consuming an instant coffee. I like instant coffee. I like being able to appreciate ultra-premium, fresh-roasted, 0.5 origin coffee, but I also like being able to appreciate coffee crystals that come from a jar you mix with hot water and a little bit of sugar. You have to mix instant coffee with sugar. Otherwise it tastes like battery acid.

lima corridor apartments

Lima has lots of buildings like that where to get to the individual apartments you have to walk down a long corridor. A bit like a motel.

Yesterday Cristina and I made arepas, by which I mean she made arepas, and I mostly watched. We didn’t have the right flour. To make arepas you need a kind of flour called harina pan, and we bought regular cornflour, which meant the arepas were considerably harder and denser than they should’ve been. It was a bit like biting into a two by six, albeit smothered with butter and cheese. In other words, not that bad.

la putna, lima, peru

Swimming at La Punta. Lima, Peru.

Yesterday I tried a new cafe called Puka Puka, located in the San Isidro neighborhood. I didn’t like it at first. It was hot and stuffy inside. I took my americano outside, began to bake in the sun, and then when I went inside they’d turned the air conditioning on. It was mildly life-changing. I grabbed an edition of The New Yorker they had hanging from the magazine rack. I nourished my brain. And I thought, I could stay here for several days. But then eventually I got bored and left.

A medium-rise apartment building in San Isidro, Lima, Peru, South America.

One thing I like about Lima, specifically about the San Isidro and Miraflores neighborhoods, are the parks. The parks are definitely neighborhood parks, in that the apartment buildings go up to the very edge of the park, and the parks are gated and only open during the day. They’re little oases in the midst of residential and urban(e) sprawl. Though Miraflores and San Isidro is tranquil urban sprawl. They’re gorgeous neighborhoods, but I don’t know if I prefer them to Magdalena del Mar, where I’m staying. Magdelena del Mar at least feels like Peru. San Isidro feels like Walnut Creek, California, which in some ways is wonderful, and in some ways boring.

It always feels like summer in La Punta. Lima, Peru.

I’ve decided to stop thinking of Sundays as “Sundays,” or as a day of rest. Why should they be any different? In the past I’ve used Sundays as a way to shirk responsibilities, and as a way to justify doing whatever I please. I’ve used them to justify sloth, gluttony. But there’s no reason Sundays should be any different. There’s no reason I shouldn’t write on Sundays. In fact, I should write even more. Sunup to sundown. With breaks only for instant coffee.

And now I should probably leave the house. I need to do my pull-ups. I’m almost up to five. I was looking at pictures of me in Costa Rica from 2012 and almost didn’t recognize myself. I had muscles. And now I’ve withered away, almost to nothing. Which means I must go out and do pull-ups. And seize the beautiful Lima afternoon.

With just a $1 a month sponsorship you can help me realize my dream of traveling and blogging full time. Join 12 other Patrons at:

Become a Patron!

“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.

 

Do you like blogs? Support this one:

Become a Patron!

 

 

“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.

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

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.

Consider, for a moment, for a nano-second, a mere wrinkle in time, making a small donation to this blog and helping me to realize my dream of traveling and blogging full time:

Become a Patron!

Presidente Mujica

“Either you’re happy with very little, without all that extra baggage, because happiness is inside you, or you don’t get anywhere.” – Jose Mujica

I have a new idol. A new hero. And his name is Jose “Pepe” Mujica, the former president of Uruguay. How did it take me so long to listen to this guy, to learn what he was all about?

If you’re not familiar with Jose Mujica, the first thing you could do is watch this video:

And then after that you could watch this video:

And then, if you speak Spanish, you could watch the best video of them all:

And then finally, if you really want to know more, you could watch this video:

When Presidente Mujica was in office, he donated 90% of his salary to charity. Instead of having a presidential plane, he spent that money on having a rescue helicopter located in the middle of Uruguay that could respond at a moment’s notice to people in dire need. And then you look at (if you’re American)…our president. And you want to cry. You see the things that he thinks are important, like fighting with people on Twitter…and you want to cry. You hear that he doesn’t read books, or read at all for that matter….and you want to cry. And you think about all the people that voted for him, all the people that thought, I have options, BUT THIS IS THE PERSON I THINK SHOULD BE THE LEADER OF MY NATION…and you don’t want to cry. You want to weep.

I don’t usually talk about politics because when it comes to politics I’m very ignorant. But I will say this: The earth would be paradise if people just did the following: take only what they need, and nothing more. This was and is the message of president Jose Mujica. I am as guilty of this as anyone, of consuming more than I need. But another message from president Mujica is that the most important thing (the only important thing) is not to give up. If you want something to change it doesn’t matter no matter how many times you try and fail, only that after the 1,145th (or 2,900th, or 8.623rd) failure, you get up again for another try.

On that note I’m going to go out and get a coffee, i.e. participate in more consumption, and probably berate myself because of it. But I’m not going to give up.

A Cafe Dedicated to Cats

el gato cafe guadalajara

Imagine a restaurant dedicated to cats. It might be difficult, since you might wonder why anyone in their right mind (or any frame of mind) would dedicate a restaurant to cats. But that’s indeed what’s happened at El Gato Cafe, a half block from the famed neo-gothic cathedral El Expiatorio, in Gaudalajara, Mexico.

Now imagine spending time at this cafe, eating there, perusing the menu. This was the situation I found myself in the other day. I’d seen El Gato Cafe on Google Maps, where  it has an extremely high 4.8/5 rating, and since I spend 98% of my waking hours in cafes I figured I should check it out.

I went at 3:30pm, certainly not the most happening time of day, and besides the waiter standing there looking expectant, and Elton John music drifting from the speakers, there wasn’t much going on. I sat down and began paging through the menu, which brought to mind an unabridged volume of War and Peace or other such Slavic tome. I’d never seen so many coffee drinks, and all of them seemingly similar. There was the Iced Cafe Mocha on one page, and then halfway down the same page the Iced Coffee Mocha. On the same page there was also a Cappuccino with Chocolate, a Coffee with Mexican Chocolate, and something like an Iced Mocha with Mexican Chocolate (I don’t remember exactly, since I have the memory of a turtle). I opted for the Hot Chocolate with Shot of Coffee, and as the waiter was walking away I said, “Actually, can I have it cold?” He didn’t bat an eye.

I immediately noticed a curious thing about the tables at El Gato Cafe. They’re all equipped with buttons so you can page the waiter. He said, “Press it for three seconds and I’ll come right over,” which seemed a bit excessive since there was no one there and I’m pretty sure even from across the room he could hear the sound of me breathing. I noticed there was also a button labeled “Surprise,” which seemed mysterious to say the least. Letting my curiosity get the better of me, I started reaching for the surprise button, and as I reached for it I noticed the waiter eyeing me while he reached for what looked liked a clown mask and a meat clever. I put my my hand down, and he went back to making my drink.

My beverage came, which was, strangely, exactly what I’d asked for. It was a hot chocolate, with a shot of espresso, and at the last second it’d been made cold, as if an afterthought, much how I’d ordered it. I sat back and listened to the music, which had changed from Elton John to something worse. I kept on looking at the menu, since there’s not much else to do when you’re at a cat-themed cafe by yourself. I noticed many of the drinks and food items had cat-themed names, none of which I can remember now. One of them had the word “Miauuu” in it.

I finished the drink in about four seconds, since I have the self control of a Labrador retriever. Then I paid for the drink, which was prohibitively expensive, and exited out to the street and back to El Expiatorio, where they sell tamales for 17 pesos, or, less than a dollar. It was nice to be out of a cat-themed place and into a place that was cathedral-themed, or street-themed, or tamale-themed, or normal-themed, or anything else-themed, a considerable improvement from El Gato Cafe.

Support this blog:
Become a Patron!

The 5 Best Cafes in Guadalajara (so far)

el rincon del mate guadalajara miguel blanco

These are my five favorite cafes in Guadalajara so far. I say “so far” because I’ve only lived here for two months. Still, when you go to cafes everyday, two months is a decent amount of time. The criteria I’ve used are atmosphere, price, quality, and staff, though not necessarily in that order (though definitely in that order). 

5. El Monosílabo

mono silabo guadalajara

Atmosphere: 4
Price: 4
Quality: 3
Staff: 4

Located in the exact neighborhood where I want to live, near El Rincon del Mate (see lower on list) and the famed Expiatorio, Guadalajara’s most magnificent neo-gothic cathedral. Like many old houses in GDL, this one contains a wonderful inner courtyard patio where the sounds of the street drift in and are filtered by the murmur of happy clients and cheap, fairly delicious frappes.

What to order: chilaquiles with a coffee frappe. 

4. Palreal: La Pura Crema

palreal cafe guadalajara mercado mexico

Atmosphere: 3
Price: 2
Quality: 5
Staff: N/A

Full disclosure: I’ve only been here once, and that one time was yesterday, but even getting an iced americano was enough to know their product is second to none (and third to none, for that matter). The good thing about Palreal is it’s got beautiful wooden, richly-finished picnic tables which are perfectly positioned for the breeze. The bad thing is it’s in Mercado Mexico, which is essentially a mall.

What to order: An iced americano. 

3. La Teteria

la teteria guadalajara

Atmosphere: 4
Price: 3
Quality: 4
Staff: 5

I dedicated a previous post to this place’s matcha frappes. They’re sweet, they’re cold, and drinking one is a little bit what I imagine injecting heroin might be like. Which makes me wonder if I might somehow be able to inject a matcha frappe. Does anyone know how to do an IV?

The staff here are wonderful, especially Gustavo, an Argentinian expat I often have extended conversations with, about Argentina, about Guadalajara, about mate, and about working online. Come for a matcha frappe, stay for an afternoon.

What to order: Duh.

2. El Terrible Juan

el terrible juan guadalajara

Atmosphere: 5
Price: 4
Quality: 5
Staff: 3

It’s a sad realization when a place is cooler than you. You walk in, you sit down, and you think, Damn, everyone here is so cool. Then you look down at your undershirt which is stained from the hydrogen peroxide you used to treat your ear last week at the beach. You look at your laptop bag, which is actually an old grocery bag. And you think, Wait a minute, can I actually be here? Am I going to be out-cooled to the point where I have to just leave? But you stay anyway, and talk to the cute waitress, and order a Chemex and write a blog post.

And that’s basically my experience every time I go to El Terrible Juan cafe.

What to order: Any of the specialty preparations with any of the beans. Also, try the lonche de cochinita

1. El Rincón del Mate

el rincon del mate guadalajara

Atmosphere: 5
Price: 4
Quality: 4
Staff: 5

Prepare to check your worries and preoccupations at the door, and spend a magical hour (or two, or three), sipping on South American tea and listening to the gurgle of a fountain. El Rincon del Mate is located just up the street from El Monosilabo, also in the Expiatorio neighborhood. I come here almost everyday. If they rented rooms, I’d live here. If they rented showers, I’d bathe here. Maybe one day they’ll hire me, and all will be right in the world.

What to order: A mate clasico with a tarta (quiche) de portobello. If you’re in the mood for something sweet or unique try the terere or the mate mocha.

If you know of any other cafes in Guadalajara that are amazing please leave a 500-3000 word comment in the comments section. Any comment of lesser word count will be categorically rejected.

A special thanks to all of these cafes for providing inspiration and thus supporting this “blugh.”

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

The Passion?

bogota colombia efficiency

I’ve been having an internal battle lately about whether I need to be more “positive” in my writing. And so I have been more positive, and I think my writing’s been OK, but I also think it’s been a bit…boring. 

This morning I was looking through my old blog A Finnish Summer! to see if there was something I could recycle, and I came across a post I wrote while in Bogota, Colombia, in 2014. It was a rant about the inefficiency in Bogota, a city of nine million people where (according to me at the time) efficiency doesn’t exist. 

I read the whole article and was mildly entertained. And then I tried to look for a something else because I feared this article was too “negative.” With each subsequent post I stopped reading after the first or second paragraph. And then I thought: Wait a minute, I just read that whole article about Bogota. And I didn’t have to force myself to read it. I wanted to read it. Maybe it was a bit negative, but at least it was engaging. It least it was honest. 

So maybe my writing needs to be more polarizing. A lot of times I filter myself because I don’t want to sound ignorant or offend people. But it’s OK to say how you feel, as long as you’re respectful and articulate.   Am I really only going to ever play it safe? Am I playing it safe? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and would love to know what you, the readers, the think. So if you’ve never left a comment, today might be a day to do so.

For now, here’s that post about Bogota, written February 21, 2014. 

The “B” in Bogota

(Ed’s note: I have no idea why I titled it this)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written for Finnish Summer.  I wish I was in Finland right now.  I wish I was anywhere but in Bogota.  I need a vacation.  I’m sick of the lack of eficiency here.  If you’re going to be on the beach drinking coconut water and surfing, inefficiency is the name of the game (though actually not with surfing, as that would probably involved trying to paddle your board with floaties on your arms or dragging a parachute behind you or something ridiculous like that).  But when you’re in a city of 9 million people, you expect there to be some form of efficiency, somewhere.  And yet there’s not.  Everything is ridiculous in this country.  Today I officially quit my job.  Normally when you end a contract I imagine it might be customary to get a form signed by your boss or some kind of person in charge saying that the contract is over.  And I had to do that.  I also had to get another formed signed by about 10 other people saying that they were “at peace” with me and that I didn’t owe them anything and that as far as they were concerned I could leave.  How ridiculous is this?  Is this not the very reason hierarchy exists, to avoid situations like this, so that a person in charge can make important decisions without having to consult with every person who works at the company?  There was a spot on the form for the cafeteria staff to sign.  The cafeteria staff!  In other words, there was a spot on the form for the lovely lady who gave us tea and coffee and poundcake at 430pm everyday to sign saying that I didn’t owe her any napkins or that I didn’t accidentally take seconds of the coffee.  Riculous.  Insane.  Welcome to Colombia.

This country seems to pride itself on paperwork and appearances.  For anything official there must be myriad documents to sign.  It must be a process.  It must be difficult.  Because “that’s how things are supposed to be”.  Or at least people think that’s how things are supposed to be.  When you go to the park you see people working out with personal trainers doing ridiculously easy and ineffectual exercises with all kinds of equipment like medicine balls and surgical tubing that maybe target one to two muscles to 4% of their capacity, and yet that’s how it’s supposed to be.  You’re not supposed to work out.  You’re supposed to look like you’re working out.  You’re not supposed to be a businessman.  You’re supposed to wear a suit and a tie and shiny black shoes and look like a businessman.  The work is completely independent.  Appearances are everything here.

Should I come here just to bash the culture?  Probably not.  However, I think it’s natural to compare your culture to that of the culture you’re living in.  Obviously you’re not going to be OK with everything.  And you might even be a little unreasonably judgmental at times.  I do not dislike Colombia.  I really like Colombia.  And for the most part, I really like Colombians.  This is a beautiful country with beautiful people, it just has a ton of problems.  What country doesn’t?  There are some things I will get used to,but there are some things to which I probably won’t.  I don’t need to go to Finland, but I do need to go on vacation, which is why my friend Steve and I are going to Villavicencio next weekend, a place where (apparently) the air is warm and the rumba and steak flows like wine.  I don’t want to become jaded, because no one likes a jaded person.  And no one likes a person who criticizes things only to be guilty of the same things themselves.  And I realize that many times when we hate something we are really hating something that exists inside of us.  I realize this.  I am fully aware.

But the cafeteria lady?  Give me a break….

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

The Best Cafe in Guadalajara

Guadalajara has plenty of becoming places to eat and sip, or so it would seem after my short sojourn here. Much of the time I’ve been here has been spent traipsing around the Bosque de la primavera, an hour and twenty four minutes west of GDL, so my knowledge of the city still leaves a tremendous amount to be desired.

My favorite cafe so far is called El Terrible Juan, located in Colonia America, near the school where I teach, near the American Consulate where I also teach, and near Chapultepec, the most famous area in GDL for nightlife, gastronomy, and restaurants and cafes.

The reason I like El Terrible Juan is one I can’t tell you. It’s embarrassing. But the reason I WILL  tell you is because I like the sandwiches, and because the outside seating area is like sitting in a garden. You’re surrounded by vines and howler monkeys and other creatures of the jungle (minus everything but the vines), and you think at any point an ivy tendril might caress your hand and say, “Come, climb to the canopy with me! Climb! Before it’s too late!”

But the best part of El Terrible Juan, if you’re me at least, is the latte art. Or the lattes. Or the art. One thing I don’t like about this place is how many foreigners there are there. I hear way too much English being spoken, though to be fair, mostly it’s by me. I have yet to enact my “Spanish or Nahuatl Only” rule, but when I do I imagine life will get much more interesting. I imagine this blog will also be harder to read, since I don’t speak Nahuatl, and you probably don’t either. Nahuatl was the language spoken by the Aztecs, and is still (if my numbers are correct, and they always are) spoken by over a million people in Mexico. As far as I know, Nahuatl is not a tonal language like Mixe or Cantonese. In retrospect, I wish I had studied Mixe in Oaxaca instead of Zapoteco, because Mixe sounds prettier than Zapoteco. One must never underestimate the importance of tones. Tonal languages are, as anyone who’s ever hear Thai country music knows, the most beautiful. The most beautiful language that’s not tonal would probably be Finnish, followed in a close second by German. German, as anyone who’s ever heard an angry man spitting while he speaks it, is also a gorgeous, lilting tongue.

But I got off track. The  coffee! The latte art! The vines!

Sex and Coffee in Bogota

It looks like a sex shop.  It has a bright red facade with the words “Amor perfecto” (“Perfect Love”) in white lettering and a little sign on top that depicts only a heart.  Indeed, if I hadn’t been told explicitly on several occasions that it wasn’t a sex shop, I’d probably still think it was.

I go there for the first time with my Swiss computer programmer roommate Victor.  Victor gets a latte and I an aeropress. We sit in one of the booths, which is the color of a bouquet of roses.  The seats are a little too close together.  It’s a little too intimate.  I don’t remember exactly what we talked about.  I think we might’ve talked about Africa.

The coffee looks exquisite.  It’s served in a glass carafe and has an opaque quality, as if Monet accidentally spilled the contents of his palette into a jar and mixed them until they were brown.  It tastes exquisite, too — it has that plant-like, almost tea-like flavor that I associate with good coffee.  It’s not even in the same league as the tinto (drip) that’s usually served in Colombia.  I would argue that tinto shouldn’t even be called coffee.  It’s like piling a mound of snow in your backyard and calling it a ski resort.  No, this cup of coffee is the real deal. Finally, Colombia.  Finally.

Victor and I continue to talk about Lord-knows-what.  I remember saying at least three times, “Dude, this place looks like a sex shop.  They need to change the entry.”  I like Victor — he’s a real snake in the grass.  He’s smart and modest and insightful.  Plus he has a ponytail.  And not a ponytail to be cool — he just likes having a ponytail.

On the way out I ask the guy working if the differences between the different methods of coffee preparation — V60, chemex, syphon, aeropress, French press — are really that noticeable.

“If you were blindfolded,” I say, “could you tell the difference?”

“What do you know about blindfolds?” he says, winking, while the female employee produces a short leather whip and what appear to be wrist cuffs.

Actually, this doesn’t happen.  The guy says, “Oh, absolutely.  For instance, the difference between an aeropress and a French press? Massive.”

Sure, buddy, I want to say, but instead just nod my head and say, “Oh.”

Outside, Victor starts down the street toting his ponytail.  I stop again to admire the heinous facade and think again, They really need to change that.  At least include the word coffee somewhere. As we’re walking away I think I hear the crack of a whip and the shrill call of female laughter, but it might just be the screech of brakes on Carrera 4.  I trot to catch up with Victor, leaving Bogota’s best sex — coffee shop behind.