El Mono Silabo

mono silabo guadalajara

I’m at el Mono Silabo, a cafe in the Americana neighborhood in Guadalajara. I’d never come to this cafe before because it’s two doors down from El Rincon del Mate, the one mate cafe in Guadalajara and possibly in all of Mexico, and where I go at least several times a week. But today El Rincon del Mate doesn’t open till 2:30pm, so I thought I’d give this place a shot.

I’m glad I did. When I walked in there was Cuban music playing, and the courtyard was awash with light and people talking. Guadalajara is full of buildings like this; they don’t look like much from the outside, but inside there’s always an open air courtyard filled with plants, and the sounds of the street become a memory. Sometimes there’s a fountain, and always the din of soft music and conversation. El Mono Silabo has a big room off to the side that’s filled with floor to ceiling windows that let in the breeze, and also shelves of books. I love being surrounded by books. It feeds my soul, much like the jugo verde, or green juice I just ordered, that feeds my body.

I just finished giving my last English conversation class on Saturdays. This was the first job I ever had here when I arrived a month and a half ago. I’ll tell you what it paid now, because it’s over and I’m less embarrassed. Fifty pesos an hour. I’ll let you do the math. When you do you’ll see why I referred to it as my “volunteer job,” but when I accepted this job it was because I knew it was the right thing to do. The pay was secondary. It was a way to hit the ground running (see: jogging [see: slowly]), to meet people, to have meaningful interactions. And it’s also opened doors. I’m now one of two Spanish teachers at the American Consulate here, which is another job I accepted at the same company because I figured it might open doors. I’m still not quite sure what doors these might be. So far it’s just another underpaid job. But it’s also cool to meet people from the consulate, to see that world, and if I hadn’t accepted that job that never would’ve happened.

The reason I quit the English conversation job is because I now have a lot more online work, and this work pays over three times as much as what the Saturday conversation class was paying. This is not to say it pays a lot, because it doesn’t, but it pays a respectable wage for Mexico. I’m still not in the financial position to get my own place. I spent all of my savings in Sayulita, so I’ll have to wait till mid March, unless I somehow sell an article to the New York Times or other such massive publication, which might be hard since I’m not submitting articles to such publications. But I have this strange feeling that I’m going to come into a decent amount of money soon. Have you ever had that feeling? It’s a good feeling. It reminds me of the J.D. Salinger quote:  “I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”

That’s kind of how I feel right now.

I’m debating whether or not to order a coffee, or a frappe, but really just enjoying the music that’s drifting in from the adjacent courtyard. My nostrils are being intermittently assaulted by some kind of sewage smell from the street, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I’m supposed to work on my novel today, at least 1,000 words, and I can’t be bothered. All I want to do is take a nap. Which is fine. Because it’s Saturday, and Saturday’s in Mexico are for cafes and naps.

Crucial information: 
El Mono Silabo
Calle Miguel Blanco 1405, Guadalajara
See photos

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A Day in Purgatory, or, First Classes at the US Consulate in Guadalajara

“Ay, las casualidades,” dijo Quim respirando a pleno pulmón, como el titán de la calle Revillagigedo, “valen verga las casualidades. A la hora de la verdad todo está escrito. A eso los pinches griegos lo llamaban destino.” — Los Detectives Salvajes

Yesterday I had my first class in the US consulate. This is a class I give, not a class I take. I would like to take German classes here in Guadalajara, or French classes, but right now I don’t have the money. Which means right now the only classes I participate in are the ones I give, the ones where I take impressionable minds from around the world and forge them into pillars of virtue. I teach two days a week. The pay is terrible. As in, so terrible I don’t want to tell you because I’m embarrassed. But I took these jobs because I needed something. When you arrive in a new place, you need to get your proverbial hoof through the proverbial sliding door. In Mexico that door is easy to open, but shuts just as easily. So when I heard the word “teaching in the consulate,” I said, “I’m in.”

To get through security I had to do the following things:

  1. Take off my belt
  2. Turn off my cell phone and hand it to them along with my computer and the charger for my computer
  3. Give them my headphones
  4. Make pleasant conversation
  5. Remark on how I was in the netherworld that exists between two countries, my favorite world.

After security I walked up a short pathway outside that led into a sort of quarantine chamber. There’s no better way to describe it. Sure it’s comfortable and air conditioned and there are nice seats, but it’s still purgatory. The only way you can actually get into the consulate is if someone comes and get you. So I sat there. And then, after about 10 minutes, a balding guy with a sallow face came and got me.

We made small talk. He told me about life in the consulate and life as a diplomat. My eyes light up a bit whenever he said the word “diplomat.” Oh, how I crave to be a diplomat! But not so much because of the job. No, no, I don’t care about the job. I want to be a diplomat so I can have a diplomatic passport, so I can have diplomatic license plates, but more than anything so I can tell people, “I’m a diplomat.” Sometimes I sit in my room, the lights off, just saying the word “diplomat.”




I was led into a room where I’d teach my class. On the wall was a big map of Guadalajara. I like maps. My student finally came in, and I immediately liked him. Not only was his Spanish surprisingly good for relatively little study, he also spoke fluent Russian. I don’t care what anyone says, Russian is one of the most badass languages you can speak. Think of the different languages you might consider badass. Hindi? No. Thai? Ha. Arabic? Getting warmer. And then there’s Russian, the most badass of them all. Why is this? Maybe it just sounds badass to English speakers. Or maybe just to me.

The class was relatively unremarkable. My student seemed to like it when we impersonated a psychiatrist/patient, and then after the class he walked me back to the quarantine room. “I have to walk you out,” he said.

The security guard wouldn’t give me my driver’s license back at first, and was just pointing at me. He kept pointing at my chest. What does this guy want? I thought. And then I realized I was still wearing my visitor’s badge. I handed it to him under the glass and he gave me back my driver’s license. As I walked away he laughed and started to sing, and I realized that this is what happens when you exit purgatory.

“Pero te vas a arrepentir….”

Completely unrelated note: I realized you have to have PayPal Pro to receive recurring donations. Which costs something like $10 a month. Which I’m not going to pay for. So right now if you want to support Ordinary Nomad the two options are: Make a lump, gross donation on PayPal. Or sponsor me on Patreon for $1, $3, or $5 dollars a month. Or just support me spiritually, which might even be better. Money is the root of all evil. But also the root of delicious sandwiches and the latte I’m probably going to have today. 

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