A Demon in the Forest? El Nevado de Colima Attempt #1

nevado de colima

There are times in your life when you look at a volcano and think: I must try to climb that. You’re not sure where this impulse comes from. Possibly from somewhere deep inside you, possibly next to your pancreas. You look down at your shoes and see they’re woefully inadequate for mountaineering and think, To hell with it. I’m going to try anyway.

nevado de colima

Kilometer two. Paying respects.

I left El Fresnito at around 9am, armed only with my skate shoes and a half-full bottle of water. Almost immediately I ran into another group of hikers, two girls and one guy from Guadalajara. I asked them how many kilos they were carrying.

Fifteen, one the girls said.

 

Fifteen? Are you carrying cinder blocks? A hardcover copy of 2666 (In which case: Can we get married?)? I couldn’t understand how they could have so much weight. It sometimes seems like in Latin America the appearance of doing something properly is more important than anything else. You DO NOT go cycling without cycling shorts and a cycling jersey. You DO NOT go running without stretchy pants and running shoes. And you DO NOT go hiking without a huge, overly-loaded backpack.

arbutus madrone nevado de colima mexico

The beautiful madrone.

An hour in I was treated to a welcome sight. The Pacific Madrone, or Arbutus menziesii (to those of us who speak more cultivated tongues), is extremely common in the Pacific Northwest, but only found at higher elevations in Mexico. I like seeing them because they make me feel at home. They’re easy to spot because of their distinctive peeling bark that reveals a smooth, usually green or orange surface underneath.

It soon became apparent that the trail was not the best way to go, so I abandoned it for the longer, but much more manageable, dirt road. Things were instantly better. Instead of a struggle, it was a walk in the park. I was happy. I began to sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The air began to get cooler and after about two and a half hours of walking I got to a campground called El Alcazar. It was deserted. There were bathrooms and outside them a sink, and I wondered if the sink water was drinkable. After some debate, I decided to fill up my water bottle half full, and on the way down if I saw the people from Guadalajara ask them if they knew if it was safe to drink.

nevado de colima, plantas, plants

Difficult to see, but chandeliers of succulent cacti hanging from these massive trees.

Luckily, I ran into them almost immediately. They were struggling up the steep trail I’d fallen on just a few moments earlier trying to see if one of the water tanks I’d been told had water had some kind of spigot where I could fill up my water bottle.

What don’t you take the road? I asked.

Because this is more direct, one of the girls said.

How about we get married right now? Is that direct enough?

But of course I didn’t say this. I said, The trail is hell. The road is so much nicer.

I also asked if they knew if the water from the sink was potable, and they said they didn’t think so.

You can just drink from those tanks, the guy said, pointing up the trail.

You just pull back the lid? I asked.

Yes, he said.

This was welcome news, since I hadn’t had a drink in quite some time. The guy and I peeled the lid back to reveal a rushing brook of pure, cold spring water.

water nevado colima

Ahhhhhh, water.

What a difference a small thing like access to fresh, cold water can make. Even though I hadn’t made it very far up the mountain, I was completely content with turning around and going back down. They continued to struggle up the trail with awful, sliding loose dirt, and I bounded off down the dirt road, happy as a lynx.

The trip back down was long and uneventful. I’d made it to about 2,700 meters from a starting elevation of about 1,700 meters. The summit, for reference, is just over 4,200 meters.

When I got back to the Airbnb where I’m staying, owned by a couple named Augustin and Lupita Ibarra, who’ve hosted travelers and mountaineers since the 90’s, Augustin offered me some beer. It was perfect. I decided to put my water consumption on hold, and instead take in the cold, refreshing suds.

And that was my first attempt at summiting the Nevado de Colima. With skate shoes, I don’t know if I’ll make it to the top. I might try to get a ride up further tomorrow and get closer to the summit. And find the group of girls (and one guy) I’d shared some nice conversation with.

Or maybe I’ll just stay below, drinking beer with Augustin. Both options sound pretty nice.

A special thanks to SCL for supporting this “blugh.”

Today and tomorrow are the last days to make contributions to support this blog that will be counted for April. Donate as little as a dollar a month and help me realize my dream of traveling and blogging full time: 

Become a Patron!

A demon in the forest.

Preview: Four Days at the Foot of an Active Volcano

Photo Credit: livingandworkinginmexico.wordpress.com

Tomorrow I’m leaving the sweltering heat and (relative) congestion of Guadalajara to spend four nights at the foot of the Colima Volcano, just outside Ciudad Guzman in southern Jalisco. I’m staying in a town called El Fresnito, though on Google Maps it’s referred to as La Mesa. It’s right at the base of the 12,500 foot volcano, which last erupted in January of 2017 (and is apparently the most active in Mexico, at least according to this blog).

I know nothing about Ciudad Guzman. Or actually, I KNEW nothing about Ciudad Guzman, until I stumbled upon this wonderful post from a blog called Living and Working in Mexico (I’m still trying to figure out what the blog is about). Now I know that Ciudad Guzman has about 100,000 people, that it’s located at 1,800 meters above sea level, that’s it’s “chill,” and that, at least according to the author of this blog, it’s an ideal place to live in Mexico.

One hundred thousand people is just about the perfect size, as the author notes. The problem with this, as the author also notes, is that the smaller the cities in Mexico get, the more conservative and Catholic they become. This is not a strange phenomenon. This also happens in The States, albeit usually with other religions. One dilemma you have as a human living on this earth is: Do I live in a progressive, liberal city that has 500 million people where I can never feel at peace? Or do I live in the country, where people shoot guns at animals and make racist jokes, but life is more relaxed?  The answer might (might) be: Move to New Zealand.

Either way, as I mentioned before, I’m not staying in Ciudad Guzman; I’m staying a small town just outside of it, at a house owned by a middle-aged Mexican couple that has a garden and a communal fire pit and a weak wifi signal. I’m excited about the weak wifi. The only thing worse than “getting away” on vacation is not actually getting away because you spend half your day looking at a cell phone or computer screen. But this won’t be possible in El Fresnito.

Above: The listing of the place where I’m staying (this photo was basically the reason I booked it). 
It’s almost impossible to find information about El Fresnito on the internet, other than where it is (12km southwest of Ciudad Guzman and about a two hour drive south of Guadalajara). There is one website that has some ultra-specific (presumably census, though I don’t know from when) info about this town. Apparently it has exactly 425 men and 426 women. The population is %0.00 percent indigenous. And 3.64% of the population has internet access (this info is surely outdated). The only other information has to be imagined, and when it comes to traveling, this is much more fun anyway. I imagine the sounds of roosters crowing in the morning, the smell of a wood fire, and the volcano lurking the background. I imagine getting up early, excited to drink mate, and taking long walks into the pine forests flanking the mountain. I imagine eating quesadillas in the afternoon, and at least one excursion into Ciudad Guzman to see what the city for myself.

Anyway, that’s a little preview about my upcoming trip to Ciudad Guzman, El Fresnito, and the Colima Volcano. Right now I’m imagining what my time in these places is going to be like, getting excited about it, and tomorrow, after finishing my Spanish classes at 12pm, I’ll find out for real.

March is almost over, which means it’s your last chance to sponsor and have your donation counted for April. Donate as little as a dollar a month and help me to realize my dream of traveling and blogging full time:

Become a Patron!

Instatravel

“No addiction is good.” – Jose Mujica

There’s no doubt social media and various websites like Airbnb and Google Flights are changing travel, it’s just not quite clear exactly how. Every time you connect to Instagram you’re bombarded with images of happy people visiting exotic locations around the world, and feel a little bit jealous/bad about yourself. Even Airbnb makes something like staying with a stranger, something that used to rarely happen organically, completely commonplace. This weekend, for example, I’m staying with a couple at the foot of the Colima Volcano in Southern Jalisco, Mexico, and I venture to say this experience would never happen without the aid of the internet. I’ll probably take a few pictures while I’m there. I’ll probably write a few blogs.

The question is: Is this a good thing?

hashtaguear

Airport, CDMX.

Travel these days is becoming more in the hands of the people. Instead of getting in a cab, you get in an Uber, and average Jane/Joe takes you where you want to go. Instead of staying in a hotel, Average Jane/Joe rents out their spare room. I have no doubt this peer to peer system will soon extend to even more areas, though my feeble brain is incapable of forecasting where. Airbnb already has Airbnb “experiences,” where Average Jane/Joe takes you on a tour of their town, or teaches you to dance, or cooks you a fabulous risotto dinner, all for a reasonable fee.

One place I don’t think it will ever extend is to the realm of air travel.

“Hi, my name is Billy, and welcome to Uber JET. I have exactly 12 hours experience in the cockpit. Buckle up.”

But then again, what do I know? Maybe one day buying a plane won’t be that much more expensive than buying a car, more people will have their pilot’s license, and this will actually be an option.

With things like Facebook and Instagram, vicarious travel has also become much more accessible, if not unavoidable. Every time you open Instagram you’re transported, sometimes against your will, to places like Thailand, or Paris, or Thailand, and come to think of it, usually Thailand. Telling the world about your trip has become much easier, to the point where everyone is telling everyone else about their trips, all of the time. You go to Paris, take 50 pictures, and all of them go on Facebook and Instagram. You friend does the same thing, but with Rome, and her friend the same thing with Malta, and her friend the same thing with Madrid, and her friend the same thing, again with Paris. It’s a never-ending web of travel images, and suddenly, even though you’ve never been to the Great Wall, you’ve seen 6,000 pictures of it, and it no longer feels as exotic. Maybe it makes you want to travel less. Maybe it makes you go insane. I don’t know how this is affecting us.

mark wetzler ordinary nomad northern chile hitchhiking

Let me take a selfie. Somewhere in Northern Chile.

In the end, the most special travel experiences are still the ones that arise organically. You meet someone in a cafe and they tell you about some dilapidated castle five miles out of town you simply must see (followed by an exchange of telephone numbers and medium-term romance), or you meet someone at a bar and they invite you to a party the next day. The reason these organic experiences are more special is because they’re not based on some kind of algorithm or criteria. There are more mystical forces at work, like attraction, mood, and even luck, like the possibility of overhearing a conversation in a cafe. Just as apps like Tinder and Bumble have cheapened dating, the overuse of websites like Airbnb, as well as posting all your experiences on Instagram, cheapens travel. The mystique of travel remains, but I dare say not nearly as much so for the traveler who travels to then post pictures on Instagram. Not that this is a new phenomenon. People have always traveled to brag about their travels, even when it was just inviting the neighbors over for a slide show. But showing a slide to your neighbors isn’t quite the same as posting a picture on the internet for everyone to see.

menos face mas book

Menos Feis, mas Book. Santiago de Chile.

In the end, travel can’t change for you if you don’t let it. Instagram and Facebook can enhance your travel experience when used in moderation (maybe), or cheapen or even ruin it if used ad nauseam. Just try one thing: When you wake up, don’t let checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter be the first thing you do. Get out of bed, stretch, and say the word “hashtag” a few times out loud. Then, for everything you say that morning, precede it with, “Hashtag.”

“Hashtag, how are you doing this morning?”

“Hashtag, fine.”

“Hashtag, you getting ready for work?”

“Hashtag, you had breakfast yet?”

etc.

You’ll social media blues will be cured in no time, and you’ll be back on the path to reality.

The Desert of Nostalgia

hitchhiking northern chile desert

I feel strange this morning. A bit disconnected. But not that disconnected. I think, to be honest, I’m a bit bummed I’m not working this morning. I have the entire morning at my disposal. A vast chasm of space.

Last night I continued my current theme of not drinking alcohol during the week. I went to the grocery store where I bought an empanada, some cooking oil, and an avocado. The goal was to make burritos a lo gringo, but I forgot to buy tortillas. So I ended up having rice with onion and avocado smothered in Valentina sauce, accompanied by a Dr. Pepper, and watched the first episode of Black Mirror. I found it quite disturbing. It actually almost ruined my night. I’m sensitive.

I’d be a bit surprised if I’m still in Guadalajara in a month. And it’s not that I’m desperate to leave, I just think there’s a good chance I will. Every time I think about the world and it’s vastness, all the places I could see, all the places I don’t even know exist, it seems a shame to stay in one place. I wonder what’s happening in a cafe right now in Vladivostok. I wonder how it smells to wake up in London. I wonder what it would feel like to be drinking mate in the southern Chilean town of Coyhaique. To wake up, have an espresso, and take off down a dirt road in Sardinia.

A year and a half ago I left the apartment where I was staying in Seattle, took the ferry to my parents’ house, and then set off for the Olympic Peninsula. The goal was to surf a well-known river mouth that night before sunset. When I got there, there were no waves. Or there were BARELY waves. But I got in the water anyway. I was so happy. Overjoyed, actually. I got in the water and it was already almost an inky black and I sat in the stillness by myself, looking out at the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the pine-tree covered hills of Vancouver Island in the distance. Finally, a tiny wave came, just big enough to ride, and I stood up, pumped once to the right, , rode it for a second, jumped off, yelped, and stood there on the rocks, feeling the water around me. And then, looking back at the sky that was changing from dark blue to black, I walked back to my 1995 Honda Civic and started my journey. That night, I slept in a Walmart parking lot in Tumwater, WA. The next night I slept in Oregon, and within two weeks I was crossing the border into Mexico, and driving south, south, to Guatemala, Honduras, Central American and beyond. And so when I say I think about what it would be like to be drinking mate right now in the southern Chilean town of Coyhaique it’s because on that trip I remember leaving Coyhaique, having just bought a pack of Lucky Strikes, right around sunset, and on the way out passing the huge statue they have in the roundabout that’s a hand holding a mate gourd and a sign that says something like, The Mate Capital of Chile.

When I say I think I might be leaving Guadalajara soon it’s because of memories like these.

But enough nostalgia. There’s no need to be nostalgic. You can’t get the experiences back, though I’ve certainly tried to do so. And most of the time when you’re living an amazing experience you don’t even realize it in the moment. In fact, the best experiences are by definition the ones you don’t realize are amazing in the moment. In fact, they could kind of even suck in the moment. This has happened to me plenty of times. This might even be happening now, with Guadalajara. It’s never possible to know. And plus, our brains have a way of shielding us from painful memories, like going over an area of lump sand with a rake and smoothing it and smoothing it until it’s beautiful and you could never tell a storm took place. Our brains are like a forest that replants itself in the wake of a forest fire. After an unpleasant event everything is black and charred, but with the first rains the seedlings sprout, and then the trees start to grow, and in few years you have a juvenile forest, and with enough time you can’t even tell a forest fire took place. The very fact that the past is deceptive, that are brains are tricksters, is a good reason not to dwell on it. But sometimes it’s nice to dwell, at least a little. To look at pictures and remember a particularly special surf session, or a statue of a hand holding a gourd of mate.

Did this post make you feel funny? Become a Patron:

Become a Patron!

Kill Bill

calle libertad, guadalajara

I’ve decided to kill Bill. Bill is my aloe plant. And I’ve decided to kill him.

It’s the only way he can live.

Never listen to anyone, ever. People love to give you advice, and 51% of the time they don’t know what they’re taking about. Unless you’re at a blackjack table in a casino. I don’t know if dealers are obligated to give advice, but they will. This is because no matter how perfectly you play the blackjack table, if you play long enough, you’re going to lose. So blackjack dealers will give you advice.

People told me all different kinds of things about watering my aloe plant. “Water him every 2-3 days,” they said. “Water him once a week.” “Water him once every three weeks.” “Water him when you notice the soil is dry.”

But I have a new tactic: Never water him, ever.

Right now Bill is sitting in the courtyard, slowly dying of thirst. But here’s the deal: Bill was built for exactly this kind of situation. Bill’s ancestors come from the desert, where they sometimes had to subsist for long periods of time without water. Apparently, a scarcity of water doesn’t hurt aloe plants; it makes them stronger. The worst thing you can do with aloe plants is give them too much water; the roots rot.

Which is why I’m done watering Bill. Eventually the rains will come, maybe in April, maybe in May, maybe in June, and the rains will water Bill. Bill will be happy, he will live, or maybe he won’t live, in which case he was destined to die.

Not that I believe in destiny.

It’s a beautiful night here in Guadalajara. The stars are out as much as they can be in a city of five million people. It’s Friday, but I’m not going to do anything except maybe walk to El Expiatorio and sit admiring the neo-gothic architecture. And maybe when I come back I’ll watch a movie, and ignore Bill.

Any suggestions?

Join 10 other Patrons in supporting this blog:

Become a Patron!

Couch Musings with Dandruff

el monosilabo guadalajara

Yesterday was a good day here in Guadalajara. I still haven’t moved out of my current house, which was my plan for this month. But this isn’t all bad, as I’m mostly happy in my current house. Mostly. I still sometimes want to murder the neighbor’s dog, and actually the other night lost it a little bit and screamed, “Por favor!” when their dog started barking at 11:30pm and woke me up just as I was drifting off to my colicky baby sounds.

But that’s OK. 

Yesterday I had two articles published on sites that aren’t Ordinary Nomad: 1) This article on Roads and Kingdoms, a site that’s published three previous articles of mine. This article had already appeared here, albeit in a slightly different form. Roads and Kingdoms likes to make edits, and they don’t like to consult you about them. I don’t know if I’ve ever liked an edit they’ve done, and this makes me feel like a real writer, since apparently real writers flip shit whenever anyone threatens the “artistic integrity” of their work.

But that’s OK. 

The other article was on Fear the Wall, a Borussia Dortmund blog. This blog gets TONS of traffic, because instead of writing about themselves and things like what they had for breakfast (!), they (WE) write about something people actually care about, i.e. Borussia Dortmund soccer, one of the biggest teams in Europe. I got into Dortmund because of Christian Pulisic, who, at 19 years old, is already the best American soccer player to ever exist. And at 15 he moved to Germany to play for this team, and has never looked back. I, and I imagine many other Americans, have never looked back in my devotion to him.

Which is special. 

(Note: The Fear the Wall article has 27 comments. I’m terrified to read them, even though they’re probably only about soccer. This terror stems from the comments on one of the first articles I ever had published.)

Two of my English students have canceled on me today, which on the one hand is good because it makes my day a helluva lot easier, but on the other hand is bad because it means I’ll make less clean, crisp $$$$$$$$. I need $$$$$. I live for $$$$$$. But today I’ll make less $$$$$$, because I’ll be working less.

Which is fine.

The greatest thing about one of the students canceling is now I’ll get to watch the Borussia Dortmund game in its entirety, as opposed to in its partiality.

Which is wonderful. 

And now I’ll go seize the day. I’ve already had my budin, which means my stomach is primed. My brain is primed, too, ready to take on whatever Guadalajara might throw at me. Though at this point I already have a good idea what it might throw at me: mate, a delicious lonche de pierna, a chat with Marta,  a couple of English classes, a bit of writing, a bit of reading, a tamal by the Expiatorio, and maybe even a  night stroll along Calle Libertad.

Which is…

 

 

A Cafe Called “Starbucks,” Krakow, Poland

starbucks krakow poland

Originally published on Cappuccino in Lviv! on March 26, 2015

Now listen, before I even start this review I need you think about why you hate Starbucks. Because the coffee is bad? Because everyone else hates it? Because your little kitschy shop down the street is so much more quaint and you know the barista there? Starbucks, for whatever reason, seems to be a fairly polarizing place. Some people wouldn’t be caught dead there. Some people wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere else. Me? I like to think I’m indifferent. But when I was walking through the mall today in Krakow and I saw Starbucks I thought to myself, “I’ve reviewed all these places but I haven’t even reviewed the giant itself!” I decided it was time to spend some quality time in the most famous cafe around.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Starbucks does not have bad coffee. Listen, its coffee might not be the best in the world, but it’s definitely not bad. You don’t get to where Starbucks is by having shitty products. Listen, I realize that marketing plays a massive role, but you have to have a decent product, too. Half the people at Starbucks are there for image purposes but there are at least a fair portion who legitimately like the coffee.

Now to the actual review.

The woman working the cash register was extremely kind and taught me how to properly say “for here” and “to go” in Polish. I think people underestimate the value of these two phrases, considering they’re involved in literally pretty much any food purchase. Listen, I realize there are more important words like thank you and hello, but these definitely rank right up there. And listen, I realize some of you may be thinking “What’s the point of learning a couple words when you’re just going to leave the country in a few days?” but listen, I love languages, and when I travel I find it fulfilling to learn as much of the language as I possibly can, regardless the circumstances.

The actual cappuccino made me realize something: Do I even have any idea what cappuccinos are supposed to be like? I’ve basically formed my opinion of what they’re supposed to be like on what I’ve been given, but I’m not sure that’s a 100% effective way to become an expert on something. Listen, trying tons of cappuccinos in different places doesn’t hurt, but I should probably do a little background research at some point as well. As for this cappuccino, it was extremely foamy. It had bubbles. Listen, I like foam as much as the next guy, but this seemed to be a bit much. This reminded me of Kredens. Listen, I’m sure the barista knows what she’s doing, but isn’t it possible that she messed my cappuccino up? Listen, I realize it’s not likely, but it could definitely happen.

Listen, I’m not here today to tell you Starbucks has the best coffee in the world, but the cappuccino I had today was definitely decent. Not great, but decent. Listen, better cafes are definitely out there, but listen, if you need a decent cup a joe in a pinch, listen, Starbucks will definitely do the job.

Cappuccino rating: 5/10

Overall experience rating: 5.1/10

Next on Cappuccino Lviv: Is Krakow the Starbucks of European cities?

 

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

Turning Left

el terrible juan guadalajara

“The only way round is through.” – Robert Frizzle 

This morning I woke up and did something I’d never done before when leaving the house: I turned left. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, turning left, but since I’ve been living in the house where I’m currently living, every single morning, when I’ve left the house to walk to work, or to walk to Starbucks, or to walk to similar cafe where I digitally scribble in this blog, I’ve turned right.

Of course, my reasons for turning right are manyfold. I love walking down Calle Libertad. It’s leafy, it’s airy, and if the time of day is just right you feel like you’re soaring rather than walking, such is the air of tranquility the street creates, the foliage. I also turn right because the places I usually go to, El Rincon del Mate, el Expiatorio, are most expeditiously reached by turning right. To turn left leaving my house would not only take me into a shabbier neighborhood, it would also add at least five minutes to my walk. To turn left would take me onto the busy Avenida de La Paz (I hate walking on busy streets), and it would also take my by an Oxxo, Mexico’s most ubiquitous gas station.

But of course the main reason I always turn right has to do with habit. It feels comfortable. It’s what I know. And thus any other scenario, turning left, for example, going straight and running into the building across the street, taking off my shirt and standing in the middle of the road screaming, would feel uncomfortable. We’re creatures of comfort — this is one thing I’ve figured out in my 34 years — and change scares even the most intrepid explorers.

After turning left and walking a few blocks I was immediately confronted with an arresting sight. As some of you know may know, I’m currently in the market for new lodging, a new apartment, a new abode, a new dwelling, new “digs,” as it were, and it just so happened that staring me in the face was a big banner that said, “For Rent. Shitloads of space. Roof terrace.”

Actually, it didn’t say shitloads of space, but the amount of square meters listed on the banner deserves no other moniker. The most intriguing part, though, was the terrace. Ever since a few days ago walking by a beautiful house with a veritable forest on top I’ve decided that the ultimate thing you could do in Guadalajara would be to have a terrace. I’m talking about terrace with a view and shade and most importantly, obscene amounts of plants. I’m talking about a jungle. I’m talking about a place where you step out onto the terrace and a Virginia Creeper wraps its tendrils around your neck and asks for the password. I’m talking about a place where you get lost and when you finally make it back to society you realize you’re in Belize. In short, I’m talking about the ideal roof terrace.

So of course I took a photo of the phone number for the apartment and plan to contact them sometime later today to see how many gross tons of bio-matter they think the roof terrace could support, and thus figure out if this might be the place for me.

After seeing this apartment I walked down Calle Montenegro, taking in the sights. There was a place called El Comedor that looked peaceful and elegant, with delicious food. There was a hotel called Hotel Isabel that looked suitable for visiting family members or friends, should that ever happen. And finally there was a restaurant called La Menuderia which specialized in menudo, a soup people have told me I must try but that in my obstinacy I still haven’t. And then I got to El Terrible Juan, my second favorite cafe in Guadalajara, and realized I’d been on a veritable odyssey, that my morning had been completely transformed, indeed my mentality had been transformed, and all because I’d turned left.

And so tomorrow, and later today, and for the rest of this week, I might not always turn left when I leave the house, but I will strive to do one thing each day in a similar vein. I’ve been complaining about my life getting stagnant in Guadalajara after just two months, but it actually might not be so difficult to remedy. It might just involve continuing to step outside my comfort zone, continuing to explore, continuing to meet new people, and of course, ideally, a roof terrace with a shitload of plants.

The Best (and possibly only) Vegetarian Cafe in Lviv, Ukraine

green vegetarian cafe lviv ukraine

I’m way too hungover to write right now. So instead of of writing I’ve been looking through old blogs. I have something like 10 of them. If you go to my Patreon page, you can see a list of (pretty much) every blog I’ve ever written. The reason it’s only for Patreon subscribers is some of them are embarrassing.

Anyway, I wrote the following post when I was in Ukraine in 2014 writing my book Snowflakes in Lviv

There is only one vegetarian/vegan natural foods hippy dippy cafe in Lviv that I know of, and it’s called Green Cafe. I think it might also have the word “art” in the title, since establishments in Lviv seem to arbitrarily add the word “art” into their names to make them sound more couth (“Bob’s Freshly Butchered Meats and Art Cafe”). If you have a painting on the wall, you can add the word “art” into the title. If you have at least one item on the menu that’s vaguely natural, you can add “natural foods” into the title.

The décor in Green Cafe is tasteful. Most of the stuff is green. The lampshades are green as well as the upholstery of the booths and even the heating duct that runs along the top of the ceiling. The products are very high quality and freshly made, and of course since it’s Ukraine they’re dirt cheap. It would be hard, when having lunch, to spend more than about four dollars.

My favorite item on the menu is the “Veggie Burger”, which is actually not a burger at all but a wrap. I like it because it’s tasty and because at almost a pound it’s one of the bigger items on the menu. Menus in Ukraine always say how many grams each items weighs, which is extremely convenient for a glutton like me whose idea of a good meal is shoveling as much food into his face as quickly as possible. One day, for example, I accidentally ordered the sushi, which wasn’t even made with rice but some other nefarious grain, and I wanted to cry when I saw the size. In addition to the veggie burger another item I like is a drink that contains “sukofruktiv”, which (I think) is dried fruit that might even be slightly fermented that more or less smells like a barn but seems to get better and better every time you drink it.

The staff in Green Cafe seem very kind. There’s one waitress who looks a bit like Mila Kunis and is impossibly tiny and even though she speaks some English she always speaks to me in Ukrainian. There’s another girl who seems to spend most of her downtime behind the counter not-so-covertly filing her nails. And there’s a guy with dark, curly hair who never seems to come out from behind the counter and whose function I’m still not exactly sure of. He might make the drinks. He might just stand there looking foreboding.

The best part about Green Cafe might not even be the cafe itself but the food items they sell in the entryway, which is kind of like a different store altogether. There they have un-pasteurized honey that costs a little more than a dollar, and for the relatively steep price of two dollars they have peanut butter with no sugar, salt, or even any hydrogenated oils. And they also have chia seeds, the only place I’ve seen in Lviv so far to have them.

If you’re looking for vegetarian food in Lviv you don’t have a ton of options and Green Cafe seems to be the best. It’s comfortable, simple and tastefully decorated, and the food, despite being vegan/vegetarian, is for the most part very good. Order the sukofruktiv and the veggie burger and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t recoil when you first smell/taste the sukofruktiv. Remember: Smells like a barn, tastes like a dream.

Monthly Roundup (February): Gibberish Edition

calle rayon guadalajara

………………………………………………………………………….

…………………………….

……………………………………………………..

ad/lfkjadlfk;djs
asd;lfjdaslkfjdasl;kfjdaslkfjdasf
dafjds’lkfjdal;kfjds;lkfjdas
afdslkfjads;lkfdsjfkldajflk!!!!!

(!!!!!!)

aslkdjf;alkdsjf?

dsjfjakfjeuui4jifja?

adslkfjad;klfjdsa.
a;sdlkfjdklfjdjasdjfkdasjf.
a;ldfkjsadk.

!!!!!!!
….
…..

(….)
(………[………])
(!)

Hello everyone, and welcome to the monthly roundup! I’m your host Mark Thomas Wetzler, or as my most intimate friends call me, “Marc.” I consider people calling me Marc to be one of the most intimate forms of address. Most people call me “Mark” for the first few years they know me. Then, when a certain trust has been established, they call me “Marc.” If a tremendous amount of trust has been established, they simply produce the “M” sound, which sounds a bit like “Muh.” The person who knows me best in the world does not even say my name upon seeing me but rather looks at me, flares her nostrils, and snorts.

I’m here today to talk to here to talk to you here today to here to you to here about how the month of February went for Ordinary Nomad. In a word: Fairly well. The traffic goal was hit, as you’ll see demonstrated in this fantastic graph (graf):

ordinary nomad stats

And that’s about it. There’s not much else to tell. I’m content with the direction this blog is going in. I’m enjoying writing it.

Also, Patreon pledges are up something like 300%. This is also nice. Again, I’m content. I’m seething with contentment.

Where I this blog this was the first I started writing this blog and last month several blogs blog posts and then mate honey and mate honey and honey (honey) on top of the mate with honey and in the mate the honey is in the mate drinking drinking and the honey and last month was a great the stats and there was this one episode that I totally thought was funny Baby Driver was that the blog the blog post honey and the mate.

 

Mate.

Goals for March:

– Exceed 1,000 views in one month (February saw just shy of 800).

Non blog goals for March:

– Run my first marathon

– Get married

– Father a child (chjild)

It’s just starting to cool off here in Guadalajara the temperature is growing cooler by the nanosecond and in just a moment I’m going to walk to the Expiatorio and get a tamal and I’m not sure what kind I should get should I get acelgas or maybe something with meat or I could always get elote but elote is kind of a sweet tamal and I’m not sure I need more sweet things after the heaping spoons of honey I just put into my mate which weirdly didn’t even make it that sweet in fact it tasted kind of disgusting which just goes to show you two things 1 that you shouldn’t drink mate cocido which is mate in tea bags and another that you should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever put honey in your mate and now I’ve learned that the hard way and in a second here I’ll be done and I’ll go get that tamal and will I drink wine tonight I don’t know I kind of feel like drinking wine but then again I kind of feel like just sitting in my living room and listening to Pibes Chorros and eating ramen.

It’s my favorite time of evening in Guadalajara. This moment will last for approximately the next 45 minutes. Which means I must leave. I must rip myself away from you like a star-crossed lover. I must go out into the world. I must become a man. I must come of age. I must age. It is imperative that I age.

Age.

(askfjad;k)

1101011100111110001011001010111110:

 Become a Patron!

My First Job as a Nomad

seignosse, france

“And that was how I left Bergen” – Karl Ove Knausgaard

 I kind of despise the word “nomad,” because I feel like people don’t really know what it means. They misuse it. I misuse it.The dictionary definition is: “a member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.”

However, the second definition is: “a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.”

And it’s this second definition that’s come into prevalence today. I don’t know many people today who call themselves nomads who actually keep goats.

The thing about being a so-called nomad, if you don’t have livestock (though that’s obviously the dream), is that you must have a job. I had my first nomad job back in 2014, when I started working for a company called ZeroChaos as an Ads Quality Rater in Spanish. What does this mean? We’ll get to that. First I’d like to mention a few other traveling jobs I had before my first “real” nomad job.

  1. Pizza maker in Puerto Varas, Chile (I was the assistant)
  2. Bed and Breakfast morning attendant in Puerto Montt, Chile (I washed dishes and talked to people from Argentina)
  3. WWOOFing (if you haven’t heard about WWOOFing it’s where you work five hours a day for room and board. I did it in Finland).
  4. Hostel jobs (mostly reception)

But then, in 2014, I got a job evaluating Google Ads based on search terms for a company called ZeroChaos. My friend Sonia had told me about the job. Sonia grew up in Rome and speaks (natively) English, Italian and Finnish, and also has a Masters in French. “It only pays $15 an hour,” she said. “But it’s easy.”

la push

Look at this emo nomad.

The problem with the job was that you weren’t supposed to leave the US while working it. I observed this for the first summer. I went to places like La Push, Washington (pictured above), making small trips and working a little while on the road. But I yearned to know: Could I somehow do it abroad? Could I be in a leafy plaza in Madrid in fall rating Google Ads and murmuring to myself, drunk on the sweetness that was nomadic life?

So I tried it.

First I went to Mexico. Los Cabos. And they didn’t catch me. I was devious. I used a VPN to make it look like I was in the US. Much later, however, I would realize that “catching” me probably had nothing to do with it. They just didn’t care.

By this time, a few months into the job, I was a seasoned ads rater. Here’s what the basic task consisted of: You get a search term, like, “Restaurants near Minneapolis,” and you’re shown an ad that may or may not be useful for someone who’s entered that search term. You evaluate it. You explore the landing page the ad links to. You evaluate it. You look around and realize you’re in Mexico City making what, for Mexico, is an insane hourly wage. You smile. And then you do it for six hours and kind of want to cut yourself.

la push

Rollin’ with the homies.

Not only was this job good for nomadic life, it actually encouraged it. Due to the relatively low pay and repetitiveness, changing up the outside surroundings was critical. I went to Cabo. I flew to Mexico City. I flew to Paris. I lived in Southwest France for three months, renting a room for $400 euros from a wonderful woman named Frederique. Every morning I’d get up, check the waves, if they were good I’d surf, and if they were bad I’d work, then go to the grocery store/skate park, work some more, and in the evening, chill. Then I walked the Camino de Santiago. Five hundred miles of walking, working the ad rating job every single day to pay for it. Then Morocco. Then home. Then back to Spain, this time San Sebastian, an hour away from where I’d lived in France. Again, a similar routine. Wake up, surf. Work. Take a break. Work. Have lunch. Work. Go to the skatepark. Chill.

I look back on those two months in San Sebastian with tremendous fondness. I lived in a four-bedroom apartment with two people from Spain and one girl from Ethiopia/Italy. None of us knew what we were doing in life. We were all in the same boat. We had a wonderful view of the ocean, and every morning I’d put on my wetsuit (in my room!), dash downstairs, run across the street, and within 10 minutes be in the water. At night we’d sit in the living room and roll cigarettes and laugh.

Anyway, the great thing about this job was the flexibility. I could work up to 29 hours a week but I only had to work 10, which meant if I found something better for a short time I could do that, like when I worked as a tour guide for El Camino Travel in Colombia and Nicaragua.

I also wrote my first book while doing this job. I flew to Belgrade and traveled overland through Romania, Ukraine, Poland, and finally into Germany. I wrote 1,000 words a day five days a week. After two months, I (sort of) had a book. You can buy it here. But don’t. It’s terrible.

digital nomad

Finally, after a year and a half of ad rating I decided to call it quits. No more ZeroChaos.  Now that I’m back in Mexico and struggling to get rolling I wish I could have this job back. Fifteen dollars an hour in Mexico means you’re a veritable Czar. But I’ve emailed ZeroChaos. I’m not even sure they exist anymore. Either way, they’re not doing re-hires.

What did I learn from this job? You either find a job that you love and that pays you and that’s your life. Or, you find a job you can tolerate that allows you to do the things you love and that’s your life. The first one is better. But the first one takes time and dedication. Which is what I’m working on now, one blog post at a time. One instant coffee at a time. One (proverbial) day at a time.

Have you ever had a nomad job?

Know of any good ones?

Let me know in the comments.

Support this blog:


 

Become a Patron!