The Pecan Roll

Now, most people would call it in an inconvenience, having your card used for attempted fraud in Florida, but I call it in an invitation to adventure. For one, it simplifies my life greatly. I now have to go somewhere and stay there at least a week until my card gets there. I cannot continue traveling without that card. Do you know what it’s like to not have to pay foreign transaction fees? Actually, you probably do, because lots of cards offer no foreign transaction fees. But I’m not talking about no foreign transaction fees. I’m talking about something completely different. I’m talking about…..freedom.

That would’ve been a sweet segue to talk about my new Chase Freedom credit card, but the card in question is actually my Charles Schwab (RIP) debit card. What happened was the following: I went to the grocery store to buy some stuff and my card got denied. Naturally when the grocery store employee told me my card had been denied I called her all sorts of filthy names.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked her.

“No,” she said. “Who are you?”

“Mark,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m kind of new here and it’s always nice to make a new friend.”

And then today when I was trying to buy a pecan roll the same thing happened, my card got denied, so I had to call my bank. I talked to Matthew in Indianapolis.

“Matthew,” I said, “I’m in deep shit. No one will take my card. I’m in Peru, Matthew in Indianapolis, Peru.”

Matthew assured me everything would be ok and then told me someone in Florida tried to use my card to take out 600 bucks.

“Matthew, I don’t have 600 bucks. Do you understand?

Matthew grunted.

“Then they tried to take out 300,” he said. “They must’ve been trying to get around the limit.”

I wondered what kind of slimeball was doing this. For a brief second I wondered if Matthew was actually the slimeball, if he was in on the whole thing, and if I could trust him.

“Can I have your social security number?” he said.

“How about you give me your social security number, Matthew?”

Matthew told me the following: my card had been compromised and they needed to send me a new one. And for that I’d need to stay in one place for at least a week.

Matthew, I said, I have a blog called Ordinary Nomad. This demands that I be transient.

I asked him if he wanted me to lose readership.

Of course Matthew doesn’t want me to lose readers, and he said as much.

“Here’s what I can do,” Matthew said. “If you stay on the phone with me I can lift the block just long enough for you to go to an ATM and get some cash out.”

This of course didn’t help much because I don’t have a Peruvian simcard and have to use wifi to make calls, and there was no ATM in the cafe where I was.

But I had a better idea.

“Matthew, what about this. Can you lift the block long enough so I can buy my pecan roll, and then put it back on? I know it’s a bit ridiculous, but could you do that? I was hoping to hang out in this cafe for a bit.”

“Sure, no problem.”

So I ordered my pecan roll while Matthew figuratively stood beside me on the phone, providing moral support from many thousands of miles away.

And I don’t know what the moral of this story is. Staying cool when things go wrong abroad? The amazing benefits of the Charles Schwab debit card and their customer service agents? Or the beauty of the pecan roll, and how if you have to decide between one last ATM transaction and getting a pecan roll, well, it’s not really a choice.

 

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Monday Afternoon in Lima

Monday afternoon in Lima and I’ve just done my pull-ups and now I’m drinking instant coffee in the kitchen preparing to walk to Plaza Salaverry to buy boxers. I need boxers. If I buy boxers, I can delay doing laundry a few more days.

I just sat in bed listening to Vivaldi and looking for a cheap bus to Tacna. And by cheap, I of course mean as expensive as possible. This is because I want a lie flat bed if I go to Tacna. Anything else would be a wretched disappointment. 160 degrees? No. The bed must recline 180 degrees. It must lie flat. For this I’m willing to pay top dollar.

My friend Jenny sent me a song called “Hallucinating” but I don’t like it. There are some rice puddings on the middle of the table and I’m wondering if one of them’s destined for me. I’m pretty sure one of them has my name on it, despite not actually having my name on it. Last night the Spanish guy came back from being out of town a few days. It’s still not clear what he does or where he gets his money. Today I said, “Hey, what’d you do the six months you were in Asuncion.”

He looked uncomfortable. “We, like, barbecued and stuff,” he said.

“Cool, man, barbecues are cool.”

I didn’t mean to make him think he had to explain himself to me. He can only barbecue from now until the day he dies as far as I’m concerned, and I wouldn’t think less of him. I’m sure he’d get good at barbecuing. I’m sure he’d develop coronary disease.

The real question, of course, becomes whether or not to have a second cup of coffee after I finish this one. And the answer is of course yes. The answer is mind-numbingly yes. I’ll have another one, and then I’ll walk to Miraflores, and do pull-ups and think about my English classes for tomorrow. Today’s, with Elena, was wonderful. We practiced the prepositions in, at, and on for awhile, and then we learned bedroom vocabulary. Since the activity was from the British Council, some of the words were words I wouldn’t use. Like “chest of drawers” instead of “dresser.” The word “drawers” was particularly hard for her to pronounce. Drawers. Drawers. I said just think of it like “drors,” and then she got better.

A plane flies overhead. We’re close to the airport. When planes fly overhead during my classes I mute my microphone and hope I don’t have to talk. Sometimes I just type. I don’t think my students have noticed yet. But it’s hard to tell.

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.

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My Little Lima Life The Lima Diaries (part 6,024)

miraflores lima

I’ve been asking myself a certain question for the past few days: Is there a tapeworm living in my stomach? The reason I’ve been asking this question is even though my diet has been considerably better since leaving Mexico (i.e. not  binge drinking and ice cream), I’ve still felt bloated most of the time. In fact, until about four minutes ago, I’ve felt bloated pretty much ALL of the time. And I know you probably didn’t wake up this morning and think, “I want to know about Mark’s bloating situation,” but it’s something that must be talked about.

Anyway.

I’ve already settled into a routine in Lima. I do the following things: Get up, rate Instagram ads, go to Cosmo Beans, write, drink coffee, eat Cosmo Bean’s crappy food, come back to my house, teach English classes, rate Instagram ads, and then make my way to El Pan de la Chola, Lima’s premiere cafe for people with tons of money who cannot live without things like almond croissants and “extracts.” Here I drink an americano and generally, from caffeine overload, slip into a state of quiet madness. I scribble in my journal. I fashion exclamation points and haphazard parentheses. I look around at the other customers, one of whom yesterday was a guy with a hairless dog who kept putting his paws on the table (the man, not the dog). The dog was adorable, but the guy less so. The situation was less than hygienic, but I’m by no means a health inspector.

After El Pan de la Chola I usually take a walk around the beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores. Yesterday was no exception. First I walked down Avenida José Pardo, home of such places as the Hilton DoubleTree and the Brazilian embassy, and then walked along the waterfront. The waterfront is Lima’s best feature. It’s essentially a many-mile park on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with palm trees, walking paths, and a touch of salt in the air. There are also exercise stations located about every 500 meters, and my new routine (as of yesterday), is to do as many pull-ups as I can at each station. So far, my record is three (give or take). But I have no doubt soon I’ll be doing many more, possibly to the point where I draw crowds. My goal is 50 perfect pull-ups (going almost all the way down but not quite, out of respect for my elbows). When I’m able to do this I have no doubt the stars will align and we’ll experience some kind of astrological event not seen previously in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our ancestors. Orion might do a pull-up hanging from Cassiopeia.

Yesterday, after the pull-ups (grunting, nostrils flared), I made my way back to Magdalena del Mar on foot (foot). It was about four kilometers. I didn’t really want to walk, but didn’t see much other option since the buses were crowded. As far as I know, Lima doesn’t have a metro. It appears there’s one under construction. But as far as a working metro, one you can actually ride on that takes you from place to place and doesn’t just exist as a fantasy inside human brains, Lima doesn’t have one. But I could be wrong. I’m rarely wrong, but I could be.

When I got back to Magdalena del Mar I headed directly for Santa Rosa, the pastry shop of yesteryear, as my host described it, actually using the word in Spanish for “yesteryear.” The greatest thing about Santa Rosa is that the display case is about five and a half feet high and all the women working there are about four and a half feet high. This means that when you order something you sort of see their faces behind the counter, and then a hand reaches up and puts your arroz con leche on the counter, takes your money, and then reaches back up and deposits your change.

Yesterday I sat there, devouring my crema voleteada, which is essentially flan, in fact it’s flan in every way in that it looks like flan, tastes like flan, feels like flan when you pick it up and mash it together with your finger and smear it on your forehead, but isn’t flan. Or at least it isn’t called flan. I’d like to know what would happen if I went to Santa Rosa today and ordered “flan.” Would they give me crema voleteada? Would they make me leave? I intend to find out.

After Santa Rosa I noticed a health food store next door I’d seen before but never gone in because it doesn’t have a sign and I was a little worried it might just be someone’s house. But it was indeed a health food store, complete with organic vegetables and things like maca powder. I must have had a wild look in my eye, because the girl at the counter asked “Can I help you?” as if implying something psychiatric. I said, “No, thank you” and continued to browse, since browsing is one of my strong suits. And then I walked back to my house, where I rated more Instagram ads before going out to dinner.

And that’s my little Lima life.