Death By Almond Flakes An almond croissant from El Pan de la Chola

I will have it in my clutches. Maybe not in the next hour, maybe not in the next two hours, but sometime within the next three hours I’ll have an almond croissant from El Pan de la Chola, Lima’s most pituco cafe, in my grime-covered hands.

Though at first I won’t even hold it in my hands. I’ll just let it sit on the plate — which isn’t even a plate but a rustic wooden baker’s tray since plates would be lame — and observe it much like you might observe a baby bird being born. Hatching. You watch as it first nudges its way through the shell and think, Wow, I’ve never seen a baby bird being born. And then, This is exactly like Jurassic Park, and for a moment you wonder if it is exactly like Jurassic Park and if in the next year this baby bird will grow into a velociraptor and devour you and your family.

But it’s not a velociraptor. It’s a pastry.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.

After observing the almond croissant I’ll take a fork and knife and cut into its succulent skin. I’ll carve off the perfect, chewy chunk and let it linger on my fork before putting it into my mouth. I’ll savor the moment. It will be over all too soon, of course. And while I’m chewing the first bite I’ll be trying to focus on the texture, the taste, the glory, but what I’ll really be doing is thinking about the next bite. Because you see I’m never satisfied. And even though I’m actively chewing a piece of the the best almond croissant in Lima, Peru — the best almond croissant in South America — I’ll be thinking more about the next bite than the bite that’s in my mouth. And this isn’t very Zen. But when you’re eating an almond croissant, it’s hard to be zen.

After the the first bite it will all be over. My heart rate will dip into the 30’s and if this was an Olympic sport I’d be accused of doping. I’ll have the heart rate of a blue whale. My eyelids will flutter closed and I’ll sit writhing on my chair, groaning, as if Lucifer himself had taken up residence in my sternum. One bites, two bites, three bites, four. My hands ferry pastry back and forth between the tray and my mouth. And then, inexplicably, it’s gone. My eyes open wide now, my pupils dilate. Where once was a croissant are now ashes, almond flecks and powdered sugar. The almond croissant will be gone, and I won’t know what to do. Get another one? Weep? I’ll look over at the waitress and flash a look as if to say, “See what I just did to that croissant? Now imagine how good I am at bowling.” And she’ll smile back as if to say, “I bet you pick up spares all the time.” And then I’ll exit the bakery into the chaos of the non-almond flaked world outside.

 

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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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