Adventure Plaza A detailed account of buying groceries in Arequipa, Peru

arequipa

I started by leaving the house. When I left the house I noticed there was a security guard at the gate, so I talked to him for a bit.

“Good evening,” I said, “My name is Mark Wetzler, first of his name, and I’ll be staying here for a week.”

He didn’t understand “Mark” but when I spelled it for him he said, “Marcos,” confirmed I’d be staying a week, and said, “OK.” I then exited the community and turned left on Paseo de la Cultura. My final destination: A mall called Aventura Plaza.

After a few minutes of walking I passed a park in a different gated community where I’d done exercise earlier. I did pull-ups. I’ve been doing pull-ups for over a week now, and have the pecs to prove it. My lower back is firm and it’s now more comfortable for me to sit with good posture than to slouch. I didn’t think doing pull-ups could change my life in so many ways, but it has. My IQ has also gone up.

I then walked down a long alleyway. This is a secret road taxis use to avoid traffic and construction. It’s also a non-secret road used by walkers to not have to walk as far. Then came the main road, which was under construction. It was dirt. The cars were traveling slow and you could see the dust kicked up by the cars in the headlights. There were quite a few people out, strolling about, heading home. I wondered if any of them were heading to the Adventure Plaza. Could it be? Were we all on our way to some kind of adventure? I was eager to find out.

I got a bit lost trying to take a shortcut. I saw what looked like a park and thought, God, I love parks. I’m going to go to it. But then when I got there the streets were significantly darker, so I asked some passersby if I could get to the Adventure Plaza through here. They looked at me like I was daft. “The Adventure Plaza,” I said, “I want to have an adventure. I want to buy some churros.”

“Ahhh,” they said. “No, you have to go back to the main road.”

Within five minute I had the entrance to the Adventure Plaza in my sights. The glow from the stairs illuminated the parking lot and leaked out onto the main road. So many people were walking towards the mall. So many people on their way to have an adventure. I was one of many.

When I got close to the mall I noticed people carrying Starbucks cups. Wow, a Starbucks, I thought. This is a fancy mall. There was the department store Falabella looming in the distance. There was the Entel store. And there was a stand selling churros.

My particular adventure began with entering Tottus, the massive grocery store that’s like a nicer version of Wal-Mart. I walked by the computers first, allowing myself to be swept-up by the space age technology. The flat screens. The curved screens. The TV screens. Bigger and bigger and bigger. And then I got to the bakery and there was freshly baked bread and throngs of people scrambling to get their hands on it. I joined the river of humanity and when the opportunity arose lunged at a pair of ciabattas, put them in a bag, and brought them over to be weighed. Then I looked at eggs. Free-range, close range, on the range. There was a buffet that had soups and purees and cured meats. There was a produce section with mangos and papayas and carrots the size of my index finger. There were apples — oh, the variety of apples — and I stood looking at them, not daring to move lest I wake up from the dream that was having so many apples in front of me.

Finally I decided on my various wares. I had eggs, bread, butter, a carrot, an onion, and some sunflower seed oil. I walked around the store a little more, not wanting the adventure to end. There were some girls giving out wine samples. There was a girl giving out sausage samples, and I ran after her to try one. “Can I try your sausages?” I said, out of breath.

“Welcome to Adventure Plaza,” she said, and handed me a pair.

Then it was time to check out, and I was sad. The adventure was coming to an end. I put a chocolate bar on the moving belt in front of the cashier, and she rang me up.

“You look sad,” she said.

“The adventure is over,” I said.

“Was it everything you wanted?”

“It was…” I gasped. “It was so beautiful.”

She handed me my receipt and my bag of goods and said have a nice night and when she said this it was as if a spell had been broken. The adventure truly was over. I was just in a mall in some random city in Peru. I’d just bought groceries and now I had to walk home along a dirt road.

On my way out I passed some people on the way to the Adventure Plaza. They had a glint in their eyes. They didn’t seem to be present. They were excited.

If only they knew, I thought. But they will.

 

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The Phantom Card The most important credit card you'll never have

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, girls and girls, girls and older men, older men and boys, boys and boys, welcome to the phantom guide. This is for credit card that doesn’t exist. Because it doesn’t exist, it can never be destroyed, stolen, mutilated, coveted, or prized away from you on some kind of filthy subway system, or lifted, or jacked, or thieved, or any other such malice that could cause it to no longer be in your possession. Thus it will be the most important card you ever (don’t) own. It will be immortal in that it will exist forever, or at least as long as the expiration date. Formless and beautiful.

If you read yesterday’s blog entry, you’ll remember that yesterday I found out some slimy thieves in Florida (though actually they’re probably not in Florida) tried to use my debit card, which means now my debit card is blocked, which means I have to use my backup card, from Homestreet Bank on Bainbridge Island, which is actually not a half-bad backup card at that. This is the first time I’ve traveled with two debit cards. I’ve always traveled with a debit card and a credit card. And actually I’m sort of traveling with a credit card, though not the actual physical card. I’m traveling with the phantom card.

Imagine the following happens to you: You’re walking along the street in Paris, smoking a cigarette and thinking about what charming jazz club you’ll frequent that night, when a man steps out of the shadows and hits you over the head with an oven mitt full of quarters, takes your wallet, and then runs off back into the shadows. You wake, confused, and smoke a cigarette to calm down. You have 20 euros back at the hotel you put in your backpack because you didn’t deem it necessary to be walking around with so much cash. But other than that you now have no plastic. Your debit and credit card were in that wallet. You have no back up.

Or do you (not)?

You then remember you’re a cunning weasel, almost as cunning as the brute that just kissed the side of your head with an article of clothing filled with monies, and that everything should (and quite possibly could) be OK. In fact, in today’s electronic, peer2peer economy, you might not even a difference.

You call Charles Schwab and they agree to send you a replacement card on the double (see: triple). In the meantime you figure you can do the following: Because you have all the information from your phantom card — number, expiration date, security code — squirreled away on a sheet of paper or maybe just in your brain (the actual code is in a safe location far way), you can still make Airbnb reservations and thus have a place to stay. You can also take Ubers because your phantom card information is already in the Uber app. You can even eat, because with all the food delivery services you can just order food via an app and have it delivered right to your Airbnb door, while you stand out front talking to the Uber driver. Everything is peer2peer. We’re all sharing. We’re all in this together. In the year 2050 you’ll get in your car to drive your kids to school and someone will hop in the back seat and say, “Mets Stadium, please,” and even though you’ll have no idea what he’s talking about, you’ll think, Ahhh, I must be an Uber driver now. Or something. Peer2peer everything. Individuality is dead. You will then drive to your nearest bakery, take a picture of an almond croissant to show everyone what you ate, upload it to Instagram, and throw it in the garbage.

The point is that to be a successful traveler in today’s dog sniff dog world you must have a card in your repertoire that’s not actually in your repertoire; in other words, a card whose number and expiration date and security code you have so that you can use it to buy things online and on your phone in the case of an emergency or even non-emergencies.

I recommend the Chase Freedom card, because it has no interest for the first 15 months, which means you can rack up all the debt your little heart desires — your “phantom debt” — until, one day, it becomes all too real, at which point you’ll experience phantom sadness, phantom anxiety, and possibly even phantom trouble with the law, or at least a collections agency. But why dwell on something that may never happen? Didn’t Montaigne say, “I lived many a great tragedy in my life, most of which never happened?” Yes, of course he did. In other words: out of sight, out of mind. Just like your new card.

Instant Coffee: A Review I can't feel my pancreas

Ahhhh, the first sip is like battery acid, but the good kind of battery acid. The kind of battery acid where you walk into the garage, take the little caps off the knob things on the top of the battery to expose the liquid inside, grab the battery in both hands, tilt your head back, and…

The good kind of battery acid.

I’m talking about instant coffee, of course. I’ve just made myself a cup, though this is one of my last since I’ve resolved the following: After this jar of instant coffee and one more americano from each of my favorite cafes in Lima, I will no longer buy coffee. I’ll still drink it if someone offers, but I’ll no longer buy it. Because my adrenal glands are shot. I woke up this morning and stared at the wall for 15 minutes. I’d still be staring at the wall, trying to think of ideas for a blog post, if I hadn’t started drinking instant coffee. So praise instant coffee. Am I really going to give it up?

Shit, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’m all talk.

I just took another sip and before taking the sip I looked down into the instant coffee. It was black. It was like looking into a barrel of crude oil. Instant coffee is all the rage in Chile, where I don’t think people realize anything else exists. And it’s not that instant coffee is bad. OK, compared to regular coffee it’s terrible, but you can’t compare it to regular coffee. It would be like comparing wine to tequila. Neither of them are bad, they’re just different.

My particular brand of instant coffee is called Altomayo and I bought the “gourmet” kind, which Cristina, the Venezuelan woman also staying at my Airbnb, commented on.

“That stuff’s supposed to be better,” she said. “Is it?”

“No,” I said, “At least I can’t tell a difference.”

Now I’m nearing the end of the instant coffee, which means the usual question arises: Should I have another cup? I’m inclined to say no. I’m inclined to publish this post, get ready to go out, and then walk to Puku Puku where I’ll spend several hours sipping an americano and reading The New Yorker. But at the same time, when you add a couple teaspoons of sugar, it’s pretty damn good. Maybe I should have another cup. Maybe I….

 

 

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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.

Camila

I have a new girlfriend. Her name’s Camila. We met in the kitchen last night. She’s approximately 25 centimeters tall. She doesn’t have a body.

Camila likes the following things: Getting her hair cut, getting her hair styled, people playing with her hair, people complimenting her hair, people talking about her hair. She has a lazy eye. She’s not jealous. She rarely talks.

Camila and I don’t talk much. We usually just sit and enjoy each other’s presence. She rarely blinks. Her lips are red. When we kiss she’s always the first to pull away. She has commitment issues. She wants to get married. She says she needs me and then doesn’t talk to me for several days.

Camila is from Northern Peru, where her family still lives. She’s never left the country. As of yesterday she didn’t know Chile was on the Pacific and Argentina on the Atlantic. She has no desire to travel. She doesn’t read. She doesn’t listen to classical music. She thinks chess is for nerds.

Camila likes instant coffee. She likes papayas. She doesn’t have a digestive system. She wants to be a hair stylist one day but lacks hands. She lacks ambition. She lacks a central nervous system. She lacks a sense of humor. I spend the majority of every day trying to get Camila to laugh, and she hasn’t even blinked. She rarely looks me in the eye. She says it makes her uncomfortable.

Camila and I are good for each other. Opposites attract. Camila and I will be together forever, or at least the rest of this week. She lives in the closet in Clara’s room. Her hair gets shorter everyday, unlike ours, which gets longer. Camila has perfect skin. She doesn’t have to shower. She smells like hairstyling products and plastic. Camila is a my girlfriend.

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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La Punta

la punta lima peru oh my god

Is there anything worse than a soft mattress? I mean, sure, I know there are worse things. I know getting bamboo shoots shoved under your fingernails is probably worse, but the more I think about it….is it?

Yesterday I went to La Punta with Clara and Cristina. Clara is my host, and Cristina is one of the other guests here, from Venezuela. And La Punta is a neighborhood, as the name suggests, on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, as if saying to the rest of Lima, “I want to get away from you.” It’s also next to Callao, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Lima, possibly another reason for its fleeing geography.

As we were approaching Clara said, “Watch how the houses change.”

And indeed they did (change).

Once dilapidated houses with exposed bricks became multi-level condos with cream-colored sides, terraces lush with plants, soundproof sliding glass doors. The houses here were from yesteryear and I immediately felt like I was back in the Caribbean, in Cartagena or La Habana, exploring the malecón, looking for Gabriel García Márquez, gazing upon peaceful inner courtyards, denizens sipping lemonade and wondering, “Should I take a dip now? No, maybe later…”

Apparently La Punta is a zoo in the summer. Not an actual zoo, of course, but it FEELS like a zoo because of the quantity of people on the beach, the full buses, the yachts buzzing in and out of the harbor, the vendors hawking wares left, right, and even center. When we got there and began strolling the waterfront, palm trees towering above us, elegant houses to our left, Clara said, “That’s my yacht right there.”

“Oh, cool,” I said. “It’s not as big as my yacht, though.”

Then we talked about how great it would be to have a yacht, to be eating ceviche on its stern, gazing into the blue water.

Then we came to la punta de la punta, or, the end of the point, and I saw waves, their tops clipped by an offshore breeze, an island visible in the distance obscured by a wispy marine layer fog, and I thought, I must go swimming. I must go swimming now. I took a quick detour to change into my swimsuit and then I was plunging into the water, cold at first, gliding underneath the waves, the preoccupations of life on shore receding behind.

After this we walked around the point a bit more, and then made our way back to the other beach, where there were less waves. We walked slowly. We talked. It felt like we’d traveled back in time and that everything was simpler. At the other beach I went swimming again, and Clara dipped her feet, wobbling on the smooth, cobblestone rocks. Cristina also dipped her feet. A group of Americans approached the water and inexplicably did not go in, opting instead to stand on the shore and observe. Meanwhile I tested the upper reaches of my lungs, imagining myself to be like Kevin Costner from Waterworld, gills behind my ears, clad in tattered leather. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams, traipsing through a corn field, building a baseball field, talking to Terence Mann. I imagined myself to be like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, befriending a lone wolf on the frontier, becoming accepted by a group of Indians, marrying a squaw. And then I stopped imagining what it was like to be Kevin Costner and imagined what it would be like to be back on the beach, though this wasn’t something I didn’t have to imagine. I could do it. And that’s what I did. I lay on the beach, roasting in the sun, feeling the hot rocks beneath me, listening to Clara and Cristina talk.

Eventually, unfortunately, it was time to leave. We walked by the yellow house I’d decided was my favorite on the way in, and Clara took a picture. “I wish I could freeze this moment,” I said, and I did, I wished I could freeze that moment. It felt like one of those summer afternoons when you’re 12 years old and the sun is warm and you don’t realize you won’t live forever. I didn’t realize it was still possible to have moments like these in your thirties, and now that I know it’s possible I want to have more. Yesterday, at La Punta, with Clara and Cristina, was a good start.

 

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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.

Sunday Night Thoughts #10 Taking advantage of new subtitle capabilities.

Chilling at home in Guadalajara after four nights in a small town near Ciudad Guzman, next to the Colima Volcano. It’s strange to be back in GDL, which after almost three months sort of feels like home. Emphasis on the “sort of.” There’s only one place that truly feels like home for me. It’s the Northwest corner of United States, and specifically the Northwest corner of the Northwest corner of the United States. I won’t give it away completely, but its name rhymes with “Preattle.”

A week from Tuesday I head to the South American capital of Lima, where my life, at least for the first couple weeks, will probably continue much like it has the last few months in GDL. I’ll do my Instagram job, I’ll teach online, I’ll walk around, I’ll go to cafes. But then after Lima I’m hoping to get off the beaten path a bit. So far the top two destinations in mind are Bolivia and Brazil. Brazil recently made their visa for Americans much cheaper, and much easier to get. Before it cost around $200 USD and you had to get it before leaving the country. Now it costs $44 and you can get it online. So, the Amazon?

I still really want this blog to be successful, and to do that I think I need to start doing more things worth writing about. Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” To be honest, I’ve been a bit frustrated with how slow the progress with this blog is going, and I’m not exactly sure what to do. A writer friend of mine said I should make a decision: Either make it super introspective, first person narrative, basically embracing the journal angle to the fullest, or write things that people might find useful, like travel tips, reviews, etc. So far Ordinary Nomad has been kind of a mix. When it comes to blogging, I don’t really know what I’m doing, despite having done it for a long time. I know what I’m doing when it comes to traveling. I know how to find the cheapest flights, good, cheap lodging, good restaurants and cafes, and I have an ability to get myself into interesting situations, in places most people don’t go. But so far it hasn’t translated to blogging success. And it’s frustrating.

I’m waiting for my pizza to come, which is sausage and black olive. This is my new Sunday tradition. I order a pizza and I sit watching an episode of Black Mirror, or YouTube chess videos. In El Fresnito I played a lot of chess, against the computer, because at night there wasn’t much else to do. And thank God there wasn’t much to do. The best moments this weekend consisted of lying in the grass and looking up at that clouds.

I hope this post finds all of you well, wherever you are in your corners of the world. I like to imagine where you are, you few readers, when you read this. New York? Seattle? Somewhere in the Philippines? This blog, weirdly, gets a small trickle of traffic from the Philippines. I have no idea why.

I awoke this morning full of hope for April and for the future, and that hope continues. It was right around the height of this hope that I took the picture featured on this entry, from a bus window, of the Nevado de Colima. I realize the horizon line is tilted. But I like this photo because it’s ordinary. Even if that’s something I don’t want this blog to be.

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La Rinconada, Peru: The Highest City in the World

bella durmiente la rinconada

Wednesdays are my big days in Guadalajara. I give two Spanish classes in the morning to a man who works at the US Consulate and his wife, then go to the US Consulate to give two classes there (which I’ll be doing today for the first time and am excited about mostly because I like being a part of things that feel “official”), and then give an English class from 7-9pm (though that might only be this week). So since Wednesdays are my big day I’ve decided to recycle some material from whereswetzler.com and possibly other blogs like markdoesthecamino.blogspot.com, since there’s plenty material to choose from.

Today’s post is from a trip I took two years ago to La Rinconada, Peru, the highest permanent settlement on earth at around 16,800 feet. Stop a moment to imagine that. Imagine a city built 2,000 feet higher than the top of Mount Rainier. Imagine the weather, the temperature, the way the air would feel when you breathed it, the way the sun would feel on your skin. La Rinconada was a unique place, but not necessarily in a good way. Hopefully these pictures give at least a little insight as to why.

la rinconada, peru

This was the view from my hotel room.  It cost 30 soles a night (about 9 bucks USD).  There was only a urinal.  If you wanted to go number two you had to go down to the street and use the public bathrooms.

Every street in La Rinconada has at least a small stream of raw sewage running through it.  Dogs drinks from this water.  The smell is overpowering.  It gets on your shoes and follows you everywhere you go.

A lonely miner eats lunch.

Food at the top of the world.  This is chicharron with salad and potatoes. It was good, but silverware would’ve been nice. The miner pictured above was eating with his hands, so I did, too.

La Rinconada is surrounded on all sides by trash.

This is another town below La Rinconada.  It looks like Mordor.  Notice the soccer field on the left, though, the tiny patch of green amidst a sea of gray trash and zinc roofs.  La Rinconada has several soccer fields.

Two miners make their way towards the center of town.  When I started to go down this path a woman said, “Don’t go down there, it’s dangerous.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s dangerous.”

“Why is it dangerous?”

“Because anything could happen…”

la rinconada, peru

La Bella Durmiente, or, Sleeping Beauty.  She presides over all of La Rinconada.  Coming into town you see a glacier, and below that a grey smudge.  The grey smudge is the town.  You think to yourself, “No one should be living here.”

I wanted to get a photo of the town with the mountain in the background, but when I tried to walk out was blocked by sewage. I only stayed one night in La Rinconada, and the next day was happy to leave.

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