El Rincón del Mate

el rincon del mate guadalajara

The temperature is a brisk 85 degrees in Guadalajara, and I’m sitting inside El Rincon del Mate drinking a mate mocha, which is essentially a mocha but made with mate instead of espresso. I thought the chocolate was going to be ultra-sweet, processed Hershey’s garbage, but it tastes like real Mexican chocolate. My taste buds are rejoicing. Well, maybe not rejoicing. But at the very least my tastebuds are awake.

Even though this is the cafe in Guadalajara I come to most, it remains the only cafe I haven’t written about. I don’t know whether or not this will change today. When I sat down I was resolved to “not have an agenda” when I wrote. To let my mind wander. And so maybe I’ll talk about my immediate surroundings, since the temptation for every amateur writer is to write about his immediate surroundings. Or maybe I’ll talk about how this day has gone, how I woke up and went to Pan Regio, thinking I’d write about another pastry and thus complete the pastries in Guadalajara mini-series that’s arisen spontaneously over the past couple days. But the biscuit was unremarkable. This isn’t to say it was bad. It was definitely the healthiest item I’ve gotten from Pan Regio so far. It was made with whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. It wasn’t nearly as sweet as most of the things they make. My roommate said the other day he thought Pan Regio was expensive. The biscuit cost 7 pesos. I don’t really know how it could be cheaper.

Tomorrow is Friday, which means today’s my Friday. Friday is one of the few days where I have very little scheduled. This is because my online students are mostly in Spain and don’t want to have English class on Friday evenings. And also because I’ve stopped taking more work at Vancouver Language Centre, since the classes I have in the consulate are enough. I’ve never particularly enjoyed teaching English, but I think I’m coming around. I’m starting to understand the English language better. There are some subtleties that are nearly impossible for ESL learners to understand, let alone native speakers. For example, how would you explain the difference between the following two sentences:

1) “What are you going to do after work?”

2) “What are you doing after work?”

The answer (apparently) is that first question is more speculative, while the second question elicits concrete plans. When you say, “I’m meeting up with some friends after work,” it’s more concrete than, “I’m going to meet up with some friends after work.” The latter would sound better preceded by, “I think,” i.e., “I think I’m gonna meet up with some friends,” reinforcing the fact that this is, indeed, speculation.

Or something.

Honestly, I have no idea.

And I really wish I had another drink, but don’t want to spend another 30 pesos to get one.

But maybe I should?

I mean, I’ve worked hard today.

Come on, Mark, live a little.

But that’s exactly the mentality that got me into the financial trouble from a few days ago.

But, like, you only live once, right?

The music playing in El Rincon del Mate right now is from the Into the Wild soundtrack. This movie was popular in the summer of 2009, when I was working at a lodge in Alaska as a housekeeper. I’m not one to single out “favorite summers,” but that was definitely one of my favorite summers. When I’m wrinkled and grey I’ll talk fondly about the summer of ’09, about the time when we tried to live off the land but ended up living off whiskey, about the time Phil and I saw a bear and almost shit our pants.

And maybe when I’m old and grey I’ll talk about the winter of ’18, when I lived in Guadalajara and had few friends and spent most of my days in a small cafe known for serving mate. I’ll talk about how I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a happy time for me. Though I guess if I’m writing about it now maybe I do realize it. Maybe I am happy.

A special thanks to Barry Sevig for supporting this blog both in spirit and for donating the laptop on which I write everyday. Without him my first website, Where’s Wetzler, would’ve never existed. And probably not this one, either.

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El Mono Silabo

mono silabo guadalajara

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

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

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

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

That’s kind of how I feel right now.

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

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

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