Wednesday, November 16, 2016

17 for 2017

Like any other year, 2017 provides us with 365 opportunities to restructure our actions, often referred to as 'resolutions', in order to achieve some hopefully improved outcome by the stroke of midnight on December 31st. For 2017, I've decided to create a list of actions to pro-actively ensure that I continue to explore and find myself in new experiences that build upon my own personal growth trajectory.

The '17 for 2017' is designed to be executed on any budget and adopted by anyone interested in taking a 'Man in the Mirror' approach to the 365 days of 2017.

EVERY DAY I WILL . . .

1. Give someone a hug - We all need em'.

2. Meditate - Whether it's 5 minutes when you wake up or 5 minutes before you go to bed, taking time to slow down and be mindful is important.

3. Drink more water - H20 isn't just for curing hangovers and when you're at the gym. Actively carrying around a water bottle entices you to drink more and generally will make you feel better.  

4. Hold doors for others - It's important that we always take into account our surroundings and understand that it's the simple gestures that have the greatest impacts.

EVERY WEEK OR MONTH, I WILL . . .

5. Read a book - If you're a big reader, go for 1 a week. If not, try for 1 a month.

6. Watch a movie, show or series in a language other than my own - Not reading subtitles is lazy and limits you to films, shows and series in only one language. Expand your world, read subtitles!

7. Give to a cause I believe in via my volunteered time or donation - Find a local soup kitchen to help out at, gather coats around the office for a shelter or give money to a charity of your choice.

8. Eat a cuisine or food I've never tried before - This can be achieved by checking out that new [insert nationality] restaurant down the street that you've never tried or sampling your friend's supposedly delicious [insert dish] that you've never tasted. If you've run out of places to eat and friends' cooking to sample, try to cook up something via an on-line recipe. No matter what you chose to do, buen provecho!

THIS YEAR, I WILL . . . 

9. Travel to a place I've never been before - This can be achieved by visiting a new neighborhood, town or state on a weekend trip or obviously via jet-setting with your passport. Whether domestic or international, I will try and be a tourist as much as possible.

10. Attend a local government meeting - Being involved in your areas local politics is an important part of being an active and contributing member to society. Voting doesn't count so try and sit in on a town meeting or go listen to a potential local candidate speak.

11. Learn a new language - Go ahead and just download DuoLingo. It's free and learning basic greetings in another language can be very useful.

12. Use airplane mode more often - We rely on our cell phones too much as a means of social support. Cell phones are not humans, so next time you're in the bar with your friends, family or loved one. Airplane mode it and be present.

13. Go to see live theatre - Whether it's improv, your cousin's fifth grade play, Broadway or even stopping to watch a street performer do his/her thing. Take the time to soak in the arts and just be a spectator.

14. Go to a concert - Whether it's a music fest, a free concert in the park or some street performer. Get out and go hear some music. For some, this may move to a once a week or once a month action.

15. Attend a religious service of a faith other than my own - Take part in a different faith's ceremony is an important experience for our own spiritual and religious growth.

16. Work towards becoming healthier - Whether it's Crossfit, doing Spartan Races, Yoga or running the occasional local charity 5k , it's important that we create workouts and diets to reflect the lifestyle with which we would like to lead. Defining what's 'healthy' is an individual endeavor and first step towards creating a 'let's get healthy' plan. So, sit down and outline a personal goal and go get it.

17. Write down my feelings about my experiences - Journaling is healthy and gives you a space to process life events. Looking back now, I'm glad that I've documented a lot of my travels over the past decade and how I felt about them. This might be more of a daily, weekly or monthly action depending upon personal preferences.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Night That Will Live in Infamy - The First Domino

The following entry was written beginning at 1:12AM on the 9th of November, 2016 and is a stream of consciousness reflecting my current mood. 

DJT is now electoral college points away from being named POTUS. This election result will go down as one, if not, the biggest political upset in modern world history. It also begins what many believe to be the beginning of the end. Now, I don't think that he'll push a button and start a war with North Korea as soon as he gets sworn in but then again I didn't think we'd be here. So, I guess only time will tell. What I refer to, when I say that this is just the first of many dominoes to fall, is that this country, a country that adopted me and inculcated me into the 'American dream', may never bounce back from the repercussions of tonight's decision within my lifetime. DJT will enter office, most likely, with a Republican House, Senate, and the ability to chose the next Supreme Court Justice, which would give him and his party, in theory, the ability to set the clock back on our country's social, economic, and international relations development. 


This result has left me in complete shock. I don't really know how to process what this will mean. Brexit was bad, Colombia not electing peace was worse but this is just on another level. I do know, however, that this country will endure, even if it takes us decades to recover from what will undoubtedly be a long 4, possibly 8 years.


Since being named the Republican candidate, I've been trying to wrap my mind around how DJT will accomplish even the most basic duties as POTUS. Will he be able to visit a future mass shooting site and provide thoughtful, empathetic, and generally wound-healing words for a grieving community? Or will he simply push divisive rhetoric about how more guns will stop gun violence? 


Aside from my lack of belief in his overall temperament, judgement, and ability to listen, I wonder if what he's said on his campaign trail will actually come to pass? I wonder what will be the short and long term impacts of this election? Will he completely wipe away Obama Care? Will he make abortion illegal on a national level? Will he undo national gay marriage rights? Will he give it his best effort to lock up Hillary? Will he ban Muslims? Will we leave NATO? Will he build a wall? Will he create a deportation squad? Who will be in his cabinet? What will happen with his mega-Trump empire? Will more allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and or assault be brought against him? What will his taxes reveal? Does he have business related conflicts of interests in Russia? Does he make as much as he says he makes? Did he pay taxes this last year? How will foreign nations receive this news? Will the stock market be impacted? Is this the beginning of a real police state? 


There's a real part of me that believes his presidency will be a mixture of V for Vendetta without V and The Hunger Games. And tonight, the commentary on DJT's appointment as POTUS that I think most eloquently outlined the real fears that many Americans have came from Van Jones, a political commentator and activist. His words hit the nail right on the head. The problem with a Trump election is that many Americans are 'afraid of breakfast' Van Jones says, 


"There's another side to this. People have talked about a miracle . . . I'm hearing about a nightmare. It's hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us. You tell your kids, don't be a bully. You tell your kids, don't be a bigot. You tell your kids, do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome and you have people putting children to bed tonight and they're afraid of breakfast. They're afraid of the 'how do I explain this to my children?'. I have muslim friends who are texting me tonight, saying 'should I leave the country?'. I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight. This was many things . . . This was a rebellion against the elites. True. It was a complete reinvention of politics and polls, it's true. But, it was also something else. We've talked about race . . I mean, we've talked about everything but race tonight. We've talked about income, class, region . . we haven't talked about race. This was a white lash. This was a white lash against a changing country. It was a white lash against a black President, in part. And that's the part where the pain comes from. And Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the President of all the people who he insulted and offended and and and brushed aside. Yeah, when you say you want to take your country back. You got a lot of people who feel that we aren't represented well either. But we don't want to feel that someone has been elected by throwing away some of us to appeal more deeply to others. This is a deeply painful moment tonight and I know it's just about race but race is here too and we got to talk about that".


I don't know if I can say it better than Van but I do feel that the new President Elect is not a guy who's going to look out for the well being of all the US' citizens. During his campaign, he used such inflammatory rhetoric when talking about such a variety of subjects and people that he's single handedly changing, or has changed, the way in which politicians will speak and act. By voting him into the White House, this country has taken a step in a direction that I believe will have catastrophic consequences. By voting him into the Oval office, we've cosigned all of his words. We've okay'ed rhetoric that we wouldn't allow our mail man, kid's soccer coach, or even potential son-in-law to ever speak. So, why is it that we're okay with having a President who mocks handicap people, admits to sexual assault, makes racists and xenophobic remarks? I truly don't have an answer. 


I'm also wondering how the US will move forward in creating or destroying relationships with other nations. Now, I'm sure some of you reading this may think that I'm overreacting but the reality is that the world is a complex place and we, the United States, are just a piece to the puzzle. We need a leader who understands this ever-changing global dynamic and will work to create bridges and not walls. It's a world where, in order to become better, we'll need the collaboration and support of others.  I wonder if DJT is that leader? My instinct tells me he's not but I hope, for the nation and world's sake, that he is. 


Only time will tell what this new administration will bring. I fear, however, that it will bring change. Negative change. I fear that it will marginalize those already on the edges and create even deeper divisions among races, classes, etc. I know that this blog hasn't been succinct or coherent but I felt that I not only needed to let out some of my current frustrations and feelings but that it's important that we remember how we felt tonight. A night that the world history books will most likely look upon as the beginning of the end of the 'US empire'. Just like I remember where I was on 9/11, I'll never forget where I was and how I felt when the US voted in DJT. 


In the words of philosopher Will Durant, 'A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself from within'. 


Very few conquerors know how to rule . . .


J

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I am - Words on Words on Words

Son Brother Friend Calm Opportunistic Master Forgetful Coach Student Meticulous Player Fanatic Athlete South American Weird Latino Hispanic Brave North American Northerner ‘Yankee’ Hardworking Male Loud Quiet Curious Wrong Intelligent Foolish Traveler Complainer Optimistic Realistic Funny Satirical Reader Writer Thinker Tinkerer Fast Quick Strong Weak Bilingual  Sociable Racially-Ambiguous Righty Backpacker Nomadic Transient Lost Searcher Competitive Logical Sleepy Unsatisfied Happy Academic Inventor Content Jarrett Colombian Javi Dancer J Lover Jay Cachaco Fighter American Naive Energetic Demanding Silly Gringo Accepting Rolo Drinker Sober Worldly Vegetarian Vegan Carnivore Omnivore Mammal Peaceful Lynx Eagle Narwhal Peaceful Playmaker Analyst Patient Restless Wired Not Caffeinated Inspired Designer Creator Musician Rhythmic Poetic Blogger Runner Lifter Fit Volunteer Assertive Genuine Kind Director Teammate Measured Calculated Unpredictable Responsible Trustworthy Respectable Reliable Confident Young Old Tolerant Lazy Resilient Scholar Teacher On-Time Adopted Late New Englander Hungry Beach-Bum Sharp Unrefined Talker Listener Sleeper Sprinter Visionary Photographer Creator Producer Southerner Jumper Wrestler Painter Carpenter Builder Inquisitive Leader Non-Smoker Independent Sweaty Concerned Applied Experienced Alternative Man Human Flyer Sporty Smart Neat Brown Critic Cynic Fragile Ignorant Tough Convinced Controlled Clean Psoriatic Determined Driven Ambitious Excessive Positive Opinionated Unforgiving Honest Sincere Alive and Here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Ball is Round II

The following entry was started in late November but was never fully published. I can't for the life of me remember why I stopped writing but I'm sure it had to do something with Thanksgiving break at home, graduate school finals, Christmas break at home, and finally New Years here in the city. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.


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It was about six weeks ago, on a Friday night, that a fellow graduate classmate spoke to me about a club soccer team at The New School. The next day I got up and made my way from Bushwick to the practice site (pier40). It was the first time, since my brief stint living in Buenos Aires, that I took the subway(soccer ball in hand) with the destination of playing soccer. Upon arriving at Pier 40, I was really pleased to see that there was, in fact, a New School club soccer team in the works. There were about twenty players, both male and female, working on ball control drills. They were led by an undergraduate student who I now know to be Ashim Joshi or as his peers call him - "Ash". As I understand it, Ash and some fellow teammates came up with the idea of creating a club soccer team at The New School last spring. They wanted to tap into the unrefined and under-appreciated athletic talent pool that The New School has at its disposal but very rarely let shine. This is almost all due to the fact that The New School is not an NCAA affiliated institution and that no student enrolls in The New School with dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Although, in some sense last spring Ash and his friends were dreaming. The New School had never had a club soccer team but that didn't mean that it wasn't full of soccer players.

After about five minutes of participating in the drills, Ash and I met and he asked if I was the guy who wanted to help out as a coach. I said that I was in fact that guy and this response seemed to please him as he said, "Great! I'd love to just focus on playing". The rest of the practice seems like a blur now but my hopes of helping out on the technical and tactical side of the team was in motion. 

I'm going to now fast forward to this past Saturday, the 23rd of November. In between that first practice and this past weekend, I met with the team about four times. During these practices, we worked on everything from set-pieces, to possession drills, to improving our first touch , to even talking about our defensive shape, etc. I could talk for much longer about each individual practice and what I wanted the team to gain from each session but even I find this soccer babble to be boring. So, I'll save you the boring stuff and let's fast forward to this past Saturday. A day that will undoubtedly always be remembered in the minds of those who played and those who came to watch.

The New School's inaugural club soccer game started around 2:00 PM on this past Saturday, the 23rd of November. Before I get into the game itself, I'd like to talk about the unique dynamic of the team as a whole. Soccer or football(not the Tom Brady type) has and always will be the world's sport, so it's no surprise that the team would be made up of mostly international students. Out of the seventeen players, there are more than 11 countries represented and about 13 different languages spoken. There are undergraduate and graduate students. There are sixteen males and one female. There are two goal keepers and 15 field players.


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From what I can remember, it was cold. In an anxious dash out of my house, I forgot to grab a hat and was lucky enough that a New School friend, Vanessa Palacio, brought me one. Due to the rather limited space before the game, the team was unable to do a proper warm-up and considering the weather that day we were lucky that no one pulled muscles or sustained a long-term injury. The game, like any other soccer game before it, was 90 minutes. At half-time we found ourselves behind by two goals. While we had scored first, we had managed to give up three soft goals including an own goal. The feeling at half-time was indicative of the entire first half's run of play - that we, while behind, were in control of our own destiny. The players felt confident in a second half come-back but would that be enough to overturn a three goal deficit? Not only did we dominate possession and have the lion's share of opportunities on goal but we kept a clean sheet, which in my opinion, was the most impressive part of the second half. With about twenty minutes left on the clock, we scored our second goal of the half and third of the game. It was at this point where we abandoned the need to defend and adopted a more adventurous approach to the game along the lines of -  "the best defense is a good offense". I don't actually remember in what minute the final goal was scored but it had to have been in the closing moments of the game. The eight to ten minutes following the scoring of the fourth and winning goal were some of the longest moments in my personal sporting career.

When the final whistle blew, all the fans that had gathered to watch, for many of them their first soccer game, charged the field. We had done it. We had won our first game. They say that you're only as good as your last game and when your entire season is only one game you have a unique opportunity to go big or go home. We were lucky enough to do both. We won and then we went home. I'd say bout 93% of the New School student body has absolutely no idea that the New School even has a Club Soccer team. The players from that day, all 17 of them, left the field that day like they had played in the final game in the movie Varsity Blues but returned to classes on Monday as if nothing had ever happened.  The post game celebratory feeling will forever be ingrained in those who there on that windy November day. The Narwhals had done it(Yes, that's the New School's mascot). We had won our first game.


Warm-up Vista.


The team playing "possession" to warm-up. 
Pre-Game team photo with the President(center) and Athletic Director(right). 

Unfortunately, I was unable to take any photos during the game. The following photos are from the post-game celebration. 

Gnarls - New School Mascot


Thanks Vanessa for the hat and the sign!


I'm currently working with the school's director of athletics to organize games for this spring. If you're in the New York City area this spring and want to see some good soccer, let me know!  As soon as I have information on the spring schedule I'll be sure to put it up here. This link will take you take the New School's athletic website which has the official game write-up.  Until next time, stay warm and play indoor soccer!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Two Year Tourist

If you click on the links throughout the blog, it will make for an exponentially better blogging experience. A link can be denoted by green text. Enjoy!

I created this blog in the spring of 2011 as a way "for me to share my experiences with the outside world i.e. friends and family". At that time, I was writing all my entries from the highlands of Guatemala and my day to day routine was very different, if not foreign, from those of my audience. So, I wonder if my audience will still find my day to day as captivating as it once was when I was writing from the mountains of Guatemala or the coast of Colombia. I guess we'll just have to find out. However, as I write you from my apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, one thing is for sure. While I've returned to the United States of America, I wonder, especially as I'm now a part of the "melting pot of the melting pot", whether I'll ever stop feeling like a tourist?


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New York City -  Where to begin? As James Shimer so delicately put it - it's the "melting pot of the melting pot". It's a city whose inhabitants have come from all over the world. In the New York City public school system alone there are more than a 180 languages spoken. It's a place where hearing foreign languages on the subway is the rule and not the exception. New York City is a breeding ground for a new dialect that has and will only continue to flourish among Latin/Hispanic communities in the US - spanglish. The photo below is an example of how even the major beer companies are incorporating this dialect into their advertising. The city's promise of success through hard work has made it into a beacon for those seeking the American dream. It's this notion of reward through dedicated hard work, or "hustle" as my roommate Lusmaia refers to it, that is an omnipresent and often times suffocating feeling that the city emits.  A feeling that is almost Darwinian in nature. A feeling that there's always someone out there who is working harder than you and for that you should never rest. This gives way to the reason that this city never sleeps. However, I don't live in New York City. I live in Brooklyn. 




I currently live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Bushwick is one of the many neighborhoods that comprise Brooklyn.  Brooklyn, if it were its own city, would be the third largest city in the US behind New York City and Los Angeles respectively. Brooklyn was actually its own city until the late 1900s. In truth, I live in New York City as Brooklyn is a part of the US' largest metropolis but Brooklyn simply isn't part of the "Sex and the City" NYC that one might think of when they envision The Big Apple.  Brooklyn has its own unique cultural identity which, these days, is an infusion of alternative fashion, varied genres of music, and art. 



There are many nights I fall asleep to the clashing sounds of Hector Lavoe, a Puerto Rican salsa legend, and Drake, a popular Toronto hip-hop artist. The neighbors to my left are Puerto Rican and thus enjoy the sounds of Hector Lavoe while my neighbors to the right prefer a more urban feel like that of Drake. While I must admit that these are my two favorite genres of music, I can also say that I never enjoy them being played simultaneously. One of my favorite parts about living in Brooklyn is the amount of free and public music events that are always going on. About a month ago, I went to an outdoor hip-hop block party where I was fortunate enough to see one of the god-fathers of the genre - Ali Shaheed Muhammad.  Ali is most known for his work with the group A Tribe Called Quest. I've been listening to "A Tribe" since I was a junior in High School and so finally seeing him on the turntables was unforgettable. The pictures below are from the event. 


Ali Shaheed Muhammad on the turntables. 


Dance Circle.


Lusmaia, Tuxedo T-shirt, Luz Karime and Luis' happy face!


People playing Ping-Pong in the street and enjoying Ali's beats.


As far as fashion goes, please watch this video. It describes the lifestyle of a "hipster" which I find almost impossible to define. I can say that in Brooklyn, you're never out of style.  I promise you anything goes.  Last week, while waiting for my local train to take me to school in Manhattan, a woman walked past me on the platform wearing an entire see-through white spandex dress thing. It looked very similar to this costume the lead singer from the Darkness wears in this music video. While you may think I'm joking, I honestly wonder if she bought it at an online celebrity "Darkness the band" charitable auction. The only thing that made this moment more priceless was the mutterings of a couple sitting on the bench waiting for the train - " Uuuuh, doesn't she know it's past Labor Day". 


Art can be seen in many ways in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum is supposed to be great and I look forward to visiting it.  Many artists live here and work in Manhattan as rent is, on the whole, cheaper. However, it's the street art that I love. Graffiti is everywhere. World renown street artist Banksy is currently in New York City and so his art is popping up all over the city but especially in Brooklyn. The pictures below are a personal sampling of the kind of street-art I've encountered in my short time in Brooklyn. 

Lusmaia and BUSHWICK.


Doctored up version of LOVE ME which I see everyday before I cross the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan.








There was an office chair . . . just sitting there.

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I'd like to now step-back and talk about why I moved to Brooklyn. I arrived to Brooklyn on August the 16th and on that following Monday, the 19th, I began orientation for Graduate School at The New School. The New School is located in Manhattan between Union Square and Washington Square Park. My particular program is out of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy. Yes, I know it's a mouth full. I'm currently pursuing an International Affairs Master with, at this point, an undefined concentration. I'm leaning towards either Development or Governance and Rights. 

I'm currently enrolled in three classes which is a normal course load for a first-semester graduate student. I'm taking an introductory course for my particular program, International Affairs, called Global Flows, a required economic class, and an elective entitled "Health, Inequality, and Development". My classes are engaging and I have classmates from all over the world. It's this dynamic classroom atmosphere and the school's location in New York City that are giving a real international feel to my graduate school experience. It's this sentiment coupled with the school's dedication to thinking about "global" affairs, both from a theory and practice standpoint, that are making me very satisfied with my decision to have come to The New School!

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I've now been living here for almost eight weeks. It's been an adventure, to say the least. I decided to entitle this entry the "two year tourist" because I don't think I'll ever completely understand New York City. Like a tourist, each day has been an adventure;I've gone somewhere new; I've met new people; I'm overwhelmed by something in the aesthetic that the city has to offer me; I've gotten lost or overly relied on the Google Maps App on my phone. Could this be a temporary phase tied into the "honeymoon period" associated with just having moved here? I don't think it is. I'll never consider myself a "New Yorker" no matter how long I live here. So, I think that that lends itself to the idea that I'll always be an outsider. An outsider who enjoys living and studying in the greatest city on earth. 

Please leave a comment if you'd like me to talk about a certain aspect of my experience in the city. The food, the rent, the subway, the weather, etc.