Monday, December 21, 2009

A lesson in destruction

Before I walked out the door of the final day of my accounting course, I went to go shake hands with my professor. To be completely honest, he wasn't the best instructor. Sure he knew the material, he just wasn't motivated. But throughout the course, he'd drop subtle hints about his ailing wife who had just been diagnosed with brain cancer, or some other terminal disease that had numbered her days. At times he would merely ask rhetorical questions to the class as to why God let things like this happen. We really had no answer, so instead we just awkwardly glanced at each other.

I couldn't help but feel for the guy, so each time we left class, I went up to him and wished him a good weekend, a better tomorrow, something to show that at least I was listening. I never really knew what to say to someone who I didn't really know, yet at the same time was pouring his heart out to us. I simply smiled frequently and took all the condensation from his pent up frustration with life. I still remember the one time he scolded me in front of the class for paradoxically following the exact guidelines he had given us, but instead of getting defensive, I simply smiled and said, "Ok. I'll try harder next time."

Before I walked through those doors for the final time, he said to me, "Thanks for the positive attitude." I was taken aback by this remark. I have never considered myself to be "positive". For those of you who know me, either in person or loosely through this mess of a blog, I think "positive" is one of the last words to describe me.

For the longest time I've found any reason to be unhappy. I used to blame it on people, on living amidst the lack of cultural competence in this country, and my one saving grace was to leave again - yet when I did, I only found another reason to be unsatisfied. I was running from something.

I think for the first time I've stopped running and I'm just now actively confronting everything that has frightened me; everything that has forced me to impose this unrelenting self-destruction. And for the first time I'm not cowering to their demands. I'm fighting back. The irony is that in destroying a part of myself, I am also creating. Creating an acceptance of where I am, what I am doing, and most importantly, who I am supposed to be.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yes. I will be back.

I'm sure the two readers of this blog, (one being me), are wondering why I haven't posted much anymore. Partly a loss of passion, majorly a traumatizing fear for return. But this blog will be revived soon. I am just taking a much needed break to administer some self-healing surgery on some self-inflicted wounds. See you soon, my friend.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Waste of a Day

Doing nothing, was about all I could do today. Hopefully, I'll have at least learned the feeling of how I never want to feel again, and get back to being productive, or at least tricking myself into thinking I am.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Sacrifices of Change

I'm beginning to realize that change comes with its consequences. There were and still are so many things I want to change about myself, and I am so obsessively focused on self-improvement that I've overlooked how in that course of transformation, we lose qualities we once adored and respected.

But as a good friend once told me, we lose some things we liked about ourselves in the process of growth - that is simply the cost of maturing into the full potential we all have within ourselves. But hopefully after every new chapter in our lives, we can look back and remember how we used to be, and work towards salvaging those traits and qualities we once loved. That, I believe, is the process of finding balance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Civil War

In talking to my good friend and personal life guru, I've realized that I don't hate myself. It's parts of me that I hate. And I think that's okay. I think all of us have imperfections we look to remedy and goals we seek to accomplish. It is the parts that hold me back from realizing my full potential that I despise. It is the lethargy to change, the selfishness, the fear that I want to viciously kill. I see a part of me that finds joy in seeing me fail. Call it whatever you want. Lack of self-esteem, depression, doubt, laziness. I think at one point of our lives, all of us go through an internal conflict where we need to seek out, identify and pull out those elements of our character, then maliciously stomp every single ounce of slithering life residing in them.

And forgiving yourself? That's partly true.

I don't think you should forgive the parts of yourself that you hate, but rather the part of you that was complacent in allowing those self-defeating beliefs to rule your life. It's okay to fall down. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to give up. Just as long as it doesn't always stay that way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reflections from the last trip

I have made many mistakes in my life. I have misinterpreted the signs and beckoned to the alluring call of defeat. But the world does not stop to hear your sorrow. God does not hate you and the world is not against you. Your biggest enemy is yourself.

I want too much. I expect way more than I can accomplish because I am selfish. Greed does not only come in the monetary or material measures. Overindulgence is a poison. Desire can be a sin. Want less, need less. Live more. Selflessness is key.

You can dwell on the past all you want. You can relive those moments in your mind, fantasizing how they could have been different, how you could be now, but the present doesn't change. Your time is better spent on productivity, not reminiscence.

Sometimes I found myself acting like someone I wasn't or wanting something because it is what people expect me to want. I've never really questioned who I am. I felt lost. I felt without identity. But sometimes you need to go outside yourself to see who you really are and what you need to improve. I think I'm coming back to center.

I've never been one to quit. Sometimes I have the foolish pride of a beaten fighter. Sometimes I step through those ropes when common sense tells me to unlace the gloves and call it a day. But this is one time where I can't throw in the towel.

Fuck the rest. It's time to go.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quick Update

I know I've been gone for a while. Haven't found much to write about, though I could if I really tried. I guess I've been "stuck" again. But sleeping won't make your problems go away and your life won't suddenly change after you get out of a hot shower. Time to go. Tomorrow is Sept 1st but I'm treating it like a New Years. The first day of starting over.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I've learned that...

We are complex beings. We are complicated organisms designed with forces simultaneously pushing and pulling against each other. If I had to sum up what I learned about life during this last trip, I would say that the point was to order all those energies into one direction, and plow through without fear or regard.

The decisions will not end. The unanswerable questions of "what if" or "what could have been" will not cease at any particular time, but rather life is about having confidence in your decisions and living with the choices we make. I suppose the hardest part is truly realizing what you want or where you "should" be. Yes, there are always the signs, but in the end, we create our own fate. WE are the ones that decide which path to take. Those seemingly random occurrences only guide us there. Ultimately, it is our decision to listen or not.

So this trip has really been about two things: Choices and sacrifices. With each choice comes a consequences and going through life is simply an intricate balance of knowing what you want and measuring what choices will get you there and which ones won't. The heartbreaking revelation is that you can't do it all. Sooner or later life splits your passions and aspiration into separate paths. You have to give one up for the other. But I guess that's the beautiful ugliness of it all. You benefit from the sacrifices of yourself and from that, I think, is how parts of you literally help yourself grow.

I can't say I've felt productive these past 5 months. In fact, most of the time was spent agonizing over which decisions to make, where I was going or where I could have gone. Contemplation over lost time is truly the biggest mistake of my life. But they say misery is a fire that destroys and purifies. Somewhere at the end of all this there is a lesson to be learned. And I have to consider myself lucky. I've had the opportunity to realize this and still have enough youth and energy to do this thing right.

There is always time to do this thing right.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dancing til the sun comes up

Sometimes you don't have to have style, you don't have to move to the rhythm, you don't have to have perfect technique. Sometimes you can dance around like a fucking idiot and things will be okay.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I don't think I'll ever learn.

I can't ever seem to leave Pandora's box alone. Curiosity really does kill.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let It Burn

Two days before I left on this trip, a good friend of mine called me in a frantic panic, warning that between the dates of April 28th and May 7th, I would meet someone that would either make this the best or the worst experience of my life. Now I’m not one for superstition, but for those 9 days, I restrained myself to redundant routine in deliberate avoidance of meeting anyone new.

“Safe”, I thought to myself as the miniature black border outlined the 8th of May on my electronic calendar. What I didn’t foresee was for her to get the dates wrong. I also didn’t expect that it would be someone I vaguely knew from my past. But most of all, I didn’t anticipate that the determination of my experience would be in my own hands. I guess what they say is true. You do create your own destiny.

It ended up sparking an intense reflection of my entire life, from my past and present career choices to the many buffoonish fumblings with the opposite sex. It became an agonizing circular comparison of what my life could have been and what it is. At times the regret paralyzed me in a state of stagnant contemplation. At times it was downright painful.

I helplessly clung onto the few memories of ecstatic happiness I had retained; yet I still found a way to reduce them to times of just getting caught up in the moment, paltry instances of misinterpretation, or an oversimplification of happiness. I somehow manage to ruin everything for myself, even the times that have already passed.

But I still contest that what I felt during those times were real. That smile, that revival of hope that the world is still a decent place, were in fact sincere. What I’ve come to realize is that genuine passion expels so feverishly that it burns. For me, it's has just been so infrequent that instead of learning from it, I let it engulf me. Hence the product of my life: unstable occurrences of the extreme ups and downs. I still haven’t learned to control or bring them out from within. I am still reliant on external factors. I am petty, just like everyone I said I wasn’t like.

I’ve foolishly extended this trip multiple times, despite the fact that I’ve been longing to go home since almost the beginning. One part of me says the pain will always make you stronger, but realistically, the other, much more trivial part of me, is just waiting in vain hope that maybe some stroke of burning passion will present itself again and this time, I won’t be foolish enough to let it pass me by.

Sometimes I think too much. Sometimes I dwell too long in those dark corners of regret and remorse and I fretfully scurry over what parts of my potential I can still salvage. But fuck it. I’ve decided that should that moment present itself again, should I be lucky enough to recognize it, and most importantly, should I be brave enough to embrace it, I’m putting on my shoes and dancing my way right into that fire, even if it burns me up in the process.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Somewhere in the middle

Sometimes when you wander too much, you lose sight of who you are. Sometimes you need to be grounded in order to figure out where you need to be. I never thought things could get this bad when traveling. Dazed and confused. It's time to come home now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one and a half hrs of sleep was all i got

Have you ever looked back at your life and analyzed every single trivial detail, then just wish you could go back and rearrange it all? You wish you would have went that way instead of this way, chosen A instead of B, courageously pushed through instead of cowered back into the safety net of comfort?

You know, I used to think I was different. I kept thinking it was society, not me that was dysfunctional. Blame it on structural oppression, blame it on media brainwashing, blame it on how people are, whatever justifies your fear from grasping what's out there. But for every pointed finger, there's three pointing back at you.

I know fantasizing about building a time machine and reliving those lost moments can be just as much of a time drain as any other flashy media gimmick created in the modern day. I know it's best to leave the past behind you; thinking about it too much just takes up time that should be spent on the present, and then you go back and regret that lost time as well. But you know, it's a lot easier said than done.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moving On

I once etched into a table in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, "Regret kills. Live with none." I somehow have still not learned to live by that phrase I engraved over a year ago. I'm beginning to wonder how regret is created. Is it the actual events that happen to us or the endless string of "what if's" you create in your own mind afterward? Sometimes I'd like to believe that we create our own misery, because by that logic we should therefore be able, at our own will, to halt the repressive anguish we put ourselves through. But truth is, it is a hybrid of it all. The opportunities that seemingly fall into our laps, the decisions we voluntarily make, and the interpretations we conclude at the end of it all.

Fifty-one hours on an uncomfortable bus strangely become more physically bearable when your mind is trapped in a never ending contemplation about regret. I spent my bus ride from Lima, Peru to Valparaiso, Chile, tormenting myself over missing out on yet another opportunity, which caused an intense analysis of all the events of my life. My biggest concern is feeling that I've been given all the chances and abilities to be someone great, only I let fear get the best of me. Someone who had more courage to realize their potential would achieve unimaginable feats, yet I can't seem to. I guess it just makes me jealous of this imaginary figure I fabricated in my own head and that envy soon transforms to bitterness.

There are so many other ways I wish my life turned out. I should have kept playing piano. I should have joined the wrestling team when the coach asked me to. I should have went to the bathroom before I walked her home. But dwelling in all those missed opportunities will kill you. It only prevents you from moving on. Sooner or later you have to let go. Sometimes you have to look at the brighter side of things and realize that maybe things could have been a lot worse. Sometimes you have to understand that perhaps had you went that way instead of this way, you wouldn't have the few things that do make you satisfied with yourself. Sometimes you must believe that things turned out the way they did for a reason, even if it means lying to yourself, just for that trivial purpose to be content with who and where you are.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Love/Hate Thing

I used to say that in order to love something, you'd have to have hated it at one point as well. How can you feel love without hate? Joy without pain? You can't truly appreciate either extreme unless you're acquainted with its counterpart. I wonder if the same holds true for the contrary. I've spent more time in Lima than in any other single place in all my travels and I can say that I've had some of the most miserable times of my life here. I can sincerely say that I hate living in Lima.

But it has nothing to do with the place itself. I have some real good friends here, enjoy the local cuisine, and know the bus routes better than Seattle's. But rather my resentment for Lima is that I've had my dreams and aspirations crushed in front of me and in the face of pressure I have folded; cowering into the familiar safety of comfort and turning into a pathetic, loathing, unproductive sloth who detests his inability to reach his full potential. So it's not Lima I hate. It's me.

I look at some of the comments people leave on the various medium of cyberspace networking and I can't see that person they all seem to know. HE wouldn't be as timid. HE wouldn't be indecisive. HE would be living that dashing fairytale adventure journey that everyone expects. I wish I could be that person. But I can't.

I spent the last two weeks agonizing whether I should go here or there, North or South, and in some ways it was representative of my past or my future. What ends up happening is that the internal deliberation distracts you from the only moment that matters. So after wasting a considerable amount of time and money, I ended up fruitlessly chasing the unattainable ghosts of my past and fumbling upon the prospects of new opportunities. In some ways you could say I put those matters to rest, in others you could say I did better than I had ever expected and maybe should be content with that. But in the end, it is what it is. It is useless to contemplate on the moments that never happened.

So what can I say about my time in Lima? A friend told me it's like New York. You hate it and love it at the same time. You want to leave everyday, but you'll miss it once you finally do. I made my last walk around the neighborhood and felt...quite indifferent. I don't know what to make of this time I've spent here. I can't tell if I loved or hated it. Maybe at the very least I can say that it has been a learning experience; a realization of my character and the countless opportunities I let pass by. But you take your punches in stride and learn to avoid them next time. And you can always change yourself and who you are. It's just about having the courage to snap your fingers and say, "now".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Ten Count

No, couldn't be, I silently thought this morning when a thread on the boxing forum that I frequent caught my eye. "Arguello found dead :(" it read.

Alexis Arguello, aka El Flaco Explosiva, was found dead this morning in his hometown of Managua, Nicaragua. The first thing that popped in my head was how I actually got to meet the former champ last year at his birthday party (we coincidentally have the same birthday). I remember being delightfully surprised at how welcoming this guy was, how approachable and sincere he carried himself and how despite being a damn near superstar in Nicaragua, he was one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I've ever met.

Like most fighters, Arguello lifted his country during a time of civil unrest and social instability. Boxers are individual embodiments of a nation's spirit. Fighters like the Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao or even the first Peruvian world titlist Kina Malpartida dissolve all the present concerns surrounding the nation when they compete. For that moment, all that matters is their triumph. And even though it may not offer any sort of tangible long-term solution, amidst difficult times, it brings a country an instance of hope, no matter how tiny or short-lived it lasts.

Last year Arguello was elected mayor of Nicaragua. People would call him the "gentleman of the ring", labeled by both national and international observers as one of the classiest fighters to grace the canvas. Today I opened my inbox to a message that said "URGENTE NIKOOOO!!!!". A friend in Nicaragua wrote me about the devastating news, informing me that thousands are filling the streets of Managua, giving their ultimo adios to the champ.

Most news releases about his passing can be found somewhere in the back, mixed in with the miscellaneous press releases as Arguello is virtually an unknown to the international non-boxing observer. But those that have heard of him, mostly know him for his valiant losses to the American fighter Aaron Pryor, but I mainly remember him for what he said to his opponent Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in his 14th round KO victory. I think his words sum up what kind of person he was.

Rest in peace, Champion.

(From 4:25 on captures Alexis Arguello's essence. RIP.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lessons in the Ring

Don't wait. Be first.
My coach used to always bark that phrase at me when I was inside the ring. I've adopted more of a counter-puncher style, a fighter who reacts based on his opponents moves. But I think that's symbolic of how you go through life. Whether you are creative of your own actions or if you are reactionary of others. Be first. Create your own destiny.

Keep your hands up.
I used to always have this tendency to drop my hands. Blame it on tiredness or watching too many damn Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights. Those habits cost me. Those habits hurt. Literally. In life, one should be trusting but never get too comfortable. Never forget that at any moment the fight can change, and you better have your guard up. Therefore, above all, protect yourself at all times.

Get off the ropes.
I began adopting the game plan of moving once I felt my back touch the ropes. Before it used to be sort of a resting area, a place where I'd practice my Philly-shell defense, but more often than not, it just became target practice for my sparring partner. I was an immobile subject, waiting to get picked off. You should always be moving, not idle on the ropes.

Control the center.
In order to stay off the ropes, you have to have some type of authority within the center. You have to stand your ground and not let yourself be pushed around. If your opponent is stronger than you, box him. If he's a better boxer, bully him. If he's better in both, exploit his anger. Make him sloppy. Find something. Use your opponents flaws against him to control the center. You control the center, you control the fight.

Make him miss. Make him pay.
I began getting better at making my opponents miss but I could always hear my coach's voice yelling, "make him pay when you make him miss!" To me it was like acting on your accomplishments. Don't just sit there and be happy that you avoided a bad stroke of luck, but take advantage of your position. Act.

Don't admire your work.
Boxing commentators used to always echo this phrase; essentially the equivalent of not dwelling on your past accomplishments. In boxing when a fighter would "admire his work" and in thinking too long about how great of a combination he just threw, he'd get caught, punched, and pounded while his mind was elsewhere. Don't think of the past, focus on the present.

Punch with him.
Part of the reason sparring has gotten easier for me is because I am punching with Maicelo and you know, sometimes I land when he's coming in, which means it interrupts his whole rhythm, which means his potential 5 punch combination was reduced to 1. Despite the fact that I know he'll beat me, I still punch back. It's like facing an adversity you know is too overwhelming, but at least you're still throwing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yesterday's News

Someone told me I was in yesterday's edition of the Peruvian sports newspaper "Depor". I spent a good hour at 6:30 in the morning running around like a madman searching for a copy. This is what I find:


Monday, June 22, 2009

My problem. Endless waiting.

Tomorrow is when I will finally clean up my room. Tomorrow is when I'll mail that letter, write that article, organize my photos. Tomorrow inspiration will come, my problems will be solved and the mental congestion will melt away. Tomorrow is when I'll finally get my act together. I just have to wait, til tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Big Fight

Tonight the Peruvian champ, Kina Malpartida, successfully defended her WBA Super Featherweight title by TKO victory in the 7th round over her opponent Halana Dos Santos. On the undercard, my buddy and sparring partner Jonathan Maicelo won a unanimous decision over Javier Gallegos, beating him from pillar to post nearly every round.

I'm a bit bummed out because despite having earned press credentials to the fight, I couldn't get any good pictures. Ironically enough, the photographer pass forced me to stay in the "photographers area" on the second floor. I managed to sneak down to the first floor and for about 15 minutes, into ringside, but eventually got kicked out and then marked by security. But I try to look at it like this. I got the press pass for free and managed to sit in S.340.00 ($112.00) seats for some damn good fights. I really shouldn't be complaining.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The last round

I suited up in my black Under Armor shirt, my green Marmot rain jacket, a.k.a my makeshift sweat suit, packed my yellow Winning brand sparring gloves and headed out the door. The final day of training. Weigh-ins on Friday, light warm-up on Thursday, which makes today my last day of sparring. The last day they "needed" me. I wanted to make it something important. I wanted to say fue un placer a hacer los guantes contigo, Maicelo. I kept envisioning this grand finale to celebrate all the hard work I put in. But it never came.

After 15mins of warm up, I sheepishly asked Maicelo if he needed sparring. Creo que no. Turns out, Faustino arrived late, and by the time he showed up, Maicelo's workout was already winding down. But we ended up training together anyways, running sprints side by side. He was still beating me relentlessly, only it hurt a whole lot less. By the 4th or 5th sprint, I told him that this was my last week. I was leaving next Wednesday. ¿¡Oye, porque!? ¡No podemos celebrar! I didn't really know how to respond, just touched that maybe he considered me a friend.

I try to think whether or not I'll miss the gym. To be completely honest, much of it reminds me of the self-inflicted mental anguish from my voluntary isolation, but the few social interactions I do have during the day occur while I'm there. I can say that I know most of the fighters, trainers and casual observers at the gym. Some even ask me if I'm fighting on the big Kina Malpartida* card this Saturday. In some ways, I think I will miss that. Being part of something that is.

I winded down my own workout with 5 lackluster rounds on the heavybag, some sit ups and half my stretching routine. I guess I was actually disappointed I didn't get beat up today. Go figure.

Before I left, I went around and shook the hands of my coaches. They asked what time I'd be in to train tomorrow. I explained that from now on it was only photos. I'd just be around to take photos. They hesitated and gave me a bit of an awkward glance, but eventually shrugged it off and went on. To be honest, I'm a bit sad that my last workout went out with more of a whimper rather than a bang, but I think sometimes that's how it's supposed to be. You exit just as you entered. A nobody.

As I stepped through the revolving gates, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I saw Maicelo sitting on the curb, waiting around for yet another reporter. I decided to chat with him for a bit, asked the typical filler questions. How are you feeling, how's your weight, that sort of stuff. But when I asked him of his plans after the Kina fight, he told me he planned on moving to the US for the abundance of pugilistic opportunities. I suggested we keep in contact. He agreed. I told him that if he needed anything, he just needed to..."No. Not for that," he interrupted, "we'll stay in contact just to stay in contact. I don't like asking for things." I respected that. Hell, I admire that.

I want to make it clear that he never asked me to stay and spar. I did that on my own accord because I thought it might help him. I don't know if it actually did or not, but I always received a "Gracias Nick" afterward. I think at least he appreciated my dumbassedness. I tried explaining to him how his words about pity really affected me, how it really made me think about writing and portraying people, but it came out a garbled incomprehensible mess. I hope one day he'll understand what I was trying to say.

As the reporter finally showed up, we said our mutual farewells, but before we parted he wanted to be sure we saw each other before I left. I told him tomorrow I would be at the gym and of course at the fight. No, DESPUES de la pelea. I suggested I could go to Callao again, have some cerviche. Then in almost a break of seriousness, he stopped, slowly stepped aside the reporter and stared me straight in the eyes. La comida. ¿Te gustó?

"I loved it," I replied.

Chevere, he smiled, chevere.

*Kina Malpartida is currently the Women's WBA Super featherweight Champion. She won the title by 10th round TKO over Maureen Shea in Madison Square Garden New York. This Saturday, in her hometown Lima, is her first title defense.

**Chevere is Spanish slang for "cool".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The final lap

We stop for a moment to exchange looks across the gym. We nod in silent agreement to acknowledge our mutual feelings of exhaustion, touch gloves to cement our solidarity, and through our spit laden mouthpieces, smile a wide grin. Five rounds of sparring. Five rounds on the heavy bag. Now onto floorwork. We're in the same world.

For the first time I'm doing what I've always claimed to do. For the first time I actually feel like one of the fighters...well, at least to an extent. I try to match their efforts in whatever they do. Sprints, roadwork, sparring. And outside the gym, restraining from sex, drugs and bad food: the trinity of poisons for a prizefighter. Normally on this journey, the sparring sessions were infrequent, maybe two or three times in total, and held more of a Ok let the tourist have his "sparring session", take his pictures, and write about it on his blog type of feel rather than a serious test of skills.

But I've long ago lost count of how many times I've hopped into the ring here in Peru. I am now waited upon by trainers, greeted by handshakes and sighs of relief when I step through the gym doors. Ah, the sparring partner showed up. Let's get to work. I'm beginning to be introduced around the gym as El chino que hace el sparring con Maicelo, which almost garners the same wide-eyed admiration as the champ himself.

Before I felt taken advantage of. I remember the first time I was denied a proper warm up; thrown into the ring like meat to a lion. There were times when the gym couldn't provide headgear as I'd be left in there trading blows naked from the neck up. "What the hell," I thought, "he's the one beating my ass. Why's he have the headgear?"

Maicelo's coach, Faustino, used to look away and have side conversations when the three-four punch combinations left me stumbling on bambi legs, which in retrospect, was something perhaps I deserved. Who was this two-bit tourist coming in snooping around and thinking he can hang with the best anyways? He wants to fight? We'll give him one.

But now Faustino stops the action the moment two consecutive blows connect. Estop. Parate. Maicelo, mas suave. Even I think it's premature at times. Last Thursday he spent 20mins showing me how to improve my punches and enhance my footwork to stay out of the corner. Hell, he might even care about my well-being. I guess my willingness to take a beating warmed him up to me.

And even though I come home everyday exhausted and beaten, even though I still haven't figured out all the feelings of my self-loathing, I feel like this experience is going somewhere. I'm discovering something in these sparring sessions even if I can't express them in words. I sit here now with a swollen right cheek, a blacken left eye and a scarred bloodstained lip from taking too many uppercuts to the chin, and tomorrow, it's the first day of the last week before the big fight. The training will probably intensify, the sparring will be harder, and the injuries more severe.

But you know, I don't think I'd want it any other way.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Prayer

(IMO the best scene from Charlie Kaufmann's Synecdoche, New York)

Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true for there are a million little strings attached to every choice you make. You can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won't know for twenty years. And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce.

And they say there is no fate, but there is: it's what you create. And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but doesn't really. So you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved.

And the truth is...I feel so angry. And the truth is I feel so fucking sad. And the truth is I felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long have been pretending I'm ok, just to get along, just for...I don't know why. Maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own.

Well, fuck everybody.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Pretty much the book about my life.

"The acomodador or giving-up point: there is always an event in our lives that is responsible for us failing to progress: a trauma, a particularly bitter defeat, a disappointment in love, even a victory that we did not quite understand, can make cowards of us and prevent us from moving on. As part of the process of increasing his hidden powers, the shaman must first free himself from that giving-up point and, to do so, he must review his whole life and find out where it occurred."

- The Zahir - Paulo Coelho

Friday, June 5, 2009

I need a change

"You know what your problem is? It's that you have this really shitty way of looking at things you know. I don't have that problem, I just look at the dopeness. But you, it's like you just look at the wackness, you know?"

Yeah, I know.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What I've been doing

(Bombera de Mauro Mina, Estadio Nacional - Lima, Peru. Moments before my first sparring session with Jonathan "El Depredador" Maicelo)

It's been a while since I posted about what I've actually been doing, but it's hard to write anything when I've been doing, well, nothing really. I leave my hotel room everyday for two things. 1) to eat lunch and 2) to train at the boxing gym. This voluntary isolation probably explains the evident increase of self-criticisms, but I think it's good. It's giving me time to reflect on my past experiences and truly understand what made them. I've now realized that I no longer know what the hell I am doing in this world, but I will say this. I am in better shape.

(Jonathan Maicelo before his bout against Jesus Camacho in Lima, Peru)

The only conscious reason I am still here is to help my sparring partner, Maicelo (you remember, the one that kicked my ass a few blog posts ago), get ready for his upcoming fights. It turns out Maicelo is the #1 lightweight prospect in Peru, so I don't feel that bad about the ass thrashing that I received when I first got here. Apparently I've been the only sparring partner he's had as I'm told nobody else is willing to trade punches with him. Can't say I blame em. Many people tell me it's because he's medio loco, but maybe only inside the ring. Outside the ring I've found him to be a completely humble and intelligent person.

(A self-portrait representing him in the culture of boxing. He says the colors represent the races of the world because for him, boxing is the only time all people can come together at the same time and place without fighting.)

One time we walked by a woman and her small child asking for money on the street, and he nonchalantly dropped in some change, like it was what you were supposed to do when you saw something like that. He didn't hesitate, didn't make sure I was watching, just did it. I once asked him where he bought a particular shirt he was wearing. He pulled out a spare one and gave it to me. One day he asked me if I believed in God and I answered that I did. The next day, he brought me a rosary; said it was meant to protect me on my journeys. This is the kind of guy he is.

(Giving tips in between rounds to a young fan and aspiring boxer)

After learning I hadn't tried to typical Peruvian "Cerviche", he invited me to a plate (which he paid for) in his neighborhood, "El Callao", known around here as una zona brava, and bien peligroso if you didn't know anyone that lived there. Sure enough, his barrio resembled much of what I had saw in Motupe or San Juan de Lurigancho. Unpaved, gritty dirt roads, sprouted with dilapidated brick buildings covered in torn campaign ads and beer posters.

(Littered beach by his home. Pictured in the background is where he tells me the "drug addicts and thieves" hang out.)

We'd hang out, sometimes. He'd call me a friend, sort of. He doesn't trust anyone, let alone reporters. He told me he hated how other writers would portray him as "weak" or "suffering", despised it when people tried to investigate his fatherless childhood. "I don't have a father," he'd answer, "Punto". He didn't want people to pity him. "You've been to my house," he would say to me, "I'm living well."

(Everything pictured has been earned through competing in combat sports.)

It made me think about writing, about portraying characters and how we develop our stories. I certainly didn't pity him, but like all the boxers I've met, he was still fighting to better his life with the odds stacked against him. It's just the unfairness of it all that frustrates me. I try to help out to alleviate the guilt of my privilege. Some way. Any way. Of all the gyms I've traveled to, most fighters ask me for something, usually a connection, some money, whatever. Maicelo hasn't asked for anything of the sort. The only thing he's asked me for is rounds in the ring. Can you believe that? Me. Boxing. Needed.

I'm actually touched, not necessarily because I think I could be an adequate sparring partner, but because it is something that isn't reflective of the privilege created from structural inequalities. Boxing is like that. In that squared circle, everything else in the world gets thrown out. You're pitted against your fears, your insecurities and all you have to overcome them is your own will. I've come to find the few moments I am in the ring are the only times during the day I feel productive. I originally thought staying would help others, but I'm starting to realize that I need those daily sparring sessions as much as they do.

And truthfully, Maicelo has rekindled my belief in the sincerity of people. I think that's worth something, and in some ways, I feel that's part of what I'm really fighting for. I hope that at some point he can call me a friend. I hope that I can maybe teach him to trust, just as he has taught me to maintain faith in humanity. I hope that by the end of all this, I can look back, and say it was all worthwhile.

Friday, May 22, 2009


"There is no satisfaction and on that your life is one of the saddest fictions ever written. So take that not-so-satisfactory life back to the sadness factory to be reworked, and to be rewritten, and to be reconfigured to live right. Open your brain, let your heart go, the real you has been locked within your ribcage for too long and stop trying to hold onto then cuz that's why it all started. And about that same time he forgot fun, she lost hope and now we, can't find anything."

- "Flashy Words" - Shihan the Poet

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I'm having trouble recalling the last time I was happy. I mean really happy. Happy like not a damn thing could ruin your day, like even going to the bathroom was like a benediction from God happy. Happy like you're standing on top of the world without having to balance yourself from falling off, when you're still so disillusioned and naive to think everything is within your grasp. You only have to reach out and grab it.

As if things were that simple.

I try to relive the few times where a genuine smile crossed my face, where really nothing mattered, where dreams still felt possible, where I felt free. But I can't. The faces are fading, names start disappearing, memories begin to dimmer. I try to call upon my angel from paradise to tell me how I used to be, but I can't hear her. I can't hear anything really. I end up trapped in an isolated world by myself, trying to make peace with all I despise in the mirror, contemplating if I can overcome, for once, on my own.

Monday, May 18, 2009


(Remember your sacrifice of today will be your triumph tomorrow)

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I appreciate all the comments and messages I am receiving from new and anonymous friends that have been, for whatever reason unbeknown to me, following my blog. However, I think many believe my cries of confusions are a result of encountering global poverty, when in fact, most of my befuddling reaction stems rather from the ease in sweeping away these issues through simplified justification made by fellow travelers in positions of privilege.

But then again that probably is my pride speaking. I don't want to be seen as someone sheltered from the real world, cradled in a crib of comfort and opportunity and to be thought of seeing for the first time in my life, during my young adult years, the other side of life. On the contrary, I think throughout the majority of my life I've focused so hard on the experiences I didn't endure myself that I have never taken notice of those around me. I have been completely ignorant to the fact that it was possible someone could be offended at another's suffering.

Of course, poverty and suffering have always been there, in all likelihood will continue to be there, but the little intricacies in what keeps it perpetually going is perhaps where these emotions are coming from.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Hint of Aggressive Insanity

Nearly everyday I encounter someone climbing a bus, begin with a speech about how they left a life of robbing people and proceed to ask for money. It almost irritated me at first, the expectation to be rewarded for following societal norms we all abide by. But then I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine how much dignity has to be sacrificed to mount a bus and sing to the sound of two colliding sea shells. They couldn't do it unless they really needed to.

I wanted to be different from all those other tourists that would mockingly imitate beggars after brushing their noses in disgust. A sol here, a candy bar purchase there (realistically less than I probably lose in a couch back at home), but soon enough, I didn't have enough bus fare to get me home. So instead I politely say "no" or just ignore it. It's become almost normal to see these things.

But it angers me that this has become normal. Things like this shouldn't be "normal". At the end of the day I passed by a woman sitting against the concrete wall of a church, sorting through a bag of candy, counting the day's earnings. I imagined my only recourse to survival coming out of a bag of jolly ranchers. I think about being forced to approach random strangers to try and convince them to buy an artificial sweet they don't need and most likely don't want. I imagine it to be incredibly uncomfortable. I would rather work almost any other job. It has to be more than just, "Get a job you fucking bum!" to explain these type of situations, doesn't it?

But those are the thoughts of a naive idealist. I've learned long ago that idealists never make it. We need to abandon our ideals and live in the real world. Fuck ideals. FUCK ideals. FUCK IDEALS.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day One

You have quelled your petty curiosities. Now it is time to get back to work. It is in your hands. Go.

Experiment #1

I'm all about social experiments. What happens when you take a self-loathing, critical of the world, semi-depressed kid and isolate him in a hotel room full of weirdass reading material and the plan of getting punched in the face on a daily basis for a month? And, and...internet access. We'll see how strange things become.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Lesson of the Dunes

On the many hikes I've taken through Peru, I've learned to never look at the final destination. Instead one should focus solely on the next step in front of them. Rest when you need to, move on when you feel ready, but above all, don't look up. Because one can become disheartened at the sight of such a daunting feat to tackle. Even if it appears the journey is nearing its end, one should not look too far ahead because in doing so, we create expectations, and should those expectations fail, we are disheartened all the same. Therefore, in finding our path, we should look only to the next step. It matters not if you ever make it. It is irrelevant if you were walking perpetually in the sand the entire time. What does matter, however, is that you keep moving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hesitant Acceptance

I finally decided to wave that white flag and accept who I am. "Yes I am just another tourist. Yes I am looking for a tour. No I don't want to buy any sourvenirs. No I don't have any spare change for you."

It actually felt good, or at least, easier. But I guess that's what bothers me; how we can see someone like a handicapped mother ask for something to eat, and most likely mean it, then turn out heads, walk past, and pretend the whole episode never happened. I always wonder how other tourists interpret interactions like that. I wonder if those things creep into their mind well after they return home or if they just pack it as slight inconvenience in what overall was "another lovely trip".

So where does tourism stand? This past week I kept trying to be tolerant of it, to just accept it. "Most people are on vacation," I kept thinking. "Most people deserve a vacation, and people come to experience and learn of a culture they didn't know much of before. Isn't that already enough?" Maybe changing what we see isn't our responsibility.

But somewhere between one tourist complaining about how Machu Picchu "fucking sucked" and "wasn't impressive" (as if the world was built to impress him), and the fashion show of traditional Inca garments to ABBA's "Dancing Queen" on the train from Aguas Calientes, did I feel my critical juices bubbling again.

Something just didn't feel right about the whole thing, having two Peruvians parade down the isle of a train to an 80's hit and the passengers viciously snapping away photos. I could see the distaste in the "models'" faces. Hell, I dread doing Quiz Night at the hostel due to the verbal harassment and physical projectiles, I can't even imagine what it's like to dance around for people's entertainment.

But perhaps it should be viewed as an opportunity for cultural exchange, only the problem is that it isn't reciprocated. If Peruvians were allowed to travel to places like the US, in the same volumes as the amount of foreign tourists that come to their country, have us dance around in our traditional garments, and let them ignore our poor and hungry, then perhaps it would be okay. Maybe they too would make the same insensitive comments and assumptions we do. In fact, if we believe in the equality of the human design, they would. The thing is, that opportunity to be ignorant isn't there, and that's the problem.

Contrary to what others have told me, there is some value in being critical. You can't always be agreeable. Because if we are, we all march to the same cadence that the crowd dictates and not our own. Soon enough, traveling through the same motions becomes monotonous. Soon enough, snapping photo after photo becomes redundant. Soon enough, you start telling yourself that there's gotta be something more than this.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Blind Push Forward

I am confused on how to live, upon which path to take. I've been bombarded with so many different mantras as to how find fulfillment in my life that I end up static, staring into the distance, while fruitlessly trying to see the destination. I try to adopt multiple ways of life, but I soon realize that the demands of each lifestyle conflict and cannot coexist. At some point, you have to make a choice.

I suppose my biggest fear is to choose one path and later look behind me only to regret all that I sacrificed to be there, thinking about the other ways my life could have been and ultimately wishing my life had turned out differently than it has. I end up aimlessly contemplating over the lost time that I will never reclaim and questioning if I had made the right choice in the first place.

But I'm starting to understand that you have to go sometime, otherwise you become stagnant idling in the same place, and that perhaps the conclusion will only reveal itself to you when you're standing at the end of your own journey. Hopefully by then, the initial choice and preoccupations will be irrelevant.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


"It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational - a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country.

On the other hand, when too much time is occupied in travelling, we become strangers to our native country; and the over curious in the customs of the past are generally ignorant of those of the present."

- René Descartes (1637)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Machu Picchu

Say all you want about how it just wouldn't work. Convince yourself over and over that she's not the one. Ask yourself why you've done, all you've done, until the question becomes rhetorical if you'd like. At the end of the day, watching her sleep, is still the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Square One

Sometimes you reconnect with something for a moment and it feels real again. It feels genuine. But usually these moments come at times of intense ecstasy, of drunkenness or being under the influence of some other fabricated interaction that once that artificial stimulant wears off, you're right back to where you started.

They say dancing is the embodiment of the human spirit. If I could have one thing for my birthday, it would be a infinite dancefloor and endless rhythms to subdue my demons until the dawn resurrects them.

That and a phone call, would be nice.

Story about a Boy

For so long he believes he is immune to life’s emotional squabbles. For so long he thinks he cares not for trivialities like status, judgment and approval. But he’s realized the entire time he’s confused “indifference” with “denial”.

He wants to live a story worth telling. He wants to script a tragic tale of romance so he fabricates an infatuation and mistakes it for love. In the end, only he is hurt by his stubborn hopes.

He thinks the search for truth is a worthwhile campaign. He wants to believe in honesty and ideals. He wants to maintain faith in the goodness of humanity despite all that proves the contrary, but with time, “integrity” soon turns into “naivety”.

He wants to be a hero so he shoulders the badge of saviorism. He wants to change things, but never really understands why. He journeys so deep that it becomes an identity, a scapegoat to blame his failures in life.

He thinks he has learned more than he knows. More than once, he thinks he has life’s never-ending complexity figured out. He thinks he has an accurate conception of world and its intricacies. But what he has still failed to learn is “acceptance”.

Sometimes, he gets lost in his own thoughts. Sometimes, he wishes that he too could forget. Sometimes, he too indulges in life’s pleasures. Sometimes, he too is selfish.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Message to an Old Friend

Do not be afraid of your solitude. Do not be ashamed of your differences. To be surrounded by laughter, yet still feel something deeply problematic, is a perception so few of us hold. So few of us have the courage and desire to break the confines of normalcy and strive for something more.

You are young and the young are allowed, or more rightfully, are obligated to make mistakes. For it is in the mistakes we learn. It is in the mistakes that cast us into the depths of doubt and despair, which create the opportunities to pull ourselves out. It is the mistakes that teach us how to appreciate.

Because happiness is not about consistency. It is not about sustained contentment or continual bliss, but it is contrast, that makes finding peace, that much more meaningful.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Wish I Could Be Timeless

I want to be so many things. Learn so many skills. Accomplish so many goals. But everything I start ends up being a discovery of the absurd amount of time and effort put into each trade. It ends up being the harsh reminder of how and why people dedicate an entire career to one thing. A reminder that perhaps some things, are in fact, out of your reach. There just isn't enough hours in a day, months in a year, time in a lifetime, to do it all.

Ignorance is Bliss?

Mike Tyson's childhood hero was the Panamanian boxer Roberto "Manos de Piedra" Duran, but he said he never wanted to meet Duran. He said he didn't want to find out anything bad about the man to ruin the image he had of him. I guess you could say I feel the same way about certain things. Sometimes it's better to leave them as the comforting pockets you create in your mind rather than finding out the truth. Right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just Another Crazy Night

(Motupe, Peru)

I used to joke about it when I lived in Honduras with the Yueng family. When their friends from Canada would visit and ask in awing wonder, "How much does it cost to live in the hills and who lives there?" Monica, the mother, would chuckle in reminiscence of how in places like Canada or the United States, the rich would pay fortunes for the scenic view, but in Tegucigalpa, like it is here in Lima, it is the opposite. It is the marginalized poor that live on elevated land, in places where one would call, shantytowns, slums, or just places asking for more inhabitable conditions.

He approached me one day while I was sitting in the boxing gym. Ricardo Espinoza, a social worker whose dream was to see the betterment of his neighborhood. He invited me and a Cuban boxing coach to see where he planned to establish a boxing program to dissuade youth from the growing influence of drugs and alcohol. It was about an hour and a half bus ride from the familiarity of the national stadium. Dust clouded into the air as the paved road disappeared into a bumpy dirt path. The closer we approached, the more it appeared that the area was currently under construction, only that "currently" didn't really apply. It was just the way it was. And sure enough, we were going upwards.

Ricardo brought us to what appeared to be his home and I immediately noticed about a dozen children obediently sitting in chairs, all wearing a football (soccer) uniform stamped with the phrase "Acad. de Futbol de Menores Si. De Drogas No" (Academy of Football of Minors Yes. Of Drugs No) written on it. Each child came up, introduced their name and age, then shook our hands. One boy then came up and handed me a plate. Chicken and potatoes covered in a savory sauce. As the rest of the boys began receiving their plates, I noticed that theirs only included potatoes. They ate like they hadn't eaten all day, but earlier Ricardo had asked them how many had eaten breakfast, and judging by the absence of raised hands, it probably was their first meal.

Afterward the coach began giving a speech about boxing, intermixing mood raising questions of who wanted to learn how to defend themselves, who wanted to be a future champion and interestingly enough, noting the importance of knowing your family background. But the core of the speech laid in one topic: about what it takes to succeed in the sport. Of course he discussed the characteristics of determination, sacrifice, perseverance, and so on, but the main reason was to advocate the abandonment and avoidance of drugs and alcohol. He kept saying how one needed to stay away from them to find success, how in becoming consumed by them, you would disappoint your family and yourself.

We later walked around to possible sites to where a boxing gym could be built. In my honest opinion, the scarce bareness of the land didn't offer much hope. But the kids didn't seem concerned. They seemed more interested in my ability to speak English and Chinese, began asking me to translate words in both languages, asking me what the United States was like, if there were neighborhoods like this one. I wanted to say yes, because there is poverty in the US, but to these levels? I don't really know anymore.

I hate to say that this story is beginning to sound like a broken record, that I've already been to so many places suffering from the same ills of poverty that I can no longer, nor have ever been able to, discern whose story deserves more attention. But what I have never been able to get my head around is the state of inequality this world suffers from; how in one moment I am in a place where drugs and alcohol will drag a life into the cold depths of destitution, and in the next, I am working in a place where drugs and alcohol appear to be a common daily occurrence, yet these users' lives are not affected by the same adverse consequences. Nobody seemed to be disappointed in them. Their privilege manages to allow their habits and experiences to be packed away as "just another crazy night".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lovely Present

I walked into the Lima boxing gym expecting to spar with Mauricio, the pro fighter with an upcoming bout next Saturday. Normally I wouldn't opt to just hop in with a fighter of his caliber, but I scoped him out the day before and noticed his lackluster one-punch-at-a-time combinations, his apathetic effort in finishing his workout, and just his overall skill. I figured I could survive three rounds with him.

But when I stepped through those doors meandering around the gym, searching for his familiar face, I was later stopped and asked if I would spar with another fighter to prepare him for an upcoming bout next Friday. A smaller fighter named "Maicelo". I watched him shadowbox for a couple rounds. He was definitely faster than me, in better shape, and fought with a will and determination that I have so unsuccessfully tried to recapture, but "What the hell," I thought, "You only live once."

After the first three punches crashed into my face and the headgear flew off my head, I knew I was in trouble. For the next 10 mins of my life, I knew what it felt like to be a punching bag. And he didn't punch as if it was sparring match, but as if I had stolen his childhood pet or offended a close relative. Even my Polish friend Anita told me she at one point she could see a pure and absolute anger in him pummeling me.

I managed to get through the three rounds I promised, battered and beaten, feeling like I had all the meager accolades stripped from the little boxing rank I had. I felt like I wasn't in a place I was supposed to be in, like I failed at what I was set out to do. On top of that, last night I messed up the bar count at my new job at the hostel. I usually fare well with numbers. I don't know how it was so off. Maybe I'm just losing a step, or more probably, overestimating my abilities.

But for some reason, I also feel like something got beat into me, almost like a new energy to go on. The coaches said I did well, most likely to make me feel better, but the one place I can give myself credit is that I never quit. I never gave up. I suppose you can always look at the glass two ways. Either the beginnings of self-doubt and abuse, or the opportunity to start over and try again.

What a lovely gift.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

El Cantante

Me paran siempre en la calle
mucha gente que comenta
¡Oye Hector ah! tu estas hecho
simpre con hembras y en fiestas.

Y nadie pregunta
si sufro si lloro
si tengo una pena
que hiere muy hondo.

(They always stop me in the street
many people comment
Hey Hector! You're made
always with women and in parties

And nobody asks
if I suffer, if I cry
if I have a sorrow
that wounds very deeply)

- Hector Lavoe

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Few Extra Flakes

I noticed my two year old clown loach didn't come out for the scheduled feeding that I have every other day. Instead it huddled in the hiding place that has suddenly become populated by the Ghost Knife and Indonesian shrimp. From the blank look in its eyes, I thought it was dead, but to my delight, it eventually squiggled its way around. Maybe it was just having a bad day. But when it finally came out, it swam abnormally, took rapid laps throughout the tank, and the entire time on its side, like it was confused; a tell tale sign that it is sick.

My clown loach will probably die in the coming days. I decided to throw in some more food to try and comfort it in its last moments, but it never could control itself enough to eat. It's a strange sight, to foresee the untimely death of a living thing while it's still moving, but you can't just lay down quietly to accept the inevitable. Instead cherish those final moments, try your best to recreate those old times, even if a few extra flakes, isn't going to bring them back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Pointless Post

I've unsuccessfully tried to understand to the concept of 'expectations'; whether or not to live by plans because plans all too commonly fail. But it isn't so much the idea of a plan that is problematic, but rather putting too much of your hope into them. Kind of like an insurance policy, so that when plans don't pan out as expected, your hopes don't go crashing down with them.

But life is not worth living without hope. Where's the motivation to go on if there isn't at least the illusion of a better place? And most times, hope guides us to places we never expected to be, places that we can look back and say made us better people. So the goal of getting to the initial destination is irrelevant, but rather the steps taken to get, well, wherever.

So where do we place 'hope'? I'd like to think we can place it in the overall assurance that things will work out, regardless if we recognize it or not. Or maybe finding an intricate balance between 'hope' and 'expectations' so that they can exist harmoniously for our own individual peace of mind. But things like hope shouldn't be over analyzed anyways. It's complexity wasn't meant for such petty things like 'logic' in the first place.

I Couldn't Stay Here Any Longer

When the Bonderman panel asked me how I would deal with homesickness, I silently thought, "I won't have to," and looking back on all my journeys, I haven't really had to. I've always had this problem of feeling there was concept of "home".

The first time I went through a difficult 6 month depression where all I wanted to do was sleep. The second time was a little better, but only at the assurance that I was to leave within three months. This time I had that same promise, only I didn't view as an assurance, I thought I was happy being where I was. I came back with hope for myself. I finally was able to find happiness within myself and like Ana told me, thought I could create happiness out of thin air. This time I thought I had it figured out. I thought I had a lot of things figured out. But you put things into a simple equation and you realize with time that nothing is ever that simple.

Something happened since I've been back, like a weight has suddenly crept up on me. It's a strange feeling that is, having peace slowly taken away from you. It's like the genuine life behind your smile get desecrated, but the smile is still there. It's just empty.

I look at my photos from my trip and I don't know, I could just feel the happiness seeping out of my image. I don't know who that person is anymore. I try so hard to grasp onto those moments, to recreate those times that lifted my spirit, but I can't. It's like trying to recreate mouthwatering dish that you foolishly stumbled upon but never really knew the recipe in the first place.

What happened to my peace? Where did my patience go? Since when did traffic jams become annoying? When did watching my fish swim suddenly become too time consuming? When did I start criticizing those around me? When did I start hating myself, again.

Sometimes the mirror is a scary place, when you suddenly see yourself at the other end of the finger pointing out the blame. Sometimes we're too blind in our clarity. I used to feel that everything that came my way made sense, and anything that didn't, well, I would learn with time. But that wasn't the truth. Sure you learn to see things more clearly, but you also find out shit you don't want to find out.

But I'm lucky. I have a place in my mind that has peace. Sometimes I see it in my dreams and I wake up, happy. But the sad thing is I'm scared to make it a reality. I almost want to keep it as a thought, something I can rely on, a safe place. I guess I just don't want reality to hurt anymore.

But if I've learned anything since I've been back it's that you suffer for your happiness, that pain is for love, because "Even the beauty of birth leaves it's own scars". And if all the experts of self-discovery are right, "we will find home right where we are".

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Pain for Love"

So as fate would have it, my 9-hour "Importing as a Small Business" class happened to fall on Valentine's Day. Talking about free market shares, independent sales reps and net profit margins wasn't exactly what I expected to be doing, but since I kind of messed up Valentine's Day for myself, I can't say I wasn't asking for it.

But when going over the list of what one needs to start their own business, one student mentioned "passion". Most people associate "passion" with what one loves. Today I found out that at it's root, "passion" means to suffer.

I thought I had my re-entries into this country figured out. I thought I finally learned to be happy this time, but I've been on edge with frustration lately. Something about this place took my peace away from me. I can't really figure it out.

But if the business course is right, you suffer for the things you love. Pain and joy, are not mutually exclusive. Now I just need to find out what exactly I'm suffering for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let It Tell Em

"Open your chest and let whatever fall out, let it fall on the page. Let the page be your doctor, let the page be your therapist, let the page be your lover, let the page be your enemy; punch em in the face. Let the page be the best friend that ever stabbed you in the back, let the page be your prozac. Let the page be your hip-hop, let the page be your rock-n-roll. Let the page be that fancy ride you're always talking about, let the page be that bling-bling on your wrist, let the page be that underground beat that you're about to rip. Let your page be your autobiography.

Tell em who you are. Tell em, they're wrong for labeling you. Tell em, 'fuck you' for giving up on you. Tell em, your life may not be worth shit now, but tomorrow gives you hope, so you won't take your life today, or the next day. Tell em, you will be here forever. Tell em you are loved no matter what anyone says. Tell em you are the ones that create beautiful art from stark reality, and scare the shit out of them. Tell em you are loved no matter what anyone says. Tell em you are loved."

- "In the Front of the Class" - Bonafide Rojas

Friday, January 16, 2009


The first time I had my heart broken, someone lied to me.

The second time I had my heart broken, I lied to someone.

The third time I had my heart broken, someone was honest with me.

I think I’m finally set free.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Friend Luis

I came home after a hard day of getting pummeled at the gym and I decided to choose a fight from my DVD collection to maybe try and learn something. Cotto vs Judah. Nah, a one-sided beatdown. Mayweather vs Hatton. Good, but already seen it too many times. As I turned the next page, I saw one that caught my eye, not necessarily because I already knew it was a good fight, in fact I had never watched it, but it was for another reason. Montiel vs Melendez.

Luis Melendez, a fighter that I used to train with back in Cartagena. I remember in an attempt to get to know him better, I discovered on Boxrec that he had fought the flyweight champion Fernando Montiel. I was impressed. Montiel was a solid champion.

I loaded the disc in with hesitation, like a movie you already knew was depressing, but you put it in anyways out of curiosity. When a friend called, I told him what I was doing and I said it was weird to see him again, even weirder because it was before I actually knew him. I felt like I was watching the fight live. I felt anger when Montiel mocked him after a 6th round knockdown, almost yelped in joy when Luis returned the favor in the 7th. I found myself rooting for him even though I already knew the outcome. Maybe if I cheered hard enough, history could change itself on my television screen.

Luis was put down again in the 12th by a body shot, soon followed by the referee appropriately stopping the fight. The look in Luis' face was more than disappointment. Almost like a prideful acceptance that he had to return to that stable of forgotten fighters. A deep and pure sadness. A look I am now all too familiar with.

I remember the last time I saw Luis, we were waiting for a bus and I casually asked him of his next match. It was going to be in Atlantic City. "De veras? Solo los peleas más grande estan alla." (Really? Only the biggest fights are there.) "Con quién vas a pelear?" (With whom are you going to fight?)

"Mar...Mares. Abner Mares. Un Mexicano"

I knew Abner Mares. I remember watching him beat Damian David Marchiano from pillar to post, thinking, "Wow. This kid's got the goods." Luis took the fight on 2 weeks notice and hadn't even seen a tape of him. The gym just didn't have the resources.

Then it hit me. Mares is an up and coming prospect. At this stage of his career, they put him against fighters who had impressive records, fought notable opposition, but were still beatable. Luis fit the profile. He was going to lose.

I asked Luis how much he was getting paid. "Cinco mil dolares," ($5000 USD) he told me. It reminded me of how a teammate of mine in Seattle got paid $3000 USD for his first professional 4 round bout, yet Luis was getting less than double in a fight three times as long and against someone who could really hurt him. Hell, even Marchiano was paid $25,000 USD for a fight the same distance a year ago. I guess it's a microcosm of global exploitation.

But I suppose $5000 USD in Colombia is a lot of money. Luis would finally be able to buy the home he was renting for so long. "Yo solo quiero tener algo. No quiero pagar por cosas todo mi vida. Quiero tener algo propio" (I just want to have something. I don't want to pay for things my whole life. I want to own something.) I guess it wasn't even about winning. The bigger picture was that this was an opportunity for more money he would ever see in one night's work.

But it wasn't just one night's work.

"Cúal es la cosa más dificil de boxeo para Ud?" (What is the most difficult thing about boxing for you?) "El entrenimento. La pelea es como una descansa." (The training. The fight is like a break.) This was a reflection of months and months of sweat and blood. The risk of giving up a day job and banking on this one night for the livelihood of his family. It was a sacrifice.

The fight ended up being canceled 5 days before its scheduled date. Apparently Mares suffered a cut during sparring and decided to postpone the bout with a different opponent. Luis was paid nothing.

For a week I didn't see him, but in the end he came back, though a bit different. A little less pop in his punches, a little less bounce in his step; perhaps the disappointment just ate as his spirit. But eventually he was able to return to his old self. Crack jokes around the gym like he used to and train just as I had remembered, always fighting for another opportunity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Please Tell Me You're Joking

8 years? 8 fucking years?

Maybe this place is doomed.