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.