Monday, November 10, 2008

Race for the Fallen Video - Part 1

Before you watch the video, I´d like to tell you about and thank Paul Petzrick, who edited this video. Paul and I served together for nearly 8 months during the invasion of Iraq. Through his actions, he demonstrated why the members of our military are the greatest in the world. During our tour, he never let me down when I trusted him with my life, brightened the mood when times were tough and displayed a type of generosity that can serve as an example to all.

During the invasion, we had been starving for a week because our supply lines could not keep up with our rapid advance. When I ran out of food, Paul insisted that I have part of his last ration and forced me to take some of his meal. Thankfully, we were resupplied soon after but I can never forget the altruism and generosity he displayed on my behalf while we were both starving. Though his action was exceptional, it is commonplace among the ranks of our military. Unfortunately, many combat veterans return from deployments and end up on our streets. If you display even a fraction of the generosity Paul has, who gave me so much when he had so little, then we can all eradicate homelessness among our veterans together. Please donate and support my cause by clicking on Race for the Fallen. Thank you and enjoy.

Happy 233rd Birthday US Marines! Semper Fi!

If you are having trouble viewing, please click here

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mile Stone

This past Friday, I swam a mile for the first time in my life! For the past month, I have been fastidiously working on my swimming form by following the drills in the book, Total Immersion, by Terry Laughlin. I highly recommend this book because I am now able to swim a length of a pool (25 yards) in 11 strokes while still swimming faster than everyone around me. Also, I wasn´t even sore the next day.

The most valuable lesson I have learned from this is that working efficiently towards a goal is as important as, if not more important than working hard towards it. Imagine the possibilities if you combine working hard and smart. There´s not much that can stop you then!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feelings, They are for Everybody

As I have mentioned before, by falling off my bike, I injured my hip by landing on it while heroically maneuvering (with cat-like reflexes) Bucephalus (my bike) to prevent serious bodily harm to an idiot pedestrian who wasn´t watching where he was going. I pretty much sacrificed 3 days of limping for his 3 years of hospital checkups and rehabilitation AFTER he awakens from a year-long coma. You would think that I would get an award for my heroics; however, I was less than pleased to receive this insensitive email from an anonymous friend (we´ll just use a generic-sounding name to identify her, say first name Emily last name Chang).

"ahahahaha, I can't stop laughing at your hip story, ahahahaha, you sound like an 80 year old. and you're training for ironman? dude, man up. ahaha."

This reminds me of when people say, "Let me get you a straw so you can suck it up, Marine!" or "You´re a Marine aka a robot, you don´t feel pain!" The fact of the matter is, that though we may be superhuman, the super part is only a prefix, we´re still human and we do feel pain. So Marines, Ironpeople (being politically correct here) and Care Bears alike, we all have feelings that need to be taken into account. I hope all who read this takes this lesson to heart and helps spread the love rather than the hate (which I was recently confronted with).

PS - I promise it´d make me feel better if you donated to my fundraiser for which I am updating this blog. To read more about it click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lost in Translation

I was talking in Spanish to my coworker, David, and his friend, Ismael, and I told them that I went clubbing more or less every weekend while living in New York. They misunderstood me and thought that I went to STRIP CLUBS every weekend. I´m not sure if I went up or down in their books after they found out the truth, but I concluded that I need to improve my Spanish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ecuador Picture Update

It´s been a while since I`ve given people at home a peek into what I`ve been up to in this beautiful country. Please see below for an update.

I attended a traditional performance by people from Loja, a city in Ecuador at the nicest theater in the country.

This is a picture of the performers, I know it´s kind of blurry (and by kind of I mean really) but it gives you an idea.

This is a picture of my new wingman. We´re being really sly while checking a girl out to our right (he´s pointing at her with his left trigger finger).

I also went to the national game against Chile in which we won 1-0.

Nobody can accuse me of being a fair-weather fan since I sat in the rain for nearly 3 hours while watching and cheering for the good guys!

This past weekend, I made the trip to Quilotoa where we hiked around the rim of the volcano for 5 hours (not fun, though beautiful).

With regards to training, it is no joke. The level of oxygen here will humble anybody at first. 3 days after I got here, I ran for a short distance and I have never felt so horribly after a run in my life. It was also probably at half speed of what I usually run. In addition, I am out for the next few days because I injured my hip. I was biking to work today and a stupid pedestrian didn´t watch where he was going and I took a fall on my hip.

This is a picture of me and my bike, Bucephalus, who is true to his name and a mighty steed indeed. I obtained the rainbow scarf at the Loja show. The rainbow does not mean what it means in the States. Rather, it represents the indigenous peoples of Ecuador. Since I´m pretty much indigenous now, I thought it would be a great safety measure while biking in the busy streets of Quito. Obviously it didn´t do its job since Idioto Numero Uno couldn´t see it.

My swim workouts have been a little uncomfortable. I was abruptly stopped when I tried to go swimming in my normal trunks because they were not allowed. They told me that I had to buy one of their smaller, tighter pairs and since I was so determined to go swimming that day, I obliged. Let´s just say I´m a little more streamlined when I swim these days...

Until next time...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fundamental Issue Regarding America

I was recently watching a movie in which there was an underdog hero who trains very hard to reach a certain goal. This movie got me thinking. If there were more than a 5 minute segment of the hero´s workout regimen (inspirational music and all) that accurately portrayed the acute pain on the days after a workout, the strict discipline in performing mundane drills and tasks, the huge time commitment and all the other sacrifices necessary to reach the level of success, that we´d have to see products like this on our shelves?

We are better than this America!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My First Week in Ecuador - A Pictorial

Here´s a pictorial of my first week in my new country. I am amazed at a number of things such as how beautiful it is, how nice its people are, the diversity of it´s climates and at how few stares I am getting on the streets because I´m a gringo (maybe because the people are so nice).

One of the first things you notice on the flight into Quito is how close to the ground you are as you land. The airport is literally in the middle of the city and there are buildings right up until the runway. It´s a little unnerving if you didn´t know this (I didn´t know it but I wasn´t unnerved simply because I have nerves of steel and nothing scares me). This is a picture of an airplane from my street.

Of course, since Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country, I´ve been spending some time studying the new language in my free time.

As with any new culture and environment, there are many new things to get used to, such as how dogs are above humans on the food chain.

Along the way, I´ve become a die-hard fan of Liga, the 2nd best soccer team in the world (after the South Korean National Team of course). This is a picture of my friend Pablo and me at the Liga/Boca (crappy Argentine team) game.

For my first weekend, I was invited to Cotopaxi National Park. We made camp at a place called Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (a not too shabby place).

A view of the courtyard from my room.

The first thing we did was to go on a hike to an area that had a great view of Cotopaxi.

Here, I´ve made it pretty clear where exactly Cotopaxi is located. Should you need further assistance, please click here.

While on the hike, we ran into some strange characters. See if you can figure out who the ass is (hint: the ass is looking at the non-ass).

Also along the way, I got so hungry that I couldn´t contain myself. I wasn´t sure if the berry was safe to eat, but at least the guide seemed to approve.

After the hike and some mountain biking, we went back to the hacienda to enjoy some nice scenery.

The next day, we went horsebackriding through a scenic route.

After the ride (and some urging and convincing), I consented to take up some Ultimate Fighting, Ecuadorian-style. Let´s just say only one of us made it out alive.

In my downtime I spent my time reading some books. I´ve taken a liking to Ayn Rand so on the first night I read The Fountainhead and then towards the end of the trip, Atlas Shrugged.

I only hope that the rest of my stay in Ecuador is as fun and as extraordinary as the past week has been.

I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to support and read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.

Jericho Project - Race for the Fallen

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best Foot Forward

Remember when you were in elementary school, at the very end of summer, that night before the first day of classes when you would lie in bed in anticipation and think about how the following year would be so awesome!? How you would become the coolest and most popular kid in school by being the homerun kicker/defensive monster on the kickball field during recess? How you would become such a hot commodity among the ladies that the hottest girl in your grade (or at least the first one to hit puberty) would be your girlfriend (what do you do with a girlfriend anyways? Err, hold hands, duh)? When you had all those hopes and dreams to make a huge impact on the world (the schoolyard) for the coming school year? I find myself in a similar situation right now, but instead of the schoolyard, I have a country in mind, Ecuador. Tomorrow is my first day of work as a volunteer at Catapulta, an incubator for startup companies.

Earlier this year, when I was sitting at my desk at UBS, I was thinking about my next move and decided that I wanted to move to an emerging market with the general goal of making as big an impact as I possibly could given my background. In my opinion, I had valuable experience (3 years of i-banking) and wanted to leverage it as much as possible. My train of thought was that a waste of talent/experience/effort is a waste of life for more than just yourself. I´d crossed off teaching English early on because I felt that anybody from the US could do it. I nixed volunteering with an environmental NGO because although the environment is important to me, it is not something I had much experience (interest) in. In the end, it came down to microfinance and Catapulta. I chose Catapulta because it was the best opportunity for me to leverage my knowledge, build upon my skills and most importantly, make the biggest impact.

I may be consulting with entrepreneurs around the country in order to help develop operational efficiencies and financial projections for businesses, coordinating workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs, or fundraising for Catapulta. To be honest, I´m not exactly sure what kind of role I will be filling in the next year. Nor can I be sure of the impact of my efforts. Elementary school wasn´t exactly a cake walk for me and I´m not sure how the next year will play out. But right now, I have the same positive hopes and dreams in mind as I did that night before the first day of classes. And as I did on the first day of school, I will put my best foot forward tomorrow to see what kind of difference I can make.

I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to support and read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.

Jericho Project - Race for the Fallen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I didn´t quite fully comprehend the significance of what I was doing by moving to Quito until I was done packing my belongings. Whatever was in those bags would see me through the next year in a foreign country! If you were to give me 3 letters to describe what was going through my head, they´d have to be "WTF!" WTF was I doing, moving away from the greatest city in the world? WTF was I doing going so far from my family and friends and WTF why Ecuador?!

Calm down, it´s ok, those same 3 letters with the same sense of urgency have crossed my mind before, twice. The first as an 18 year old, on the bus to Parris Island and the second prior to and during the invasion of Iraq.

Up until my fateful ride to boot camp, I had never been out of my element and thus never had the chance to know who I was and what I was capable of. The following thoughts traversed my mind as I saw civilization subside and swampland take over:

-Is the training going to be too tough for me to handle?
-I weigh 130lbs, how the eff am I going to do the things the other guys can do?
-WTF have you gotten yourself into Robert?!

Throughout boot camp, I kept 4 words in mind and lived by them, "I can do this." As a result, I was able to handle the training quite well, despite my size. Most importantly, I came out with the knowledge that I am capable of whatever it is that I want, if I put my mind (and hard work) into it (sorry for the cliche). I grew tremendously as a person because of the "WTF experience."

To be honest, I was scared out of my mind prior to and during most of the invasion of Iraq. I simply could not get the thought of dying out of my mind. I would think about the following:

-How I am going to die (shot with an AK-47 or friendly artillery shell)
-Where I am going to die (if I don´t die now, I´m surely going to die when we get to Baghdad since it´s going to be a bloodbath)
-WTF, it´s HOT
-What will happen to my family (my Mom will be so upset, but at least she will get the $250,000 life insurance policy, wait WTF I´m only worth 250K?! That´s BS!)

I felt so sorry for myself and my family and everyone else that loved me that my death nearly preoccupied my life. After a little (a LOT) of thought, I came to the conclusion that if I spent my life, whether it´s in a combat zone or a luxury resort, worrying about death, then maybe it´s not worth living! I swore to myself that I would stop thinking about death and start thinking about how to enjoy life. In addition, I gave myself the credit to do the right things when bad things happened (like combat) and decided to embrace everything I enjoyed about life (like my family and friends).

So why am I leaving behind such a wonderful group of family and friends to live in Ecuador? I truly believe that this "WTF experience" will help me grow as a person (in addition to learning a new language and culture) while helping people in a developing country. Besides, family will always be there and true friendship endures through distance and time. I don´t know what lies ahead of me this next year, but I will enjoy it as much as possible and trust that I will handle whatever challenges come my way.

I am updating this blog in order to raise awareness for my fundraiser¨"Race for the Fallen." Please visit the following link to read about why I am supporting this cause. Thank you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The First Building Block

8 years ago, almost to the day, I became a US Marine. Prior to Marine Corps basic training at Parris Island, I could barely run 2 miles. By the end, I was able to cover 40 miles in full combat gear. The discrepancy between the distances may seem great; however, the progress was gradual, grueling and slow. There were countless days throughout the 3 months of training that I would hope to accidentally get hurt because I was so worn, tired and homesick and an injury would mean a ticket home. But each of those days, I would grit my teeth, walk that extra mile, squeeze out one more pull-up and dig up the extra pushup that I somehow found in me. Unmistakably, I would wake up after each of those days and realize that I'd gone further than I had ever thought I could and that it got easier every time. I was going to make it after all!

Today, I swam the easiest half mile I have ever swum in my life. Though it's a minor accomplishment to many (and a small fraction of the swim portion of the Ironman), for me, it is the first sign of progress, the first building block. To be honest, my swim form 30 days ago was worse than that of a little kid's after 2 swim classes. And I'm being a little misleading when I say that because the kid I'm referring to is in a bathtub flailing and not in a pool.

For the past 30 days, I have been swimming and working on my form. There were several times I felt that there wasn't a difference from the last time in the pool but I've been keeping at it and today, I felt the difference. I LOVE THIS FEELING! This means no more breaks after each lap and definitely no more faking like I have to get the water out of my goggles to catch my breath.

Meaningful progress takes time. I will not become an Ironman in one day. But hard work, patience, discipline and faith in myself will help me get there in due time. There will be many small stepping stones along the way and I will revel in each one. But at the same time, I will always remember to bring the next block the day after to finish what it is that I'm building. I'm gonna make it after all!