Dealing with Adversity

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“There is always something positive that comes out of something negative.”

“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment.”
―Og Mandino

Anybody who has ever lived has faced adversity and struggles that test one’s resolve and fortitude. How someone deals with these challenges and setbacks can show you their true character. I used to live under the assumption that everything will go smoothly if you work hard, play by the rules, and do your best. Recent events in my life have shown this hypothesis to not be true. Life is not fair sometimes and it is extremely important to adapt to this fact rather than to fight it head on.

We can curse our misfortunes but it is much better to move on and look to the future. The worst thing that someone dealing with adversity can do is to wallow in self-pity and to be endowed with guilt. The past won’t change but the future is still in your hands to shape. I am glad that I am aware of the realities of the world now while I’m still young rather than to be surprised by them at a later age. If a goal you strived for vanishes into thin air or a dream that you thought would be yours disappears, it does no good to consider what might have been but to plan instead on what could still be.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that over these past two weeks I’ve felt a range of emotions ranging from anger to sadness. I was in denial at first about what happened to me and why it happened to me. Initially, I could not accept what I could not change. I went through the five stages similar to the popular model of ‘Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.’ Luckily, I did not suffer a personal loss or suffer from a serious ailment but I was crushed by the news that I would not be continuing on the adventure that I started eighteen months ago when I filled out my first application form.

It is difficult to deal with these painful emotions and feelings but it is far better to embrace them rather than to let them bottle up inside of you and fester on and on. I would have loved to continue the good work that I was doing and to finish the job that I had signed up for. Unfortunately, life has other plans for me and I am willing to embrace the challenges that lie ahead. Luckily, we live in a world where there are plenty of opportunities and possibilities available to those of us who are willing to work hard and to use our knowledge.

Clearly, I am not the only person to ever suffer setbacks and misfortunes. Many exemplary leaders and icons of history were unsuccessful in their initial hopes and dreams before greatness found them later on in their lives. The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, had many personal misfortunes and professional failures happen to him before he became elected to the highest office in the land. He lost lovers and family members, failed in business, was defeated multiple times for elected office, and dealt with mental health struggles all throughout his life.

However, he never gave up because he knew what he was worth, had faith in himself and his abilities. He displayed a strong intellect and a strong drive to be great. President Lincoln had a lasting impact on my country and the world. This would not have been possible if he had simply given up when he encountered all of these adversities and disappointments. His story is a continual inspiration for me and for others who have been dealt a personal or professional blow to their lives.

How would our world be different today if inventors like Edison had given up after his 900th try at inventing the lightbulb or if geniuses like Einstein had listened to those teachers / headmasters who told him that he was lazy, dumb, and not worth the effort? If you don’t have confidence or don’t believe in yourself, you are not going to get very far in life.

While it’s pleasant to have other people think highly of you and give you praise, there will be other times where they’ll tell you that you’re not good enough and that you don’t belong there. If there is anything that I want the readers of this blog post to realize is that you can’t let anybody else stand in the way of your goals and dreams. They may have good intentions and think that they know what’s best for you but you have to decide that for yourself.

When I was younger, I was naïve to think that everything would go smoothly in my life and that I could control every outcome. Especially after what happened to me recently, I know that this notion is unrealistic. There are certain aspects of your life that you have some control over and there are other aspects that are completely out of your control. I do not regret the past nine weeks that I spent in Colombia, and I am proud of the good work that I was doing. I am happy for my fellow CII-8 trainees and wish them all the best as they become volunteers and move on to their communities for the next two years of service. I was grateful for the opportunity and have some good memories from this experience that I will remember fondly.

The future is unclear at the moment but I look forward to the opportunities and possibilities that lay ahead. I know that I will continue to write and develop this personal blog that I started eight months ago. I believe that there are many adventures that lie ahead for me in my life. I will continue to have faith in myself and my abilities. Dealing with this particular adversity will make me a stronger and more mature person in the long run. I have a strong mind, a strong body and I am confident that I will get through this momentary setback. Your past does not define you and the future is yours for the taking. Always remember that.

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First and Last Projects

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“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

As apart of my training program to become a Volunteer for Peace Corps – Colombia, my fellow trainees and I have worked hard over these past weeks and months in developing and implementing mini-projects in partnership with our community here in different ways.

Overall, there have been three community projects that we have been working on over these past two months. All of us trainees together have worked on a ‘Limpieza La Comunidad’ or ‘Cleaning up the Community’ project with local citizens in an effort to make the parks and the local river here cleaner and safer for everyone. So far, we have conducted two clean-ups so far during the weekends which have at the central park of our town and then most recently at the ecological park and the area near the football stadium.

It has been a real joy to work with the young people of the community especially. The children and teenagers, who have helped us with the clean-up process the most. They have been extremely enthusiastic and willing to pitch in to assist and work with us. I have worked with one child in particular, named Jesus, age eight, who has helped me specifically with picking up the trash and sweeping the leaves. For both times where we have had our clean-up project in different parks, Jesus has been there to be my partner and help me with my big trash bag. I hope that after we leave for our volunteer sites in mid-April that the children, teenagers, and young people of our current community will become the next leaders of this clean-up effort and will continue these projects and make a sustainable difference in their town.

In addition, my colleagues and I have been able to create two mini-projects related to English education here in the community. A few of my fellow trainees have started a ‘reading buddies’ after-school program where they have read books alongside children and teenagers over the past couple of weeks. Others and myself have worked hard to create a community English class based around conversation lessons that have taken place on Thursday nights and during the weekends.

My fellow trainees and I have split the hours of teaching between ourselves and now provide about three hours a week between the three of us in giving conversational lessons in basic English to those members of the community who want to learn and expressed sincere interest to us in attending our classes. I have been very pleased with the turnout for my community class on Thursday nights and the hard work, engagement that my students have had so far for learning conversational English.

Eight adults showed up for my first class last week and I hope that they will continue coming to class over the next few weeks. For this program, I also hope to designate a leader(s) to continue having English classes within the community. If possible, I will select an adult with the English skills necessary in order to teach his fellow Colombians and keep the class going into the future. I always think back about how lucky I was in the past to pursue my passion for foreign languages and how I was able to take Turkish and Arabic classes at night and also attend Spanish conversation groups as well. It has been great giving that same opportunity to those adults interested in learning my language and developing their conversational proficiency.

Lastly, my fellow trainees and I have successfully completed recently two separate training sessions for the English teachers in our community. The topics have focused around creating speaking and listening activities for their students in an interactive way, as well as working on the pronunciation of difficult sounds in the English language. Both ‘charlas’ or teacher training sessions have been well attended; the teachers were enthusiastic about sharing what they had learned from us and applying this knowledge in their classrooms for the future.

As our first projects finish up over the next few weeks, I can say that we made a meaningful impact in our community during our training program. Each of the trainees has worked hard, provided a lot of time and effort, and have developed good relationships with the local community too. I believe that we can hold our heads up high as we head into April 2016 and the beginning of our formal volunteer service here in Colombia.

Colombian Fruits and Juices

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“So many choices to choose from, so little time.”

One of the joys of living here in Colombia is the diverse and plentiful selection of fruits to choose from. The choices are quite abundant and it is an integral part of the culture to imbibe in a cold and tasty fruit juice at the end of a long day.

As I mentioned before in my blog post titled, ‘The Heat Is On’, one of the best ways to deal with the heat and humidity is to cool down with a delicious fruit juice. It is also much healthier and refreshing than having soda or coffee instead. Over the past two months, I have done a great job of sampling the different choices of fruit juices and which ones I have a preference for. I’ve listed below the common fruit juices available here on the Atlantic coast and have also highlighted my personal favorites. The one juice that I have not tried thus far is the ‘Zanahoria’ or Carrot juice but I’m willing to give it a shot during the rest of my time here.

I hope that for those of you who plan on traveling to Colombia in the future will consider this ‘fruit juice’ list as a helpful guide to you. It can be a very hard choice to make when you’re at the ‘Fruteria’ and there are ten choices available but you’re not sure which one will be most refreshing.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices detailed below. Colombian fruit juices are freshly blended together rather than squeezed as is the case in the U.S. and elsewhere. In addition, the fruits are mixed with water or milk (smoothies) and topped off with a little bit of sugar. What results is a very fresh and tasty drink to keep you cool during those hot days and humid nights. The Colombian people take their fruit juices seriously and so do I.

  • Lulo: Orange on the outside with green and yellow pulp on the inside, Lulo has a citrus flavor that is very sour to eat. However, jugo de lulo, mixed with some sugar, is perhaps the most popular juice here on the Atlantic coast. Also known as Naranjilla in other parts of Latin America, the fruit is related to the tomatillo and some people would describe its flavor as somewhere between green apple, and lime. It’s up there with being one of my favorite juices here.
  • Guanabana: Another one of Colombia’s most popular fruit juices. Its’ thorny green skin is filled with white filling and black seeds, similar in appearance to the fruit known as the cherimoya. Its juice has a creamy flavor with hints of strawberry and pineapple, and goes well with water, milk, and sugar.
  • Tomate de Arbol: The ‘tomato of the tree’ in English is an egg-shaped fruit with a yellow filling that is distinct from the typical red tomato that you would find in the supermarket. It has one of the most unique flavors I’ve ever tasted, and is similar to a mix of passion fruit and tomato, and supposedly has many health benefits. I enjoy its unique flavor and its refreshing qualities.
  • Granadilla: This fruit is a close relative of the well-known passion fruit. On the outside, it looks like a small orange or mandarina, but when it is cracked open, it contains a gelatinous pulp filled with black seeds. The flavor is similar to that of the passion fruit, but sweeter, and the seeds are easily disposable by spitting them out amidst the delicious juices. When turned into a fruit juice, it’s pulpy yet satisfying on a hot and humid day.
  • Mamoncillo: On the outside, this fruit looks like a lime, but when cracked open, it reveals a pinky-orange flesh similar to that of a lychee. The flavor is a mix of the tartness of a lime with the mild sweetness of the lychee. When blended into a juice, it looks like an iced tea and has a light orange/beige color.
  • Maracuya: Another part of the passion fruit family along with the Granadilla. It has an oval-shape, can look a bit wrinkly, and makes for a delicious juice or ice cream flavor as well. Maracuya is a great source of Vitamin C and is also known to be a natural sedative too. It also is known to aid digestion of food in the stomach. Extremely similar to the look of orange juice, Maracuya has a yellow-orange color when turned into a juice.
  • Gulupa: A cousin of the aforementioned Maracuya and another passion fruit. It has a dark purple skin that becomes wrinkled when it is ripe for eating or drinking. Along with Maracuya, it has plenty of Vitamin C and can help ease stress and tension in the body. When blended into a juice, it has a yellow color and looks very similar to orange juice.
  • Zapote: One of Colombia’s toughest and most durable fruits. It can grow very fast and is resistant to heavy wind and drought conditions. Zapote is full of minerals and antioxidants and can help with ailments ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to gastritis. It is very high in fiber so be careful not to eat too many as it does act as a natural laxative. Like other fruits here, it goes well with sugar and has a pink-orange color in juice/smoothie form.
  • Borojo: Known to be a ‘Love Juice’, and possessing some aphrodisiac qualities, this juice has been well-known for centuries and can act like a natural Viagra if you’re in the mood. Nutritionists have claimed that ‘Borojo’ is one of the most nutrient-rich fruits in the world can help combat malnutrition. When mixed and blended into a fruit juice, it gives off a dark to light brown color.
  • Mora: Known as ‘Blackberry’ in English, this is my favorite juice to have here in Colombia. Rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and nutrients, it is the most refreshing drink I’ve encountered thus far. I also enjoy the dark red color of the juice and enjoy it after a long day outside. While not an exotic fruit or drink, it gets the job done and I enjoy the simplicity yet refreshing qualities of the juice itself.

While I only listed ten fruits / fruit juices to indulge in, there are over dozens of unique fruits here in Colombia to try out. Some of the most exotic and sought-after fruits reside here in Colombia and you usually can’t find them anywhere else. A lot of the fruits I mentioned in this post have great health benefits and are packed with nutrients. Different than the apple, banana, and grape, these ‘superfruits’ can cure ailments, keep you well, and give you more energy. If you decide to ever visit Colombia, eat the fruits and try the fruit juices. I promise you won’t regret it.

Self-Sufficiency

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“If Aristotle is wrong about this, then I don’t want to be right.”

Self-sufficiency: “Able to supply one’s own or its’ own needs without external assistance.” (Noun – Dictionary.com)

Overlooked and misunderstood by many, the concept of self-sufficiency is important for realizing one’s potential as a person and for achieving true independence and maturity. Especially for those of us including myself whom are going through the 20’s, this is a period in our lives where we must rely on ourselves first for our success and prosperity before we reach out to others for help. I believe that it’s natural to ask for the mental and emotional support from your friends and family but there comes a time in a man and woman’s life where they must strike it out on their own and attempt to realize their self-sufficiency.

For different people, being self-sufficient could mean different things. It could be paying off your student loans or enrolling in a trade school to learn skills in order to become more employable. For others, it could be owning/renting your first apartment (without roommates), shopping and/or growing your own food, and changing a flat tire / getting your oil changed. Millennials are often criticized as the ‘Peter Pan’ generation considering that we come back to live with our parents after college in order to save money. I can’t say that this is a good trend but it is mostly due to a tough economy and a lack of good job opportunities, especially for those who were affected by the ‘Great Recession’ of 2007-2009 and still are to this day.

Rather than being discouraged and dismayed by the recent economic troubles affecting our generation, it is important to realize the opportunities that are out there. For realizing opportunities and achieving self-sufficiency in different areas, the Internet is perhaps the greatest tool out there for changing your future. We are quite lucky in that it is incredibly easy and free to access an almost infinite amount of information, both educational and informative, that can change our course in life if you are able to do the research and put the work in.

I can honestly say that learning self-sufficiency is vital in this day and age. Being able to take care of your body, your mind, your apartment/house, your car are all-important to be a fully functioning adult. In addition, managing and developing your finances, having healthy relationships, working successfully with co-workers, clients, and bosses are all steps on the path to self-sufficiency.

Most people stumble into ‘adulthood’ and will fail to become self-sufficient in their lives and suffer negative emotional and psychical health as a result. Resolve to yourself that you will take the steps necessary to become a mature adult who can take care of business and be able to function in society.

A lot of the problems and maladies of society originate from a lack of self-sufficiency and a heavy reliance on others (friends, family, and neighbors) to help them out continuously. I mentioned before that mental, emotional support from others including friends and family is necessary and even should be encouraged. However, don’t rely on others as a crutch because the people in your life won’t be there forever. They love you and want you to succeed in life but it is your job to make it happen. Your family and friends can’t hold your hand and walk you through every problem and setback you will experience. It is a common fact of wisdom that life will beat you down and keep you there if you let it. Achieving self-sufficiency in the necessary areas of life will make you happier, stronger, more resilient, and a better person overall.

Once you become self—sufficient and confident in your abilities, it is natural that you might want to share this with another person such as a wife, husband, and children. That is a reflection of your realization that you have become a full adult and can handle the responsibilities of helping future generations to become self-sufficient as well. Even if you do not marry or have kids, it’s possible to impact others and lead them down the road to self-sufficiency as well. Mentoring young people, being a leader in the community, and encouraging others to succeed can help lead others down the path of self-sufficiency as well.

After achieving self-sufficiency in your life, you can truly focus on the hobbies and interests that challenge and stimulate you. Human beings thrive in life when we conquer both internal and external challenges. Learning an instrument, studying a foreign language, dedicating yourself to a project at work or at home, or achieving mastery in different subjects are all great ways to keep yourself stimulated and happy.

People become unhappy when all they do is consume and don’t do anything to make themselves better. When all you do is watch TV and films but don’t know how to make them, or eat at fine restaurants but don’t know how to cook the food itself, and listen to music without knowing how to play an instrument or how its’ actually produced. Becoming self-sufficient is a result of handling the struggles and challenges of life with confidence and resolve.

In addition, having hobbies and interests in the pursuit of continuous knowledge and wisdom is extremely important to becoming a whole person. Anxiety, depression, and other issues manifest themselves when people can’t take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. Don’t be one of those people. Work hard to become a mature and capable adult in our society. I promise that you won’t regret it.

CooTrans Oriente

Speeding down, swerving in and out of traffic along the ‘Ruta Caribe’ at 100-120 km/h is the well-known and distinctive mode of transportation known as the ‘CooTrans Oriente.’ These auto-buses are affordable, widely used by the locals, and timely by arriving and departing every 20 minutes from town to town on their way to and from Barranquilla.

Established over twenty-five years ago here in the Atlantico department, CooTrans Oriente has become a mainstay when it comes to transporting people, goods, and services along the coast. Because of my Spanish classes and/or due to my technical training sessions, I am often riding the CooTrans Oriente multiple times per week so I have been accustomed to the norms and rules of this transportation enterprise here on the Atlantic coast.

I have taken a lot of buses in my life so far and most have been boring and uniform in design, color, and the attitude of both drivers and passengers. However, the CooTrans Oriente is unlike any other bus I’ve ever taken before. First of all, it’s colorful with every color represented in the spectrum from white to black, red to green being shown in the exterior of the bus. Each driver is allowed to design the interior and you can often see shag carpeting used for the steering wheel or for the gear shifter.

The conductors of the buses will pay tribute to Jesus Christ, God, and the Virgin Mary with religious scripture and sayings from the Bible. In addition, often, the drivers will highlight their family members and pay tribute to them by putting their names on the front dashboards in colorful font and lettering. CooTrans Oriente is a small company but it is extremely unique in allowing the drivers to personalize the buses, especially the designs for the interiors and the back windows.

It is very difficult to imagine bus drivers in the U.S. or in Europe being allowed to design their own buses or being able to display religious symbols or sayings so openly. Each bus is similar in its CooTrans Oriente lettering and the exterior has the same colors in mostly being red and blue. However, it’s a different story when it comes to the side and back windows. I have seen various tributes to video games like ‘Gears of War’ to displays of fandom for the popular ‘Juniors’ football team of Barranquilla to intricately designed religious murals depicting ‘The Last Supper.’ It is a real joy to just watch the buses go by and try to see the different symbols, designs, and murals that each make them unique.

More than just the colors and designs of CooTrans Oriente is the culture of the bus itself. Passengers will help each other out and have also helped me out tremendously. When I’m standing up on the bus after a long day of meetings or classes and I’m carrying two bags of groceries from the grocery store, a fellow passenger will allow me to put one of my bags on their laps to ease my carrying load a bit. It’s an extremely thoughtful and kind gesture, which I have not seen replicated elsewhere in the world thus far.

Also, it is common and allowed for venders to come on the bus to sell different snacks and drinks for those passengers thirsty and/or hungry enough to want to partake in especially if there’s a lot of traffic. There is also a more personal touch on this bus as you have an ‘Ayudante’ or helper who is present to take your money for the bus fare instead of loading your money on a card or putting the money in a machine near the driver as I’m used to from riding the buses back home.

Traveling on the CooTrans Oriente is quite an experience in of itself. Drivers will often offer a rolling stop to you when passing by the bus stop, which means you’ll have to hoist yourself and climb up the stairs quickly to catch the bus before it departs without you. Certain drivers will not follow the speed limit on the highway and will usually drive very quickly at 20-30 km/h above the normal speed for autobuses. This can be a bit harrowing to deal with at first but by driving very fast, you do catch an amazing wind breeze sitting by the windows which helps alleviate the Caribbean heat. The ‘Ruta Caribe’ for part of its highway only has a one-way express/lane for either direction. There is also no barrier in the expressway present, which would separate the drivers who are going in the opposite directions along the route.

There has been many times where the bus drivers will end up driving in the lane heading in the opposite direction to avoid traffic or speed ahead of the cars/motorcars/taxis in front of them to reach their final destination quicker. I have to be honest in that this rash decision-making honestly terrified me at first but the bus drivers here are extremely experienced and knowledgeable. They will only drive onto the lane heading the opposite direction if they don’t see any cars/trucks coming head on. I am not sure about the safety record of CooTrans Oriente but I do know that the seats are very comfortable and are made of some sort of leather material. So far, I haven’t witnessed or been involved with any accidents while riding the buses so I must say that the drivers here are quite good and that they know what they are doing.

Also, without any doubt, there will always be Colombian music played through the speakers for the passengers to enjoy during their travels. Sometimes, it’s Vallenato, and other times it’s Champeta, Cumbia, etc. There was one time recently where they had a music video playing with an actual TV at the front of the bus, which was pretty cool to see. The music video had scantily clad women dancing next to the main hip hop guy as he rapped in Spanish about their physical characteristics that he enjoys the most. None of the parents with children on the bus seemed to mind the video though.

Overall, I have enjoyed riding ‘CooTrans Oriente’ so far during my time here in Colombia and will continue to do so. The buses will take you to any part of Atlantico department from what I have noticed and it’s an affordable, cost-effective way to get around from town to town. The passengers, especially those sitting down, are very courteous and will help you out with your bags and even give up your seat for you. For female passengers, especially, the ‘Ayudante’ will lend his hand to help you ladies off of the bus and able-bodied men including myself will give up our seat for you whenever necessary as well.

In many ways, ‘CooTrans Oriente’ reflects the Caribbean Colombian culture. A deep love of their music, being colorful and animated, very open with kindness and warmth even to strangers, and having a wild side as well that comes out every now and then. There’s also the distinct feeling that like the people, the CooTrans Oriente doesn’t take itself too seriously, and knows how to have a good time even when driving down the highway at 120 km/h.

‘The Godfather’ – Film Review and Analysis

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“I’ve spent my life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless, but not men.”

One of the great classic American films of the 20th century, The Godfather, directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and based off of the novel of the same title by Mario Puzo is often considered to be the most influential film that created the ‘organized crime’ or mafia/gangster genre in cinemas.

Since its’ release in theaters in 1972, it has garnered a cult following among fans who led to ‘The Godfather’ becoming a trilogy with Parts Two and Three both released in following years. Because of its significance culturally and historically, the Library of Congress preserved it in the United States National Film Registry in 1990. Because of its success at the box office and with film critics alike, ‘The Godfather’ garnered many Academy Award nominations and won four Academy Awards including ‘Best Actor’ for Marlon Brando and ‘Best Picture’.

In addition to adding to the legendary career of Brando, ‘The Godfather’ also introduced to Hollywood a young Al Pacino and a very talented Robert Duvall. Both men would have extremely successful careers in American film but I believe that it was ‘The Godfather’ which helped catapult their early careers into noteworthy stardom.

Drawing parallels to the real life ‘Five Families’ of New York that dominated the Italian mafia during the 20th century, the fictional Corleone family, led by Don Vito Corleone, is highlighted as being the ‘pariah’ and at odds with the other crime families throughout the film. Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, acts like the quintessential mob boss whose cunning and intellect has made him to this day a very quotable character that has become apart of American popular culture.

In The Godfather, we see Vito nearing the end of his reign as boss of the family and looking for his eventual successor. Vito has three sons: Sonny, the oldest whose lack of foresight and hotheaded temper makes him a liability albeit is the favorite initially to replace Vito as Don of the Corleone family. Fredo is the middle child and is a consistent womanizer. Considered neither to be reliable nor intelligent, Fredo is kept to the side often and is not a suitable person to lead the family due to his lack of cunning and intellect. Michael, a U.S. Army Veteran and the youngest child of Vito Corleone is portrayed as being very innocent and often has requested to be kept out of the family business if he can avoid it.

However, as the viewers of the film can understand and interpret, a mafia family reels everyone in to its business whether or not it’s intentional. One of the best aspects of The Godfather is watching the changes in Michael’s behavior and demeanor as extenuating circumstances involving the family forces his hand and he is forced to take on more responsibilities and duties as a Corleone and the son of Vito. His loss of innocence and the transformation that occurs with Michael from dignified U.S. Army Veteran to cunning, ruthless Mafia boss is a great strength of this timeless film.

For those critics who are against violent Mafia films and choose not to watch them, that is fine but it should be considered that there is more to this movie than meets the eye. Above all else, it is the story of a father trying to repent for the sins of the past and trying to keep his sons from avoiding the same mistakes that he has made.

The relationship between Vito and his son, Michael in particular is memorable for how Vito expects so much from Michael considering he is the most levelheaded and intelligent of the Corleone brothers. There is one great scene in the film where Vito and Michael are discussing the ongoing drama of the war between “The Five Families.” Vito laments to Michael on how he is sorry that he was thrust into the mafia business when he expected his son instead to become “Governor Corleone” or “Mayor Corleone.” Michael simply looks at his father lovingly, and says: “We’ll get there, pop. We’ll get there.”

Other classic scenes that I enjoyed involve the courtship between Michael and a beautiful Sicilian woman named Apollonia. What I liked most was highlighting the very old-school dating process of asking Apollonia’s father for permission to date and then later marry his daughter with all respect given. It’s a touching moment in the film, which reveals that Michael’s humanity has not been totally wiped out because of the mafia. It was also great of Director Coppola to show the traditional procession of the Sicilian wedding and how all of the townspeople were involved in wishing Michael and Apollonia well.

Without trying to spoil the rest of the film for those of you readers who haven’t watched The Godfather yet, I can’t recommend it enough to avid movie fans. The directing by Francis Ford Coppola, the cinematography, the acting performances by Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, etc. are phenomenal and they deserved every heap of credit that was bestowed upon them at the Oscars and elsewhere.

The Godfather is simply more than just a mafia film in my opinion. It is a story about a complex family, fathers and sons, human nature, and the thirst for power and respect. Have an open mind and see this film if you get the chance. I promise that you won’t regret it even if the running time is three hours in total. You can always tell your friends and family that I wrote a blog post that you couldn’t refuse to read.

The Heat Is On

One undeniable fact about life here on the Atlantic coastal area of Colombia is the constant heat and humidity. For me, this has been the biggest adjustment that I have had to get used to over the past month or so. Considering it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit and extremely cold when I left New York in mid-January, it was quite the shock to my senses to be experiencing 90 degree weather and 70% humidity on a daily basis here in Colombia especially during the months of January and February, which I have always associated with the Winter season. However, one of the great things about human beings is that we are very adaptable to our environment and our bodies can adjust to different climates without too much trouble. For example: Instead of bundling up in layers, you wear light clothing and show more skin.

Especially in this day and age, it is much easier to deal with the climate then in decades or centuries past. Due to modern technology, it’s much easier to deal both with the heat and humidity than ever before. For my fellow Peace Corps trainees and for those of you out there who want to visit the Atlantic coast of Colombia in the future, I have listed some tips and advice on how to beat the heat:

  • Wear light shirts and pants, preferably of cotton material. Heavy clothing is heavily discouraged and it will give you a chance to upgrade your fashion choices by wearing what the locals wear. Jeans are common here culturally and because it is also much harder for the mosquitos to bite you if you cover your legs as well.
  • Before you leave the house or apartment, wear sunscreen that is strong and reliable. If you’re not careful, you can get a severe case of sunburn and heat stroke. Also, it’s important to put on mosquito repellant in the exposed parts of your body not covered by clothing when you’re walking or running outside in the heat.
  • Wear a hat and put on sunglasses to reduce the sun’s impact on your face and eyes. This has been great for me in protecting myself from any skin problems or eyesight issues because the sun is quite strong.
  • Make sure that you drink plenty of water and hydrate continuously throughout the day. Bags of water are commonly sold here and are great for re-hydration. I would avoid sodas, sports drinks because they are not the best for hydrating yourself. If you need some sugar, then they are good options but Water is king when it comes to keeping your body temperature in line. Lack of hydration can be a real problem here so make sure you’re drinking a couple of liters of water each day.
  • Try to reduce your activities, movements outside during the hours of 2 to 4 PM. In my own experiences here, the heat is strongest and the humidity most oppressive during the mid-day. I would recommend staying inside during those hours and keeping cool at the local café or library. Strenuous physical activity during these hours could be detrimental to your health. It’s also a good opportunity for a nice descanso (rest) if you have some free time after school is over.
  • Besides water, indulge in some ice cream and natural fruit juices to keep your energy levels up. This is my favorite item for this list as I am a sucker for ice cream and cool beverages. It cools you down and it’s a nice reward for yourself after a hard day or week on the job.
  • Travel and time permitting, going to a local villa for some time at the pool and indulging in some cool refreshments is an afternoon well spent on the weekend. Going to the pool is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat and it’s nice to swim, lounge around and relax with friends.
  • Take advantage of the mornings and evenings when it is much less hot and humid out. I’ve heard from my fellow trainees that running in the early morning or exercising in the evening is preferable. I would agree completely that you have to be flexible and try to pick the times of the day where the heat isn’t as extreme and you can exercise without sweating puddles.
  • Hanging out at the library or the local Internet cafe where you can read a good book, catch up on work, and/or use the Wi-Fi is another great option. These places usually have air conditioning and/or strong fans too to help keep you cool.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, heading to the beach for a day trip or to the local mall, Movie Theater are other great ways to keep cool and round out the ‘Top Ten.’

Finally, do not forget to invest in having a big fan ready to use for those humid nights in your bedroom. Sleeping in 90-degree weather is not easy so make sure you have a fan at your disposal to rest more comfortably. I hope this list is useful for those reading who are thinking of visiting hot and humid places. Despite the challenges that warm climates present to the human body, I still prefer it to the cold and snowy weather that I grew up with in New York. In addition to that, shoveling two feet of snow can be a real pain in the butt.