The Guzman’s Gone Camping: Camp La-No-Che

The Guzman family was invited to take part in a Boy Scouts Halloween camp. It was a last-minute planning;  we packed the car like we were going for a week stay at a far away hotel, loading everything we thought we would need.  I was in charge of loading up the truck and driving. My wife takes the rest of the credit for making everything else happen. The Guzman’s gone camping; our own Puertorican version of the Griswold’s National Lampoons Vacation. After several hours of loading and unloading we were ready to leave.  Camp La-No-Che, located in Paisley, is about an hour from Orlando. When we arrived, it was very late and very dark. The office was closed but a good Samaritan helped us to find our group.  At the campsite,  some children were gathered around the camp fire singing , roasting their marshmallows and telling stories. Other children were playing around the camp site.  This is the outdoor life, I thought. It was very late when I started to set up the tent. I had no idea how ; we borrowed this tent from a friend and it was very difficult to see how and where to set up. My Boy Scout and Army skills slowly started to come back and with the help of another good Samaritan our tent was finally set up. I was impressed with the help we got unloading our things. A bunch of Boy Scouts helped us carrying our things showing their good will to help. I felt proud of  how the Boy Scout movement is helping these kids to become someone of value in the future. It was close to midnight when we finished; the kids were still up and running around when it was lights out, time to go to sleep.

Woke up to the sound of the bugle morning call. I felt like when I was back in the Army.  It brought back memories of my  Boy Scout and Army years. Time to get up!  Camping with kids is bit more challenging than we thought. The bathroom facilities were located away from the camping site and Karymar didn’t like the arrangements.  We walked to the chow hall for breakfast. It was like I expected; big mess hall decorated with Boy Scout signs and picture frames. Looking at the camp on daylight made me appreciate the size of it and the amenities the kids were about to enjoy.  Karymar participated in many activities: archery, shooting with BB guns, arts and crafts. There was a swimming pool, climbing wall and many activities for children and adults.

The theme was Halloween of course, so the children and the adults crafted pumpkins and dressed up for the big party at night.  However things were different at the campsite. The friendliness and good will environment we experienced the day before at our arrival was gone today.  The children, dressed in their costumes were acting like they were really the action hero or the wrestler or the evil creature they were dressed like. An air of chaos enveloped the campsite; kids were running around without adult control, pushing other kids and were rude with people. They were not nice like the day before and were acting more like savages on a desert island. There was no sight of a responsible adult or parent around. They were oblivious to their surrounding acting like there is nothing wrong with the turmoil of children taking over the campsite. There were few, myself included, who had to put an end to the hostile takeover but the kids were resisting. All the good nature thoughts of being Boy Scouts and acting like good behaved children were vanished and a new image of out of control children  took form instead.  This was the result of children high of candy sugar turned loose with no parental control whatsoever. There was a woman whose son’s name will be embedded into my sub-conscious for life. She kept calling out for her two-year old son from her tent but making no attempt to go out and find him.  She pretended that the poor toddler responded to the mother’s screams and find the way back to his tent.  The things my wife and I saw left us gaping at each other, horror-struck. After the shock of the afternoon events, we all dressed up in our pirate costumes, except Karymar who wanted to be different and dressed up with a Hello Kitty costume.  There was a Halloween parade and haunted house trail during the evening. Then Campfire tales and a big party to celebrate Halloween.  At the end of the night, the kids were exhausted and so were we.

Late at night, we woke up hearing noises. We thought it was the kids creating mayhem again but it was around 3 AM when we realized that the noises was created not by the kids but by a bear.  A big bear was visiting our campsite looking for food.  For several minutes we stood still inside our tents. It was pitch dark and  very cold outside; no one dared to venture out or able to see the bear.  We communicated with other people from inside our tents. We could hear some kids crying, others excited about the unique experience. The bear kept trashing the area looking for food  and then after it seemed like a good hour,  he was gone.

The bear encounter was the talk of the morning the next day. The camp environment was once again calm and friendly. We saw the damage trail the bear left. Someone claimed to have seen the bear behind his tent and that he was a full-grown bear. Pretty scary considering that our protection was a thin layer of tent material against a full-grown, hungry bear. Thanks to God, we all lived to tell about the experience.  Packing up our things was more tedious that setting up and less exciting. For some reason things didn’t fit in the truck. We left the campground around noon talking about our first Guzman’s family camp experience and planning our next one in a very near future.

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The Chronicles of Ian Karlo: El Caminante

My boy is eighteen months old. How time flies. It seems that I looked away for a split second as my son started to walk and now it’s like catch me, if you can. I remember him fast crawling towards me, a big smile in his face. Then he stopped and slowly stood up, taking a couple of baby steps closer. He did this more often on his own, taking bigger, happier steps. One day, he just took off and never looked back. These days, you will find him everywhere around the house. He is all over the place; the bedrooms, the kitchen and even the bathroom. Yes, toilet paper can go a long way and he even likes to test the quality of the paper. We are lucky to get the paper out of his mouth without getting bitten with his hatchet like teeth.

On another note, he has some traits from me. Ian Karlo is a natural inspector. He likes to inspect things around the house like his father does. He opens drawers, close the doors, flips things up to see how the wheels work and grabs anything he can get his little hands around to. I had to take safety precautions, closing all the doors, especially the bathroom door,  leaving the livingroom and the hallway as his playgrounds. He is fascinated every time he flips the light switch in his room and he let’s you know his amazement with his hight pitched yell. It has become his signature when he is happy.

He now knows how to climb up the sofa to play with his favorite picture frame in his favorite corner. That’s his favorite place to drink his milk with his red pillow. He also know how to turn around to climb down feet first.  He give us this “I can do This” grin while we look at him amazed with his abilities.

At the time of eating Ian Karlo can deflect the spoon away from him with martial arts ability and try   to grab him while he is on the floor, his element. He  will make you think that he is there when he is not. It is a challenge too.

He is a happy toddler with lots of energy and a noble smile that melts me away. He  starts to show his character and I know we got our hands full with our children. Ian Karlo looks up to his big sister Karymar and she loves him and protects him. She is a great helper when it’s time to change Ian’s diaper. He doesn’t appreciate the idea of stopping when there is so much to walk about. His sister sings him songs that cheer him up while I do my job to keep my boy clean. Blessed my little girl.

Ian Karlo is el caminante, the walker, like his father. I remember my Mom calling me ” el caminante” because I was always moving, going like there was not tomorrow.  When I pick up Ian Karlo from the floor, he fights and complains. He wants to walk, wants to check this place out, open this drawer, grab that thing and if it looks good, taste it too. My mom says it is just like me. I never wanted to stop or slow down because there is so much to see , so much to experience that I didn’t want to miss a thing.  Now I look at my son, el caminante,  and see  a much of me in him. I will enjoy every moment watching my boy growing up to be whatever he wants to be.


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MacGyver and Motorcycles

I love riding  motorcycles. It is one of my passions.   I got hooked with  riding since I got my first taste four years ago. It’s freedom; me and the open road.  The feeling of warm air hitting my face and the roaring of my motorcycle, cruising through Central Florida’s roads . Not a damn despair. It is a very good feeling man! Florida’s best attractions for bikers like me are the bike rallies. During the month of October is Bikertoberfest in Daytona Beach. Four days of bike rallies, rides and events for the motorcycle enthusiasts. To me, these days are treated like sacred, trying to attend as many days I can possibly ride. This year I was going out-of-town for work so my riding days were limited.

It was Friday morning and I was ready to roll out on my bike to Daytona’s Biketoberfest. I got dressed, rolled the bike out and cranked it up. The day was clear and beautiful. It was a sign of the wonderful ride I was going to have, or not…As I kicked the stand up, I said a little prayer for a safe ride and rode off. I was listening to music approaching the traffic light near home when the bike suddenly died on me. I tried couple times to crank the engine but felt like it had no juice. I knew I had to put gas but  knew that it was not out of fuel. Since things have happened to me lately in unusual ways, I immediately looked up for answers. I asked  God“ you don’t want me to go, is that it?” I didn’t get an answer of course , so I started to troubleshoot my bike. 

Whenever I am stuck in a situation that requires troubleshooting, I like to call out MacGyver, the cool TV action hero from years back who was very resourceful finding solutions in difficult situations with whatever he had at hand.  He could fix a computer with a paperclip and duct tape. I got my tool bag out where I keep the essential tools for a mechanical breakdown according with MacGyver standards. I knew it my problem was electric; there was no juice going to the ignition coils. fortunately, I was close to home, so I rolled the bike back pushing it like a kid’s bicycle. My legs were screaming and I still have to push the bike up the driveway. MacGyver will not give up now though, so I continued. I did the spark test and as suspected, no spark. Damn, how this happen? What’s going on? Where is the lesson to learn here? I did not give up; though I complain about the unfairness of the situation. What do you want me to do?, I asked. If God knew that I wanted to go very bad, then why this suddenly  happened to me? Knowing there is nothing to dwell into self-pity, I continued with the troubleshooting. What will McGyver will do?  I checked the coil and the spark plugs. I made some calls to my mechanic and the dealer to find out about coils replacement. Both of the answers I got where not what I wanted to hear. Either I had to tow the bike to the shop so my mechanic can troubleshoot it or had to pay hundreds of dollars in getting the coils replaced even though no one had the coils in stock. They had to be ordered. Everything was pointing out to the sad conclusion that I was not going to be able to ride to Biketoberfest this time. But, I did not quit. I found hope searching articles online trying to find other possible solutions. MacGyver didn’t have this aid available in his time. I found what I was looking for from a motorcycle forum. In trying to narrow down the issue, looking for other causes than the coils, I found that the ignition switch may be the cause. I remember that it rain hard when I rode  yesterday and the bike got  totally wet. Turns out that the switch cylinder got wet and short-circuit the contacts so it was not delivering the juice the coils need to crank the motor up. Rocket science really! I removed the ignition switch housing with great difficulty. The bolts did not want to come out and the bolt thread was threatening to strip. I didn’t have the right tools and was working with what I got, the MacGyver way. Finally I got them out, removed the ignition switch, blew inside with compressed air, sealed it with electrical tape and Vrooom!, I was riding in less than two hours.  I was beaming with a MacGyver grin on my face.

I guess that the lesson learned here is to never give up, even if the signs and hidden messages seemed to tell otherwise. There was a strong determination for me to go riding and I was not deterred by setbacks. I am sure that if it wasn’t meant to be, I would have conceded but again, I did not feel any internal buzzing telling me not to go so I persisted until I succeeded.  I am glad that I did it; I had a great time riding with my friends, looked at cool bikes and mingled with a lot of people.  I have experienced the crazy things you see only on Main St., Daytona Beach and I had a blast. I know MacGyver would have been proud of me too. I could hear him saying “You can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it”.

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Systema Seminar Review with Major Konstantin Komarov

This seminar was part of the Systema “Unbound” weekend seminar with Major Konstantin Komarov and Vladimir Vasiliev. It was organized by the Charlotte Systema group. Our venue was the Ultimate Gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. A huge warehouse converted into a one of a kind gym. I was very impressed with the facility’s  open space for training. It provides the right environment for the kind of training we were about to endure. Over one hundred Systema practitioners attended the first day of the weekend seminar with Major Konstantin Komarov. Major Komarov is an expert in Russian military reconnaissance, has a PhD in combat Psychology, a professional bodyguard for Moscow’s elite and one of the master instructors of Systema.  The seminar started on time and went on without missing a beat. Time flies when you’re having fun and for me the day went by very quick. This is a short review of what I got out of the day’s training. Most of it cannot be told in words but shown in actions.

The training was focused on basic exercises and precision movements. No matter how much one trains in Systema, it is always good to go back to the basics of movement. One of Systema’s principles is doing precise movements. Major Konstantin says that “there is no point of going through a Systema workout if your body is not listening to you.” When training, ask your-self, what is the purpose of my movement?  The body should be fully engaged to create proper structure or form and maintain conscious movement without breaking that form. Without proper posture/form you cannot do the right “technique”. Moving your big muscles equals to big movements  where as small movements next to the bones equals precise movement. One should move effectively, from the feet/hip. The body should be stable and collected. All movement is connected to the breathing. This is fundamental; match your breathing cycle with your movement cycle. More importantly is to understand your breathing emotional psyche. It doesn’t matter how well you do the “technique”, if you don’t know how to control your psyche. Keeping your body and your psyche relax, it releases the tension and allows you to move effectively without fear.  Fear happens when we stop moving. It happens when we are not confident about our movement. By feeling your opponent, one can feel the tension and move without fear. We performed a lot of crawling exercises alone and with a partner. This was the fun part. These exercises are good to detect tension in our bodies. One of the remarkable aspects of Systema is that people seems to have a lot of fun doing these odd exercises. It is the only martial arts that I know of where you hear people’s laughter  instead of grunts and yells while training. No other art can be as intense as Systema while also be fun and entertaining. When egos and titles are left at the door, people come in to train with a comradely mindset. The result is a more enjoyable and long-lasting experience.  Unfortunately, I was  able to take part  in only one day of the weekend seminar. I met new friends from all over the states and places as far as Argentina. Overall, this experience  enhanced my Systema mind and body awareness. I look forward for the next seminar on April 2012.

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12 Most Important Things I Can Tell to My Children…for now

  1. Don’t do anything that will dishonor God, your family and yourself.
  2. Be the example of what you want in your life.
  3. Do to others what you would have them do to you.
  4. If you say you can’t, you can’t. If you say you can, you CAN.
  5. Lead by example. You never know when someone is looking up to you.
  6. Act with integrity as if someone is always watching you.
  7. You will win and lose in life. What matters is how you feel about it.
  8. Learn from your mistakes for they will turn into valuable life experiences. Failure = not learning from your mistakes.
  9. A negative attitude will get you farther away from what you really want. A positive attitude will always gets you closer.
  10. Lies and deceit are the surest way to lose  trust and relationships.
  11. Take good care of your relationships. Make people feel loved and important and they will do the same for you.
  12. Have faith in God,  compassion for others and take a stand for what you feel is right.

Las Cronicas de mi Abuelo: Mi Abuelo Dice

Mi abuelo escribio sobre muchas cosas en su libro. El habla de muchos temas: religion, filosofia de la vida, su forma de pensar y punto de vista. Mientras leo las notas de mi Abuelo, trato de entender su punto de vista de lo que escribio. Varias veces me pregunto, que estaba pensando mi Abuelo cuando escribio esto? por cuales situaciones vivio mi Abuelo ese dia que lo motivo a escribir esta nota en su libro?

En la nota de hoy, mi Abuelo dice que en caso de duda, preguntar.

Dice mi Abuelo: en caso de duda, preguntar pero preguntarle a una persona decente. Por ejemplo, si esta en un pueblo y no conoce a nadie, a quien tu debes preguntarle tal y tal cosa? A la policia u/o cualquier otra persona, si es posible de edad avanzada y que tu comprendas que es una persona responsable de su deber como ser humano. Recuerda lector que hay mucha gente mala en este mundo. Esto es tambien, en caso que tu te pierdas en un pueblo, preguntarle solamente a la policia. La policia tiene el deber de ayudarle al que le pide ayuda y proteccion. Ellos no pueden enganar a nadie