Monthly Archives: July 2013

Why Women Earn Less than Men

Do men really earn more than women? Is that because of discrimination? I don’t think so – at least not in the way we think.

For example, my wife is an art teacher and recently accepted a part time job because we are having our first child. In contrast, I was just promoted and have a full time business consultant job. I don’t think this is marketplace discrimination, but rather expectations of gender roles we have accepted.

So is their discrimination in the workplace? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is the gender roles some people are unhappy about.

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That Dive Bar in Puerto Rico

I love dive bars. I seek them out. Something about a place most tourist avoid, a place that doesn’t serve mojitos just because it’s too much damn trouble to make, and tequila on the rocks is the house special just feels right. El Batey in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is that place.

El Batey

El Batey is pretty rustic. By rustic I mean the place basically consist of four walls and a bar. It’s perfect. The day I chose to visit I was lucky enough to be one of two patrons. The other guy at the bar was a white guy in his mid-70s. He was former Navy and also just happened to own the place. After a few beers I worked up the courage to swap a few stories and find out how the hell a 70 year old white guy came to own the coolest bar in San Juan.

It turns out he was stationed in Puerto Rico while serving in the Navy. He was a weather man – which according to him was the easiest job in the world.

“Its the same everyday. It’ll rain a little in the morning, clear up, and be sunny and 80s the rest of the day. Some days I didn’t even do anything – I just foretasted the usual. I even won a damn medal for being the most accurate weather guy in the Navy.”

After the Navy he opened the bar and never left.

If you find yourself in San Juan, Puerto Rico count yourself lucky and head over to El Batey for a long afternoon and night. Just sit back, enjoy the good conversation, and relax. The drink specials are Corona, a Margarita, or anything the bartender can concoct without a blender. El Batey is definitely the best dive bar in Puerto Rico.

Location:
Calle de Cristo 101
San Juan, PR 00901

Lessons in Fatherhood: Part 2

We had all sort of people in and out of my house as a kid. My parents graciously accepted almost every type of person in their home (for better or worse). I remember at a young age my Father associating with men of all races, backgrounds, creeds, and otherwise good or bad morally acceptable characters. All of this had an effect on me. Some good and some bad. But there is no doubt that my experiences did two things:

1. Eliminated naivety
2. Gave me a unique sense of culture

Crazy Stuff

One day I remember clearly. There was a POUNDING on our front door. It was our neighbor begging my dad for my” urine. He had probation and a random urine test – “needed clean piss”. I was reluctant and a little embarrassed, but gave it too him and kept him out of jail – In the end I was obliged to do so – proud even. Looking back I can hardly believe I was ever in such a situation.

Another time I remember a guy opening a -full of drugs on our coffee table. He called me over and explained which bags were “nickels, dimes, and quarter” bags of marijuana – and how much each cost. He even let me smell “how sweet” his best product smelled. I thought it all seemed pretty normal.

Good Stuff

There are good memories too though. I remember my dad stopping to give a rugged looking black man a hand to change his tire. That black man looked at me and said “your daddy’s a good man, son.” I agreed. I remember when I was in middle school and my Father let two “illegals” from Guatemala live in our guest bedroom for almost a year. They were good men and taught me Spanish. ( I think part of my love for Central and South America is directly because of that experience.) He did it just because “they were good men trying to feed their families” and “couldn’t help where they were born”. Those are the lessons in morality and kindness that I think about often.

To this day the lessons I learned via my parents’ associations are second nature to me. For example, I have the uncanny ability to almost instantly judge a man’s character – despite his outward appearance. Also, I remain open minded to various opinions and cultural experiences. And, in general, I find that I am not at all racist (or any other “ist” for that matter). In fact, I love foreigners and learning about their culture. I have no doubt that is due to the type of household I grew up in.

Becoming a Dad

In less than six months I’ll be a Dad too. I hope I can incorporate these lessons into my child’s life – without the negativity. But can you really have these type of lessons without the heartache? Part of me thinks probably not. It’s probably a lot like trying to learn about love from a book. So, I wonder if these are ideas and lessons I will never be able to teach my child?

Read Part 1.

Lessons in Fatherhood: Part 1

Some of my favorite memories are hiking through the woods as a kid. My Dad and I would put soil in a bucket, capture a few worms, and take our smallest fishing poles with us. The poles were no more than a couple of feet long, but they were perfect for us.

My dad would park the car by the road and we would walk into the woods until we found a creek. “Creek fishin” we called it. We’d find these little “fishing holes” in the creek-side. A fishing hole is any area in the water that’s darker than the rest of the water. That means the water is deeper there (and what the fish like). We’d throw our hooks in the water and in a few seconds we’d have a tiny bass or brim on the end of our hook. If nothing found our bait worth eating, we’d waste no time, reel our hooks in and hike to the next fishing hole.

These are some of the memories I have of childhood. And in spite of all of the shit my Dad and I have been through in the past – these are the memories I try to keep with me. Even when I hate the man and have resigned to forgetting him completely – I beckon back to these memories. Ultimately, I think they are the memories that define my relationship with my Father. In a strange way – even when I choose to ignore it – those are the things he did right. Just a day in the woods fishing with your Dad.

Now that fatherhood is approaching in my own life I have been thinking more and more about those little things that both my parents did right. How those good things ultimately left me with enough confidence and desire to be the man I am today.

It’s almost incredible to me how a day of good can overshadow so much bad. How a little effort and encouragement can be spread so thin and make all the difference in who one becomes as a person. It’s a lesson I hope I can implement as a Father too.

Read Part 2.

How to get from the Airport in Guatemala City to Antigua

If you are headed to Antigua, Guatemala you have to fly into Guatemala City. Guatemala City isn’t exactly a tourist oasis and most people find it a little dirty and mildly dangerous. My personal advice, if you aren’t familiar with Central America, is to avoid the city and head directly to Antigua upon arrive in Guatemala. Since there is no airport in Antigua you will have to catch a ride to Antigua. Not to worry though Antigua is less than an hour drive from Guatemala City.

Getting to Antigua

The best way to get to Antigua from Guatemala City is by pre-arranging transportation before you arrive. There are a variety of reputable tour companies that can set you up with transportation and will be waiting for you when you arrive in Guatemala City. At only $10 per person most people find this option the easiest, safest, and most hassle free. This is the option I use when I visit Antigua and see little reason (unless you are up for adventure) to use any other method.

I usually pre-arrange my ride to Antigua via the folks at Around Antigua. You have to communicate via email, but they are always very helpful in setting something up for me (including tours, transportation, advice about locations, etc.).

Chicken Buses

The cheapest and probably most dangerous (and perhaps most fun) way to get from Guatemala City to Antigua is via the Chicken Buses. The Chicken Buses are typical American style school buses that have been painted and decorated in true Central American style. The bus drivers are reckless, robberies have been known to occur, and you will be stuffed in with the locals – but if you want true Guatemalan culture – a chicken bus is it.

I do not recommend taking a chicken bus if you are afraid of getting lost in Guatemala or if you will be carrying a lot of luggage or valuables. Tourists with a lot of luggage and who aren’t fluent in Spanish are prime targets for jerks looking for someone to take advantage of. The chicken buses can be fun and they are pretty reliable, but use them at your own discretion.

Outside the Airport – What I wish I had Known

One thing you have to realize when you arrive in Guatemala City is that you are in the third world. People think you are rich and by their standards you probably are. They want to perform services for your for cash. Some people want to take advantage of you too, but most people just want to perform a service.

When you exit the airport – even if you are just waiting for your ride – you will encounter a variety of people. When my wife and I exited the airport there were kids begging to shine my shoes, there were men who looked like they worked for the airport (but didn’t) offering me their cell phone to call my ride (for a tip), and there were about 100 other folks standing around doing this and that.

I had been in Central America before so it didn’t bother me, but it was a first for my wife. I had warned her about what she might expect, but it still made her a little nervous so just be aware of what you might see. My advice is to just stick to yourself, politely decline offers, and catch your ride. I actually enjoy the experience as a reminder that I’m not in the States anymore.

Guatemala is AWESOME

If Guatemala City seems a little rough don’t worry because overall Guatemala is an amazing place. It is the only place my wife and I have ever traveled to where she literally begged me to move to. Honestly we both fell in love with Antigua. You will too. Some people have visited and literally never returned – it’s just that kind of place.

Resources:

Tours and Information

Race Relations in the United States

Anyone who thinks racial tension in the United States is a thing of the past is probably a white person in an all white zip code. One has to look no further than mainstream media to see that race is an automatic seller. People eat it up. It’s sexy, dramatic, and it automatically forces people to choose a side. Divide and conquer.

Race in the Media

But I have to ask myself: “Am I racist?”

The answer is no. I don’t think so. When I see a black person, Hispanic, or whatever I do no immediately pass judgement. In fact, I really don’t think anything at all. I think that is the ultimate sign of non-racism. You are apathetic towards it. I do not feel the need to compensate positively or negatively because a person happens to be lighter or darker than myself. When you think about it – it kind of seems silly.

Then I think about the media. Cases like Trayvon Martin or the latest supreme court decision regarding Affirmative Action immediately conjure feelings of racial divide. I automatically feel defensive – like I am personally being attacked because of my race. But that feeling isn’t natural to me. It has been created by artificial media drama.

Irony: The Liberal (and Conservative) Media Magnifies Racism

I find it ironic that when media, especially liberal media, capitalizes on negative racial stereotypes to create drama. Isn’t this counter to the “values” they claim to uphold This is highlighted most recently in the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman trials. This has been a political and media gold mine for all parties. It was immediately turned into a white versus black hate crime. (Even though it turns out Zimmerman is Hispanic) “Being black killed Trayvon Martin” or “They are trying to take your guns” the media tells us. All of this only serves to hurt race relations in America. To give us something to argue about. And probably most importantly – it sells.

Irony: Media claims to care about the black community, but they are exploiting them (all of us, in fact) for every viewer and ad dollar earned because of manufactured racial tension. Race relations haven’t been worse in decades. If you disagree, if you think the media is helping, think about this: Would it be on TV if they weren’t makig money on it? 

Party Politics: Divide and Conquer

Philip II, king of Macedon, knew it a thousand years ago. To defeat an enemy you must “divide and conquer.” I can’t help but see the similarity today in Partisan politics.

Republicans try to trick conservative white voters than minorities, illegal immigrants, liberals, and atheists want to take away their “family values”. Meanwhile, democrats convince minorities, the educated class, immigrants, and progressives that people with conservative values are racist, backwards, greedy, and ignorant. Both of these parties play upon popular caricatures to force the population to pick a side. It’s a power struggle built on lies and exaggeration.

More Same than Different

We all like good food. We want to be loved and to love. We hate to see someone hurt, we love to see people happy. We work hard, we try, we fail, we need help, we help. We are human – all of us. So why is there so much focus on differences? Who benefits from that. (Hint: I think you know who benefits and it’s not you or me.)