My Time in Haiti (Part 1)

I’m writing this blog post from Haiti.  I am currently in the inner-city of Port-Au-Prince (PAP), within a region called Delmas.  I’m staying a couple of days with a Haitian friend from college’s family.  I’m grateful, as I have always wanted to know and immerse myself within this city I hear so much about, the heart and epicenter of Haiti.  It’s quite serendipitous how I ended up staying with this family and experiencing PAP for several.

What happened was that my plans changed due to riots and civil unrest against the government.  The people want to kick president Jovenel Moise and his administration out of the office after learning about their spending government money for their own houses and vacations in the world’s most beautiful and expensive spots (or so the story goes).  It’s unfortunate, since the whole country had high hopes for this president, being a entrepreneur and businessman specializing in banana exports in the north of the country.  One of their very own. 

Consequently, tree planting organization that was to send me a driver for my travel from PAP to the deforested mountains of the Artibonite couldn’t send one since there had been blockades along the road passage of Highway 1.  Additionally, there is widespread theft, cars being lit on fire, and guns being fired. 

Not wanting to miss a single day in Haiti and in a last minute act of desperation, I reached out to my friend from college to ask if I could stay with her and her family!  She said yes and that her father would pick me up from the airport!  Eureka!  Right before I left for the airport, I had asked my friend if she liked playing chess (so we could play in Haiti).  She said yes, but proceeded to remind me how she was in New Jersey for the summer as a camp counselor.  Whoops… I had forgotten. 

Nevertheless, when I arrived Mr. Charles, my friend’s father picked me up with the warmest embrace of an unknown college-aged man, I knew I would be safe and enjoy my time here.  And I have!   The temperature is very hot and humid, enough to make you deeply crave an air conditioner.  Additionally, I have been bitten by 20-30 mosquitoes. 

Haitian by Trees

I have already been touched by almost every person I’ve met thus far.  On the plane rides over to PAP, I met two awesome ladies with whom I shared a connection.  The first, on my flight from Pit to Miami, was a mother who was going to Cap Haitien on a mission trip called Surf City Haiti with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation.  She was the treasurer and accountant for the organization doing awesome things in my city.  I had met her once before when I was first originally starting Te Amo, back in December 2017.  I was selling tea at quaint but very nice vendor show at a high-spirited coffee shop called Uncommon Grounds Café in Aliquippa.  She had bought a ton of my grandma’s Peruvian Chai Tea!  It was crazy how things are connected and God smiles upon us with the kind meetings of his created people.

The second lady I met on my flight from Miami to PAP, and she was headed to Grazie (southern part of Haiti) to visit friends from her time working at a Christian school non-profit in that area.  She reminded me of someone I knew from Grove City College, with a striking and slightly older resemblance and demeanor.  We spoke about the history and circumstance that Haiti finds itself in now – from the main issues of government, taxation (and tax collecting, or lack thereof), education, medical care, disease, the amount of non-profits all over the country, deforestation, business opportunity, energy production/consumption, overpopulation, religion in Haiti, and on top of all the unfortunate circumstances – natural disasters.  All these are directly or indirectly tied together, and they make for a country that is deep down on a slippery slope that began over 500 years ago during French & Spanish colonization.

We talked about whether or not the nation is cursed.  I try not to make mystical assumptions, especially when they are negative, however we proceeded to chat about how the nation began with a voodoo ceremony called Bwa Kayman where a voodoo priest, Duty Boukman, called for slave revolt in the nation.  100’s of years later, the country’s unfortunate circumstance (as compared with the rest of the world) has not recouped.  Despite their less than ideal circumstances, there is a love and positive energy coming from within every Haitian I meet.  It is an ironic duality that Haitians happen to be under worse circumstances externallythan we Americans.  However, internally they have a spirit that cannot be matched by most of the American population. 

Indeed, going to a country in which no one looks like you nor speaks your language is my favorite sort of travel. It’s at this point that you enter another planet altogether…  a planet you may have had presuppositions about before arriving to.  A planet where almost every presupposition is torn down.  The ignorance of media representation vanishes and the truth comes from immersing oneself in true happenings. 

One of my favorite parts of the country is the food.  It’s incredible.  It’s hearty and comforting.  Full of flavor, spice, fat, and savory calories.  Just how I like it!  In these Caribbean countries, the people kick back by going to local bars where they can drink all sorts of juices, coffee, tea, beer, and liquor.  One after the other.  It is awesome, and it’s a delictably glutinous consumption of liquid and laughter with the others present.  Plus, the coffee cups are tiny and cute little finger-sized cups.  This is vastly different from our humoungous 16+ ouncer coffee mugs and thermoses in the US.

Kindness takes you a LONG WAY in Haiti, and as it should be anywhere, of course.  For example, when I arrived here in Haiti and walked out of the airport, there was over a hundred taxi drivers waiting to get a customer.  They would say “Taxi?”, to which I simply responded “No, merci anpil”, which means “No, thank you very much”.  They would smile at my foreign-ness and polite refusal – instead of being bummed out or sour like they certainly could be if I just said “No”.  In fact, there’s a Haitian proverb for being kind.  It goes “Bonjou ou se paspo ou”, or “good morning is your passport.  The way you say “good morning” is how you will be received.  In other words, courtesy will take you far.

Yes, it is very quick and easy to fall in love with this small developing country, as myself and many others have in the past.  I yearn to reforest this beautiful country and perhaps help these incredible people and their children little by little with indeed planting over 100 million trees over my career with Treecup.  It’s a do-able thing, and the market/circumstance in the USA makes such an endeavor profitably fruitful as well.

My take on climate change

If twenty, or even ten years ago, someone in the public said that we’re irrevocably heading towards an environmental apocalypse, they wouldn’t have received much of an applause. Instead, they’d probably would’ve been labeled an eco-freak or some weird tree-hugger.

Nowadays, however, we live in the fastest changing world ever. Every decade over the last hundred years or so brought progress that would fuel further progress. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that this is all thanks to the Internet and how quickly information spreads. This means that what was true or up-to-date a decade ago — doesn’t have to be so today; this seems to be the case with the heated discussion about human-made climate change.

Actually, it doesn’t even look like there’s a debate anymore. Events that took place in late 2018 and, in particular, 2019, were at an unprecedented scale. These ‘events’ were nothing but a collective cry for help in the defense of the basic and ‘youngest’ human right. That is, living on this planet without fear for our and following generations’ futures. As catastrophic as it sounds, modern science gives us many reasons to worry about the condition of our common home.

World Exploding

According to different research studies, we only have a little over a decade to act before we reach the point of no return. That means that if we don’t cut back on the emission of CO2 before 2030, climate change will accelerate and reversing it will not be possible anymore, as scientists say. We would find ourselves riding the climate’s downward spiral and, as scientists predict, this will give rise to weather anomalies and calamities never seen before. This will be particularly prominent in the countries of the so-called Global South. The example that is named most often is the rising level of the oceans. What rise are we talking about? Let’s say that the average global temperature rises by 2°C (35.6°F) compared to the pre-industrial level. The result of such an increase would be water level increasing by 20 inches. For those who live near flood-prone rivers, or on the coasts, it could mean moving out of their homes and leaving everything behind.

But that’s just one example. Another could be that as the temperature goes up, we’ll see extreme weather events happening more often, especially in the places where they aren’t a common thing now. What’s the most surprising fact about it? Those anomalies don’t always have to take form of extreme heat. In fact, climate change can also trigger harsher winters and unexpected cold-snaps in the areas where winters are common.

This phenomenon is a perfect opportunity for all sorts of climate deniers to preach climate change to be the biggest hoax in history. The point they seem to be missing though, is this: there’s a CRUCIAL difference between climate and weather. This article by National Geographic is a perfect poke on the nose for those who are ready to burn the pyre in the name of the old world order. Luckily, this group is an overwhelming minority and they are in retreat now.

On the plus side, there are more and more people who are aware and care about the near future of the Planet. There are a few reasons for that — let’s take a closer look at the two most important ones. Firstly, as scientific facts and prognosis become more specific, time-bound, and present in media, more people learn about the problem in a way that tangibly speaks to them. For those who are ‘eco-sensitive’, this may work like a fuse driving them to stand up against the idleness of governments.

Secondly, there is the emergence of new public leaders such as Greta Thunberg, an outspoken sixteen-year-old climate activist. She garnered the world’s attention after, at the age of 15, she started protesting outside the Swedish parliament, calling for immediate action against climate change. Her story is truly startling; she was only eight when she first heard of climate change but, in spite of her age, she couldn’t understand why so little was being done about it. At the age of 11, she became depressed and stopped talking. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Selective Mutism.

Well… that’s not something we hear of (or will likely hear in the future) every day. No matter how exaggerated it seems to be, Greta is one of the first documented cases of something that is called ‘climate anxiety’. Whether it’s really what it says it is, or if it’s just being pissed off angry, she’s gained massive support amongst (mainly) young people all around the world. On March 15th 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her protest. A similar event, with students from 125 countries, took place on the May 24th 2019.

In the meantime, at the end of April, the world witnessed another ‘landscape’ which was previously unknown to the public. Thousands of activists, from a social movement against climate change called Extinction Rebellion, paralyzed the center of London for 10 days. More than 1000 protestors were arrested for obstructing traffic in the city. Even though the whole protest was completely peaceful, it was a sign of rebellion that was completely unprecedented. To think that this movement has already reached its high point and will only diminish now, is nothing but wishful thinking.

In fact, it looks like politicians have to face a ‘forceful wake-up’ to the issues of human-caused climate change. If THEY don’t start acting now, people have shown that they’re ready to take the initiative to ‘help’ them.

So, in 2019, have we come to the moment of a political domino-effect inspiring global change in the climate policy?

Or, have we fallen prey to an exaggerated mass-panic of anger-driven eco-warriors?

Whichever is the case, the stakes are just too high to find out the truth the hard way.

The clock is ticking.

Trees v. Carbon

Trees are beautiful things. They sit, for years quietly absorbing nutrients from the ground to create wood, edible materials and medicines whilst stabilising the earth around them and regulating the flow of water through soils as it passes from mountain to sea. They appear silent and inactive, yet are busily going through processes to survive and to support the lives of organisms around them.

Part of this process is absorption of CO2. Trees, like plants, need CO2 to convert the hydrogen in water into sugars which it stores to fuel its growth. Through the use of light-sensitive enzyme catalysts in each cell of a tree, the energy of sunlight is used to break the carbon-oxygen bond in CO2 to release the carbon and render it available for reaction with the water hydrogen. This may sound complex, but nearly all trees and plants rely on this process of photosynthesis to survive.

Photosynthesis in Trees

Trees, likes humans also “breathe out” CO2 at night as a means of using up excess oxygen in cells, and is the way in which they convert stored glucose energy into useable energy. Like eating a spoonful of sugar, this is how trees “eat” the glucose and other sugars created through photosynthesis to meet their needs for energy. Just like drinking a sports drink before a jog, trees have their very own corner shop in each cell where glucose is ready for when they need it.

Of these two reactions, it is the absorption of CO2 (the “inhale”) and emission of oxygen which is a more significant stream volume-wise than exhalation of CO2 and absorption of oxygen. Release of CO2 is continuous, and mostly at night but happens continuously throughout a tree’s life at a very low flow rate. Absorption of CO2, on the other hand, kicks into action at high volumes as soon as the sun comes out. The tree relishes in the sun’s rays and starts off a photosynthesis bonanza which churns out CO2 at a rate far faster than that of its emission of CO2 throughout the day. Therefore trees can be said to be “CO2-negative”; that is, they absorb more of it than they emit.

This net absorption of CO2 is an essential counterweight to humans, animals and fish within the planetary ecosystem. Animal species breathe out CO2 as a by-product of inhaling the oxygen used to burn the sugars and fats in our cells to drive daily activities such as moving muscles, digesting food and regenerating body cells. This same process is performed in the production of energy to fuel our homes, run our industries and manufacture our goods. Carbon, in the form of coal, gas or other natural fuel sources react with oxygen in the air to create energy with CO2 emitted as a result.

Though incredibly useful, over-use of the highly exothermic (energy-releasing) use of oxygen and release of carbon from natural fuel sources has resulted in increasingly elevated concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. They say you can’t have too much of a good thing, but in the case of planetary equilibriums, this mantra doesn’t hold true and an excess of virtually any substance in a given environment is likely to cause harm. In the case of CO2, this has resulted in the energy-absorbing carbon-oxygen bonds within gaseous CO2 to trap heat from the sun and warm the earth.

Whilst we have been eating up oxygen and churning out CO2 to drive our modern lives, trees have continued to fulfil their needs by doing, for the most part the complete opposite. They know no other way, and will likely to continue to do so whatever the fate of mankind and the way we have decided to fulfil our needs.

However the very different two plant and animal respirational systems evolved, there is an interesting fact that sits waiting to be used as a solution to the much-debated and as yet unresolved issue of CO2-driven climate change and global warming. The net amount of CO2 absorbed by a tree in a day is almost identical to that exhaled by each one of us human beings.

What does that mean? It means that for the gift of every new human life granted upon us each day, a tree should be planted to compensate for that human’s respiratory needs until that person has enjoyed their journey back into the ground. Trees should be planted as a counterweight to the prolific success of the human race, as markers of our evolution and of our ability to reproduce and survive. We do not need hi-tech solutions or political discourse to solve one of the greatest challenge posed to our human race. We just need to use what our planet has already given us. We just need to plant trees.

Tree Sappling in Hands

Innovation’s Place.

You’re reading this. And thank you for doing so. Now stop reading for 5 seconds and take into account all of the matter around you – the wall, the desk, your phone or computer, your water bottle, the door you last entered, the clothes you’re wearing. Now, with any predictive mental capacity you have, fast forward 1,000 years. The year is 3019.

What does the wall look like? What does the desk you’re sitting at look like? Are you reading this blog post on a phone or computer? Did you have to manually open the last door you entered? Your clothes – are they your definition of “stylish”, as they may have been in 2019?

No matter what you were able to imagine with your mind, the material objects around you probably look different in 3019. That table may have the same form, the same use – but has it been replaced nonetheless? It has. All of it has been replaced. The buildings, the cars, the clothes, the water bottle, the door. Even if it looks familiar, it has nevertheless been swapped for an updated version of itself or something totally new (as all things eventually are).

What will 3019 look like? Probably like this.
(just kidding)

Chances are, in 3019, that door you entered operates better. That phone or computer is FINALLY SUPER QUICK, intuitive beyond belief, and allows a miraculous level of efficiency (if it is even a phone or computer at all). That wall is better – but you don’t know why. You notice that desks are now specifically and custom made for every different person – in fact, everyone has their own that looks slightly different, based on their individual needs, AND it cost them less than most desks in 2019. And your clothes – well, your clothes look weird. You think, “how did we get to wearing something like this?”!

With the trajectory of innovation, technological advancement, and a burgeoning entrepreneurship trend, basic everyday materials will all become better. Slightly better of course, with little improvements every few years. The creator of this better object will reap his or her financial reward by giving some identified user group a slightly better replacement to their old means of doing something. Now lets hop back to present day, 2019.

Several hundreds of companies provide consumers with their wants and needs. Their most important objective is to meet those needs as times change.

But why, in 3019, will every material object around us be TOTALLY different? SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, SOMEHOW, will put together available resources and methods of creation (or discover a new method) to REPLACE the previous object for individual consumers. And this will happen multiple times throughout the next 100 years – and exponentially so throughout the next 1,000’s of years.

You don’t have to invent a flux capacitor, teleportation, or light-speed space travel in order to innovate tomorrow. Innovation’s place may lie within creating something of value, inch by inch, and putting it out into the market for others to take a stab at both consuming and creating something better.

Product segmentation has been ALL around us this past decade of rising consumer demand, to be followed by an even larger consumer realization of wants & needs in the 2020’s. If you don’t believe me, then please browse some of the products on kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com. The products are just slightly better (in scope of seemingly endless attributes and benefits offered). This proves PERFECTLY that we are in the age of hyper differentiation, and I believe this will compound as time goes on, provided that human innovation/capitalism isn’t interfered with socially throughout the future consecutive ages.

I believe the entrepreneur will go back to making things to fulfill a micro market – an individual human. But, unlike the days of olden, innovators won’t spend a full week making unique products by hand for customers… I believe they may be serving individualized micro-markets through macro-methods of production.

What will the future look like?
As an innovator, your purpose is to follow the hunch that is the answer to that question.

In imagining 3019, I mentally observe that the entrepreneur has found a way to make individualized product for individual people. But why? Perhaps, every human is an independent variable – one that cannot fully be interfered with nor influenced by the outside world. For example, when people speak of the United States, they are speaking about the collective median perception of 327.2 million independent factors making up this country’s perception. If we each live in the United States, then we have an inherent duty and purpose to represent the United States as how we’d like the world to view us – as, if not us, then who?

Humans want to be seen and catered to as their own independent variable – this may be what people TRULY want. Of course, this theory will only continually show to be true if our society is able to get away from the stigmatized fear of missing out. Additionally, we must get away from the crowd mentality present in all human environments. In other words, perhaps society will continue to evolve towards an individualized self-awareness and social aptitude (provided that we humans do evolve).

Innovation’s place will never end until the resources of this planet are fully depleted – but even then, I take it, entrepreneurs and innovators will find a way of using “trash”, used and discarded excess resources, and making them into a valuable unit for consumers to exchange value with. As such, innovation’s place will always be in the not-so-distant future. And the future is not a real thing if it does not exist within our present imagination.

Anyone can be an entrepreneur by thinking into the future, seeing what’s better – and creating it. If YOU don’t, then don’t worry -someone else will. Someone else will meet the demands of our individual wildest dreams of better futures. Are you going to let that someone be you?

“The choices you make today shape your world tomorrow”

– Principal Tibbit (my elementary school principal)

The Rise of Treecup Tea

It was July 2018 when I opened my mailbox to find a piece of mail that made my heart drop – it was addressed to my Limited Liability Company, Peru Te Amo LLC. The bright red words “CEASE AND DESIST” were stamped onto the front of the envelope as if they were the inscription to my personal tombstone. My heart dropped as I opened the letter rapidly, slightly ripping the paper contents inside. Upon reading the cease and desist letter, I felt as if I was being buried alive. It was definitely an “oh, SHIT!” moment.

Now, a shamefully long 7 months later, I’ve settled with renaming my firstborn child. Té Amo once stood as an inspired name – meaning both “I love you”, an homage to the tea my grandmother made for my mom and my mother later made for my direct family. It also stood for “Tea love”, a play on words that few recognized unless they had a knowledge of the Spanish language (the accent above the “e” makes it say “tea” instead of “I”).

I was paralyzed by indecision on names – and every name I thought of that struck me as epic (Hai-tea, Hey Tea, Tree Tea, Trea) was taken by a USPTO trademark. Since I had learned my grand trademark lesson, I didn’t want to mess with any of those! So – I outsourced my thinking. We put out a “name our tea business competition” which had over 30 great name submissions. What had prevailed was “Treecup” for its simplicity, cuteness, and focus on our mission. Personally, I like Treecup even more than Té Amo. It turns out that whenever you do something a second time – it’s much better than the first! What I thought I had received as a curse in the form of a cease and desist letter had actually been a blessing in disguise!!

After outsourcing my thinking successfully, I outsourced the design. We got some great logo entries from our “design our new logo” competition / request for proposal. Some of which include these designs;

Among the search for the perfect brand design, I got connected with a British chap from London, England that has his own firm called Canco. They specialize in sustainable and environmentally friendly brands – right up our alley! The founder of the agency resonated with me – he’s a young, ambitious, and passionate guy that dropped out of college to start his own firm with an emphasis on helping the world.

The end-product of Treecup’s bottles will look something like this:

The three musketeers go to combat – fighting deforestation!
Handmade brews featured with 100% biodegradable BPA-free plastic bottles!

I’m PUMPED and motivated to put Treecup out into the world once again with a heavy push towards planting more trees than ever before in 2019. Specifically, our brand will heavily target online tea bottle sales VERSUS our previous erratic strategy of targeting local independent shops. Pre-orders will begin in March with prices as followed:

  • 6-pack assortment of teas; $18
  • 12-pack assortment of teas; $36

Shipping will be free! AND we’ll throw in a surprise extra for our pre-ordering peeps 😉 In fact, if you’d like to be the first to pre-order a 6 or 12 pack of assorted Treecup teas, just fill out the form below! #ShamelessPlug

Thanks for your support!! 😀

I’ll end this blog post with something my esteemed mentor, Noah, once told me that has rung true in my entrepreneurial journey thus far:

“Everything takes twice as long as you estimate and costs twice as much!”

– Noah Cohen, Director at Premier Innovations Group

Back to Skewl

Well, I’m back to Skewl. Back to sitting in classes 2-4 hours of my waking day, paying about $1,000 a week to live on a beautiful campus, consuming food that consistently bloats any eater, and learning from “experts”. Although any effort exerted with schoolwork is only for a short-term GPA benefit, there is still some sort of intrinsic satisfaction from completing busy-work for different class topics designed to output a “well-rounded individual”.

My favorite class so far is called “Entrepreneurship & Enterprise”, which examines the deeper motivations of various entrepreneurs. What makes an entrepreneur tick? Along with this, we are tasked with reading the famous 1,200 page socio-economic epochal Atlas Shrugged. I’m just 20 pages in so far and cannot help but marvel at the excellent wordsmithing Ayn Rand produced.

Only 3 more semester of college left – but who’s counting? (I am). These 3 semesters I’ve committed to building my bottled tea business, called Treecup Tea. I’m excited for the possibilities of such a disruptive product – a forward thinking product that leverages both the consumer buying power and goodwill of the American market. But sometimes I think – maybe it’s too ahead of its time. Maybe it’s too behind it’s time. Maybe people will hate the tea and spit it out upon first sip (as a few people have done before when I hand them a sample). Maybe, I’m overestimating the environmental compassion consumers have. A lot of things can go wrong – but as I’ve learned, you don’t know unless you try. Plus, what’s the worst that can happen? Travis Kalanick, Uber founder, had his first venture sued for over 200 million dollars. He declared bankruptcy and pulled out of the concept. Things still turned out OK for Kalanick! Life goes on after failure.

One of the greatest men to exist in the Pittsburgh area – H.J. Heinz, founder of Heinz ketchup and other condiments, declared bankruptcy the first time he tried to start his condiment business back in the 1800’s. He had about $180,000 in liabilities and $100,000 in assets – not the most comfortable place to be! He went through small-town shame living in Sharpsburg, PA for several years before he tried again. But things turned out OK for Heinz!

I’ve thought about this before – the worst that could actually happen with my assumption of the consumer demand for Treecup Tea is that it flops and I have to get a day job! And hey – that’s your typical person’s best case scenario/sole ambition! Not a bad deal.

But really – how innovative is my idea? Well, there are actually many businesses that reforest the world through consumer purchases, as you’ll read in this blog post. Of these 10 businesses listed (and several other tree-planting plugs in the comments), the one that originally frightened me the most in similarity is the wine brand Trinity Oaks. It’s in the beverage space – how come I had never heard of it’s explosive growth, mass reforestation efforts, and philanthropic story?

I believe the answer lies in intention. As Simon Sinek would advice an entrepreneur/marketer – START WITH WHY. Every business knows what they do, many good businesses know how they do it, but few great businesses know WHY they do it. And from what I’ve observed – why are my fellow tree-planting businesses being “socially conscious”? I assume that it’s primarily to drive growth.

“The Golden Circle”

Consumers have x-ray vision nowadays. They can walk through the halls of Whole Foods, Walmart, and Champs-Élysées alike and tell the authentic product offerings from the phony. It’s one of our modernly acquired evolutions – just like any other defensive measure gained throughout the progression of human existence.

From the list of 10 products (mostly sold online, thus at full profit margins), the least expensive is a $8 shaving cream. The most expensive is a $400 surf board. Both plant one tree. To put this in perspective – Treecup Tea will MSRP between $3 – $3.50. We will plant one tree through our OWN tree nursery in Haiti (what I’ve found to be the most in-need area for trees in the world). In perspective, our brand uses 1/3 of our wholesale profit to plant the tree – the surf board company uses 1/100th of its profit. If you’re going to try to “tag on” a good cause just to sell more products, it will be a long-term flop if true intentions aren’t blatantly present. Authentic brands are built through authentic offerings, which is what I’m hoping to create over the next how-ever-many-years-it-takes.

“Social responsibility” has taken on a greater personal meaning as I continue to grow my understanding/empathy for socio-economic conditions around the world. Repairing environmental issues, specifically, is VERY expensive. For example, when I first saw that Pakistan was setting out to plant more than a billion trees through their Billion Tree Afforestation Project, the environmentalist in me said “HECK YEAH!”, but the businessman in me said “how much is it costing them?!” Pakistan describes trees as “green gold”, and invested $169 MILLION into the project since 2014. They planted over 1 billion already, costing them at most 17 cents each. Pakistan understands the bigger picture! After 10-15 years of growth, a single tree can be harvested and sold for over 600 times return (I’d like to see any banker-made investment package do that 😂). Over the time the tree grows – more animals, nutrients, and bugs will compoundly restore the land to higher-valued conditions. It’s exciting stuff in the grand scope of things!

So – yes, planting a lot of trees is expensive, yes. I firmly believe it will take a for-profit business with a valuable offering to fund such a feat. But if the enterprise is successful – then the long-term impact and footprint in Haiti and the earth will not be tenfold. It will be an over 600-fold return, which gets me excited AF.

On top of everything – the thing I admire the most about tree-planting is the non-obstructive nature of the cause. Many other NGO’s or cause-marketed products are tasked with building, providing glasses, or giving away shoes. This takes away work from the builders, glasses-makers, and shoe-sellers. In fact, our organization we work with doesn’t take away jobs from locals but PROVIDES awesome tree-planting jobs to some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. This way, helping other countries doesn’t hurt (as it oftentimes unintentionally does).

One of the coolest dudes I ever met (Haiti Friends tree-planter)

I’ll end this scatter-thoughted post with the words of my esteemed mentor/business partner; “I did the math one day of how many trees it would take to reforest Haiti to a generally ‘forested’ level. It will take about 123 million more trees.” – Ed, Director of Haiti Friends

Well, good news. Honest Tea (the most comparable tea competitor) sold over 100 million bottles last year. If they can do it, so can we! (And we can do it better).

Happy 2019, folks!

Well – here we are. 2019. Wow. I have begun this website, http://www.MarkSotomayor.com, in order to aimlessly communicate my thoughts. This blog post, as you will see, has no specific purpose other than to serve as a journal for documentation of my personal human thoughts. Enjoy!

Remember the days when people said that the world would end at the year 2000 and that everyone should “party like it’s 1999”? I don’t. I was only two and a half years old at that time.

Every human has a “first memory”. Sometimes as humans get older their “first memory” changes to being that of an older age as well. My first memory was at my 4-year-old birthday party; good times – crazy times. I wish it was still acceptable at my current age to run around all day playing soccer and basketball, eating chocolate cake, playing with my dogs, eating fresh strawberries that grew in the back yard, and drinking a whole liter of Sunny D.

Yup – it was truly “the good life” I was living that day – November 26, 2001. I was surrounded by all my fellow toddling “friends”, mostly young white children of the Mormon religion (since I lived in Salt Lake City, at the time). Since this is my first memory, I sometimes wish my brain would have started registering long-term memories just a few months earlier. Then, I would be able to have some level of remembrance of the events that took place September 11, 2001.

But at 4 years old, with my family of four (me, my 6 year old sister, my father, and my mother), I lived a worry-free life. Everything was fun and games for me (as it still is sometimes). We lived, as a family, very much to ourselves (as we still do). We didn’t have any aunts, uncles, grandparents, extended family, or family friends around – they were all in Peru living their own lives.

The other day, someone told me “I call my grandma every night, she’s the best!” Knowing the type of talker he was, I responded “I’ve probably spoken to my grandmother in my lifetime the amount that you speak to her in just one night lol.”

Well, it turns out that he spoke to his grandmother up to 2 hours every night! I got to thinking about it – and did the math – it turns out I speak to both my set of grandparents about 6 minutes a year. 6 minutes times 21 years equals two hours and 6 minutes – yup, he was about right!

That is, except for whenever I visit them in Peru – which I’ve done twice in my life for about 12 months total time. But boy, whenever I visit my family in Peru the culture shock is real!! Both parties – my direct family and my extended family – experience the effects of each respective culture clashing with the other, for better or worse. Clearly, we live two very different sets of lives.

For example, a typical Limeño (a person from Lima), stays indoors most of the day due to the extreme overpopulation and air pollution.  They mainly use bus transportation and if they own their own car, they rarely use it. On top of it all, the Peruvian Spanish language is spoken loud and passionately, filled with slang words and odd sayings.

In contrast, in The United States, my direct family would eat dinners outside (since we had a backyard, a rarity in Lima), go to public outdoor events, and drive around from place-to-place most days. On top of it all, our family spoke “Spanglish” – a fusion of Spanish and English.

To give you a few examples of Spanglish, as there are many ways of producing this fusion of languages, I’ve laid some popular ways of speaking Spanglish below:

  • Parents speak Spanish, children spoke English in conversation
  • Parents speak a deeply accented English, children spoke broken Spanish
  • Some words (mainly to describe feelings) that exist in the Spanish language but not the English language would be “plugged” into the English conversation as necessary
  • Or my favorite: In public places, like Walmart, we would comment on different bystanders and their conversations in Spanish (so no one could understand we were speaking about them).

When I am writing an application or resume, I oftentimes have my mother review them. She reminds me, “you didn’t right down here that you are billingual – that is very valuable to people.” The truth is that sometimes Spanish is so deeply en-grained into my subconscious that I forget that I speak it.

But still, I speak with a strong American accent to those true Spanish speakers who know how the language should sound. During my last trip to Peru (in between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college) when I was 18 years old, I felt like a fish that was placed in a bowl of water that contained other fish that looked just like him. At last! The fish was among his people – finally looking like everyone else! But, when the fish opened his mouth to communicate, the fishes that looked like him realized that fish was nothing like them – he was from a different fish bowl altogether.

There have been certain times where I was in engaged conversation with a Spanish-speaker but could not find the right words or pronunciation to communicate as effectively in Spanish as I could have in English. Although I understood everything my fellow Peruvians were saying, I simply couldn’t communicate what I had in my mind with them well enough.

What I have described in the above paragraph is one of a communication handicap. It feels terrible, as if you are being demeaned, and as if others that hear the way you speak cannot help but deem you unintelligent. I write this part not to ask for your sympathy or to stir up your pity, but to state that this is how immigrants to the United States feel every day among native English-speakers. And we Americans, including myself, subconsciously (or consciously) deem these immigrants unintelligent – or at minimum, unintelligible whilst communicating.

Sure, immigrants can learn to speak like an American – but they rarely ever lose their accents (unless they were brought to the U.S. at a very early age). My sister and I speak perfect English but sub-perfect Spanish; my parents (which have been in the U.S. for 23 years) speak English with thick Spanish accents but speak very formal Spanish.

The older I get, the more I have a realized appreciation for my parents and the struggle they have gone through (and still go through today!) Imagine having a life in an overpopulated city, where you’ve lived your whole life, for 24 and 37 years, respectively. They were face with an opportunity – go to the U.S. for a better life for their soon-to-come children OR stay in Peru.

They chose the former, obviously, and my life had changed drastically because of it, even before I was born. I’m certain I would not be writing this blog post, operating a startup, or even have my own car if I was living in Peru. I don’t know what I’d do! The entrepreneurial opportunity in Peru is a trace of what exists in the U.S. (which is a deeply consumer society).

Happy 2019. This blog post was everywhere, I know. If you have weathered the several paragraphs, then you might have a window of understanding for how my chaotic mind works. Thanks for reading!!

Cheers,

Mark