The Journey is the Reward!

Instead of anticipating the goal, learn to enjoy the Journey for this is where we spend 99.9% of our time.

December 12, 2014 – 44 years ago I arrived to NYC.

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 12, 2014

44 years ago today, I arrived to NYC from Bogota, Colombia. I had just turned 9 years old.

I along with my mother and sister Mercedes (now both gone) were the last of our family of 11 to immigrate to the US.

My family life would change as I knew it from that day on. Despite the price one pays as child immigrant, I went on to graduate from Queens College, become a US Citizen, have a family of my own, a 30 year+ career in IT, a return to music and photography after 30 years, studied Martial Arts, ran a Marathon barefoot at 50, continue to manage diabetes,  battled and survived Prostate Cancer, and now expecting our first grandchild 💖😃

December 12, 1970, my first day in NYC.

December 12, 1970 – First Day in NYC, Left to Right – Mercedes (13), Elvira, Nashta, Our Dad, Ivan (9)


December 12, 1970, my first day in NYC

December 12, 1970 – First Day in NYC, Left to Right – Mercedes (13), Ivan (9) Nashta, Our Dad, Elvira.


This was was taken on 12/13/1970 in front of the apartment building where we lived in Flushing, NY. I was 9 years old, and it was ONE day after I arrived at NYC from Bogota Colombia.

It snowed that day, and like a puppy, i played and relished in the snow. I still had a child’s sense of innocence and hope back then. I though I would be reuniting with my family, but unfortunately Immigration has a price, and my family life would never be the same.

It would be the last  2 months that I spent with both my mom and dad, before being sent to live in Philadelphia with my sister Elvira. Less than 2 years later I was alone with my mother when she visited us in Philly when she had her first of several brain strokes.

By the time I was 14, I went from being the baby of the family (youngest of 11) to realizing that I would be on my own as we all scattered and struggled with our own journey to establish our own lives and families in the US.


December 13 1970, my first encounter with snow.

December 13, 1970 one day after arriving to NYC. First snow fall I saw. Taken in Flushing, NY.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be here in the USA. After all I’ve spent 44 out of my 53 years here, and have gotten many opportunities which I was smart enough to follow through on.

Life is what it is, and it’s one’s responsibility to do the best with what you are given. Obstacles that I encountered have only made me stronger, and my heart more open. I’m glad to be here in the USA. After all I’ve spent 44 out of my 53 years here, and have gotten many opportunities which I was smart enough to follow through on.


One of my favorite photos that I’ve taken is this view of an American flag, from our back window.

Like life itself, the USA is indeed the land of opportunity, but it is up to us to act and participate in what is offered, and to be strong enough to deal with the obstacles along the way.

Ater all “The Journey Is The Reward…”


American Flag as seen from our back window.

American Flag as seen from our back window.

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Why do I share who I am and what I feel?

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 11, 2014

Several people have expressed their appreciation of my openness and sharing in my writing and my music. Others may wonder why I do it, but for me… I don’t care if the world knows who I am and what I feel… It feels good to let it out, and to know that maybe a small handful of people somewhere in this globe appreciate, are moved, or influenced by my raw honesty.

We are all part of the same human condition and for every set of circumstances where we have to struggle, feel afraid or alone, I guarantee you that others out there (in fact countless others across the span of human existence) have experienced the same kind of feelings and emotions that we may be going through. Be it loneliness, sorrow, battles of our own or seeing loved ones battle diseases like Cancer, or for that matter feelings of joy, love, and passion, or seeing your children born… None of these are unique to us, they are universal events of our shared experience.

Too many of us think we are unique, or the center of the universe, too many topics are simply taboo in our society. Cancer, feelings of sadness and yes death and suffering are not talked about. But realizing that we are less than a spec of dust in the grand scheme of it all, also brings a sense of humbleness, and comfort. In fact the acceptance of suffering, and the ability to escape from suffering are part of the four noble thruths that are the pillars od Buddhism. This is why I share who I am and what I feel.

I have listened to my 3 cds in the car since I put them on my iPhone, and I gotta tell you, I may play like Pepe Romero, or may never be able to play those pieces again, but the CLassical Guitar pieces, and the rest of the music moved me a couple of times. It has a rough but honest quality to it. And I’m glad that like photography, I learned to document what I feel through music, photography and writing over the last few years.

I hope you listen to some of my music in your car when you get a chance. Who knows, maybe in some small way, it will move you too.

You can find albums of my music here:

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TBT: About my Dad…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 11, 2014

TBT: This one is about my dad. Jose Epifanio Olarte.

Not only did my dad teach me music, but also most of what I consider my own values and ethics.

He was a man of many talents, taught himself many instruments, puppetry, sewing etc.

He became a music teacher, and toured throughout Colombia playing folk music with his children. Several of my siblings went on to graduate from top music schools in the USA including, Julliard and Curtis institute of Music, thanks to the foundation in music that he gave all of us. His legacy of music legacy continues to this day with a couple of my nieces and nephews who are professional musicians, and with my humble return to music.

Unfortunately he never got to see or know of my return to music, but I think he probably knew this would happen eventually.

Being the last of 11 children, and with my family immigrating to the U.S. starting when I was 4, then my mother getting ill, he was not able to take care of me the way he did the rest of my siblings. However the lessons he taught me through my childhood, and later on in conversations as I grew into an adult stayed with me and continue to guide me through my journey. And he did get to see me graduate college, and have children of my own. He also recognized and told me that like him, I was on my own early on (at the age of 14) and was proud of who I became.

He was raised by Jesuit priests in an orphanage from a very young age, and set out on his own starting his own family and our legacy of music.

The nicest thing is that I see more and more of him in me every day as I get older and wiser. And for that I am most grateful. Like him, I have been a solid provider for my own family for the last 26 years, and for myself for the last 39 since I was 14.

When I studied Buddhism, I realized that my dad was a rare individual a Buddha of sorts in his demeanor, compasion, unconditional love, and the ability to live in the present moment. He was and is my best teacher to this day.

He was a better man than I’ll ever be as he cared and visited my mom every day while she was hospitalized and unable to communicate or recognize anyone during the last few years of her life. After I returned from Colombia at 14, I visited my mom twice and could not deal with seeing her in such a way.

He went through PC surgery when the open surgery was still quite new back in the 1980’s. Although long gone from this life, during my own battle with Cancer he was my biggest inspiration to stay strong and positive.

I’m shedding some tears as I write this, because even though I see him in me and my sons, I miss him, and wished I had listened to him just a bit more, or had spent just a bit more time with him. He was a very special man, and honestly it’s not because he was my dad, it’s because of what was in his heart and soul.

Ironically, tomorrow December 12th will be the 44th anniversary of my own immigration to the U.S. and the end of family life as I knew it back in Colombia. I have no regrets and or sorrows, for its this history that made me strong enough to grow like a tree, to survive Cancer, and to try to live in and appreciate the present moment.

Here is a photo of him 20 years before I was born. It’s one of my favorite photos.

My Dad circa 1940

My Dad circa 1940

One last thing, I’ve never appreciated the phrase “Like Father Like Son” as much as I do today.

Here I am at 14 when I first took a year of classical guitar in Colombia.

Me at 14 - Like Father, Like Son...

Me at 14 – Like Father, Like Son…

Posted in Cancer, Music, Personal, Spiritual Path | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Once again, the POWER of MUSIC

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 10, 2014

This is not one of my videos, but I had to share this with you as yet another example of The Power of Music.

Once again Gentlemen and Ladies, The POWER of MUSIC!
This time it’s with one of the most beautiful instruments ever created…. The Human Voice in perfect Harmony.

As a Prostate Cancer survivor, this is specially poignant as it’s a choir of Men made up by the a Capella group Home Free.

Wishing you and yours a safe and peaceful Holiday.


You can find more Information about Home Free at:

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A present for you – 3 “albums” of Classical Guitar, Ukulele Instrumentals and Vocal

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 8, 2014

A present for you. ;-)

My friend Patti Holden wanted some audio tracks of some of my youtube videos,
Well as I started reviewing them, I decided to compile them into a set of 3 “Albums” and to share them with anyone that may be interested in my humble efforts at making music.

So I have made them available to you for your personal use, and you can download them using the URL and Password below until Feb 28, 2015:


Some of these recordings are very personal for me, including “Serenade for Raye” which I wrote for my wife, “Rainbow Connection” in honor of my dear sister in law Lori who is fighting the fight more than most of us ever could, and of course there’s Bach’s Cello Prelude. Bach is what I consider the Shakespeare of Music!.

So please enjoy and please excuse the errors in my playing, this is just my humble efforts, recorded at home.

You can always visit my Youtube channel if you are interested in the videos,
or my blog where I post links and short essays at

Last of all, please be aware that these are recordings for the purpose of documenting my progress, and for sharing and motivating others with similar interests, and nothing more.

Statement of Good Faith use:

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

Happy holidays to you and your family,
Ivan Olarte

Last of all, I also invite you to visit my photography page at

Posted in Classical Guitar, Music, Personal, Ukulele | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Get Plucky with the Ukulele by Will Grove-White. An excellent Read!

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 5, 2014

Will Grove-White who is a member of the great Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, has written a very entertaining and informative book on the History and mechanics of playing Ukulele.

While I’m an experience player, I found it to be a fascinating read both in the contents and the beautiful layout. Lots of tidbits and inside info on the ukulele world and the UOGB. Even though I have read and own all the books I could find about the history of the Ukulele, Get Plucky brings a fresh view with good narrative, plenty of information and lots of fun anecdotes.

I highly recommend this book as a must have addition to any Ukulele enthusiast, be it a beginner or an advanced player.

Well done Will, Well done!

Here is the link to it at Amazon:


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Kala pocket with capo on the Sixth fret – 94U Aquila strings. Quite a challenge!

Posted by Ivan Olarte on December 3, 2014

Kala pocket with capo on the Sixth fret – 94U Aquila strings. Quite a challenge!

This an on the spur video  to practice playing on yet a smaller uke a Nano uke that is being built for me which is 2/3 the size of this pocket Sopranino.  I gotta say I love the challenge.

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Demo of IUke Piccolo Ukulele & BeatBuddy Drummer pedal – Serenade for Raye & Europa

Posted by Ivan Olarte on November 24, 2014

This is an on the spur demo of the IUke piccolo ukulele and the BeatBuddy Drummer pedal. I’m playing Serenade for Raye, a composition I wrote for my wife, and my piccolo rendition of Carlos Santana’s Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile).

For more info on the BearBuddy pedal please go to

Note: The BeatBuddy Drums would normally be played louder, I made them low in volume on purpose since this is primarily a demo of the iUke Piccolo Ukulele and the Aquila 94U strings.

Posted in Music, Personal, Ukulele | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I’m free at last!!! Health status update…

Posted by Ivan Olarte on August 4, 2014

Health status update. I’m Free at last!!!!

Had the staples and foley Catherer taken out today. It felt like the last mile of a marathon on a scorching day but I’m finally free!!! It HURT! But at least that is over with.

They did find some cancer cells in the core of the prostate but within the margin of what they took out. So while it was not as clean as I had hoped, it confirms that not sparing the right nerve was the right thing to do.

I have not posted in the last few days cause I was miserable dealing with the Catherer, cramps etc…

So far so good, cancer is out, post op procedures complete.

Next is regaining full control of my functions which may take 6 months to a year or more. And getting a PSA test done in 3 months.

No Radiation or chemo needed at this time.

If I had to go through this again, vs. radiation etc, I would choose surgery all over again. I’ve always stood to the bully, and cancer is no exception!!

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Healing cancer through Peace, Love & Ukulele!

Posted by Ivan Olarte on July 25, 2014

Healing Cancer Through Peace Love & Ukulele – Ukulele Jam, Instrumental, Mya-Moe.

I told you I’d be back…. This is a video I shot today 3 days after my surgery. It’s my way of thanking my UU, Uke, and FB peeps who really came through when I requested a song for me or someone you know who has battled the cancer dragon.

Note the walking stick is to help me get around and hold the temporary Catherer bag, I’m not trying to look like Raffiki or the Hermit card from the Tarot.


Posted in Cancer, Music, Personal, Ukulele, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »


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