Jan 27, 2011

Overcoming shyness, a persnal account - Finale

In Europe unlike Colombia, it’s quite common that people don’t know how to dance; and it’s funny because many times I meet people just like me. They want to dance, but they are afraid of trying… they’re just embarrassed of making a fool of themselves when no one really cares if someone have sloppy or fancy moves, no one cares as long as one is having a good time. Obvious isn’t it? Go and insist, “come on, let’s dance, it’s fun!” the standard answer is “naah, I don’t really like this song,” or “I’m kind of tired, I’ve had such busy week”.

Alright! So coming back to the awesome miracle of Tanai Cardona doing exercise and running!

Well yeah, as you can imagine, for me going out to do some exercise have been as difficult as it was dancing. There has been every single possible mental obstacle to discourage me from doing it and rather stay at home under my sweet, warm, lovingly cover… I’ve been meaning to exercise for years, I’ve been thinking of going to a gym, perhaps run for a bit, even try and do some work out at home, yet there’s an Everest of mental obstacles stopping me from doing it. Those mental obstacles have the form of a universe of excuses and also have their origin in my years as a child and a teenager… let me transport you back to the past for a bit again.

Since being a kid I’ve never been good at sports, why… hmmm… this might go back to times before I had a memory. In any case, I was always this small, kind, quiet, fearful kid. I wasn’t playing around, jumping on the mud, climbing trees, grabbing frogs, and shit; I was the kid imagining cities and adventures in the inhabited room of the huge house where I was born—playing by myself—or among the countless plants my grandma had all around: that was my kind of play.

So I’ve sucked at sports, I’ve had no coordination whatsoever between my limbs and the different types of balls, small or big ones… at school I was always outran and outplayed: in fact, I was the third shortest kid in my class of more than thirty boys...

[Would you like to know how did I figure I was the third shortest? Because the geniuses of my teachers used to align us by height… evil motherfuckers! Why? Why the fuck? I’m surprised how people could have such disregard for the self-esteem of the children of the world! Actually, the shortest in my class was nicknamed chiqui, which was a short for chiquitín, which originates from chiquito, which in turns originates from chico, which means small or short in Spanish. It put a target on your back immediately for the tallest oldest brutos of my class.]

In addition to my exceptionally athletic physical qualities, I almost drowned at the school’s swimming pool and once at karate class, which I attended because it was mandatory, I farted out loud in the middle of performing a kata, to the amusement of everybody and to top my list of most embarrassing moments of my life… In consequence, I’ve always had all these negative feelings associated with sports and physical activities in general. Running for me was out of the question! Completely out of the question! But my soul is strong and determined; to the extent that I have climbed the Everest of obstacles and tonight I overcame every possible excuse my brain put in my path… excuses that stopped my previous intents of exercising many times before.

I’m sitting there in front of my laptop, when suddenly I heard this voice within my brain, let’s call this voice Dr. T… so Dr. T said:

“I should go out and run now, this is the time”.

Then another opposing mysterious voice within my brain appeared, let’s call this other voice LazyMF, MF for Monkey-funky… so LazyMF answered:

“No waaay!”

“Come on Tanai,” exclaimed Dr. T cheerfully within my brain. “You can do it”.

Then I imagined myself running, checked the time, 20.20… it must be cold, it should be raining too.

“Como on!!! Let’s run baby!!! Show me your power!!!” shouted Dr. T within my brain… then I started feeling that energy rising, that heat in my chest, that inspiration.

“Are you serious?” asked LazyMF disrupting me while I was getting all psyched up. “You don’t have proper clothes for running; you don’t even have shoes for running! You don’t even know how to fucking warm up!”

“Whatever!!! You can wear your converse… I mean, they were designed for basketball players from the very beginning, so they should be comfortable enough. Just put some sweat pants, a sweater and go out and run!” Nice move from Dr. T there…

The exchange between Dr. T and LazyMF continued for a few more minutes.

In the meantime, I was pondering...

“What’s the temperature outside?” I tried to open the browser to check the actual temperature but I remembered that I didn’t have internet… I minimized all the windows on the screen of my laptop revealing, all of a sudden, the very inspiring Megan Fox wallpaper I just recently set on the background to cheer me up in these cloudy winter days.

Then Dr. T spoke wisely these very words:

“Would you like to date Megan Fox? Well, she probably works out pretty hard, probably she spends a lot of time exercising and trying to keep in perfect shape. I know your personality is attractive enough to seduce Megan Fox given you get the opportunity to meet her… but man, do you really deserve a perfectly fit girl when you are just a lazy monkey-funky that doesn’t even bother to drag his ass out that chair away from your laptop and go out for a run?”

I was fully convinced now; anymore pondering would have been useless. So I got up the chair, and went out for a run. An event the likes of which I’ve never experienced before… and I ran, and I ran some more, the road was muddy, all the better, there was drizzle, there was the wind… and then I sweated and I sweated some more, I ran some more until I felt too tired and decided to come back to triumphantly ran the last bit uphill at my maximum speed: it reminded me that I’m still very young and powerful…

From now on I will have absolutely no excuses that could stop me from doing some more exercise and have a healthier and active lifestyle… I mean, besides dancing all night long at the club.

Overcoming shyness, a personal account

A miracle has happened! After twenty seven years of life—two years to thirty in March—I, for the very first time in my life out of complete and total free will and choice, went out running: I went out to run, to exercise! I have seen Jesus baaaaaby ♫♪! Oh my god! A miracle ♫♪! Hallelujah! (Insert upbeat gospel music here sang by a fat Afro-American lady). Yeah that’s right… a miracle happened! A true miracle! I’m crying of happiness for this glorious achievement.

A few months ago I wouldn’t have considered at all the idea that I, Tanai Cardona, would go out a winter night to run. When people asked me, “hey T, you should do some exercise, it’s healthy!” my standard answer usually was, “Me? Exercising?” wide-opened eyes in surprise, mouth open in bewilderment! “I’m a scientist! Scientists don’t exercise!” I used to say in a dramatic way… yet I know very clearly that if I want to live a healthy lifestyle, avoid stupid diseases later on, and add some extra years of world domination to my life, I should do some exercise… it’s not going to kill me! The point is that in my mind there were one million reasons, excuses, and obstacles that stopped me from doing something as simple as exercising. As a matter of fact, those mental obstacles have been very abundant within me; those mental obstacles stopped me from doing a lot of things I wish I have done leaving my soul plagued with regrets and fears... overcoming those obstacles has, to certain extent, defined my life and my path.

Am I making any sense? Let me take you a few years back to the past in order to make myself as clear as possible.

I was then 17 years old and it was the last night of a field trip to the Caribbean coast with the invertebrate class at the University. The entire class was back to the city of Santa Marta and it was time for celebration! It had been scheduled a visit to a nightclub to party, hang out with our classmates, and have a pretty good time dancing. However, things were not so very simple for me since I have never been to a nightclub before—as I recall now. My first experience in a nightclub was kind of traumatic I must say; it freaked the hell out of me and I just ran away! The music seemed to me so excessively loud, I think I became dizzy and disoriented until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Then I left the club and sat down outside in the sidewalk waiting for the party to be finished, while I condemned humanity and the world.

At the time I didn’t dance. I had totally refused to dance ever since I was a kid; and I always opposed myself vehemently against someone trying to teach me, why? Well, that was because I felt extremely embarrassed. And why would someone feel embarrassed of dancing or being taught how to dance? That’s a mystery that can’t be explained, it’s an incomprehensible mystery of the human mind. Then, my rationalization was: ‘I don’t want to dance, because I don’t like dancing’, and I believed it, I was fully convinced that I did not like dancing; yet deep inside I did wanted to dance, although I only admitted it later when I had matured some more and understood myself better.

Such feeling of embarrassment and discomfort went far beyond the issue of dancing. Not only I refused to dance but I also refused to like, listen, or tolerate music in general. In other words, I felt embarrassed or ashamed of liking music! How is that possible? It is absurd. But yeah, I was afraid of letting myself like music. The only type of music I actually allowed myself to enjoy was classical music.

Besides music and dancing, I was obviously afraid or embarrassed of things like talking to the lady at the administration office to ask for whichever paper, asking for an appointment to the doctor, making the line for whatever reason—for god’s sake! Making the line? Add to the list: asking the time to an estranger, speaking in class to ask for a question, making eye contact, making a phone call, talking to a girl or flirt was completely and utterly beyond my capabilities. I was totally afraid to speak up for myself or argue when needed, I was embarrassed to use formalities like Mr. or Mrs. which in Colombia are quite common (I rather avoided using proper names altogether)… and I could go on forever and ever, because pretty much every single aspect of my life was dominated by a sense of fear or embarrassment that stopped me from enjoying my life… and for many years I sulked in my sorrows, that was my reality, I held the firm belief that I was not alive. I had arrived to the conclusion that I was dead; that my body though moving around, my soul had perished, withered. Get the picture?

I did have some good qualities though; among those there was one quality that usually becomes highly developed and sharp in some particular types of introverted personalities… this quality is self-awareness, a self-awareness that is enhanced by a powerful introspection. What I mean with self-awareness is the capacity to be aware, to be conscious of who we are, of our feelings, of our actions. All of us possess this quality, it’s what allows us to recognize ourselves in the mirror, and it allows us to distinct between being sad or being happy. Self-awareness, as all human qualities can be developed… in me it developed to such an extent that I have a very clear and precise view of who I am, I understand very well my defects and my positive qualities, I know what I’m capable of and I’m aware of those things about me that hold me back. I understand quite well why I am the way I am, and I know exactly how I want to be. I have a comprehensive understanding of my feelings; I know how I feel and how I would feel about things… crystal clear and not clouded by pride, arrogance, hatred, jealousy, and other nasty feelings that distort our self-image and our realities. I understand why I behave the way I do, why I act or react in one way or another. I’m aware of the true meaning behind my words and of the deepest impulses that motivates me. In other words, I have a capacity of being very analytical and very critical about myself… very very very analytical and critical, in a positive and empowering way though…

So as I was mentionning above, I used to say that I didn’t like dancing… if I had accepted that rationalization of my acts, I would have never discovered how awesome and joyful dancing is: today, nightclubs and parties would still freak the shit out of me. I had to go through a very troublesome mental process to discover what truly lied behind that rationalization: “I don’t dance because I hate dancing”. The true feelings behind my actions, the true explanation of my absurd behavior was that I was afraid of dancing, I felt ashamed, I felt embarrassed, I felt embarrassed of let anybody teach me how to dance. Arriving to this conclusion wasn’t easy and straight forward because I believed that I hated dancing, over, period, end of the discussion. Thank you to my enhanced self-awareness I started to notice that my rationalization was kind of superfluous and incongruent; little by little I realized that although I said that I didn’t like dancing when I was in a situation that I needed to dance, say I was invited to dance (either by friends or relatives) instead of feeling disgust or dislike as I was claiming, I felt something else… something else called embarrassment and shame. It was hard to admit to myself that I did want to dance… that all that “I don’t like dancing” was just bullshit: I had to break through my own pride and accept the absurdity of my behavior—that was truly painful, believe me. It was even more painful because dancing in the ‘Latino World’ is so fucking important, everyone in Colombia knows how to dance, it’s ridiculous.

So then, finally I came in terms with myself and after much analyzing I knew I wanted to dance. Yeah, but just because I wanted to dance doesn’t mean that the next day I was going to a nightclub with my friends and do some salsa! I was mentally conditioned to feel embarrassment when dancing, like a dog salivating when it hears the bell for some meat: there was a strong association between fear and dancing that I had to break. The mere thought of dancing freaked me out! It was a great ordeal for me to finally throw my first steps in the dance floor and overcome this fear, it took me years…

[My dancing teacher was Bob Marley; I used to practice my dance moves secretly in my room watching videos of Bob Marley dancing and singing live in concerts, and then I would replicate some of his movements… I actually did… and for a time I was only doing reggae moves when dancing any kind of music.]

The point I’m trying to make is that because I was aware of my self-defeating believes and behaviors I was able to overcome such mental obstacles as fear to dance.

The moment I finally understood my feelings and my reactions towards dancing was incredibly important in my life, it was the turning point in my path to awesomeness. Because I understood then, at that moment, that the same feelings I had towards dancing, those irrational fears permeated every single aspect of my being, of my actions, of my thoughts, of my reality… I had not come to this realization and it could have ended up with Tanai committing suicide after losing all hopes for life.

Jan 14, 2011

The darkness within, Colombian conflict and violence

A few days ago I wrote a tale about a little girl that had to defend herself from an evil young man (check it out here), a man that wouldn’t hesitate to kill, to slaughter a man, a woman, or a child. And within the fantasy of that tale it’s easy to think that such kind of characters are just a figment of people’s imagination, it’s easy to believe such evil characters are just pure fiction.

Two Colombians, biology students from my university (Universidad de los Andes) back in Bogotá were murdered, cold blooded, by some evil men, some degenerated members of the human race, drug dealers, paramilitars? Who cares! Margarita Gómez (23) and Mateo Matamala (26) were found assassinated at the Caribbean cost not very far away from my hometown: it could have been me the one murdered.

And I wonder, why someone could be so evil, so resentful, so hateful, so perverted that would kill people just like that. What kind of monsters does this society breed? People are being murdered right now, at this very moment, somewhere in the world: war, conflict, vengeance, violence... every day, every day, every day.

Is such violent and aggressive behavior part of human nature? Is it a part of the diversity of behaviors that are within the possibilities of our genomes? Is it somehow encoded in a given variant of a gene, or combination of genes and certain given mutations that when present in the proper environmental conditions lead a man or a woman to murder and aggression, to slaughter his or her fellow humans? Murder intent and extreme violence most likely do make part of what humanity is.

This means that the end of war is impossible and the absence of violence is but an unrealizable ideal. There will never be a society where men do not kill other men; there will never be a world where weapons are not fabricated, sold, and used; there will never be a world without prisons and prisoners; there will never be a world ruled by compassion, generosity, and equality.

Is it but a futile enterprise to strive for peace then? Is there such a thing as true peace?

Jan 13, 2011

A snapshot of life, my life.

Allow me to describe you in detail a brief moment of my everyday life.

It’s 15.32 in the afternoon.

I’m right now at work doing some experiments; it’s part of my rutine. The room I’m at is painted in dark blue, it’s around 20 square meters, the temperature is 16.5 °C as I can see in a thermometer that’s lying on a table. That’s pretty damn cold; I don’t like it that cold! It makes me feel uncomfortable. The lights are switched off except for a small lamp that shines very weakly; that is because I’m working with a type of biological material that’s sensitive to light. To my left and immediately after the main door to the room, there’s a cylinder full of pure argon, the gas is compressed to 120 Bar, that’s like 120 times the atmospheric pressure. I need the argon to flush away the oxygen from the biological material since the combination of too much light and oxygen could kill it.

Next to the argon cylinder hanging on the wall, there’s a telephone and a board to place a variety of tools; there’s two hammers, some screw drivers, and other tools with names that I don’t really know neither in English nor Spanish. Against the same wall there’s a table full of stuff: bottles with different chemicals and solutions, plastic bottles, glass bottles, tiny bottles, big bottles (and the thermometer)… on that table I prepare all what I need for my experiments. Next to the table you find me; here I am, hello! Actually I’m standing up, I’m holding a big notebook (the lab book); on it there’s a scientific paper and I’m writing on the last page with a red ink pen. I just reached the end of that page…

[It just came to my mind the realization that it’s been a long time since I wrote by hand something lengthy, something else than an address, an email, or a phone number. I’m also thinking that it’s going to be pretty tedious to type all this into the digital world.]

I’m wearing Converse—like usual—and they look pretty dirty, it’s been raining quite a bit; blue jeans, Levi’s 504 straight, I bought them online; a Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt with gray and white horizontal stripes, slim fit; a Tommy Hilfiger white jumper and on top of that my white lab coat. I have not shaved in a week and I didn’t comb my hair, but it’s very short so it doesn’t really matter. Now, I’m actually sitting down. In front of me placed on a little table, there’s a laptop, HP; a really nice and big one since it was bought very recently…

[I wouldn’t mind trading it for my three years old laptop.]

Below the laptop you find an instrument called, a potentiostat: a pretty unimpressive box. This box is used to generate electric potentials and do some other stuff related to electricity. I use the laptop to control the potentiostat. To my right there’s a huge table that occupies most of the space in the room; on the table there’s a powerful lamp that I’m using to shine very focused and very strong light into my biological material. There’s also a small container where I put the biological material… and through many cables it’s connected to the potentiostat. In the same table there’s also a laser that you can use to shine laser light of every different wavelength, but it’s switched off right now. There’s also another machine called an infrared spectrometer: it’s called like that because it can use infrared light to tell the structure of molecules… when it does, it draws a picture, some lines going up and down; the picture is called a spectrum… and it’s a meter because it measures… so it measures spectra using infrared light. I’m not using that machine either; I’m only playing with the potentiostat.

What I’m doing—besides writing this—is to use the potentiostat to test the electrical and chemical properties of my biological material when I’m illuminating it with the strong light. Why electrical? Because the biological material I’m studying moves electrons from one place to another. Why chemical? Because the biological material is a huge molecule with lots of other molecules within it. Why when I shine light? Because the biological material only moves the electrons when it absorbs light. So I click the mouse of the laptop to start an experiment… wait two minutes in the dark, then I turn on the lamp… wait two minutes, then I turn off the lamp… wait two minutes, then stop the experiment… save file…click to start experiment… two minutes, light on, two minutes, light off, two minutes, stop, save, start, and so on and on and on and on and on and on.

So actually just sitting here with these two minutes intervals just looking at the laptop screen… it can get pretty boring: and it’s freaking cold! Wait…

[Stop experiment, save file, toilet visit, change sample of biological material, change conditions of the experiment, check all the cables are well plugged, check argon is bubbling; all is good, click to start experiment.]

So I was thinking that it could be a great idea to write a blog entry about an accurate moment of my life during these iterative two minutes intervals.

Alright, it’s now exactly 16.41 and I must stop writing here because I’m getting too distracted.

Good bye, have a nice day, you can send me the Nobel Prize by mail and put the money on my bank account, merci, au revoir!

Jan 11, 2011

The ingenious Hippopotamus and the Crow of Lightning

Once upon a time somewhere in the domains of a huge kingdom there lived a most remarkable child whose story of courage and tenacity has no comparison. I shall share one of her deeds with you.

Her name was Hippopotamus; she thought that was a big heavy name perfectly fit for a little lady of her awesome power. She was ten years old, with voluminous curly dirty blond hair decorating her circular face, big green fiery eyes, a little chubby with very rosy cheeks and always a smirk on her mouth. She was loud and a free uncontrollable spirit. Hippopotamus had infinite amounts of energy and was continuously in movement, playing, exploring, running through the fields like a wild stallion, jumping into the nearby crystalline waters and swimming like a tuna fish; there was always an exciting adventure to live, new life to discover under a rock or at the canopy of a tree. Hippopotamus was also a creative genius, she was always inventing and crafting things; a ships made of pieces of wood and leaves, entire cities of sand, even her clothes were of her own design. In particular she wore a cap she made out of pieces of leather she found in a forgotten chest from her parents; it had the form of a hippopotamus head and she wore it only in moments of great importance when she needed the totality of her focus to succeed in the critical moment of an exciting campaign, she called it the Hippo-cap. However, the creation she was most proud was what she called the Crow of Lightning; a slingshot.

But Hippopotamus was not always like that. Up until she was seven years old she was like any other kid her age, until the horrible day that would change the entire fate of her life. It was the first day of May, the day when soldiers of the kingdom are deployed throughout the entire nation to visit every house and collect the mandatory royal tax. It was required to finance the wars of conquest and other evil deeds of the king and the queen. The sun was bright and the tulips bloomed intensely red, perhaps an omen of tragedy.

Three heavily armored soldiers rampaged within Hippopotamus house, among them there was a thirteen years old boy; he was not wearing armor like the three older companions but he did wear a steel helmet. She would not forget the vicious black eyes of the boy staring at her while stabbing to death her dog, Pepep, and her little brother aged three. Such was the training of the new recruits of the kingdom’s army. Ever since then, Hippopotamus love for life in all its forms was set ablaze and had never again ceased: she swore that day to do good and protect all life at all cost, even at the cost of her own life.

Thus she thought that if she was to protect life she would need a proper defensive weapon and so Hippopotamus built The Crow of Lightning. It was almost as long as her arm and she always kept it with her in a large bag that she took everywhere she went. She fabricated the slingshot from a Y-shaped steel handle, wood, and rubber she collected one day of exploration when she adventured herself too far north. That day she was following a trail of foraging ants that seemed to go for kilometers and after walking four or five hours she found the wreckage of an old battle tank from the kingdom army. The battle tank might have been there for decades since there was vegetation covering most of it and a third of the machine was already buried underground. Her curious spirit drove her to investigate the inner parts of the whale sized monster that lay there as a reminder of the hateful hearts of people. To her surprise the wrecked tank had a lot of interesting objects, within them there was the metal handle that was used to stir the tank in movement, it had the perfect shape for a slingshot and it was decorated with the engravings of what seemed crows, hence the name.

She had spent countless days and nights perfecting her sharpshooting skills until her little chubby fingers were bleeding and cover in calluses. Her accuracy was such that she could hit the target the size of a coin within a thirty meter radius, even in movement. She had sharpened the bottom end of the metallic handle so that she could stick it into the ground; by anchoring it with her right foot and using both arms and the whole weight of her body she could send a stone flying double the distance, although sacrificing a lot of her accuracy.

Hippopotamus had never used the slingshot against any living creature including people, she was too kind and she did not want to hurt anybody. Though she wasn’t a fool and understood very clearly that not all people have good intentions: in special, the soldiers from the kingdom, who seemed to be possessed by an evil force thirsty of blood and destruction. It was not uncommon to find them patrolling around the city market that was about thirty kilometers southwest from Hippopotamus house; wrecking havoc, bothering people, and occasionally killing whoever was brave enough to challenge them. The kingdom’s soldiers were always heavily armed and in order to control rebellion of the people, all civilians were banned to carry any type of weapons at all, and whoever disobeyed was either sent to prison if lucky or would end up with his or her arms mutilated. Those were the times where Hippopotamus lived.

Maybe life is just a play written by higher deities for their personal entertainment or just call it destiny, but the day Hippopotamus would confront her fate as the ‘protector of life’ came as dark and violently as a hurricane. It was a cloudy morning the last day of October, drizzle and a strong wing swept the dead leaves of the autumn. Hippopotamus was asked by her father to take two heavy canisters of milk two the mill of Mr. Sharragan, a blacksmith that lived about five kilometers west at the shore of a wide river. The road to Mr. Sharragan was muddy and slippery and after walking already half an hour she was already out of breath, so she decided to take a break and eat an apple to regain some energy and continue carrying the heavy cargo. She sat on top of one canister looking at the enraged river flowing while daydreaming of becoming a sailor. At the same time she took the apple on her hand and just when she was going to give it the first bite she heard the murky voice of a man:

“Hey you kid, give me that apple, I’m hungry.”

She turned to see the insolent man; he was tall, he seemed almost twice her size and very muscular. He was wearing no armor, just a helmet, and on his back a two handed sword.

Fearless as she was she stood up immediately and told him:


And took a huge bite out of the apple, so big she could not close her mouth completely to chew.

The man was astonished and his jaw dropped.

Just at this moment Hippopotamus realized that the man was dragging an unconscious kid that was tied from his hands to an iron chain. The kid probably was five years old and she recognized him as the only son of Mr. Sharragan.

She knew immediately that he must be a soldier that came to take Mr. Sharragan’s son; it was a common practice to take the son of a family as a form of debt payment and transform it into a killing monster soldier for the kingdom. It was the ultimate payment or just an excuse to make you suffer and multiply the huge army that already spread like an infectious disease across a vast part of the continent.

She became red of anger, her blood was boiling: enraged she shouted:

“Release him now!”

“Who the fuck do you think you are?!”

The man answered angrily. He dropped the unconscious child and was coming for Hippopotamus. She immediately smelled death; her first reaction was to run away before he could catch her, then the image of her dead little brother flashed into her mind. She stood her ground and looked at him directly into the eye, defiant.

It all happened in a fraction of a second. He grabbed her with one arm and lifted her one meter above the ground as if she was a feather, with the other one he took his knife and placed it on her neck. At that very moment Hippopotamus recognized those vicious looking eyes; those were exactly the same eyes of that fateful day of horror. She spitted in his face.

“Is this a joke?”

She thought.

The teenager boy of then was now a monstrous man, sixteen years old yet murder was for him no different than eating breakfast. He screamed of anger and instead of stabbing her he threw her with all her might as far as he could. She flew in an arch almost ten meters before she hit the ground, face first, eating the mud.

This was her only chance, there was no time to feel pain, there was no time for crying or whining. Fast as lightning she pulled out of her bag the slingshot and with a swing of her arm loaded it and shot with all her power.

Direct hit to the head but the war helmet protected him.

The soldier rapidly took his knife and threw it piercing her in the left shoulder. She could not ignore that pain this time; instead she tightened her jaw and held it together.

The evil man laughed out loud madly and said:

“You’re going to die!”

He was going for his sword but by the time he touched the hilt Hippopotamus had already stood up and shot her second stone aimed deliberately to his hand. His finger bones cracked broken: such was the power and accuracy of Hippopotamus.

The man tried to take his sword again but before he realized another stone hit him directly in the left eye and blood started flowing down his face.

“Get the hell out of here or I will make you regret right now your own existence.”

Hippopotamus said with an incomprehensible authority; then she reached to the bag, grabbed the Hippo-cap, removed the hair from her face, and put it on. But the pain of the wound was too extreme; she fell to her knees and stopped herself of completely falling flat by sticking the Crow of Lightning into the ground.

The evil man took advantage of that moment of weakness, wielded the sword and charged to her with the intention of cutting her head with one single blow; he swung it…

She could not die too by the hands of this man! She could not die! Not like Pepep, not like her brother.

There was no way she would be defeated by this evil man. And before the arrival of death, faster than the eye of a regular man or woman can see; she loaded the Crowd of Lightning, leaned backward, anchored the slingshot with her foot, and using her entire weight to stretch the rubber of her weapon to the maximum tension, she shot.

The sword cut the air just millimeters above her and the stone hit the man in the chin with such force that her jaw shattered and teeth and blood flew through the air. The man fell to his back unconscious.

She lived, it was her victory.

She took Mr. Sharragan’s son back to his father who gave both first aids and stopped the bleeding of her shoulder.

This was Hippopotamus first act of true courage; she had truly become the Protector of Life. This very same act of courage would snowball into the Wars of Justice and the last day of October forty years later—at last—the people of the vast Kingdom of Light would know true peace.

Jan 10, 2011

An end and a new beginning

Dear readers. A new year has started and with it new opportunities to make of our lives better lives, new chances to do better, to accomplish, to correct our mistakes and mend our faults. You have to make sure that 2011 will be in any possible way better and will bring you even more satisfactions than 2010.

My 2010 was a crazy one. So many things happened; many rewards as well as regrets… let me share a few of those with you.

I had finished as PhD student the last day of December of 2009 and I had absolutely no idea when exactly I was going to fly to my new destination, Paris. It could have been in two months, in three months, maybe? I had no salary and no savings to survive until I got the approval to move to France, all depending on the legal bureaucracy. When all of a sudden finishing January, after about two months expecting for a exact date to travel, I received a call from my supervisor in France, he said:

“Tanai, all the things are finally taken care of, all the papers singed, all the red tape cleared, you can come to France next week if you want.”

And just like that, in a matter of days I said goodbye to more than five years in Sweden, my dear Sweden… I sold all I didn’t need, stored in four boxes all things I couldn’t just throw away but I wasn’t going to need at the moment, packed all my clothes, my pressure cooker, my laptop… and set to begin a new chapter in my life: the Paris chapter.

The Paris chapter initializes with me living with my boss for a week before I found accommodation in the city. He lived in a big old dirty house beyond the last station of the suburban train, far from the city of light. My boss literally said that he had not made any single reparation or done any maintenance to the house since he moved in there more than two decades ago. So, as you could imagine things looked not really clean and well kept… but all I needed at the moment was a bed, a warm blanket, a lot of hospitality, and kindness; and I certainly got that.

I was lucky to find an apartment in the city faster than I imagined, that was at Les Gobelines… close to the famous Rue Mouffetard, the Latin Quarters, the Pantheon, the Luxemburg garden and so.  Such happiness to have a new place to call home and in the center of Paris… even thought I was moneyless, in debt, and with the credit cards empty. Today I have moved to a new apartment in the suburbs south of the city, a bit cheaper and closer to my work.

My new work place, the French Commission for Atomic and Alternative Energies (CEA) was totally different to what I was used to in Sweden. A huge institute with more than eight thousand workers, counting scientists, engineers, administrative staff, and so on… a high security place since there’s two nuclear reactors and a lot of “top secret” activities. It has been definitively an interesting experience to work in a place like that… and it has three great restaurants, where I found out that duck is delicious and probably one of my favorite animals to eat. For the locals the food there is pretty low quality but for me it’s quite alright most of the time.

During 2010 I had the chance to travel quite a bit to places never explored before; in the first place to France, secondly to Hungary, I went to China and at the end of the year I went to the Czech Republic. Every one of them such beautiful places… I’m so grateful: Paris, Szeged, Beijing, and Prague… unforgettable. I got to see the Great Wall of China and meet my old friend from Bogotá in Prague; it’s still kind of surreal.

On the other side of things my year was filled with confusion and uncertainty… I had job secured for  2010  and I somehow had to secure a contract for 2011. Applying for a new job or position in science is very time consuming and it might take easily eight months to a full year… which translates into me just arriving to a new work, and not being able to focus since I must also spend significant amounts of time figuring out how to find money for a second year, and if I can’t find money for a second year in France, try to apply for a new position somewhere else.

Finally before X-mas, after a full year of trying and failing I managed to secure my contract for 2011; which means that I will be staying in France one more year. The cycle begins again since at the end of the spring beginning of the summer I must start looking for a new job for 2012… what will be my next destination?

On the romantic side of things, 2010 was a very poor one… no important amorous relationships were created and no meaningful romantic adventures happened. I didn’t lack opportunities yet I lacked initiative and drive; probably it’s due to a feeling of sadness I’ve been carrying with me this year, a thorn in my soul. Regardless, I think I’ve made a couple of good new friends during 2010, that’s rewarding enough for the moment.

2010 was a year of reflection; I have done a lot of thinking and calculating on how to live my life as I really want. Defining clearer than ever my goals for the future… the ways I want to live. I have come to many personal realizations and I realized that I have made many mistakes I must correct soon if I truly want to accomplish my dreams. It has triggered a number of small life decisions and choices that hopefully in the long term will proof very beneficial. Your dreams and your goals should be priority number one and you should do whatever it takes to accomplish them and make them a reality, your reality. It sounds cliché, but it’s definitively true… assuming that you do have goals and dreams, and that they are as big as they can be.

I’m still very confused about many things, unsure and uncertain about many others… I guess that's normal. In any case, I’m doing all I can to find answers to my questions.

I have already started writing a list of goals for 2011 and beyond, and I have started to do a little planning of how to accomplish all of it or most of it. I want 2011 to be a very positive year, a year full of rewards and zero regrets… but I must be prepared to confront hardships and difficulties because the roads of life are inherently tough and complex. I must not fear pain and suffering, I must not fear failure, because all of them: pain, suffering, and failure are the best teachers… and I have so much to learn and to experience, and sometimes I’ll have to risk, sometimes I’ll have to fight… and life will test me and beat me down to my knees, and I must get up again knowing no defeat. I know that my heart is weak and coward, fearful of a darker tomorrow, fearful of getting hurt, of losing the comfort that I have, of losing at life...

The accomplishments of my goals and dreams will be my ultimate life victory and I will not give up until I am there: that is my fight, determination will be my shelter and patience will be my weapon.

To my readers I wish you the best for 2011, live life fully.