Feb 29, 2012

Flowers of Bogotá - Iris

Bogotá, a one thousand five hundred square kilometers ocean of concrete, streets clouded with heavy black somg, horns blasting loud from half century old buses, street vendors shouting everywhere. The beggars, the type you have never seen before, rise from the lowliest bottoms of misery to wander aimlessly. The countless mountains of garbage bags rest on the floor waiting for a late truck to pick them up while being dug up by the hungry and the stray dog. Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, whoever of them prouder or more arrogant show no trace of respect for one another. The numerous broken roads and sidewalks tell never ending stories of corruption, negligence, and tragedy. Turn around and the beggar's sister enters the sparkling Chanel store, stilettos hammering glowing marble floors, while she calls her brother “indian” as if indian meant inferior of kind. A champagne bottle pops, a child looks through golden framed windows to a reality beyond reach... what shattered illusions.

Where is beauty to be found in this concrete jungle? It's hard to focus on true beauty, sometimes it seems as if beauty has abandoned us all and fled from the streets of Bogotá to Paris or to Stockholm... yet beauty is here too despise the horrors of a city that struggles to be better, everywhere. Not so much in the shape of a Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, an Arc de Triomphe, or a Roman amphitheater from time immemorial. Not so much either in the shape of a trend-setting young fashionista heading to work as on a catwalk. Not even in the shape of a descent bus driver that waits for the last passenger to reach his or her sit... no, no, no, that kind of beauty is rare in Bogotá. There is another type of beauty more abundant, more resilient, more inspiring, and more universal: the beauty of flowers. Flowers of such magnificence that they seem misplaced as they contrast against the gray cement walls, or the shattered brick. These flowers symbolize the path many of us, who live or lived in Bogotá, have decided to walk. A path to progress, to better selves, to beauty. These flowers from the streets of Bogotá are like the Colombian dream that springs to life from a seed of love, striving for a drop of light to feed its newborn leaves of hope.

As I started taking pictures of the many pretty flowers, I noticed how very little I had appreciated such masterpieces of nature, that I could have walked by some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth and not even know. I have taken already pictures of more than a hundred flowers that I have seen on people's gardens or growing by a side walk in Bogotá, and I also noticed that I knew the name of just about three or four out of so many. So I have decided to find out the name and info of each one of them, and as I learn about flowers I will introduce them to you, my dear reader, because I know you can appreciate the beauty of nature.

Today, I bring you a a couple of gorgeous flowers, multicolored, and extravagant. I am sure you have seen them before because they are pretty common. These two flowers belong to the same genus of flowers, Iris. There are more than a couple hundred species of Irises, covering pretty much every single nanometer of the visible light spectrum of colors; and probably beyond that too. Look at the white Iris, it's supposed to be a cross between two different species made in the 50s by a Californian. Check out the subtlety of colors, that almost invisible violet on the three style arms, which are actually the female sex organ of the flower; look at  the petals adorned with dots of that perfect yellow. Now look the blue Iris, it looks like a Cumbia dancer with lift arms holding her long pollera, as she sways her hips with the beat of drums.

And I was thinking these two were some kind of orchids.

Butterfly Iris, also called Nada for some reason I don't know.

purple blue iris
 Iris germanica, but I'm not 100% sure. If you know, write it down on the comments.

Feb 25, 2012

I am a rowdy waterfall (Flash Poetry)

Can you write a poem in under 5 minutes? Here there are a few, each one in under 5 minutes.


Words to live
That is what I am
Many a path
A soul untouched
I carve myself into you
To sculpt with my will a poem
To free you


We can go wherever we want
The world is a heart
The world is a mango and an orange
The world is a woman and the world is a man
The world is a child, a surprise, a smile
The world is laughter
The world is insane
We can go wherever we want


Walking down the streets of Bogotá
Rain pouring cold and gray
The city of the brave and the fool
And an occasional murderer
Unbreathable concrete
An attempt at pride
The homeless dreams of fleas
The other rides along the mountain on an Andean horse
Those times are gone
Times of gold and wetlands
Now is the time of the cement and the bus
The Muísca reaches for tomorrow
Longing for the clear steel and the orchid

Feb 24, 2012

Serenade Mouffetard

He was standing by the cliff, sun bright at noon, not a shadow, not a song by a bird, not a buzzing fly, sweat. She was dreaming of a thunderstorm, lightning exploding, infinitesimal, red dress soaked, rain drops hitting like stones. He saw, distant, a giraffe moving slowly towards the acacias, solitary it was, mournful, he felt the weight of past times but did not recall a specific memory. She woke up agitated, raindrops were hitting the window, the cherry blossoms lashed by a hundred invisible whips at the other side, she felt a strange anxiety, the fear of too many empty days. He hugged his three little sisters and said goodbye, he cried, they cried, yet from within a ghostly peace, rare, the possibility of happiness. She hugged her boyfriend tight and kissed him wishing for infinity, the only one she ever loved, a goodbye and a promise, yet she knew somewhere inside this was the last time. He arrived to Paris the fiftinth of May early in the morning, that very same day he saw tulips for the first time, red tulips, yellow tulips, and another one, black or very dark purple, he just did not know. She arrived to Paris the first of June, the day after at 22.00 exactly, she saw for the very first time the Eiffel tower sparkling, goosebumps, she laughed and felt like a little girl, she had not idea it could be so magnificent. He had made two friends, one was French, one was Scottish, they were his first friends that were not Angolan, and this summer day they were having a pint of beer at a little bar, Rue Mouffetard, the name of which they never knew. She was with two girlfriends, one from Tokyo, the other one she met coincidentally on the flight to Paris, also from Okayama, as they walked down Rue Descartes into Rue Mouffetard she saw, high by the wall, a little poem of a tree and freedom, she felt like toasting. They honestly did not remember the first words they said to each other, but they remembered that toast: “to us!”. Later that night he held her hand and she kissed him.

Feb 15, 2012

Kitchen battles

Once upon a time there was a terrible monster on Tanai's kitchen, its name was Mandarinus gigantescus terribilis, it was a scary mutant. And when Mandarinus saw the little baby Mango, it had to bully it:

But what Mandarinus didn't know is that Big Mango Papa was around to set things right!

Feb 14, 2012

A reason to love

Dear everyone,

I write today because of the existence of Love. Valentine’s Day is something we do not celebrate in Colombia, at least not in February, but love is something I have known since the very moment I was born. I am grateful I have been loved by my mother, my father and my entire family at every moment of my life. I am fortunate I have been loved by friends, through my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood I have never lacked a good friend. And I have fallen in love too and been reciprocated beyond my wildest dreams.

I am sure that many, if not all of you my readers, share my same fortune: but even if you know no love, even if you have not been loved by your parents and family, even if you have no one you could call a friend, even if your heart is broken beyond repair, even if it seems your reality is a never ending nightmare, even then… you are alive, you have LIFE, you exist. And isn’t life such a wonderful thing? Life shaped by billions of years of evolution: life has seen the Earth being bombarded by meteorites capable of melting the entire planet’s crust, life has seen the Earth freeze from pole to pole for millions of years, life has endured it all and bloomed again and again from the brink of total annihilation. Life has endured the unforgiving past of time at an unimaginable scale and yet we are here today. Smiling or crying, in peace or in misery, here we are today alive. How could you not love your life? Even when no one loves you, you can still love your life, just because it is yours. No matter how dumb we have been, no matter how unfair it has been, we still have a chance at living. And if we are alive we can still love, we can still love ourselves and appreciate the very fact of our existence, because love is a great thing however you define it.

Love without measure; do not hold your love back, not a bit of it, what for? If you are afraid to be hurt you are a fool, if you think your love is undeserved or that you don't deserve to be loved you are an even bigger fool. If you think there is not a reason, you don’t need one… all the good things of life spring from the act of love, so do it, just love goddamn it!

Happy Valentine’s Day,


Feb 12, 2012

The Colombian experience

Sometimes I think about what it means for me to be Colombian: list the good and the bad, the positive and the dark, the promises of a future and the legacy we have inherited whether we want it or not, the heavy baggage of our traditions and the new paths of tolerance that we may be striving for. Yet all this is useless, it does not really matter what means to be Colombian, or Iraqi, Nigerian, Swedish, or Japanese, as a matter of fact. It does not really matter. We are what we are, we are all the same. I make myself responsible of my actions, I am not who I am because I was born in Colombia, I am who I am because I am Tanai. The same goes for everyone regardless of nationality.

No country is perfect, we should learn to enjoy the beauty of each country not limited to the boundaries of one nation. We should love each country for their uniqueness and beauty, and love their people too. We should be citizens of the world, because after all we are all the same. We all smile, we all cry, we all love and we all get hurt... it is that simple.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta seen from 10 km above sea level

Feb 4, 2012

The Paris chapter comes to an end

I leave the country with warmth in my heart, happy and satisfied, thinking how crazy this past two years were: a roller caster of emotions is not that good a metaphor to describe my experience… an ‘intergalactic roller caster of doom and glory’ would be more appropriate to describe my feelings.

Today, two years ago, I arrived to Paris for the very first time. I arrived after five wonderful years in Sweden. Getting to France wasn’t at all smooth; it was actually sudden, and very disorganized. I arrived to France lacking confidence, doubting myself, fearful, kind of wounded; something that I can't really explain perfectly why. Probably a combinations of factors: lacking motivation, confusion, economical problems, and hardcore cultural shock.

My first year was very uneventful, I was struggling to pay two credit cards that after a few months of unemployment were almost maxed out. The shock of Parisian cost of life hit me like napalm… goddamn it, what an expensive city! I thought that Sweden was expensive but compared to Paris it feels cheap. Half a pint of beer at a crappy nightclub in Paris could be 10 €… in Sweden I NEVER paid 10 € for a full pint. In other European countries I could have a pint for less than 2 €, the rightful price for a beer.

Let’s not talk about renting an apartment... or the electricity bills, OK? Nonetheless, I was lucky and managed to rent a small studio downtown Paris, extremely well located. Happiness… the City of Light, what a beauty, such magnificence! I did feel inspired. Happiness… its women, what beauty, such magnificence. My inspiration skyrocketed! I must say that so far, from all the places I’ve been around the world, Paris scores No. 2 in my top 5 list of cities with the best ratio of gorgeous women per square meter.

Actually, I came to Paris to work as a researcher for the CEA, the French Commission for Atomic and Alternatives Energies; a governmental research agency. It was kind of funky… the place is about 1 or 1.5 hours commuting time from Paris. The facilities were kind of old but the research and the equipment was state-of-the-art. Although I had the slowest computer in history, once I counted 5 minutes before the browser opened after double click. Lunch was extremely cheap and there was always a lot of options, I think I had too many steak hachés avec frites in any case. At the end of my two years of research, I published a scientific article, and two more are on the pipeline… ready to be sent to the publishers. Most importantly about the whole CEA experience is that I came up with a great idea, that I believe will let my voice be heard more attentively in the field of work I specialize: hopefully… let’s see how far I can push it.

However, my dating life in Paris sucked ass until around the end of winter 2011. Before that and during the entire 2010 I did not dated a single girl. March 19, 2011, I’m out partying when I meet this girl from Poland. A woman not favored by Aphrodite. The experience was kind of revolting and led me to reflect on the poor state of my soul until then. I concluded that at all cost I had to recover my confidence, my natural mojo, and get my dating life back into shape. In less than six months, after some amazing times, I met the most wonderful girl… she who today is the object of my adoration, she who gives me immense reasons for happiness.

And then after a year, in a really dumb move that I regret, I gave up my apartment and moved out to the suburbs... I wanted to save some extra money, but at the end it was a very bad idea. This neighborhood, called Villebon-sur-Yvette, although pretty it's way too boring. It's a neighborhood for retired old people that can't bend down anymore to pick up their dogs poop. So I have renamed this village: Poop-sur-Yvette.

During my two years in France I had the chance to travel quite a bit: I drank excessive amounts of palinka in Hungary; it was always my dream to see the Great Wall of China but I never imagined that it would come true so soon; I bought three of Tin Tin’s comic books in Belgium; I spent one night in London for a job interview, for a position I didn't get; I stood at 3555 meters above the sea level in the summit of Volcano el Teide in Tenerife. I snowboarded in Sweden and I went for an intensely romantic weekend holiday in Helsinki… I also visited Colombia after more than three years away from home! Not bad at all… not bad at all.

I also take with me a permanent scar on my chin after I face-planted horribly, a real life nightmare… details of a shameful story that should never be told again. Just to remind me for the rest of my life not to be a fool.

Another good thing about my time in Paris are the friendships I made, some of which will probably last a lifetime. I was visited by many old friends! In particular, I met again with one of my best friends from my childhood, who I had not seen for almost seven years; like my family... suddenly France didn't feel so foreing to me. I guess making new friendships are one of the most rewarding experiences from traveling the world and visiting new countries. The memory of a museum will vanish after a few years, but a good friendship and the memories of what was lived together will last forever.

Enough. It’s time to close this chapter. It’s time to start writing a new one, a new story perhaps more exciting and more beautiful: a new adventure. Yet all adventures are challenging and dangerous, risks will have to be taken, obstacles will have to be surmounted, but at the end I shall get there… to that place of my dreams.

On Sunday I’ll be going to London, and next Thursday I’ll come back home. My adventure will continue in Perú where I’ll reunite with my love for almost a month… what wonderful surprises await?! I’ll be back to Bogotá for some time again and by the time spring ends I should be flying back to London. There I’ll join a new laboratory at Imperial College London to continue doing research and with some good luck make some interesting discoveries or get some incredible world saving ideas. That’s the plan for the moment.

Goodbye France. It was nice meeting you.