Sunday, 27 July 2014

Crowdfunding + enthusiastic teenagers + good ideas

Two weeks ago, I was invited to listen to lots of presentations that Eleventh Graders from Juan Luis Londoño School in Mosquera Cundinamarca made for their graduation project. These youngsters are required to design a doable project that may become a source of income if they could actually carry it out. At the age of 16, 17 or 18, they are thinking of their first entrepreneurial initiatives and I got glad they have been asked to do so. While listening to their presentations, my mind started wandering around this questions: what would happen if they had the money to actually execute these projects?...What would happen to these kids if they found a Midas who said "I will fund your project: make it work". What would happen to their lives? 

To my eyes, these kids definitely need to get in touch with trending concepts for an entrepreneur like crowd funding. After listening to them, my mind immediately started to make a list of helpful websites. The first one that came to my mind was I got to know them in a co working space I love in Bogota. Via this place, I got to know about a nice mobility project called Creatorio.  They design beautiful bicycles and I attended a lecture they did about how they were funding part of their project with a campaign hosted by There  is also that is now a classic. When checking my twitter today, I found this article about crowd funding for public schools. Although it may not be active in  Colombia, learning about how projects can get funding is worth the effort. And Asociación de Egresados de la Universidad de los Andes knows about this. They have organized events that gather diverse successful experiences in many other fields like this one: 

No matter if we could not attend, browsing names like or Littlebigmoney really gives an idea of what a "Midas " could be for these kids.  I am a 100% positive they need a little  push towards their dreams but the leap of faith has to be done by themselves. So they are the ones who will have to submit their projects, start campaigns and who knows, experience a  huge "lucky strike"... If they dare to read and learn about crowd funding...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Leyendo en voz alta en la Biblioteca

Leía hoy en la Biblioteca sobre cómo una hada lograba conseguir el color naranja para pintar: frotando las alas de una mariposa color anaranjado brillante.

- ¿Nunca han tocado las alas de una mariposa? Les pregunté.
- Los ojos de los pequeños se iluminaron con una gran sonrisa mientras me decían que no.

Sorprendida y sin saber qué decirles, apenas pude contestarles que el más mínimo roce con sus alas soltaba un fino polvo que quedaba impreso en las yemas de los dedos. A pesar de mi explicación, aún me parecía extraño que un niño nunca hubiese tocado las alas de una mariposa...

- ¿Por que nunca han tocado las alas de una mariposa? Les pregunté curiosa.
- Se mueven muy rápido. Me dijo uno de los asistentes.
- Tendrías que matar la mariposa para poder tocarle las alas. Dijo otro.
- Y no se ven tantas por ahí como para tocarles las alas. Asintió otro con tono sarcástico. Eso me hizo pensar en hace cuánto tiempo no veo una mariposa o tocado sus alas. Supuse que ha pasado mucho tiempo ya porque no recuerdo cuando fue la última vez. 

Medio microsegundo después, los ojos de los pequeños ya no estaban iluminados y estaban esperando a que pasara a la siguiente página. No tuve más remedio que seguir leyéndoles para ver cómo terminaba la historia de la hada pintora. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A round of flashbacks and childhood memories

This January 2014, the movies I watched for my Three films project were produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki . I got this recommendation with lots of excitement and joy without apparent reason, I thought when I first heard of these movies. The first one for this month was Kiki’s delivery service. The plot of the story reminded me of myself travelling and moving to other places, from Garagoa to Bogotá, from Bogotá to Liverpool, from Bogotá to Sao Paulo and Maceió. Kiki evoked my dearest memories about discovering streets, people, places and the joy of learning something new with a certain sense of naivety. That city, where Kiki decided to land, rang a bell in my head: Cinque Terre in Italy. I’ve never been there myself but Pinterest has become my eyes recently: steep streets with a view to the sea. I even thought of Albert Camus describing Orán and then my mind hopped into an old English city: with the shops, the stone bridges, the narrow streets… maybe The Shambles in York. Memories stroke me once and again while I watched. However, the movie itself let me mind-wander and enjoy the ride because of one reason: the simplicity of the plot that unfolds easily to an unexpected ending. I reckoned Kiki was going to go through a hard training in a very Harry Potter fashion but I was wrong. Her training was basically about living life, about how to deal with ups and downs and how to trust in herself. That was the very first round of flashbacks that took me like 10 years back in time. And it was only the beginning: just ten years back.

Again, with a simple storyline, My Neighbor Totoro took me 25 years back when I used to spend my vacations in my grandmother’s farm. The places explored by the girls made me rake up the hours spent in my Grandmother’s garden full of physalis bushes and white daisies. The scene that brought to light one of my dearest and completely forgotten memories was when Mei crawled in this tunnel made of bushes. It was like a secret place and I also had one in my Grandmother’s farm. It was on top of a little hill with a great view of the road and half of the farm on the other side of that road. I used to take candies with me to stay there for a while. What I remember the most was the sweet taste of fudge and coconut, the skyline with mountains and trees and this recurring question in my head: what or who could live on the other side of the horizon? Although I cannot recall what I used to imagine to answer this question to myself, I still get glad about thinking I must have imagined things like a Totoro or a catbus.  

These flashbacks were taking me further and further and I had great expectations about El viaje de Chihiro. How back could a movie take me in my memory? I must have been 7 years old when I hung out in my secret place. What could I remember before that age? I watched the movie with great expectations: I even invited my sister to watch it with me. But just right after Chihiro arrived to that “strange” place, my sister and me turned our heads, looked at each other and said with disdain: I got bored already! What was I going to do? I had promised I was going to watch it. My sister got up and walked away but I stayed to see how Chihiro would escape from that “place” that seemed to me very surreal and realistic: it showed lots of Japanese customs but at the same time the characters from that place seemed to be taken from a dream. That was it! Chihiro was dreaming! I thought. That was the only way all those strange things could be possible. By the time Chihiro became a skilled worker in that “place”, I had already bought the whole story, although quite oniric, it was plausible. How come? Since I couldn’t remember very well what I imagined when I was 4, I got the feeling that a child might well imagine a story like Chihiro’s and not know what is real and what is just imagination. This blurred limit is what makes this movie everything but boring. Thanks goodness I finished watching it. This time I didn’t get so clear memories like my secret place but fragmented flashbacks of the stories I used to make up when playing in the backyard in my home in Garagoa, the number of times I used to count sheep-shaped clouds in the sky with Mom, the endless times I had to hide from angry roosters and the stories I used to tell when walking around the creeks in my Grandmother’s farm. That is why these Three Films were a pure round of flashbacks and childhood memories for me.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Today I attended the first 2014 session of Toastmasters Bogotá. This is all about training yourself to improve your public speaking skills: outlining, language use, body language, signposting, voice projection and even improvisation.  Once a week, a bunch of people get together to listen to each other, assess, give feedback and basically learn when giving a speech. In the previous session, participants decide which role they are going to play: grammarian, fillers counter, timer, host, among others. And there are also chances for the guests who can participate in the table topics. Since I was a guest this time, I participated in the table topic "New years resolutions" and had to improvise a story that connected what the other guests had previously said. 

What I liked the most was the vibe of the group. There was a very safe environment  for giving a speech for the first time, for example, and then get feedback. To my eyes, this safe environment to learn unfolds thanks to the established criteria by Toastmasters International: they have handouts where they explain how to give feedback, the assessment criteria and the roles each participant should play. That is how even the participants who evaluate the speakers get feedback too. 

Although this Bogotá chapter of Toastmasters International is quite young compared to others chapters around the world, it does seem to open an alternative, safe space to improve not only public speaking skills but your English proficiency level too. I really loved the experience and I'll do my best to keep attending... to be honest, I cannot wait to be the Grammarian some other time!

If this info rings your bell, you can contact them on facebook:

Or if you want to learn about chapters of Toastmasters around the world, check this out:

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Three films

During the last year I’ve started to hang out with a bunch of lovely people who are initially the gang of friends of a good friend of mine. She got married last September and the stuff for her wedding was DIY. During  quite a few months all her crowd  gathered in my living room to make table decorations, the bridesmaids’ fascinators, her wedding bouquet, etc. Apart from her wedding we’ve had picnics, afternoon tea parties, dinner parties, outings, etc.That is how they’ve become more than just acquaintances. They all love films and most of the times they end up talking about their favorite characters, their favorite whatever from films they love. I get very curious about the topic and listen but sometimes I don’t get their point because I haven’t seen most of the films they mention. It’s important to highlight here, I have issues with screens: I hardly ever watch TV, I don’t go to the cinema, I never rent films or watch them at home or pay Netflix. Perhaps I’m missing a purpose for watching them or I have never bothered to watch something good enough to sit for some hours without doing anything else but watching.

So, just for the fun of learning something new, I asked each one of them to make a list of three films for me, having in mind that I’m quite ignorant about everything that has to do with cinema. I’ll watch the three movies during a month like in a special season. After watching each movie I’ll jot down whatever comes to my mind as a way of automatic writing. Then, I’ll gather the rough notes from the three movies to write a monthly entry in my blog. And that is how watching  will not be just watching but an excuse for writing.

Here are the movies I’ll watch each month in 2014:


I’ll start with these three films since they all agreed I should watch movies by studio Ghibli.

  • Kiki la hechicera (1989) by Hayao Miyazaki
  • EL viaje de Chihiro (2001) by Hayao Miyazaki
  • Mi vecino Totoro. (1988) by Hayao Miyazaki


  • Poetry (2010) by Lee Chang Dong
  • La grande bellezza (2013) by Paolo Sorrentino
  • Dolls (2002) by Takeshi Kitano

  • American Beauty (1999) by Sam Mendes
  • El diario de Bridget Jones (2001) By Sharon Maguire
  • Flashdance (1983) by Adrian Lyne

  • Fearless (1993) by Peter Weir
  • Heaven (2002) by Tom Tykwer
  • Persécution (2009) by Patrice Chéreau

  • The age of inocence (1993) by Martin Scorsese
  • Atonement (2007) by Joe Wright
  • A serious man (2009) by Cohen Brothers

  • Let the right one in (2008) by Tomas Alfredson
  • In the mood for love (2000) by Kar Wai Wong
  • Blade Runner (1982) by Ridley Scott

  • Manhattan (1979) by Woody Allen
  • Blue velvet (1986) by David Lynch
  • Tideland (2005) by Terry Gilliam

  • Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott
  • Hunger (2008) by Steve Mcqueen
  • Colmillo (2009) by Giorgios Lanthimos

  • Waltz With Bashir (2008) by  Ari Folman and Justin Edgar
  • To Rome with Love (2012) or Midnight in Paris (2011) by Woody Allen
  • Argo (2012) by Ben Affleck
  • 500 Days of summer (2009) by Marc Webb
  • Little Miss sunshine (2006) by Jonathan DaytonValerie Faris
  • Habana Blues (2005) by Benito Zambrano

  • Inside Job (2010) by Charles Ferguson
  • Summer Wars (2009) by Mamoru Osoda
  • the city of lost children (1995) by Marc Caro & Jean Pierre Jeunet

  • Melancholia (2011) by Lars Von Trier
  • The Congress (2013) by Ari Folman
  • The Tree of life (2011) by Terrence Malick
January 2015
  • Rashomon, el bosque ensangrentado (1950) by Akira Kurosawa
  • La guerra de las galaxias(1977) by George Lucas
  • Computer Chess (2013) by Andrew Bujalski

February 2015
  • L.A. Confidential (1997) by Curtis Hanson
  • "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975) by John Huston
  • "Some Like It Hot" (1959) by Billy Wilder
March 2015
  • Faces (1968) by John Cassavettes
  • The night of the living dead (1968) by George Romero

  • "Stranger Than Paradise" (1984) by Jim Jarmusch

Thursday, 19 December 2013

De cómo lidiar con la valentupidez

El pasado 28 de Noviembre asistí por primera vez a una sesión de Creative Mornings. Esto es una serie de conferencias mañaneras en las cuales uno va y desayuna mientras escucha a algún experto en procesos creativos y después se queda a conocer gente que está en la misma onda: escuchando y aprendiendo. Entonces, una vez al mes y el mismo día en distintas ciudades del mundo, se habla del mismo tema. En esta ocasión, bravery.

La conferencista, Carolina Leyva, tradujo esa palabra como valentía. Y comenzó la charla con un concepto bien curioso: La Valentupidez: Ese oscilar entre la valentía y la estupidez que se experimenta al correr riesgos. Muy didácticamente, Carolina explicó las distintas fases de la valentupidez: el miedo, la incertidumbre, el evaluar el riesgo y el salto al vacío. Esto último puede ser más valiente o más estúpido dependiendo de qué tan bien se evalúen los riesgos.

Tan pronto ella terminó esa explicación, se me vinieron a la mente todas las veces que yo había sido muy valiente y las que había sido muy estúpida en el trabajo, con los chicos y en mi escritura. Ahí me conecté otra vez con Carolina Leyva. El proceso creativo de un diseñador implica saltar al vacío del mismo modo que un escritor cuando intenta escribir una historia verosímil o un ensayo coherente. Se siente el mismo el miedo, la misma incertidumbre cuando a uno se le ocurre una idea y luego de muchos borradores y de dejar añejar el texto, uno evalúa  el riesgo al editar y editar. Finalmente uno salta al vacío publicando de algún modo: entregando el artículo, en el blog, regalándole el texto a alguien, leyendo la tarea en voz alta, etc. Y sí, uno puede acercarse a la estupidez o a la valentía. Pero ¿cómo acercarse a la segunda?

La estrategia que ella propuso fue la empatía. Empatía. Sorprendente me pareció por dos cosas. La primera, por los diferentes pasos necesarios para lograrla. Me quedó claro que no es algo mágico y que es congénito. Es decir, todos podemos usar la empatía para resolver cosas si hacemos lo siguiente:

1. Tener la voluntad para empezar. Decidir comenzar un proceso.
2. Meterse en el cuento. Investigar. Preguntar. Usar herramientas de otros campos del conocimiento si es necesario para conseguir la información que se necesita. No recuerdo si fue ella o algún asistente quien nombró la etnografía como una forma de conocer el grupo objetivo para el que estaba diseñando en un proyecto. Tambien dio el ejemplo de cómo una diseñadora de 24 años, creo, se había vestido y vivido como una mujer de 60 años durante 3 años para poder diseñar productos para el adulto mayor. Con todos estos ejemplos entendí que este paso sirve simplemente para romper los prejuicios que uno como creativo pueda tener sobre lo que está creando.
3. Luego de "hastiarse" de toda esa información, es necesario alejarse de la cuestión que se busca resolver. La distancia permite tener una visión completa del problema a resolver o del sujeto para quien se diseña. Es muy importante reconocer cuándo tomar distancia. Si no se toma distancia, el que trata de crear o dar una solución tambien se vuelve parte del problema.
4. Responder con una solución, un producto, una historia que se acerque más a la valentía que a la estupidez. Carolina Leyva ilustró este proceso desde el punto de vista de una diseñadora y del y de lo que tuvo que hacer para producir un juego de cartas que le ayudaban a niñas, que debían hacerse un test Papanicolau, a hablar de su sexualidad frente a sus padres y médicos.

Mientra ella contaba cómo logró crear este juego de cartas, a mí se me ocurrían todas las veces que me había acercado más a la estupidez que a la valentía por saltarme alguno de estos pasos al escribir. Encontrar lugares comunes en el proceso creativo de ella y el mío me hizo sentir un poco menos extraña entre todos los diseñadores, ilustradores, arquitectos o artistas visuales que la escuchaban también. Y también me hizo pensar que el proceso creativo puede tener los mismos obstáculos para todo el que lo intenta así que, si traduzco la empatía a mi escritura, sonaría así:

Lo más dificil de la escritura es decidirse a escribir. Aún no entiendo bien como es que mi mente pone tanta resistencia a simplemente teclear o escribir palabras claves en un papel para empezar a escribir. Muchos pensamientos con cara de excusa se atraviesan y siempre, siempre hay alguna razón para postergar la tarea de garabatear por primera vez en una hoja en blanco o teclear las primeras palabras en un procesador de palabra. Cuando al fin me decido a escribir, entonces me doy cuenta que no sé nada del tema en cuestión. Tengo que leer otros libros o historias con las mismas temáticas, cómo un autor presenta un personaje en una historia, tengo que preguntar, investigar. En ese punto entiendo por qué sentía tanta resistencia. El trabajo es inimaginable. Y ya despues de empezar a investigar y descubrir cosas, es imposible parar. Lo único que queda es empezar a hacer borradores, escribir, "hastiarse" mucho de toda esa información que se ha recogido y que se está produciendo. 

En algún punto, es necesario decidir cuando dejar de corregir. Usualmente es una fecha límite, porque en realidad editar un texto propio es de nunca acabar. Jamás estará lo suficientemente esto o lo otro pero tomar distancia es vital. Eso en un texto de creación literaria, puede que tome una semana, 6 meses, 1 año o 10 años. Sólo al cabo de ese tiempo, realmente se vuelve a mirar un texto propio con nuevos ojos, según le escuché a alguien experto en el tema. Para mí, es ponerse en los zapatos del lector y dejarse llevar por las palabras como si se leyeran por primera vez. Es ahí cuando saltan a la vista los desaciertos, las frases enredadas, la puntuación confusa, y todos los detalles delatores de eso que debo evitar al investigar: dar por hecho que el lector ya sabe lo que quiero decir. Y otra vez a editar y arreglar. Después de todo ese trabajo, no queda más que tomar una decisión todavía más difícil que la primera: dar a conocer el resultado de ese proceso. Pero no termina ahí. Ya después de publicado, entregado o leído el texto, es necesario olvidarse y dejarlo ir porque ya no se puede controlar cómo toma vida en las mentes de los lectores. La pregunta que me asalta es ¿Será que hasta esto último es empatía también?

Para mí, esta charla sobre el proceso creativo me ha dado una herramienta muy positiva para no rendirme al escribir y que si aprendo a usarla en mi proceso de escritura creativa, puede que me acerque más a la valentía que a la estupidez: Empatía conmigo misma, con el otro, con el lector, con las ideas, con los personajes, con las palabras. 

Gracias por la empatía, Carolina Leyva.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What a childhood memory can teach

Born in Garagoa, a little town in the Andean area in Colombia, I spent most of my childhood in my grandparents' farm. That has been my initial fuel to start telling stories..."  That is how I introduce myself in my blog. Among all the stories I have to tell about my place of origin there is one that has been ringing in my head lately...and it has to do with my grandfather and an issue that is quite problematic nowadays: financial education and financial freedom

So here's the story:

My grandfather was a farmer who never went to school. He married my grandmother without having absolutely anything. They lived in a piece of land owned by my great-granfather which, after a few years, was inherited by my grandfather. That was how people, at that time, would ensure coming generations' financial independence: Inheritance. A will. It was 1940 in a rural area where most of the land was still virgin forests and the process of colonization was just beginning. From what I have heard form my Mom and my Grandma, my grandfather's big dream was to have lots of pasture land where fat cattle could graze calmly. That was his dream. He was determined to get it. And this is how he did it: He delegated all domestic expenses to my grandmother. That means she worked during 75 years from dawn to dusk to provide the family with food, clothing, pocket money, health, savings, etc. She woke up early to milk cows, feed the hens, cook for workers, make cheese, feed the pigs, and most important of all: raise the calves. When these calves were fat enough, my grandfather would sell them and save the money he got from that transaction. My grandmother never saw a cent from those transactions. She would just work harder and harder to make ends meet. She did the same for about 75 years. Never stopped. Never complained. When my grandfather gathered enough money, he bought the first piece of land to a former landlord. And he started to take the calves my grandmother raised to graze in that pasture land. The calves became heavier so they were worth more money. He sold them, kept the money and replaced them with more calves that my Grandmother raised at home. 

This cycle lasted for 75 years and developed many traditions that make most of my childhood memories: baking huge amounts of corn bread, harvest corn, beans, green peas, sugar cane milling seasons, among many other customs that my parents still talk about. This cycle brought so much abundance and financial prosperity that my grandfather started to become a "chieftain". He even got famous as one of the richest farmers in the town. By the time he was 55 years old, he decided not to work anymore. He had achieved his dream of owning pasture lands full of fat cattle and he retired without knowing exactly what retirement meant. He just stopped working and expected everyone around him to take care of him as if he were a king. And everybody did. My uncle took care of the lands and cattle, my grandmother continued working to raise cattle and my mother took care of my grandfather's health until he died. I thought of him as a dictator. A cruel person who didn't care a damn about his family, about his wife who had sacrificed herself to make his fortune grow. There's nothing left now. It was a net worth that got lost in a painful inheritance process that tore away the family too.

My grandfather never went to school. He was totally iliterate. The only thing he could write was his name to sign important documents in the bank and the like. My question has been always the same: how come he did not study to figure out how to make a fortune? How did he become prosperous? How come all the books I read at university did not teach me how to charge properly for my lessons? My grandfather had the vision to have a dream and achieve it no matter if he had difficulties. They were not even limiting conditions. He could overcome them and achieve what he wanted and retire early. Did he have any kind of financial education? No. Did anyone teach him how to save? Unsure.

That question was quite puzzling until 3 weeks ago. Three weeks ago, I watched a video about how to thrive financially by Tony Robbins. This is an inspirational speaker who has caused great impact in many people's lives with his testimony and his speeches. Well, in the video I'm telling you, he explains that in order to finance our dreams we have to put our money in three baskets. I'll call "The vital basics" to the first basket. Here you should invest your money in your basic living expenses: housing, food, transportation, clothing, basic entertainment. From all your income, you should spend less than what you earn in your Vital Basics basket and keep what's left. This difference should be kept in a second basket and re-invested it somehow so that your savings grow. When your savings become profitable, you should re-invest the profits so they grow. The idea here is to multiply your savings so that your money works for you. When you have accumulated enough, then and only then, you are ready to spend your multiplied savings into a dream of yours: the house of your dreams, that trip to Bahamas, that farm with a pool and a cottage, your postgraduate degree, etc. And that's what my grandfather did!! He started to save money from the daily expenses, then saved until he had enough to buy some land, then reinvested the profits of his cattle sales until he accumulated enough to buy the lands he dreamed of. And thanks to my grandmother, he made sure there was a steady income. 

When I realised about this, I got really surprised at how I have been spending my savings I keep from my Vital Basics basket into my "big dreams" like travelling or studying right away, without re-investing my savings so they grow and become profitable by themselves. After 10 years teaching, my main assets in my net worth are my travel journals. When I read them, I still feel the joy of discovery and astonishment of seeing new landscapes and meeting new people. But I spent it all! I didn't keep anything left for my future dreams. When I saved up money to go to England for example, I never thought I was going to feel my dreams were over. I never considered that I had to re-invent myself and find another path in my career. Since I never considered this, I never saved from my savings. That is what my Grandfather didn't do. My question is: how come he knew what to do to e.g. retire early without studying a book and me, after long years at university, having read lots of stuff and after having "seen" the world, I didn't have the vision to afford a change in my career and not even an early retirement? How come is that? How come attending university is not enough anymore to make a decent living?

These are changing times. Thanks to technology, Internet, globalization and therefore mobility, the possibilities to make a living are endless and they go way beyond from attending university. Actually, most of the skills to become financially free are not taught at school (in Tony robbins' words, creating a money making machine that gives you the chance to work because you like it and you want it and not because you need it). Thanks God there are now tons of resources to get some financial education. We need to learn how to manage money, how to make it grow so it works for us and not viceverza. Steady salaries are no longer a guarantee for happiness, joy or freedom. Steady salaries are becoming quite the opposite now: golden cages where people have to sacrifice their free time, their personal life, their dreams just for a steady income. How come is that? My grandfather never had a situation like that. He had very different conditions and different times and he succeeded. I also want to suceed. I want financial freedom in these changing, complex times. What do I have to do to achieve it? That is what I am figuring out now. If I think about financial education twice, I think it would become a really useful subject that needs to be included urgently in Kingergartens, Primary, Secondary schools and Universities. Financial education and emotional education but that last topic would make another full blog entry...