The Excuses People Come Up With…

Oscar Pistorius is another person featured in the Time 100 issue of Time Magazine. He’s a world-class athlete whose legs happen to be made of a carbon-fiber composite. And that, for some reason, has other world class athletes complaining that he has an unfair advantage. Well, my suggestion is, if they’re that worried about it, they should a get a pair for themselves or quit griping. Here’s the Time’s article about Oscar:

When I was learning how to climb mountains as a blind person, I had a lot of encouragement from experts. But after I summited Mount Everest, these people weren’t ready to accept what I had done at face value. Some said I must have cheated; one even claimed I had an unfair advantage: “I’d climb Mount Everest too if I couldn’t see how far I had to fall.”

Similarly, when Oscar Pistorius’ lower legs were amputated at age 1, few would have banked on this South African challenging world-class sprinters. At 20, when he began to close in on an Olympic-qualifying time for the 400 m, experts posited that his times were so good, he must have been getting an un-fair advantage from his bladelike prosthetics. When he set his sights on the Olympic Games in Beijing, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled he couldn’t compete against able-bodied athletes. An IAAF-initiated study found that more energy is returned to Pistorius’ upper legs from his blades than from ankles and calf muscles and that he uses less oxygen.

Pistorius, 21, is appealing, on the basis of studies with differing results. It was only recently that living with prosthetic legs was seen as a huge impediment, but he has turned this perception upside down. He’s on the cusp of a paradigm shift in which disability becomes ability, disadvantage becomes advantage. Yet we mustn’t lose sight of what makes an athlete great. It’s too easy to credit Pistorius’ success to technology. Through birth or circumstance, some are given certain gifts, but it’s what one does with those gifts, the hours devoted to training, the desire to be the best, that is at the true heart of a champion.

Weihenmayer is the only blind person to conquer Mount Everest

Wired Mag Online also has a nice article about Oscar. Click here to read it.

Rather Impressed with Pitt and Jolie

I just got around to reading the Time 100 issue of Time Magazine. The issue highlights what it deems the 100 most influential people in the world right now. I was kind of surprised to find Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the list. But, the article George Clooney wrote about them, has me inspired that Hollywood Stars really can do much more than look beautiful, act cool and cause drama.

It is one thing to talk about the problems of the world and quite another to actually try to change things.

As a team, actors Brad Pitt, 44, and Angelina Jolie, 32, have served as our goodwill ambassadors worldwide. They brought help to Pakistan in 2005, after a catastrophic earthquake killed tens of thousands of people and left millions homeless. They have tended to the poor and sick in Africa. And they’ve raised global awareness—and contributed $1 million of their own money—for the victims of atrocities in Darfur. Brad co-founded Not on Our Watch, an organization set up to focus global attention on Darfur and other hot spots.

In the U.S., Brad and Angelina didn’t just talk about, or even just throw money at, the tragic fallout from Hurricane Katrina. They actually moved to New Orleans and have set about trying to make right what so many have made wrong. Brad established a project to finance and build 150 new homes in the Ninth Ward.

Angelina has worked tirelessly through the United Nations on behalf of refugees around the world, touring border camps in Africa, Asia and Latin America and lobbying on Capitol Hill. The couple cares for three adopted children, from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam, in addition to their biological daughter.

There are hundreds of people who could be honored for their good works, but I’ve seen Brad and Angelina firsthand, and their commitment together is truly impressive.

Clooney is actively engaged in trying to resolve the Darfur crisis

I’m Not Waiting Til I’m 85…

“Instantes” (Instants)

If I were able to live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be more foolish than I’ve been,
In fact, I would take few things seriously.
I would be less hygienic.
I would run more risks,
take more vacations,
contemplate more sunsets,
climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where I’ve never been,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.

I was one of those people that lived sensibly
and prolifically each minute of his life;
Of course I had moments of happiness.
If I could go back I would try
to have only good moments.

Because if you didn’t know, of that is life made:
only of moments; Don’t lose the now.

I was one of those that never
went anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot-water bottle,
an umbrella, and a parachute;
If I could live again, I would travel lighter.

If I could live again,
I would begin to walk barefoot from the beginning of spring
and I would continue barefoot until autumn ends.
I would take more cart rides,
contemplate more dawns,
and play with more children,
If I had another life ahead of me.

But already you see, I am 85,
and I know that I am dying.

-Jorge Luis Borges

Learn to Fly…

…or swing around like a monkey. It all depends on how you look at it. Either way… I’m determined to learn how to do this! It’s called Parkour:

Here’s another one

I don’t know why it says “Hated” at the end… whatev…

Courage in the Face of Disaster


We’ve all been hearing reports about the cyclone that barreled through Myanmar. The Death toll has reached 100,000 and is still climbing. Yet, the government still won’t open its borders. And to think I was right there, literally next door, just a little over a month ago. Read the account of one CNN reporter. It’s pretty unbelievable.

In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. Here CNN’s Dan Rivers details his remarkable personal story to CNN Wire news editor Ashley Broughton after returning home Friday from five days in Myanmar, reporting on the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.
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Rivers and his crew met this injured man while reporting on the tragedy.
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(CNN) — Hiding under a blanket in the back of a car at a police checkpoint. Hopping on boats instead of staying on a road. Constantly looking over your shoulder, knowing that at any moment you — and those with you — face the possibility of imprisonment, torture, even death.

It sounds like a spy movie. But CNN’s Dan Rivers, who sneaked into storm-ravaged Myanmar without the knowledge of the nation’s secretive ruling junta, says the reality is even more frightening than it appears on the silver screen.

Now out of Myanmar, Rivers said Friday that his experience raises a question: If the government is chasing down a journalist reporting on a natural disaster, what kinds of problems are aid workers facing?

“The whole country is kind of a basket case,” Rivers said. “Combine that with a disaster on this scale and a government that won’t let anyone in — they’re turning a bad situation into … what really is criminal negligence on a massive scale.” Photo Look at satellite pictures of the damage by the flooding »

He is concerned, he said, that many more may die as a result of the government’s self-imposed isolation.

Earlier in the week, he said, his crew videotaped government workers dumping bodies of the dead into a river. A government not engaged in such activities, which amount to a kind of cover-up, should have nothing to hide, Rivers noted. “Why should they be trying to hide a natural disaster? It’s not their fault. It just illustrates the mentality of the regime. It’s so suspicious of the outside world.” Video Watch how some aid is getting through »
Don’t Miss

* U.N. furious after aid seized in Myanmar
* U.S. mulls food drops to devastated Myanmar
* In Depth: Crisis in Myanmar
* iReport.com: Are you there? Send your photos, videos
Impact Your World
o See how you can make a difference

Rivers arrived in Myanmar on Monday morning, a few days after Cyclone Nargis ripped through the Irrawaddy Delta region, putting more than 2,000 square miles of land under water and killing tens of thousands of people.

The Myanmar government has said 22,000 people were killed. The top U.S. envoy in the country has said the death toll may be as high as 100,000.

Rivers is no stranger to natural disasters and their aftermath. In 2004, he was in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, covering the devastation wrought by a tsunami. In October 2005, he was in Pakistan after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake killed 75,000 people in Pakistan and India.

“I’ve seen a lot of horrible things like that, unfortunately,” he said of the situation in Myanmar. But “it was bad, and … it’s the kind of story you really feel emotionally. In that way, it’s easy to write the story, because it just flows out. You feel passionate about it.”

In Myanmar, however, “the logistics were horrendous,” he said. Getting to the hardest-hit area involved an eight-hour drive on dirt roads.

In some ways, Banda Aceh before the tsunami resembled Myanmar, he said. The region, the closest land to the magnitude-9.0 underwater earthquake that spawned the tsunami, was also home to a nearly three-decade conflict between Indonesian troops and separatist rebels, and people tended to be suspicious of outsiders. Video Watch Dan Rivers’ report from Myanmar »

However, after the disaster, “they just opened the whole place up, and it was just carte blanche,” he said. “Anyone could go in. I guess I naively assumed it would be the same in this instance,” thinking that police, with so many victims and so much damage to worry about, would not be concerned with, say, the kind of visa carried by a visitor.

Within days of his arrival, he realized he was wrong.

Rivers and his crew had been in Myanmar for only a day when a local contact warned them that the government was seeking him — just after his name was broadcast. The contact said authorities were alerting all hotels to report which foreigners had stayed there.

Still, though, “I was pretty confident we were being careful enough,” he said. He and his crew were continually changing locations, moving from hotel to hotel. But he knew that the potential for a problem was there.

That became more apparent during a visit in the country’s southern portion Thursday, when members of his crew asked a local official whether a road was open. The official said yes and was going to give them a pass, but he said an immigration official wanted to talk to them, Rivers said. That official took the crew members’ passports and were comparing them to a picture of Rivers — apparently taken from a picture of a CNN screen. Learn more about Myanmar’s recent history »

“They disappeared for, like, two hours,” Rivers said. “I didn’t know what had happened to them.” He said he was worried his crew members might be interrogated or tortured, and considered turning himself in.

“I was wandering the street, not knowing what to do,” he said. It was “baking hot” — about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), he said. He knew no one and was not fluent in the language. People were asking him who he was, where he came from. One person asked whether he was with the CIA.

The situation was “pretty uncomfortable,” he said. “I must have looked pretty suspicious.”

Luckily, he did not turn himself in — and later found out that the officials did not know the crew members were from CNN or that they were accompanying him.

When the crew told him the officials had his photo, however, Rivers realized other authorities probably had his picture as well. The group decided to push farther south, he said. At one point, he hid under a blanket in the back of the car at a police checkpoint. It was at that checkpoint they were told that the people in the village they had just left wanted to see them again.

The crew turned around but decided to get off the road and followed a dirt road into the middle of the jungle, Rivers said. They parked the car, hopped on a boat and traveled down the river in two small boats. They reached a small village and were able to do some videotaping, he said. They also were checking on a rumor that there was a speedboat nearby.

While walking, however, they were stopped by a local official carrying a walkie-talkie, he said. The group was told to return to their van and that police would be waiting for them there.

The encounter, he said, was “gut-wrenching … you think, ‘Oh, my God, this is just going horribly wrong.’ “

On the hour-long trek back through the jungle, Rivers said, he was genuinely fearful.

“For the first time, I was thinking, you know, this is it,” he said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere. No one knows where we are, exactly. They could just shoot us and throw us into the river and say we had an accident. … You start to think about family and what you’d put them through if you disappear.”

He said he expected a large phalanx of police officers at the van but was heartened to see only two officers there. The group was asked for their passports. In holding his out — the last one to offer it — Rivers said he held it in such a way that his thumb covered his surname. Not noticing, police took his middle name and radioed it in.

“They thought we weren’t who they were looking for and basically let us go,” he said, calling it a “fluke.”

The group was escorted back into town and met with a more senior government official, who appeared convinced they were there as part of an aid group. Finally released, “we kind of hightailed it,” driving all night into Yangon, he said.

“It was a genuinely very scary 12 hours,” he said. “It really did seem like a week.”

Still, he wasn’t yet home free. One last search

Sitting in a seat on a flight out of Yangon, having made it through security with no problems, Rivers thought he was finished with the Myanmar government.

But a flight attendant approached him and told him immigration authorities wanted to see him again, he said. He was escorted off the plane to officials who were waiting for him at the gate.

The authorities “basically searched everything I had,” he said. They went through his bag and made him turn out his pockets, remove his shoes and socks.

He believes they were looking for pictures or videotapes, but he had none. They did find a computer flash drive, Rivers said, but it had nothing on it and it was returned to him. His passport was taken — and his real name seen this time.

Eventually, the flight attendant returned. Although he did not understand the discourse, Rivers said he believed she was telling them the flight could not be held any longer and asking whether they were going to let him leave.

And so they did. “They hadn’t found anything on me. They probably just wanted to get me out of the country anyway,” he said. “The whole time, I just didn’t really say anything.”

Speaking from his home Friday and battling exhaustion after about 36 hours without sleep, Rivers said his experience as a wanted man was “really surreal.”

“I guess the colorful bit, all this sneaking around in the swamps and getting on boats and stuff — there were some quite comical moments, when I was literally under a blanket in the back of a car, sweating profusely at a checkpoint, trying to look like a piece of luggage in the boot, and you’re thinking, ‘How do I get into these situations?’ “
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But he said the stubbornness of the Myanmar regime was “breathtaking” — that, in the face of such a large-scale disaster, they would utilize time and resources looking for a reporter.

“The more resources are spent chasing me, the less they’re going to be concentrating on actually helping people,” he said. “There comes a point where I’ve done my job. I’ve told people what was going on … staying in much longer would have meant I was getting in the way of the story.”

Find the Magic


My friend Loic, the couchsurfer who hosted me in France, just emailed me. And, even through an electronic email, I was so affected by his enthusiasm and pure spirit. I said before that Loic is a treasure, a simply stunning person. I can feel his zeal for life through his words… I mean I really feel it. Can you?

For me it’s more than busy, and I have taken the time to analyse where
I am, and where I want to go
. In a way, I’m impressed to look at what
I have done, but I’ve also the paradoxical impression that “the more
you learn, the more you realise you have to learn”
.
So to summarize last months, difficult, full of learnings, magic, and
amazing
… In few words, amazing evolutions

I will leave from my job in september, I’m learning portuguese :), I’m
working more and more with six incredible young senegalese on an
incredible project (www.ndaam.com), with Nigerians on another project
in Niamey, I’m making informal microcredit (to my level) in Senegal,
and enjoying how magic can be the life. I go to work Senegal in less
than two months now… Finally for 4 weeks. So good
! I’ll come back to France by the road and the desert, through
Mauritania and Marocco for two weeks of holidays and to see some
friends. To sum up, that’s it ! Are you coming for the road ?? 🙂

You guys haven’t met Loic, but, I have… and I just wish I could describe the person he is… but that’s near impossible.

Learn the Head Fake and Live Your Dreams…

One of my roommates during college just posted this video on my profile in Facebook… It’s a video that EVERYONE should watch. It’s long, but worth every minute. It’s priceless… and it made me tear up.

Randy Pausch Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals. For more, visit www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.

“Journeys” are special University Lectures in which Carnegie Mellon faculty members share their reflections on their journeys — the everyday actions, decisions, challenges and joys that make a life.

Some quotes I pulled from it with the hopes to get you to sit down and actually watch it – BECAUSE YOU SHOULD:

“I’m dying… and I’m having fun.”

“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.”

“Never lose the child-like wonder.”

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

“If your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it.”

“Brick walls are there to let us show our dedication.”

“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Quotes to Ponder…

Shantaram

“We can know God, for example, and we can know sadness. We can know dreams, and we can know love. But none of these are real, in our usual sense of things that exist in the world and seem real. We cannot weigh them, or measure their length, or find their basic parts in an atom smasher. Which is why they are possible.”

“The truth is often found more often in music, than it is in books of philosophy.”

“The truth is that here are no good men, or bad men. It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds and bad deed. Men are just men – it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love in the heart of anyone – the noblest man alive, or the most wicked – has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-fields of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward God.”

“Of course, naturally, God is impossible. That is the first proof that He exists.”

“All possible things don’t exist.”

“Nothing exists as we see it. Nothing we see is really there, as we think we are seeing it. Our eyes are liars. Everything that seems real, is merely part of the illusion. Nothing exists, as we think it does. Not you. Not me. Not this room. Nothing.”

“The sane man is simply a better liar than the insane man.”

Kismet = Fate (Urdu language)

“Reality, as most people see it, is nothing more than an illusion.”

“There is another reality, beyond what we see with our eyes. You have to feel your way into that reality with your heart. There is no other way.”

“Dream the future. Plan it. Then make it happen.”

“Suffering is the way we test our love, especially our love for God.”

“Justice is a judgment that is both fair and forgiving. Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we try to save them.”

“A politician is someone who promises you a bridge even when there’s no river.”

“I don’t know what scares me more, the madness that smashes people down or their ability to endure it.”

“The burden of happiness can only be relieved by the burden of suffering.”

“What characterizes the human race more? Cruelty or the capacity to feel shame for it?”
– Niether. “It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are.”

“We live on because we love, and we love because we can forgive.”

“Every time we cage a man, we close him in with hate.”

“Fear dries a man’s mouth and hate strangles him. That’s why hate has no great literature: real fear and real hate have no words.”

Me

“When you get closer to the truth, you stop comparing your good deeds to other’s ill-doings. Instead, you find yourself on a quest to find more examples of good – whether from wicked man, or saint.”

Did you know there are 31 places in the world where the sand dunes sing?

Into the Wild

“I prefer the saddle to the street-car, the star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult train, leading into the unknown… and the deep peace of the wild, to the discontent bred by cities.”

“I don’t think I could ever settle down. I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anticlimax.”

“The peculiar thing about Everett Ruess was that he went out and did the things he dreamed about, not simply for a two-weeks’ vacation in the civilized and trimmed wonderlands but for months and years in the very midst of wonder…”

“…damning the stereotypes of civilization, chanting his barbaric adolescent yawp into the teeth of the world.”

“In a dream he saw himself plodding through jungles, chinning up the ledges of cliffs, wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams.”

“But then, I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life.”

“God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. I’ll never stop wandering.”

“Always, I want to live more intensely and richly.”

The Zahir

“Learn by doing and not by thinking about doing.”

“We can harness the energy of the winds, the seas, the sun. But the day that man learns to harness the energy of love, that will be as important as the discovery of fire.” (Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin)

“As soon as people decide to confront a problem, they realize that they are far more capable than they thought they were.”

“I also learned a respect for mystery: As Einstein said: God does not play dice with the Universe; everything is inter connected and has a meaning. That meaning may remain hidden nearly all the time, but we always know we are close to our true mission on earth when what we are doing is touched with the energy of enthusiasm… If not, we had better change.”

“All energy and all knowledge come from the same unknown source, which we usually call God.”

“When we can love unconditionally, without restrictions, we become more like God.”

“In order for the true energy of love to penetrate your soul, your soul must be as if you had just been born.”

“In order to live fully, it is necessary to be in constant movement; only then can each day be different from the last.”

“…distancing yourself from your personal history, from what you were forced to become.”

“With different stories, with experiences we never dared to have or didn’t want to have. That is how we change. That is how we love grows. And when love grows, we grow with it.”

“Stop being who you were and become who you are.”

“Forget who we are in order to become who we really are.”

Why are people sad?
“They are prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why the forget their dreams.”

“The invisible world always manifests itself in the visible world.”

“May your horizon always be wider than you can see.”

“Welcome to the place where we say the sky is blue even when its gray, because we know that the color is still there above the clouds.”

“The taste of things recovered is the sweetest honey we will ever know.”

“Age only slows down those who never had the courage to walk their own pace.”

“The extraordinary occurs in the lives of ordinary people.”

The Witch of Portobello

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door. The purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.”

“No one sacrifices the most important thing she possesses: love.”

“Collective reality” versus reality.

“She wanted to live, dance, make love, travel, to gather people around her in order to demonstrate how wise she was, to show off her gifts, to provoke the neighbors, to make the most of all that is profane in us – although she always tried to give a spiritual gloss to that search.”

“…the mistress of the truth.”

“It’s the nature of the female to open herself to love easily.”

“Everyone’s looking for the perfect teacher. But although their teachings might be divine, teachers are all too human, and that’s something people find hard to accept.”

“An encounter with the superior energy is open to anyone, but remains far from those who shift responsibility onto others.”

“The best way to know who we are is to find out how others see us.”

“The grandeur of God reveals itself through simple things.”

“Everything moves, and everything moves to a rhythm. And everything that moves to a rhythm creates a sound.”

“When mouths close, it’s because there’s something important to be said.”

“Dance to the point of exhaustion, as if you were a mountaineer climbing a hill, a sacred mountain. Dance until you are so out of breath that your organism is forced to obtain oxygen some other way. And it is that, in the end, which will cause you to lose your identity and your relationship with space and time. Dance only to the sound of percussion…”

“When you dance, the spiritual world and the real world manage to coexist quite happily.”

“The hand that draws each line reflects the soul of the person making that line.”

“Writing wasn’t just the expression of a thought, but a way of reflecting on the meaning of each word.”

“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”

“All great painters understand: in order to forget the rules, you must know them and respect them.”

“See life through your own eyes and not through other people’s.”

“Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.”

“The truth is that each step we take, we arrive”

“The trees give so that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.”

“Instincts become sharper, emotions more radical, the interpretation of signs becomes more important than logic, perceptions of reality grow less rigid.”

“Unconditional love does not fear suffering, rejection, loss.”

“…die to the world and be reborn unto yourself.”