Rafael Silva: Venezuelan-Canadian Karate Talent

9 Jun

“All provinces in Canada were participating. It was a fairly big group and my division had 12 competitors. I was ready to compete, at least that’s what I thought. As always, five minutes before fighting, my mind experiences a high level of concentration and my body gets into a stage of control, of course, control under my mind. The only option is leaving aside anxiousness, fear, and frustrations, and bringing back only positive thinking. The moment has come, the Pan-American Karate Tournament has begun and my turn to compete is now!”

Rafael Silva is a teenaged boy who is 17 years old, holds a black belt, and is a sensei with a charismatic personality and mature attitude. He was born in Venezuela and a few years ago his family, including his father, mother and little sister moved to Canada where they continue to practice karate as a family activity. Although karate is considered a lot of fun, for Rafael, karate is a lifestyle and he really takes it seriously. His sensei, Juan Francisco Osuna, has played an important role in Rafael’s life by influencing his passion for karate and being responsible for Rafael’s development as a skilled athlete.

Rafael Silva and his parents

International Experience

As a member of the Canadian karate Team, Rafael has participated twice in the Pan-American Karate Tournament and this year could be his third experience. His first tournament experience was in Cancun, Mexico, where he had the opportunity of meeting, learning and sharing with other athletes and senseis from different parts of the world. The second chance was in Medellin, Colombia, where he won a silver medal. According Rafael, his performance in Colombia was his best ever, and the key to putting him on the map for the Canadian Team.

Rafael as Sensei

The role of being sensei allows Rafael the opportunity to return all that he has learned from his Sensei, Juan and the Osuna Karate Dojo. Even though Rafael is a young guy, he is able to teach and guide his peers in karate. The other kids see Rafael as a coach capable of understanding their needs. They consider Rafael as a role model, a leadership position that is easier to them reach and follow Rafael’s steps.

Rafael and his Sensei Juan

Being in Shape and Ready for The Competitions

Karate is a martial art that addresses form, balance, and centre of gravity. It demands power, speed, deep timing of concentration, strong muscles, including abdomen and hips, and also a good sense of rhythm. When a tournament is getting closer, Rafael has to train at least 2 hours every single day. Sometimes he has hired personal trainers to help him get into better shape and prepare for the competitions. He considers that one of the most important training is focusing on the mind; accordingly, he spends time in mental preparation, such as visualization and meditation. Before he goes to bed he usually tries to think out the techniques that he needs to use for excellent movements and perfect execution.

According to Rafael, kumite is his best performance; however, he has demonstrated being really skilled in kata. Kumite and kata are the two main sections of karate training. Kumite is the part of karate in which a person trains against an adversary, using the techniques learned from kata. The precision of movements makes Rafael a karate athlete with strong advantages within the Canadian Karate Team. Rafael concludes by saying:

“Karate is the experience which has helped me to grow up and be committed to myself, my family, my coach, and my two countries: Venezuela and Canada”.

For more information about Rafael Silva, please contact the Osuna Karate School


The Story of Isabelle G. Stark

2 Mar
Isabelle G. Spark.

Isabelle G. Stark.

I am so pleased to receive the Isabelle’s story. This story recreates sadness and happiness from the immigrants who,  simultaneously, lives in two worlds. Perhaps you will be identified with her or simply you will understand what happens in the mind of a person who is away physically from a place and it’s still spiritually in that place. Thank you Isabelle and it’s my pleasure to post your story on my blog.


Hi, name is Isabelle G. Stark, many of my Venezuelan relatives and friends called me Carolyn (by my first name).  I was born United and raised in Venezuela, two different Mother Lands that I consider my home.  I describe one of my mothers, as tough, logical, not always friendly, smart, intelligent, very business motivated, the United States.   My other Mother “Venezuela”, she is fun, loving, warm, caring, welcoming, funny, easy going, and very friendly.  She is my favorite!!!

My story might be very different for many Venezuelans, I did not grow up during Chavez‘s era or under previous political leaders.  My memories about Venezuela always have been very joyful and fun.  Not always roses, My family did experience very few hardship incidents, but we were able to overcome them easily, but it not nowhere near what Venezuela has experienced in the past few years.

I have been living in the USA for the past 24 years.  My parents and relatives reside in Venezuela, and my brother and my sister due to the Venezuelan struggles made the decision to abandon the country and look for other horizons.

I have lived in the USA my adult years, I had lived in Albany, NY, Miami/FL and now, I lived on the outskirts of Washington DC.  I go to Venezuela every year and every time I visit, I come back with wonderful experiences, refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated.  Everyone says to me that I was very” lucky “, that my journeys in Venezuela have gone well. I do not believe in “luck”.  As an interfaith minister and shamanic practitioner, one of the Hawaiian shamanic principles says “The World is what you think it is”, and Matthew verse 7:7 says “Seek and you shall find”.  I always say to myself that Venezuela is the most precious place in the world; it has the warmest loving people, full of laughter and happiness, no matter what.  I do admire them for this attribute. They always find an opportunity to make jokes.   A positive vibration always exudes from those I meet. 

I always speak highly of Venezuela, because that is the land my childhood and teenage years.  I went to high school and my first experience in college was there.  My parents and grandparents were born and raised in Venezuela.  Despite the political and economic situation, I always blessed the land where I was raised.  I find it sacred and I hope it will return to that land I so love to go back to live sooner or later. 

There has been few occasions, where I complained and criticized, such as, the internet is to slow, people are always late, I cannot find almond milk, organic, gluten free foods, etc.  Being in United States, I have my commodities.  I am from Venezuela, but I have changed, I have developed and adjusted to an Americanized society.  I realized that spending a month or two in the land of my Venezuelan ancestors,   I was able to experience other parts of myself that are not usually exposed, such as, speaking only Spanish and get in touch with my Latina side of myself.

In the past few years visiting the country I love, I could hear people’s desires to abandon the country and look for other opportunities, growth and having safe place to live.  I could hear the stories of them being victims of crime.  The opportunities of expansion and growth had diminished tremendously and the only solution for many of them was to exile.  I could see how the political arena of the Chavez Empire had taken over the minds of Venezuelans. It was a division between chavistas (those who were with Chavez) and opposition (those who do not agree with the government).   There was discrimination, arguments and discussion between family, friends, and neighbors about a political preference.  My ears could not bear the hatred and the criticism of each other.  I realized one is not better than the other, they are equally the same.  Both have different points of view, but that does not make it “right” or “wrong”, since each other is a reflection of oneself.   One thing that Venezuelans failed to see was that both are from the same country.  They work and breathe the same air, and are under the same sky.

I could feel the hostility, hatred and pain of my Venezuelans brothers and sisters; I could not understand why, how the country could end up this way.  Then I realized, the country has been deteriorating over the years, not only in the outside physical infrastructure, but the Venezuelan vivid and joyful spirit was clouded by dark shadows of loss, despair and pain.   The economic arena has been hitting hard in the Venezuelans pocketbooks, crime and inflation was on the rising, and for the first time in my life, the country was starting to reflect the unhappiness outwardly.  Venezuelans have lost touch with themselves, the flame of charisma was starting to deplete.

Even though, I noticed disappointment about government, I still saw a bright light of hope that Venezuelans carried.  I had many awesome conversations with people on the street, taxi cab drivers, the florist, the parking lot guard, the doctor, etc.  I said to myself “not all is lost, it is still present, but it is behind the façade of suffering.  Venezuelans have many beautiful wonders, resources, beaches, it is a true paradise, but many of them are caught in political struggles and inflation that they cannot see what is at front their faces. 

Even though, I have lived in USA almost ½ a century, I never stop thinking about Venezuela.   My heart sinks every moment I hear someone is abandoning the country, or when someone has been robed, killed, kidnapped and or become a victim of crime.  I feel it in my bones, because Venezuela is my family. 

Now, the country is in one of the deepest battles defending our human rights.  Ending the present dictatorship would help to resolve the injustice, insecurity, inflation and the shortage of basic products, such milk, bread, arepa flour, baby food, since the current administration is corrupt.  Many students has been killed, shot, and beaten and tortured, just because they want to defend what once was dear to us.  A free and prosperous Venezuela! 

Venezuela is a gold mine, and many countries want a piece of the largest natural resource– oil, including the USA.  

 My hope is, once and for all, that our Venezuelan family awakens, unites as one totalitarian power to defeat the present government, and that the labels, of chavista, bourgeoisie, fascist, oligarch, “escualido”, “rojo-rojito” and the famous Chaves’slogan “Patria, Socialism o Muerte” (Patriotism, Socialism and Death) are buried deep in the ground, so this type of experience will not happened ever again. 

I prayed that all Venezuelans learn to appreciate, respect, and carry this nation responsibly, since all of us are sons and daughters of our Liberator, “Simon Bolivar. 

 After the trauma and emotional pain has been resolved all those dark periods of Revolution are gone, then I will returned to the land I NEVER LEFT”

Isabelle G. Stark

If you have a story about your experiences living out or in Venezuela, please send it to me at erikafernandez9@me.com, and I will give you an opportunity to distribute it in cyberspace.

Who are the Venezuelan Women?

27 Feb
Walk for peace in Venezuela led by Lilian Tintori and other fighter women.

Walk for peace in Venezuela led by Lilian Tintori and other fighter women.

February 26, 2014.-  Thousands of Venezuelan women walked on main streets in Caracas to claim peace for the country. They used different signals and banners dressed in white with a flower in their hands that symbolizes “having a pacific, free, and prosperous nation”.

According to DatosMacro.com the population of Venezuela was 29.954.782 inhabitants in 2012 which 49.84% are women. Since I was a child I learned from my grandma and mother the meaningful of a strong and dedicated woman. The common Venezuelan women get up very early to cook breakfast and to prepare lunch boxes for kids and their husbands. We love to have a clean, beautiful and organized house. We enjoy going to work because we like to support the family budget and also being independent. If there is a husband at home is fine it’s not is fine too, because the Venezuelan women make strategies to live anyway.

Most of women are abused by their fathers, brothers, and men; while other lucky women are loved and respected by their husband. We are full time moms and would be able to die and kill for our children if it’s needed. We are protective and keepers of our place and people. We are competitive and also good daughters, sisters, and friends.

Venezuelan women are identified as beautiful girls and this characteristic is part of a big work. We try to follow the fashion, like to do exercises or apply some small surgeries for having a nice appearance. Make up and brush hair are part of our routine. Venezuela boasts to have beautiful women and the best proof is to earn main positions on Miss World and Miss Universe. Just for naming few beauty queens there are Irene Saez, Maritza Sayalero, Barbara Palacios, Alicia Machado, and the most recently Miss Venezuela who was killed with her husband taking vacations in the country, Monica Spear.

Our women have demonstrated to have a beautiful body and face, and also have interesting insights. We are professionals, technicians, administrative assistants, scientific, physicians, nurses, teachers, engineers, politicians, athletes, even speed drivers.  Women are capable to fight and support people who claim a new Venezuela, just what Miss Tourism and nice girl, Genesis Carmona, did for her country. Other women are able to defend their husband as Lilian Tintori.

Venezuelan women don’t want more injustice. We want peace and freedom in our country!!!

Let me Tell you my Story about Venezuela

24 Feb
Venezuelan reunion in Calgary in support of students and honour people who died in protests. February 22, 2014

Venezuelan reunion in Calgary in support of the students and honouring people who died in protests. February 22, 2014.

Let me tell you my story about what has happened in Venezuela and why the protests are running today. As most of you know, The economy of Venezuela is largely based on the petroleum sector and manufacturing. Revenue from petroleum exports accounts for more than 50% of the country’s GDL and roughly 95% of total exports. Venezuela is the fifth largest member of OPEC by oil production. For that moment, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the country was a rich place where many immigrants (e.g. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Colombian people, and so on) came to Venezuela to start business and send their founds to their families. Our currency, Bolivar (Bs) was a strong currency and you could get $4,30 US for 1 bolivar. The nation enjoyed the highest standard of living in Latin America. Politically, there were only two parties: COPEI (as conservatives in Canada) and AD (as liberals in Canada). These two parties switched the elections every four years, they could never repeat a period because the constitution didn’t allow it. During 1970’s and 1980’s were a lot of corruption and stupid things, for example, giving as a gift a cruise to Bolivia, a country that doesn’t have exit to ocean or sea. Illiterate people number increased every year as well as went up poverty, criminality, and robbery. In 1980 the collapse of oil prices contracted the economy, and inflation skyrocketed to reach peaks 84% and 99% in 1996.

On February 27, 1988 I was studying at the university, my first year of journalism, when I saw the most unbelievable social explosion in my country. People broke big windows from stores and took everything that they could get in their hands. My country has mountains of houses in extremely poverty where people hardly have water, electricity, and toilets. All those people got down and took over the city (Caracas). I had the opportunity to take some pictures because as a student of journalism it was a big assignment. But away to be interested what I was looking at, I was really scared and I thought that looters would invade my grandmother house where I used to live and they robbed everything including would abuse me and my grandma. It was gothic! It’s so interesting that the trigger was the increasing of public transportation fee in a country where gas was cheaper that a glass of water…ironically true…

Four years after, on February 4, 1992, I was awakened and surprised a morning with strong noise from Army plains. I turned on my television and I saw for the first time, Hugo Chavez, announcing that “this is coup d’etat against the president Carlos Andres Perez”.  That movement was planned for many participants of the ex-communists and supported by Venezuelan armed forces. Chavez soon gave himself up the government and said: “Comrades, unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital…for now”. Then a second coup attempt took place on November 27, the same year, while Chavez was in prison.

As a politic strategy, a president candidate, Rafael Caldera, condoned the gradual deterioration of Venezuelan democracy, blamed the president Perez, and promised to pardon the coup plotters and later did so, which allowed Hugo Chavez to participate in (and win) the 1998 presidential election. In that way, Venezuela is divided in two big parts of history, one before and another one with Chavez. Because this guy changed everything, the constitution, the laws, the public powers, the national flag, public institutions names, media rules, and even our education in schools. He changed all our history and adapted it according to his national and personal goals. He could be elected twice, three, four times to have chavism forever. It must be noted that he was advised by Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba. We started to see that Venezuela looks like Cuba. He brought a big group of physicians from Cuba, changed curricula of universities such as Cuba has. We begun to use a ticket to buy food. The most ridiculous thing was that Venezuela begun to give petroleum to Cuba for nothing…I wonder…what can they give us?

People saw, listened, and got upset on the Venezuela situation. A day, Chavez started to control the main source of revenue, Petroleos de Venezuela, the chicken of gold eggs, and he announced to replace the Board of Directors of PDVSA for his followers, let me be honest, people who didn’t know anything about the business. So PDVSA employees planned a strike. Chavez took advantages of the situation and laid off all of them. More that 20,000 engineers, technicians, administrative assistants, accountants, etc, were fired…! Then, the rest of the country supported them and whole country was in a national strike. Chavez never planned a discussion with the opposition and affected people , he was so stubborn and demonstrated that he could do a country without the middle class…He merely wanted all middle class out of Venezuela. For that reason, many Venezuelans immigrated because they were considered enemies of the government and they couldn’t get jobs and have a normal life. It was like a witch hunter!

Since 1999, I couldn’t be the same, my work as a journalist had to change forever. I thought if I would speak what I was thinking I would be in risk. So my radio show was about international news. I didn’t interview politicians. I remember that once my boss asked me to interview Chavez with other journalists because he was visiting the TV station. Of course, I denied to interview him and my boss understood and respected my stand which I appreciated it. In 2002, more protests run on streets. I was so sad that I couldn’t participate because I had my second newly born and was breastfeeding her. The situation in Venezuela was so ugly and news said that Chavez wasn’t in the country. A coup d’etat organized by citizens belonging the opposition got Chavez in prison. But that action last only a couple of hours because the opposition didn’t have a good plan and Chavez had a lot of followers.

Venezuela is a divided country by “chavism” and opposition. That ideology increased bad feelings and hate between members of the family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours. People distrust each other and sometimes they think there are eyes which following them as spies…very similar how Cuba is. Venezuelan begun to measure water, electricity, and food. The shelves on grocery stores have few products or even worst have no products. Citizens have to do long lines to buy a kilo of sugar, or chicken. We don’t grow anything. Our typical meal “arepas” made with corn powder, is imported from Colombia or US. Additionally, kidnapping and criminality are a huge problem. Every weekend more people died than a war place. Actually, I was a victim of a group of robbers who came to my house, forced with weapon all my family (husband, little kid, my mother, stepfather, and I) to be in a room while they took kitchen supplies, beauty products, clothing, TVs, and a car. I couldn’t sleep over a week because their faces and sounds were in my mind. I don’t want to live in a country where human being value is too little.

It’s enough!!! Even though I am living in another country…I don’t want that kind of lifestyle for my people. I am so sad for people who are dying in protests but I can’t see other way. Venezuela deserves better government and administrators of democracy. We need wellbeing, prosperity, and security…that’s my claim!

Audience Really Votes

4 Jul

Last night, I was watching “America’s got talent” with my two children. In this show, a variety of people with certain talent participates on it and a group of three judges choose the best people, and finally America decides the winner. However, the TV producers of the  show did a small change last night and let the judge (Howie, Sharon, and Howard) made the final decision. One of the judge, Howie, had a smart idea consulting audience through Twitter. He confessed that the fairest decision is made by audience and Twitter was the best via to consult them.

The most of TV shows tends to consult the audience. The TV producers have realized that they are working for the audience and with the audience. Their goals are getting closer to the needs of the audience leaving a part professional ego and bias of the rpoducers. The point is to give importance to people for attracting more fans. And the connection between TV shows and audience is greatly possible with the arriving of the different tools of social media and networks.  This principle remains me the supervening social necessities theory (Winston, 1998)* which notes that the ideation of prototypes come from social necessities.

In the past, telephone communications were the best way to connect with the TV audience. Now, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and text messages are accurate and immediately via to get feedback and stands from people. Constantly, producers and TV show  business professionals ask and consult what audience thinking. Therefore, Howie checked his cell phone to know audience decisions through Twitter. America’s got talent is made to people where they can vote and make decisions. Collaboration is the key and Howie knows how it works.

(*) Winston, B. (1998) Media technology and society. London: Routledge.

Tips to Collect Historical Twitter Data

26 May

Working on my final project of the Master in communication and technology, I found interesting information that I would like to share with you. I realized that our Twitter accounts keep old tweets for certain limited time. If you are interested to recover past tweets for academic, working or just for fun purposes, it is good to know the following tips:

-Twitter site has a search engine which you could seek historical tweets. For instance, if you go to basic searching you will find sites and hashtags. Also, Twitter has advanced search that allow you to search usernames using words, people names and places. However, for searching in a specific period time, this search engine it was not very helpful for me.

The Library of Congress announced that it will have available an interesting archive of tweets. Recently, I emailed the Library of Congress and one of its representative informed me that this service is not available yet. If you want to request more information click here.

-I checked others bloggers about this topic I would like to recommend this link: http://www.twitip.com/welcome-to-the-hive-mind-learn-how-to-search-twitter/ 

-One of my friend, expert in social media, recommended me to check the following link to find socialsearching info: https://api.twitter.com/oauth/authenticate?oauth_token=Nq5oCfBGHsYVms7DW97QHg9fvCaS741xnBlVpmt2s. And, If you want to organize the twitter data, this is a useful link: http://datasift.com/ 

-The last option that I found and more convenient for me is: http://topsy.com/. This platform allows me to search all tweets in a specific period time through words, hashtags, phrase, relevance, and language. Furthermore, you can obtain statistical information on tweets downloading its software and services.

I hope this information will be useful for you. If you have more tips to collect twitter data, please being generous with the world.

“Let’s Stop Lies and Hypocrisy”

22 May

Using this motto “Let’s stop lies and hypocrisy” Argentina through Leakymails.com (Spanish site), is other country with electronic civil disobedience. This site was open to publish emails, pictures, documents and videos sent from personal and official accounts of prominent politicians. The purpose was to expose misbehaviors and unethical actions of public figures including, for instance, Isidro Bounnine, the Private Advisor of the current President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez, as well as other visible people of the Argentine government. Leakymails was conceived by its founders as a tool and support to fight for more transparent institutions and governments in South America.

According to Graham Miekle in his book In future active: Media activism and the Internet, electronic civil disobedience or hacktivism is considered a type of protest that takes cyberspace as the actual site of action. Using technical properties as social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it formulates new tactics for effecting social changes. This kind of protest employs non – violence as Mahatma Gandhi led to liberate India. Most of their followers are anonymous (Spanish blogger)  and they are characterized by geographic dispersion, lack of physical structure (virtual space), and its flexible organization. One of the most important electronic civil disobedience was inspired by the Zapatista movement.

Currently, Leakymails.com is a site open for everybody and anyone may consult them and also collaborate with them sending “sensitive information”.  You could follow Leakymails through Twitter and Facebook.

Social Capital Day!

20 May

Last Friday, I finished my second spring institute of the Master’s degree program at the University of Alberta. It was held at the Enterprise Square building in Edmonton. It was a fantastic opportunity for all cohorts 2011 to show our research posters and have feedback from attendees including professors, U of A staff, and public in general. Among my invites were my family from Calgary, and also my friend, Marjorie Morris. She gave me support and good advices during my stay in her house in Edmonton.

In my booth passed by the professor Marco Adria who provided me some recommendations to get ethical approval in my research and suggestions about electives. As well the professor Ann Curry evaluated and provided a couple of points for my study. On the other hand, guests stopped in my booth and made questions and added interesting ideas for my study.

In  conclusion, it was a full day of knowledge, thoughts and ideas that allowed me to enrich my final project. It was a social capital day which I had the opportunity to share my study and had valuable information from people. It was like a wiki in real time and face-to-face dimension.

Sharing my Abstract

16 May

I have worked a lot trying to collect all my ideas and express them in a paragraph  that may be interesting for you. It is about my final project, my most important work in my master degree. Then, the following is the abstract:

Title: Content Analysis of Tweets within the University of Alberta Community in Response to a 2012 Honorary Degree

Over the past few months, different reactions emerged at U of A regarding a 2012 honorary degree recipients. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, is recognized as a worldwide leader of water resource managemet, and is also Chairman of Nestle, a multinational company allegedly implicated in the use of child labour, the unethical promotion of baby formula in developing nations and its advocacy of water privatization. Based on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles, this study will analyze the content of several Twitter sites within the University of Alberta on this honorary degree issue. The content analysis will be conducted using tweets harvested from February 1st to April 30th, 2012, considering the time before, during and after the honorary degree event which was held on March 1st. The research will analyze frequency of use and context of terms such as “water,” “Nestle,” and “honorary degree,” and through this analysis provide insight into the stakeholder sites that were involved in the issue and the categories of messages posted following the issue. To obtain Twitter data, I will use the Topsy.com search engine. This research will focus on U of A’s Twitter sites related to university stakeholders (e.g. students, professors, and staff) and the U of A sustainability offices.

The book about Julian Assange

16 May

One of the most striking book that I read this year is  “The most dangerous man in the world : how one hacker ended corporate and government secrecy forever”. I remember that I was at the library looking for bibliography  on wikis for an assignment and  suddenly, Assange was in front of me…I mean the book about him.  Assange, an amateur, a hacker, or whatever you want to name him; he revolutionized the broadcasting field in U.S.A.  The book talks about how this Australian achieved that anybody could do before in the way that he did: publicly. For example the video “Wikileaks Iraq shooting” shocked people around the world.  This video showed how works military strategies and what is the target.

The book was written by Andrew Fowler who is from Australia as Assange, and provides details about twist and turns of the Assange’s life. Fowler is a journalist and was the first person to interview Assange for ABC channel in 2010. In a interview for ABC, Fowler offered details about Assange and recognized that this man is so secretive as organizations he targets.