Category Archives: Hidden Playground

Sometimes I feel like writing about the small, trivial and unimportant stuff. This is the place I created for myself to play with writing that has no obvious purpose. This will also be the home of the personal notes of my travels that I am only confortable to share with a small group of friends. The writing here might be sloppy in style. Maybe I’ll give too many details. It is a way for me to share what I need to and for you to have a peek behind the curtain.

Please, read it with playfulness!

I am grateful that you are here, dancing with me on this odd melody.

The Oankali Nation

Inspired by some friends and by this video about Republic of Molossia, here is a micronation I’d like to play with:


UNA is a nation of humans ocuppying 57,021 square kilometres on Mars. It’s not that we dislike Earth’s climate and its inhabitants, on the contrary. We base ourselves in Mars because all the land on Earth is subject to a pattern of human organization that we want to escape from. We think that as technology improved over the course of thousands of years, our social organization did not. We set our imagination free to create better forms of living together.

We currently live on Earth where our nation has no borders. We build oases all around the world. An oasis can be just a house but also a neighborhood or a village. We also call those oases BeingSpaces and our nation can be seen as a network of these living laboratories spread on all Earth’s continents. The core function of our nation is collective learning.

This is why you can view our nation also as a global, self organized university. Learning being so important, our Ministry of Education must be a strong institution. This is why, the moment someone in our nation decides to learn something, he immediately becomes the Minister of Education. That creates the peculiar situation of having as many Ministers of Education as we have learners. Each learner is in charge of his own learning and as Ministers of Education, they get together to share and create community learning resources. All our knowledge is open and freely available.

Speaking of resources, we also have our own economy. It is based on gift culture and voluntary sharing. We believe that in time, abundant and free learning will create abundance of all kinds of resources. Before that happens, for the scarce resources that need to be balanced, we also have our own currency. There are no taxes, each of us decides if and how he contributes to the collective living. In foreign affairs and all other matters, all of us are Presidents. We all have diplomatic passports. Our form of organization does not transfer any authority from the collective to an individual and does not take any authority from the individual for the collective. All collaboration is voluntary.

There are many thins to be said about his alien civilization we are building. They will be said in our sociocratic assemblies, over the course of the years to come. You can take this as a joke or as an invitation to join our playful learning nation.

The Presidents

May-June highlights

In my last days in Indonesia, I had an strategic connection with the team at Hubud and Coworking Alliance of Asia Pacific, namely the co-owners Renee and Steve and the awesome guy Chris Thompson, former director of Green School Bali. Both Renee and Chris are passionate about transforming education and we share the strong feeling that the future of both alternative education, libraries and coworking spaces will converge. I’m very excited about this connection and the plans we sketched together.

Visiting Green Schoo Bali

The highlight of Mexico was the gathering of founders of alternative universities in Valle de Bravo. It was a chance for me to tie myself into Ecoversities, a global network of around 50 alternative universities around the world. As far as I know, this network gathers the highest concentration of radical thinking and doing in higher education around the world. I developed good friendships with people at the core of the network, like Liora Adler – co-founder of Gaia University, Manish Jain – co-founder Swaraj University, Victoria Haro – co-founder of Universidad del Medio Ambiente and Udi Mandel, cofounder of Enlivened Learning.  (read the full recount here)

Talking about a global system of micro-certificates buit on the Open Badges Infrastructure

Talking about a global system of micro-certificates buit on the Open Badges Infrastructureta

The gathering was followed by a collective learning journey to three disruptive rural universities in Mexico. The three universities inspired me greatly, reinforcing my desire to base my future work as a learning architect in villages. (Full article here).

The #romads invade Mexico

The #romads invade Mexico

The more personal and cozy highlight was visiting Miranda in San Miguel de Allende, together with Horatiu, Ana and Catalina (Hi guys!). It was a taste of home and a light strategic meeting of Alternative University globetrotters. Horatiu, Ana and Catalina were once students at alternative university. Ana and Catalina come from Haiti, where they learned about social work done by some remarkable people and organizations, after attending the WorldBlu Freedom at Work Summit in Miami. Horatiu came from Nigeria where he piloted the Seedstars Academy in Lagos, preparing to bring it to 10 more countries. We had a wonderful time together, we updated each other and the world domination plan.

Visiting what used to be

Visiting what used to be

The going gets tough

Last night I could not sleep. A strong headache kept me up all night, until I could see the light of a new day creeping on me through the window.

No laptop, no kindle, no phone. I tried to sleep, just laying there in the bed with the lights off. I had enough time to worry about this headache being something more serious. My budget can’t afford me getting sick.

Then my mind wondered.

I cried.

Yes, I cried in the middle of the night. Crying alone in my room is not my thing. I can’t remember myself crying in the past 15 years but my memory fails me often. Maybe it happened one or two times.

But not like this. It started from a conversation I had yesterday with my mother. My grandfather has been in the hospital for three weeks. He is fine now. They didn’t tell me before so I won’t worry.

He felt and had a heart attack. A neighbour found him lying in his yard in the morning. The image of my grandfather lying in the cold with no one to notice he is missing had me burst into tears. He is my symbol of kindness. I spent part of my childhood there, in Vadu Oii – a small village on the shore of the Danube. When I did some nasty thing he would call me and gently pull my ear while asking me not to do that again. And I was so pleased with this punishment. Doesn’t he know it does not hurt? The whole point is to hurt. It was a common practice to discipline children this way. Of course he knew. He was faking the ear pull hoping I would get it. He was kind in so many ways. I see a part of him in me and it is a part I hold dear. Picturing my kind grandfather living alone, walking with difficulty around his yard is tough.

Then I cried for my grandmother for the first time. She passed away a few months ago, shortly after I left. She had cancer and we saw it coming. I was already in Turkey for two weeks when I got a whatsapp from my sister saying she is not well. I didn’t plan to go back but a few hours later I was squeezed into a car heading for Bucharest. I left the tent and the kitesurfing equipment there on the beach, hoping I would find them a week later. I had to see my grandmother and say goodbye. She was happy to see me but she was in pain. All the family was there,  looking for ways to alleviate the pain. We were powerless. My grandma was strong. She still had hope. So the two of us did not say goodbye but I knew it would take a miracle for her to be around to greet me when I come back. Life just got fucking serious on me. I didn’t cry then. I didn’t cry when I got the news a few weeks later. I cried last night and I am crying now, as I write these words. That small house where I grew up will not have my grandmother there when I return.

A year ago, I would pass on mentioning this. Some of you might be shocked to read it. I’m changing. I learn to cry with dignity. It’s part of life. I want to learn to be open and express how I feel. Hard thing for a guy aiming to be strong all his life. I still aim at that, but “strong” means something else to me now … something I would mistake for weakness a while back. Soon enough I’ll be the old grandpa with no strenght left in my body. I wish to lough and cry at the same time, as I say goodbye to life, knowing that I reached the depths of what it means to be human.

I wish I would open this personal blog with something bright and hopeful, like the spirit of this journey. Some inspiring experience. But the idea is to let you see behind the curtain, if you are interested. I know I need this space to share. Having my family going through difficult moments while I chase unicorns around the world is the toughest thing about this. And then I will catch a unicorn and ride it up and down the rainbows and tell you all about it and then it gets tough again, rainbows again … and so it goes.
Thank you for being here :-)

The resistance to learning

I spend 6 days writing an article. I hit publish. Review it again. Go for a walk. Open it again. “It’s useless. The style is dull and the ideas are self-evident. I had to travel thousands of km for that? Writing is not my thing. Those ideas feel so interesting in my head but we they get out on paper, it’s crap. I should stop and find something else to do.”
Seconds later my metacognition kicks in: “It’s a learning process. Of course I suck. And I am right at that “valley of despair” when you feel like giving up. Writing is a valuable skill that takes eons to develop.”
After I got over this issue, I had a fantastic walk around Da Nang.

Nerdy focus

“Sir, do you want to rent a motorbike?”
“No, thank you.”- the autopilot responds! I cross the street, absolutely sure that I did not want it. Not now, not later.

Three seconds go by and a feeble thought pulls me by the sleeve:  “You went through hell to get a motorbike in high school. And you enjoyed so much riding it. Why are you so sure?”

“I have to finish the article!”

“But you did not even notice the thing!??” – said the 17-year-old me, discouraged. “It could have been a prize for finishing the damn article! … you boring nerd!”

We left the conversation hanging and we went on to share a veg-burger.