Sri Lanka

'Geek Store' Providing Affordable Shop Space for Artists and Small Sellers

The Geek Store.jpg

Colombo’s new Geek venture, the “Geek Store,” offers store space to small and new vendors, and even individual artists, at special, low rates in order to get their products out to the local community.

These are their rates:

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“There are a lot of smaller vendors in the community, like collectors or diecast merchants, and even artists who do hand-painted pictures,” said Geek HQ founder, Angelo Pereira. “But many of them do not have a store presence. This makes it harder for them to grow, and sell on a regular, sustainable basis. I thought ‘hey, what if we can come up with low-cost shelf or store space so they can always be selling, throughout the year?”

The spaces start at 2 feet square blocks, going up to 10 feet square blocks.  There is also a product for people doing Geek services, such as makeup or instructional workshops, complete with an “appointment book” so they can book their client visits.

The Fairway shortlisted, Sri lankan zombie novel, ‘Zeelam’ will be available at the Geek Store in October.

The Fairway shortlisted, Sri lankan zombie novel, ‘Zeelam’ will be available at the Geek Store in October.

“Outside of the usual merchandising events like Lanka Comic Con, it is tough for smaller sellers and artists to get their work out there,” said Thilani Samarasinha, principal organizer of Lanka Comic Con, and herself a small vendor of her own, independent comics brand, Island Comics. “It is important for their growth to be able to sell easily, throughout the year. This will help them move towards sustainable, full-time livelihoods.”

The Geek store is currently offering 10% off on their rates, for anyone who books and pays for a space with them, before November 1st. Spots are limited.

The ‘Geek Store’ is opening at the Geek HQ on 17A Frankfurt Place, Colombo 4.
To discuss booking a space, please contact Angelo at 0716014509, or geekhq.sl@gmail.com .

The Geek store is presented by Paintedfigs.

Geek HQ , home of the Geek Store, coming in October.

Geek HQ, home of the Geek Store, coming in October.

"Zeelam": a Sri Lankan Zombie Apocalypse Story

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Zeelam is a Sri Lankan zombie apocalypse story. In it, a Dengue-like virus makes the jump from monkeys to humans, and then starts presenting unusual, “aggressive” symptoms. Mis-diagnosed and undetected over the distraction of three decades of civil war, it evolves into a fully-fledged, zombie virus.
 

The World of Zeelam

Zee Hunter Weapons: T-56 Assault Rifle (Chinese)

Zee Hunter Weapons: T-56 Assault Rifle (Chinese)

Zeelam looks at a different Sri Lanka, one under siege from constant attacks, and where a mosquito’s bite is seen as potentially fatal – for the victim, and those around them. The army has developed specialist first response units called ‘Kill Teams’, specially armed and equipped to take on the ‘Zees.’

Zee Hunter Weapons: QBS-09 Shotgun (Chinese)

Zee Hunter Weapons: QBS-09 Shotgun (Chinese)

The larger burden though, is carried by society. NGOs inspect homes for mosquito breeding places, check for infected people and hiding Zees, and must fight without fire arms. Bus conductors and shopkeepers all carry Mortein, and people dress to cover as much skin as they can.

As in all Zombie stories, the greatest danger is not from the disease, but from other people. In Zeelam it is a government so stupid and corrupt, it places the survival of the very nation in danger. The GMOA, as usual, goes on strike. Officials cover up each other’s crimes. Red tape - and even social media bans - hold up life-saving news. It is against this additional challenge, the characters must fight to somehow save their country.
 

The Characters of Zeelam

Zee Hunter Weapons: Full body armor

Zee Hunter Weapons: Full body armor

Zeelam follows three main characters. Ruven Daniels is a Tamil soldier in an SL Army ‘Kill Team’. As a first responder, he quickly notices an increasing sophistication in the Zee attacks. Daniels must balance the reality ‘on the ground’, with the government’s flawed approach to not just the disease, but the very business of government. He is also younger; he did not serve against the LTTE, but must deal with some of the baggage that war created. Baggage which, even today, no one really wants to talk about.

Zee Hunter Weapons: Katana

Zee Hunter Weapons: Katana

Dinuka Fernando is a Sinhalese, NGO Zee Hunter. Her privately-funded group studies the virus, and shares data with groups at home and abroad -- but also knocks on people’s doors, checking for mosquito breeding – and Zee infection. Part of a mostly-female group, they work with and support other women in the field but must also deal with sexists who don’t take them seriously, in our “show bobz” city.

Siripala Fonseka is a government inspector who has a closer relationship with the virus than he cares for. He tries to balance his duty against his illness, and how to live with what he’s done.
 

The Themes of Zeelam

Zee Hunter Weapons: Combat Knife

Zee Hunter Weapons: Combat Knife

Other issues the book deals with are domestic violence, the culture of silence that protects it, and Buddhist-Muslim tension. It also reminds that the Chinese are now next door, and that what’s good for China’s String of Pearls is not necessarily what’s good for us.

By request: below is the first chapter of Zeelam. Zeelam is on preorder at Amazon, and drops on May 5th. Those without Kindles can download the free Kindle app, to their Android phones or tablets.

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“Let’s go! Outbreak at the Hilton, a three-year-old’s birthday party.”

Men in long-sleeved camouflage ran out of the building, assault rifles slapping against the backs. In front of the building’s “Financial Crimes Investigation Department” sign, they pulled on visored assault helmets and mounted motorbikes. Two Sri Lankan Army Defender jeeps pulled up, SL ARMY – EPIDEMIOLOGY UNIT stenciled on their doors. Other men came running out and boarded them. One handed his flamethrower tanks to grasping hands, which pulled him in next.

“The Hilton?” asked Jehan the driver, in the lead Defender. “During office traffic? Bloody bad scene.”

Lieutenant Ruven Daniels climbed into the passenger seat turned and looked back. “Motorbikes, get on the pavements and go down York Street. Defenders will take Janadhipathi Mawatha.”

The bikers nodded, and roared off, two to a vehicle. The Defenders pulled away, and started their sirens and red and blue emergency lights. The security guard outside the Steuart watched as they turned onto Hospital Lane. The early-drinking office crowd look stunned and stood in the way, before fleeing at the last moment. They hit Chatham Street and passed Namal’s Shelby Mustang.

The pollution-pink sunset was moving out to sea. Cars were stuffed into the road like Marie biscuits in a pack. Jehan harassed them with the horn, but the other cars moved aside too slowly.

“Fuck this,” Daniels opened his door and climbed down. “Everybody out! We go on foot.”

The soldiers jumped out and ran past the World Trade Centre. Chinese tourists outside the Dutch hospital stopped and took pictures of them (a local did too, but was told not to by the security guard). They hit York Street, which was already full of people rushing to get away, or coming to see the show. Rubbernecking drivers clogged the road.

Outside the Hilton’s entrance, they saw the bikers dismounted by a police barricade. Policeman lined it, T-56 assault rifles aimed at the people running out. Two of the bikers were arguing with a fat officer with a Saddam Hussein mustache and a matching frown.

“What’s going on here?” Asked Daniels. He was standing beside the board with the day’s events; 5 to 8pm was “Baby Santush Birthday Party”.

“These are your men?” The fat officer made a face like a disgusted auntie’s. “They are abusing me and making unnecessary statements!”

“Yes,” said a biker, “you’re a bunch of motherfuckers.”

 “Hold on,” Daniels raised his hand, “are you the OIC?”

“Yes,” Saddam Hussein gave the biker a dirty look.

“Why aren’t your men inside? You know the rule about outbreak first responders. There are people in there.”

Saddam’s eyes bugged out. “That is not our responsibility! This is your job, here, you Army fellows can’t get late and then put this on us! That’s a fine thing no men!”

“Alright,” the Lieutenant turned to face his men. “Were going in on our own.”

 

Waiters, guests, and a sun-burned tourist who had lost his slippers, were straining against the locked banquet doors, bracing them. The door pressed out, bursting full, loud pounding on the other side. Animal snarling and howling came through, above Daniels could hear a woman screaming.

“Thank God you’re here!” The F&B manager had his back against the doors. Some of the soldiers rushed up and helped the waiters hold the doors back. The others formed a semicircle facing the doors, and cocked their rifles.

“What happened here?” Asked Daniels.

“The MP, Dharmapala,” the manager wiped sweat from his forehead, “he came in last night with a Russian prostitute. Checked into a room on the fourth floor.”

“You heard him,” Daniels nodded to a corporal. “Fourth floor. “

The corporal gestured to the rest of his fire team, and the four men ran down the hallway.

“Then what?”

“Then, nothing sir. There were no disturbances, no complaints from the other guests. In the morning housekeeping found their room door open, but there was no sign of either of them. There was some blood on the bed, but we thought maybe she was having her period. Maybe he liked that? You get all kinds of people coming here with their girlfriends and mistresses.

“The next thing we know, they came out from behind the curtains in Ballroom 2.”

“What?” Jehan shook his head. “They turned, somehow met no one on their way down here, and then hid quietly until the evening? And none of the event planners setting up knew there was a Zee MP and a hooker in the room?”

Something hurled itself against the doors.

“Have you met event planners? Look, I am just telling you what I know.”

“It’s alright,” said Daniels. “You done very well containing the threat. You saved a lot of lives. We’ll take it from here. All civilians, exit that way. Put your hands over your heads so the police don’t get scared and shoot you.”

 

“Now!”

The soldiers at the doors moved back a step, and the door cracked open. Blood stained arms pressed through, waving and clawing, a torn nail fell to the carpet. A toddler’s head poked through at the bottom: it’s eyes were conjunctivitis-red. It chomped at the soldiers and growled, it’s teeth clacking loudly. It poked its chubby arms through and began crawling through the crack, it’s black Baby Chanel dress torn and bloodsoaked.

Someone shot it in the face. It exploded, spraying gore and bone fragments over the soldiers.

The creatures roared at the sound and started forcing themselves through. Crouching, firing a round at a time, the soldiers picked them off. Each bullet punching through a face and exploding out the back. The dead quickly clogged the doorway.

“Open wider!”

The soldiers pulled the doors further open, and the beasts started rushing through in twos and threes, clambering over the kill pile. The firing filled the hallway like door slams, shot after shot. Daniels wiped blood off his visor, streaking it.  The soldiers moved back to make room for the pile.

“How many guests?” Yelled Jehan, back against the door, a pistol in one hand and a machete in the other.

“All the slow ones,” yelled Daniels.

A man with his leg bitten off crawled around the door and clawed at Jehan. Jehan hacked down with the machete, it chopped through like a coconut. He shoved his boot against the corpse’s shoulder and wrenched his blade free.

The herd began to thin. They pulled the doors wider, and finally completely open. Wearing thick rubber gloves, the door-holders formed pairs and dragged corpses from the entrance. Machetes rose and fell, chopping through necks. A glaring head with a Ramani Salon’s haircut rolled in front of Daniels. It’s eyes stared at him, raging infection red.

“Let’s clear it.”

Table cloths were stained red with more than wine. Shredded flower settings were strewn across the floor. A baby Zee in an Oshkosh romper had got tangled in baby blue bunting, and was eating a severed hand with perfect nails. It looked up at the soldiers as they fanned into the room, and then went back to biting the hand that fed it.

Zees crouched feeding in clusters over corpses on the floor, and on tables. Most were in designer clothing and shoes. The sound system was playing The Summer of ‘69.

“I love this song!” said Jehan.

“Shut up,” said Daniels. “Focus.”

The machete-men joined them, and working with riflemen they began clearing the hall.

“So this was some three-year-old’s birthday party?” Asked Jehan, beheading a one-armed woman wearing a Sonali Dharmawardena cocktail dress. “This is why I vote JVP.”   

Daniels frowned. “It doesn’t make sense. Corporal Mendis says there’s no other infected in the building,” he shot a Zee wearing a black and white Ramona Oshini, that suddenly got up and charged. “How did they come down here and hide, without attacking anyone else?”

“Sleepers,” said Jehan. “They must’ve woken up and found themselves here, when the setup team came in. Probably too afraid to leave in case they got asked questions. They wouldn’t take a chance, and then come evening, they went symptomatic.” A two-year-old Zee came running towards him. He kicked it, hard, and the baby sailed away. Someone else shot it before it could get back up.

“But when they were symptomatic last night, they should have killed people.” Said Daniels. “Even late at night, I can’t believe they didn’t encounter anyone. And why come here?”

“They prefer to prey on women and children. It is the wife beater virus.”

“But there weren’t any here last night. How could they know to hide here? Zees can’t read.”

Some of the other soldiers began beheading and lining up corpses by the entrance of the hall. A couple started removing gold rings and chains from a dead woman. They saw Daniels staring at them, and they quietly put them down like guilty schoolboys.

“I don’t know,” Jehan shrugged. “But I have a question. What was Dharmapala doing in the Hilton?”

“He was fucking, Sergeant.”

A large table flipped over and an obese, naked man, balding and covered in blood stains, roared at the soldiers.

“It’s the MP!” Yelled someone. “Shoot him, shoot him!”

Several assault rifles fired, throwing back the naked Member of Parliament. Unflinching, it raised out its fat hands like they were claws, eyes bright red, and got up and charged again.

A single shot rang out, entering his forehead. The Zee went down and the soldiers cheered. One ran over and took a selfie with it.

“I know he was fucking!” Jehan turned back to Daniels. “I mean, why did he come to the Hilton when he was just with a Russian hooker?”

“That’s a very mean thing to say. Maybe he wanted to be nice to her.”

“Lieutenant, a hooker doesn’t insist on the Hilton. A mistress does.”

Daniels stopped.

“So then where’s the mistress?”

He turned and walked to the entrance where the corpses were being laid out. Two soldiers sharing a smoke looked up at him. One was a sergeant, his hair gone to salt and pepper. He had a scar running across his cheek: a souvenir of the last war.

“Check all the women, and the pretty-looking men,” said Daniels.

“What are we checking for?” Asked Scar Face.

“A mistress, Raveen.”

The soldiers looked at each other.

“Look at how these women were dressed,” said Raveen. “They must have thrown bras at Enrique.”

“Now that is an unnecessary comment,” said the other soldier waggling his head. “But Sir, all bored, Colombo 7, housewives, no? My wife - not me! - She follows the gossip pages on Facebook. Look at the state of our country, Sir.”

Daniel sighed. “Raveen, don’t talk like that again in my presence. Now check under all the tables, and behind all the curtains.”

“There are no more, Sir,” said a soldier across the room. “We got them all.”

“Well check for any that are hiding.”

“But Zees don’t hide at night, Sir.”

“Just do it!”

Slowly, the soldiers began to check under table cloths and behind drapes.

“All done,” said Raveen a few minutes later. “This is a waste of time. Sir.”

“No,” Daniels pointed, and started walking. “No one has checked the table with the cake.”

“It’s in the center of the room,” said Jehan. “Nothing would hide there.”

Daniels stopped at the cake. It was in three tiers , each one as baby-blue as the bunting. White marzipan clouds decorated it, and on top was a figurine of a blue-uniformed, airline pilot.

Daniels lifted up the tablecloth with the tip of his rifle.

The Zee screamed and charged out, Daniels fired but the shot went wide as she shoved the gun aside. She barreled into him and knocked him to the ground, a woman in a black nightee with a ball gag hanging around her throat. She spat blood on his visor and clawed at his uniform, nails digging.

The side of her head exploded. The Zee collapsed over Daniels, who rolled her off and got to his feet.

Jehan holstered his smoking pistol. “Either that’s the mistress,” he walked over to Daniels, “or children’s birthday parties are only suitable for adults. To be fair, it’s never about the children anymore, is it?”

International Visitors: What you Need to Know

The Venue

The SLECC is the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Center. Here it is on Google Maps

Here is a map you can download / print. 

(Please ignore the bit where is says "permanently closed", I don't know what's up with that)

If your driver seems mystified about the largest exhibition hall in the country (it happens), please show them the map.

Hotels

We recommend. Jetwing Colombo Seven, a property of Jetwing, the Hospitality Partner for the Asus Lanka Comic Con, 2017. 

Jetwing is one of the leading hotel chains in the country; has high TripAdvisor rankings, and is committed to sustainable tourism.

Jetwing Colombo Seven is offering a special rate to visitors coming to Comic Con, of 150 USD for a single or double room, with bed and breakfast. Just mention you are coming to Lanka Comic Con and want the special rate, when doing your booking. 

 

Alternative hotels are: 
The Colombo City Hotel (Walking distance)
Cinnamon Lakeside (Walking distance)
The Kingsbury (Walking distance)
The Hilton (Walking distance)
Cinnamon Grand
The Galle Face Hotel
 

 

Transport

Please use Uber or Pickme. We recommend Pickme, it is the Sri Lankan version of Uber, but pro-humanity. They treat their drivers well, and they've helped out in times of national crisis. 

You can download the Pickme App here.

Pickme is the Travel Partner of the Asus Lanka Comic Con 2017. 

 

 

 

Currency / ATMs

You can change your money for Sri Lankan Rupees at the airport, or your hotel.  

If you use an ATM, please make sure the ATM can handle a foreign-issued card. Some local bank ATMs have difficulty with newer-issued, international cards. 

You can use HSBC and Standard Chartered ATMs though, without problems.

If you are having currency changing issues on the event day, please ask for one of the organizers. 

This is the nearest HSBC ATM, to the venue. 

This is the nearest HSBC ATM, to the venue. 

Dengue

Dengue is endemic to Colombo. Keep your windows shut, and avoid places where you see mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites you, don't freak out-  it is fantastically unlikely that anyone is going to get dengue because one mosquito, bit them once, over a 2-3 day visit. But, if you hang out somewhere you keep getting bitten by mosquitoes, you are being a dumbass.   

 

Heat

Both the climate, and the food, may be hotter than you expect. Drink lots of water, especially if you're spending time outdoors. 

Lanka Comic Con Wins US Grant to start Nonprofit Comic Book Press

Work In Progress from the upcoming  Extra Ordinary

Work In Progress from the upcoming Extra Ordinary

The Lanka Comic Con Trust has been awarded a grant by the US State Department, to start a nonprofit, comic book press in Sri Lanka. It will be an art and literature platform for local creators, in all three, national languages.

"I wanted to create a sustainable comic book industry by offering printing at close to cost as possible," said Thilani Samarasinha, who came up with the idea for the press. 

Cost Kills

I wanted to create a sustainable comic book industry by offering printing at close to cost as possible.
— Thilani Samarasinha, head of Lanka Comic Con

You see at lot of "Issue 1" comics in this town, but you don't always see them reach "Issue 2." Cost is the biggest challenge for local writers, artists, and comic book storytellers. It means creating is something they see looking back in the mirror, while getting ready for work.  

But what if that changed?
What if the cost of printing was brought down, dramatically?

"I looked up the prices of printers, their specs, whether they could handle both volume and the right quality," said Thilani. "I went to Pettah and talked to paper suppliers, getting their bulk rates. Even my useless husband came, complaining."

Gradually she built a business model, for low cost, sustainable printing. The numbers worked, it just needed the equipment and supplies.

The American Center 

Joshua Shen of the Office of Public Diplomacy helped us here. He liked the idea: he felt that after so many years of conflict, young Sri Lankans could use comics to to help bring communities together. He pointed out they could help, we just needed to apply and go through the process. Whenever we got discouraged, he urged us to keep working at it. 

None of us have ever written a grant before. It was a bit like this: 

Extra Ordinary

The first comic the Lanka Comic Con Press will be producing is a Extra Ordinary, a supernatural story set in modern day Sri Lanka.

Work In Progress sketches from  Extra Ordinary

Work In Progress sketches from
Extra Ordinary

"I love comics by the big publishing houses, but they're about cultures that are not my own," said Thilani.  "I wanted to write something about who we are. Contemporary, but about our history and culture."

Thilani was also keen to make sure that Extra Ordinary be written in all three languages, to make it a a properly 'Sri Lankan' comic. Translation services will also be on offer from the Lanka Comic Con Press. 

"There are a lot of new comic artists in Sri Lanka now," said Nimesh Niyomal , the artist for Extra Ordinary, who previously did The Grey Walker. "But they are being pushed to digital because of costs. I feel a comic needs to be on paper." 

"Nimesh, is a a total professional," said Thilani. "And he too wants to see a body of original, local comics, by other Sri lankan writers and artists." 

I feel a comic needs to be on paper.
— Nimesh Niyomal
Diana , by Nimesh Niyomal

Diana, by Nimesh Niyomal

We are hoping to have Extra Ordinary ready in time to launch at the Asus Lanka Comic Con 2017, but if not the creators will be on hand to talk about it. And of course, the Lanka Comic Con Press. 

We're not ready to go public with the pricing yet, but expect a dramatically cheaper structure, allowing for both retailer and distributor margins, while maintaining a low price for the reader, and high quality printing. 

Today, I am a very proud, useless husband.  

Yamato One: Sri Lanka's first Anime and Manga Startup

The Yamato One Team.  Arigato!  

The Yamato One Team. Arigato! 

There are plenty of things harder than starting a business. Going to war. Doing surgery on yourself. Watching Transformers. But few trials are as a sustained as starting a business, especially in a town with so many negative nancies.  You give up a full-time income. You work 12+ hour days. Your friends wait patiently, for you to fail. 

But you do it. And sometimes, you're the one who succeeds.

"Lots of people advised us that anime is not popular in Sri Lanka," said Tami Fukii, co-founder of Yamato One. "But we thought there must be lots of anime/manga fans here and just need an opportunity." 

Tami and fellow founder Clinton de Kretser, had had the idea of starting a dedicated anime and manga business in Sri Lanka, for years. It would be something new and fun for Sri Lanka, especially for teenagers and adults. "You see toddler's shops full of toys, but it's hard to get gifts for teenagers, isn't it?"

While some say anime is childish, Clinton and Tami hold it to be entertainment for all ages. Topics range from romance and adventure, all the way to sports (Slam Dunk, Initial D), to biographies (Osamu Tezuka), even food (Yakitate).

The product was there; but was the market? 

Lots of people advised us that anime is not popular in Sri Lanka.
— Tami Fukii

After a trial event, they decided to take the plunge, and and bought a stall at Lanka Comic Con 2016. "We we're hoping, hoping, and hoping that people would come along who knew anime and manga," said Tami. "We underestimated Sri Lankan anime fans. Their knowledge and passion for anime/manga was amazing."

Yamato One is now the most popular anime and manga seller in the country. They actively engage their enthusiastic customer base on their Facebook page. They have an online store that delivers Island-wide. Next, they are opening physical store in Rajagiriya. "It's in a shopping complex under construction at the Rajagiriya junction. If the complex is completed soon, the store will be open by the end of the year." 

We underestimated Sri Lankan anime fans. Their knowledge and passion for anime/manga was amazing.
— Tami Fukii

Tami ami and Clinton have a larger vision than just buying and selling, and want to support the anime/manga community.  "We'd like to do a project with local anime and manga artists and fans." 

Yamato One will be at Lanka Comic Con, 2017. 

Lanka Comic Con Supports the Empowerment of Young Women

Lanka Comic Con congratulates the students, staff, and families of Musaeus and Visakha, for claiming their half of the national sport. 

You're doing good work changing ideas about what women do in Sri Lanka.

We hope your example reminds young Sri Lankan women, that they too, can do anything. 

Sri Lanka’s first All-Geek Christmas Shopping event is happening on the 4th

17 different geek vendors (so far) are coming together for The Geek Xmas Market.  Three, yet to be announced, are international brands. This is going to be the best local opportunity to buy geek gifts for your loved ones. Perhaps more importantly, it's their opportunity to buy them for you.  

You’ll find collectibles, posters, comic books, shirts, jewelry, handmade pieces - you name it. We even have someone making bantha milk shakes (you're going to love those).  We are building a list of the vendors, here

 

The Collectibles exhibition

For the first time in Sri Lanka, we are also having a collectibles exhibition. This is being organised by the Geek Club of Sri Lanka's Collectors Page. You can hear more about this from the founders, Tony and Shanil, here

 

We would not be Geeks, if you were not also having some games. For one, the LARP Guild of Sri Lanka will be holding a sword fighting tournament - no prior training (or swords) necessary for this child-friendly event. However expect some cardio. You can hear the founder, Johann Balasuriya, talk about what’s planned, here.

This is going to be the best local opportunity to buy geek gifts for your loved ones. Perhaps more importantly, it’s their opportunity to buy them for you.

They're also going to be some interactive presentation and a hands-on workshop on how to shoot collectibles. If you want to get the most out of the macro photography workshop, please bring your camera.

TNL Radio is the official radio partner for the Geek Xmas Market.

 

The Geek Xmas Market will be happening at Trace Expert City in Maradana. You can follow the event on Facebook, here