Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Puerto Vallarta with Laura & Jay

We are completing 6 days at the beach in Mexico. For me it has been a much different trip but most enjoyable.

Last year while studying Spanish in Tlaquepague, Jalisco. Mexico. I came here for 3 nights. My good fortune was to find a hostel that is now ranked by Lonely Planet # 1 in Vallarta. Part of the complex is a hotel with rooms & another building with suites.

Ricardo, Vallarta Sun, decided to upgrade us to two suites with no increase in rate. It has been great as we each have our own room with private, bath, kitchen and a balcony. The pool is below and the beach is 1 block away.

Puerto Vallarta is quite safe. Similar to my other Latin Americn trips, it is sunny every day & here temperatures ranging from 76 to 85 during the day.

Jay is quite skilled at finding great beach locations. Three chairs, table & umbrella right up front at the water for the day. You get your drinks & food from them & they treat you like kings. We stayed almost five hours today for $ 10 +- a piece.

Zip Lines aka Canopy Tour.

The high point (literally, well except the beach did beat all.) was our 10 zip line Canopy Tour (canopy because you glide above tropical vegetation, canyons & streams. It was an adventure as we hiked up lots of stairs & trails, well atop a nearby mountain.

You are harnessed with two safety leads. You step up & the Mexican guide hooks you up tells you to lie back with legs straights or knees bent depending on speed needed to complete the trip. Listo (ready?) and off you to. For me it was at first a bit daunting as you ate suspended by wire high above & you are going, going. Once acclimated some choose to go upside down backward or spinning. Not Laura & me!

The three Mexican guides were great providing water stops when needed. It was not just me who had to stop several times to catch his breath!

(pictures to follow on Fcebook.)


We found the restaurants nearby offered great food at reasonable prices, given a beach resort. Several were right on the beach. Tonight, our last, will be a great Mexican restaurant two blocks away.

Spanish school & Semana Santa

Two afternoons I left Laura & Jay at the beach to trudge 35 minutes to Solexico for two hours of Spanish class. It was great & I highly recommend the school to language students.

This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) & a big holiday week in Mexico. The religious outdoor activities are bland at best here in comparison to Queretero last year.

Getting here! The only pain for Jay's sinus infection & our flight here. Due to storm in the U.S. Saturday, April 16th, our flight out of Baltimore was 80 minutes delayed - leaving us literally 7 minutes to race out the plane, down the ramp, into the terminal & down/around to the loading plane connection. Phew! Jay's infection along with flying interaction made for a rough 1st day & several days adjusting. But all in al we had a greatweek.

I highly recommend Puerto Vallarta & Vallarta Sun hotel & hostel to anyone looking f a wonderful foreign beach vacation. No sadly, its back to work full time! For me, 6 1/2 more weeks!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Presente! - A weekend with Witness for Peace

Taking a break from lesson planning & grades, I made my way to the YMCA South Mountain Camp just outside Wernersville, PA. this past weekend. The weekend revolved around Fr. Roy Bourgeois who started the SOA Watch: Close the School of the Americas which is a part of Ft. Benning, Georgia. Below is a summary of comments Fr. Roy made. I was truly touched by who he is & what he shared. I hope you will read on as I feel we all have a responsiblity to be informed. Of course do check out the SOA Watch site as well as other points of view. Fr. Roy from Louisana began his college work working in the field of geology. This was the time of the Vietnam War so being a patriotic American he signed up. In Vietnam, he earned a Purple Heart. Vietnam service was a turning point - While in Vietnam, he helped out at a local orphanage where the priest in charge lived what he taught. This experience and that of killing ("Killing a person changes you.") led him to re-evaluate his stance. Returning home, he decided to enter the Maryknoll order & study for the priesthood. Upon ordination, he was posted to Bolivia. As he said, the poor became his teachers. (Though I can in no way compare my experience to his, I can validate from persoanl experience that those who do not have & are suffering much teach us much about life. This is especially true when we have it so good.) These poor had no running water, no electricity, no health care, living life'on the edge.' Bolivia at the time was ruled by a brutal dictator. Standing up for one's rights was a fearsome propostion. Six years into his assignment, Fr. Roy & others were eventually arrested; he was deported. In Bolivia he learned that for the system to keep on going, it needs guns and we, the U.S. supply them. Systematically labor leaders were assasinated. People are forced to stop demanding any change. Imprisonment, torture, death are the order of the day. El Salvador - Around the time of his return to the states, Archbishop Oscar Romero (a real saint) was assasinated for demanding that the soldiers stop killing innocent men, women and children. Speak up & expect to die. Later 4 American nuns were rapped & killed by soldiers trained at SOA. Jesuits teaching at a University in El Salvador were warned to shut up or else. Soldiers came & took them outside - including their cook & their 15 year old daughter - all were shot dead. Their bodies desecrated. Many Congressmen at the time knew these Jesuits & were horrified at their fate. Traveling to El Salvador, they found what a later UN Report stated: 18 of the 29 soldiers responsible for the killlings were trained at SOA. Sadly this has turned out time & again not to be an exception. At home Fr. Roy learned that 500 Salvadoran soldiers had arrive at SOA for training. He had to act. He & several others went to Goergia, climbed the fence & a tree & outside the barracks. They played the famous Romero speech: "Stop the killing. Stop the repression. Lay down your weapons. Stop killing your fellow Salvadorans" To Fr. Roy this was truly a 'sacred moment.' The soldiers saw it differently! They poured out of their barracks M16s a ready & demanded they climb down or be shot - such terrorists! This was 20 years ago! Maximum Bob as he came to be called was the local judge. Having no patience with their reasons, he sentences them to 6 months in jail. As Fr. Roy pointed out this has never worked. Gandi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day among others would not be silenced. (I think it's accurate that soeaking out to authority is what got Christ crucified.) What began as a protest by a handful has grown - in some years - to 20,000 people. (I myself have been there. It is stunning. Power determined to dimiss any protest - PEACEFUL PROTEST! ) What would Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Henry, Franklin say? There is much more to the SOA Watch. Do check it out. It is not an issue about liberal vs. conservative, right vs. left. It is simply democracy & the question: Do we act as we say we are? And if no, then what is to be done? Fr. Roy is clearly a good man, humble yet determined. The phrase 'an inconvenient truth' came to mind as I listened. Dare we look, ask quesitons? Will we speak up? An email or letter to your Congressman can make quite a difference. Thanks for listening. Check them out: AND - I did not mean to slight Witness for Peace.


Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.