Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Poem for Christmas [Patrick Kavanagh]

'Twas lovely to find this poem today from one of our poets, a poem simple, profound and heart felt like our people

Patrick Kavanagh poem - 'A Christmas Childhood' in Ireland

Patrick Kavanagh's poem for the ages

My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east;
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon - the Three Wise Kings.
An old man passing said:
"Can't he make it talk" -
The melodion, I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife's big blade -
There was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary's blouse.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"We wanna wish you a Merry Christmas"

It took us some time to prepare for our Christmas Greeting, hours of dancing and singing lessons, voice and language trainers in English and Spanish. "Ireland and Guatemala have talent"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Aura' Birthday 2011 - JohnPaul Lennon - Picasa Web Albums

Aura' Birthday 2011 - JohnPaul Lennon - Picasa Web Albums:

'via Blog this'

Aura Lamboglia-Lennon, with her son, Eduardo and his wife, Cristy, their two children, Bianca and Lauren, and her other son, Leo with wife, Winie at the Italian restaurant in Shirlington, Arlington, VA

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Nothin' could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning!"

Charleston, S.C.
everyone says the food is delicious and that is something to look forward to. What about that beautiful city, the history, the culture, the reconstruction, the architecture, the weather...?

We're off on Friday 11th for this gorgeous city; to relax, to enjoy, to heal, to share, to enrich

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let Mother Nature Heal us

And carry on with John Williams and Julian Bream with some Telemann to relax and delight

Spent the week end in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley...
We ran into a snow storm on the way out but next day, yesterday, Sunday, was wonderfully bright and not cold. Visited the Shenandoah Caverns and delved into the depths to admire the stalagmites and stalactites formed during centuries and millennial; emptied the mind of needless clutter. The best restaurant in New Market, VA....where the twang is still strong, was Jalisco, a Mexican Restaurant; the rice and beans tasted so good, as well as the fajitas, the tacos, the burrito and the quesadilla...
But the highlight was the drive through the forests of browns, reds, yellows, oranges...against the clear blue sky...
Ya'll want to see that!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guitar Music, La Vida Breve by Falla


Well, I must admit that I learned to enjoy classical music in the Legion of Christ; maybe it was a "fugue" from the boring routine of "community life"
Of course we heard the Concierto de Aranjuez a lot....
Later, though, on my own I took a real liking for Spanish guitar music, the classical, the popular, and flamenco

Here is my favorite guitarist, Australian John Williams, playing with that British bloke, Julian Bream.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Video] Vatican Intervention of the Legion of Christ

Interview with Steve Hassan of "Freedom of Mind" fame;
in July 2011, after the International Cultic Studies Association's annual international conference in Barcelona, Spain

What is the Legion?
What are its Problems?
The Founder a Pedophile
How did he found and order?
How did he go undetected for so long?
How does  the the Catholic Leadership work?
What has the Pope done with the Legion?
Can it be reformed?
What is the present status?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cajun Longevity

Swamp Critters

Boudreaux, an 80-year-old South Louisiana Cajun, goes to the doctor for his every year check-up.

The doctor is amazed at what good shape he is in and asks, "How do you stay in such great physical condition, Boudreaux?"

“I stay in the swamp and I hunt and fish every day", said the old Cajun. "Dat's why I'm in such good shape. I'm up well before daylight and out hunting or fishing all day. I have a beer for breakfast and at lunch and wid my supper. And, I have a shot of hooch before bed time. And, I say my prayers every night. And all is well wid me."

Well", says the doctor, "I'm sure the prayers help, but there's got to be more to it. How old was your father when he died?"

"Who said Pop is dead?"

The doctor is amazed. "You mean you are 80 years old and your father is still alive? How old he is?"

"Pop be 100 next month," replied Boudreaux. "In fact, he hunted with me dis mornin', and den we went to a beer joint for a while and had a few beers and dat's why he's still alive. He is a tough Cajun man and he hunts and fishes everyday, too.”

"Well, the doctor says, that's great! But, I'm sure there's more to it than that. How about your father's father? How old was he when he died?"

"Who said my Paw Paw's dead?"

Stunned, the doctor asks, "You mean you are 80 years old, your father is 100 and your grandfather is still living? Incredible! How old he is?"

"We tink 'bout 118." says the old Cajun. He likes his beer, too, but he won't touch the hard stuff."

The doctor is getting frustrated at this point, "So, I guess your grandfather went hunting and fishing with you and your father this morning, too?"

"No, Paw Paw couldn't go dis time. He's gettin' married today."

At this point the doctor is close to losing it. "Getting married! Why would a 118-year-old man want to get married?"

Boudreaux looked down at the floor and mumbled "Who said he wanted to?"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SPAIN, JULY 2011, Barza, Valencia, Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, Barza, Paris at night is dark

Nightfall in Valencia

                                                                Plaza de Espania, Seville

at the Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba

I wanted to attended the International Cultic Studies Association Annual Conference in Barcelona, July 5-7;
I also wanted to have a vacation with Aura; so we flew to Barza and took off directly by train to Valencia; we were deligthed by the city which has a lot to offer, climate, culture, city, sea... after 2 night we made for Granada the great, the Alhambra, the Cathedral...
I had a special spot for Cordoba and Aura joined my enthusiasm; he had the best hotel in town, from out window, we looked accross the Guadalquivir and the Roman Bridge to the Mosque Cathedral...pity we had planned only one night... what an enjoyable city;
Sevilla was hot but so was El Arenal, the 'tablao' which a friend had recommended... Beautiftul cathedral, the Golden Tower, the Giralda...the cafes accross the street from the cathedral where we sat until the early hours...
The link

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

First American Legionaries of Christ gather in Philadelphia

'Plotting against the Legion?"
Just reminiscing and being supportive to each other, normalizing that experience, our past and our present

The "boys" and Keith's Family

Friday, July 8, 2011


[we were there last Monday and Tuesday and caught the Ave fast train to Barcelona on Wed.; behind on my reporting!]

Yes, a marvellous sight; my theory is that the Weather Vane that whirls around with the wind direction [girar, in Spanish] is why it is called La Giralda, the turning woman, and it the three meter bronze statue that looks so small from ground level;
we spend a couple of lovely evening sitting at an outdoor cafe across Constitution Ave from the marvellous cathedral sipping our "Tinto de verano"

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cordoba, a flying journey

Believe it or not we have this view from our hotel, the Hesperia

they did charge us an extra 20 euros for a room with a view; despite our vow of poverty taken with the 2nd Grade, 3 Nuance Regnum Christi Movement -just kidding! we decided to go whole hog and splurge...
But we are crying our eyes out, the Mosque is closed tomorrow and we cant stay another day; we have to press on to Sevilla.

Yes, We were able to visit the Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia, Spain

Yes we were able to visit the Alhambra!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greetings from Valencia, Spain

Beautiful city with Mediterranean climate and the culture and history of prechristian, roman, chistian, moorih, middle ages, renaissance, baroque, industrial age -
expo Valencia- and modern Oceanique aquarium, etc

Tomorrow by coach ALSA to Granada, a 9 hour trip

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leadership Lessons from Living in a Cult

[article forwared by infoculte our Canadian friends]

Leadership Lessons from Living in a Cult

A management consultant draws wisdom from his youthful misadventures as a member of a doomsday cult

Business Week

By John P. Schuster

I am 99 percent over my embarrassment at choosing to live in a cult when I was in my late 20s. Of course, I still cringe when I hear end-of-world predictions like last month's doomsday forecast by Harold Camping of Family Radio Worldwide, but there is often something we can learn from even the most bizarre experiences.

I joined the cult because I was disillusioned with, and poorly connected to, the world. Located in the farmlands of the Midwest, the cult fascinated me, for a time. And it was intense. I was vulnerable, and the extreme views in the cult acted as an elixir. The followers believed that the axis of the earth would shift in 27 years due to planetary alignment. The world would collapse, and those living in the cult, and about 144,000 others, according to their interpretation of a passage from Revelation, would survive. I needed a new world view and settled on this ridiculous one in my immaturity.

The group of 200 was a rich amalgam of ex-hippies, young families, construction workers, artists, and a federal executive. Most were college educated, and they came from all over North America to the flat farmland. The men and single women would go off to work in the morning. I did an 85-mile commute to my office job in downtown Chicago with another cult member who was a salesman for IBM (IBM). Mothers saw their children off to school. It was a weird combination of Leave it to Beaver tradition while preparing for the end of the world.

I abandoned the cult within a year because I started to do my own thinking. I may not have known where I was going next after my brush with this pseudo-reality, but I knew it was not there. Despite the weirdness, the cult provided a hothouse of ingredients for several life-long leadership lessons. The ingredients: big mission, strong personalities, lots at stake, and dysfunctional leadership.

Lesson One: Take risks and make mistakes, lots of them.

The first thing I learned, of course, is that you can take useful knowledge away from just about any experience, even mistakes. The best leaders I have worked with know this and encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risks. The biggest enemy of any enterprise is complacency and conformity, not risk-taking and mistakes. As long as risks and mistakes are not horrendously stupid, they will advance the enterprise in some way even if things don't work out as planned.

Lesson Two: Don't soft-pedal the truth.

There are endless times in the busy, often conflicted life of a chief executive when it would be so convenient to gloss over the truth—or worse, to ignore it and explain it away. Bubbles, busts, and various disasters get built around our natural tendency for soft-pedaling. Think the mortgage meltdown, for example.

I learned this at the cult. When our efforts were stagnant, falling far behind the stated goals, the leader "reinterpreted" the results. One glaring example was that the cult stayed the same size for years—about 200 members—instead of growing to the big number initially predicted. Its membership was more a revolving door than an accumulation. We would look at the data of nongrowth and swallow the leaders' explanations for staying tribal-size. He facilitated a comfortable group rationalization so members would stop questioning themselves.

The best leaders don't gloss over mistakes or make excuses. When something doesn't work, they admit it, try to learn from it, and move on. "We made a mistake" and "I made a mistake" are power-engendering words. Candor multiplied by honesty is a huge source of leadership power. It builds the platform on which the foundation for the future can take shape.

Former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch has said the best thing he learned from his mother about leadership was to see reality and call it so. Alan Mulally, head of Ford (F), thinks the same way. He stopped the fiction of recording revenue when the automaker shipped a car and instead mandated that revenue be counted after the dealer sold the vehicle. At first, this gave Ford and its shareholders a sour dose of reality, but it also helped the country's second-largest car manufacturer recover and build a better future.

Lesson Three: Always keep your humanity.

Leaders have to know what to do with the huge amount of "stuff" that followers project onto them. They know when to accept it, reject it, or play along with it. At our little cult, we were obsessed with the leader and his traits—right up until the time he got thrown out for sexual indiscretions.

This overwhelming tendency to project an almost unlimited quantity of positive or negative attributes on leaders—things like good and evil motives, character flaws, heroism, sexual prowess, whatever—affords them far more power than they deserve. Along with many others, I attributed a kind of humility to our leader, brought on by his mild manner, among other things. This positive attribution allowed us to project that the outlandish story of his life had to be true—he really did have these fantastical run-ins with secret brotherhoods that had chosen him as a leader. His soft-spoken metaphysical balderdash became, for us, the eager-to-be-duped, a story of an unassuming man just doing what he was called to do.

The best thing leaders can do to lessen this projection tendency is to puncture the pretense that comes with the role. Leaders need to be multidimensional. To do that, talk about such things as your family instead of always fixating on the organization's mission. Admit your limitations on the job and discuss how and why you changed your mind on an issue.

To be sure, I made a handful of good, life-long friends who, like me, left the cult weirdness behind and can now joke about it. Perhaps that's the final leadership lesson: Don't take yourself too seriously and make sure you can always have a good laugh at your own expense. I know I can and do.

John P. Schuster is an executive coach specializing in leadership. He is also an author. His latest book is The Power of Your Past: The Art of Recalling, Reclaiming and Recasting (Berrett-Koelher, 2011).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We prepare for Barcelona!

We are not going to play against them but we will visit their beautiful city

Proximate Preparations are underway for our visit to Barcelona for the International Cultic Studies Association Conference July 7-9

After we land in Barcelona on June 29 we will leave immediately via train for Valencia here we will spend two night

Monday, May 23, 2011

Placido at the Kennedy Center in Iphigenie en Tuaride -Limited Appearance

See Placido and die!

Let's not get carried away!; but I had to see/hear Placido before his career comes to an end
5/20/11 at 7:30
At the final curtain he playfully told the audience he was not retiring yet. And how old is Placido...? a career spanning 50 years

Iphigénie, high priestess of Taurus, is tormented by dreams of her family’s bloody past and intimations of violence in the future. Will she accede to the barbaric King Thoas’ demands and murder her own brother? Can she survive in this world of bloodshed and fear? Gluck’s masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride, with its sweeping score and dramatic story is enjoying a renaissance at major opera houses around the world.

This company premiere features an outstanding cast led by soprano Patricia Racette, “the consummate singing actress” (Chicago Tribune). Hailed as the “greatest operatic artist of modern time” (The Guardian), world-renowned tenor Plácido Domingo sings Oreste, Iphigénie’s long-lost brother who is condemned to death. William Lacey returns to the podium to lead this powerful production from Oviedo, Spain by Emilio Sagi.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Invited to Trinity College Dublin in March 2012

very honored to have received an invite to deliver a talk on the Legion of Christ and the dangers of abuse of power in religious organizations to the School of Theology.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dogwood, Virginia's flower, el Cornejo

Virginia State Flower: American Dogwood

the American dogwood [Cornus florida]
has sprung up almost overnight to bring joy to the eye - para alegrar la vista

It particularly pleases me when the branches begin close to the ground and streach out almost horizontally in tiers

Saturday, April 9, 2011

American Cherry Tree Blossom

What with the sudden seasonal changes from spring to winter to summer to spring to winter to summer to spring the trees are just sorting themselves out and trying to bring some order to their appearance in spring:
Washington's Japanese Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin have come and gone, the bradford pear has asserted itself, and some American Cherries [isn't that the one George Washington was trying to cut down?] are resisting the wind and the rains

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bradford Pear

been feeling like the flowers and the trees; with all the weather changes, dont know whether I am coming [into spring] or going [back to winter]
The weather has settled a bit and now the Bradford Pears that were suddenly eclipsed by Cherry Blossoms can be seen again, their white spherical shape lining streets...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Forsythia's Yellow Bloomers

I knew I was back in Virginia [after my three-week trip to Guatemala] when I caught sight of Forsythia’s bright yellow bloomers driving to work this morning.
Purple Crocus had slipped away while dazzly Daffodil was sneaking in to outshine Forsythia.
Sabia que estaba de vuelta en Virginia cuando divise las enaguas color amarillo brillante de Forsitia camino al trabajo esta maniana
El azafran habia huido mientras que el narciso entraba de puntillas

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Message for St Patricks Day [image and music]

A good Mexican friend of mine, rather a Yucatan woman, sent me an audiovisual today -unrelated to my inclusive picture above.

Relax and Enjoy images, music, prayer [Coulter and Downey]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Guatemala City

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Got here Friday 11th at 8 am after traveling all night from Flores, Peten, northern Guatemala which we left the previous night at 10 pm in a rainstorm.

Flores is a small and beautiful island which is the stepping stone for the Peten Rainforest and the Mayan ruines of Tikal with its impressive pyramids...[the Jaguar is one of the highest in the Mayan world]

Aura's friend, Thelma, has been our gracious host; although we spurned her offer for lodgings and checked into the Strofella [Best Western] in the fasionable Zona 10

Guatemala is a bustling metropolis of 4 million people which dispenses with car lanes -but less hectic and aggessive than Mexico City -or Rome for that matter!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

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San Felipe Fort, Rio Dulce, Guate

from the Pacific coast's Monterrico to the Caribbean coast's Rio Dulce, Livingston, and later to Flores, the Peten rainforest and Tikal
From Tuesday through Thursday; leaving Flores in a rainstorm at 9:30 for Guatemala City.

Rio Dulce, "Sweet River" runs from the top of lake Izabal through a stretch of water teeming with pelicans, cormorants and white egrets...
Getting to Rio Dulce and sleeping there make a good story to tell later on; we took off in a launch for 15 people at 9 am on Wed the 9th the pilot took us by San Felipe Fort which the Spanish built to defend against English pirates in the 17th century

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monterrico, Pacific Coast, Guatemala

and we have been to Panajachel and Chichicastenango in the Highlands,
back to Antigua,
then to Jocotenango and San Felipe
Sunday morning left Antigua for this remore village on the Guate's Pacific coast
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Panajachel, Guatemala

Wed 2 and Thurs 3
from Antigua to the north to the beginning of the Highlands
Pana, gateway to Lake Atitlan, a real paradise of nature
surrounded by hills, mountains, volcanoes and picturesque viallages

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ruins of Santa Clara Convent and Church, Antigua, Guatemala

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Tues 1 March 2011
Today we prepared for our short trip to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan
We had to do our washing at one of the local coin laundries, traveling by tuc-tuc and searching around; two small bags washed and folded cost us Q85
Then we had to take out cases from Soleil to Lo de Bernal, highly recommended by Travelocity -turned out to be a small but recently remodeled hotel near the La Merced Parish on the Calle 1 Poniente
We started rambling to visit the Hospital of Brother Pedro which we stopped by -Aura planned to have her father taken care of here before he passed away suddenly...
Not far away we found a neglected buy once beatiful public garden where a number of indigenous people were relaxing in, at the end of which where what used to be the public clothes washing pool, and behind that the magnificent ruins of Santa Clara

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saint Brother Pedro Bethancourt and Stunning Ermita [Hermitage ruins] Sta Cruz, Antigua

spotted it in the travel broChyurchure; Balet Hispanico performance against the backdrop of this stunning 17th century facade.

we started off the day waking up with Adolfo and Thelma sleeping in our sitting room; we shared our meager breakfast with them before heading for more abundant fare in La Chimenea restaurant at Soleil; their sons had been having breakfast; we were late but somehow the four of us, together with Tita and Alfonso were able to have a real breakfast brunch there.
After that when other members of our party arrived late and made for La Cabania I had enough of eating and looking at food and made it back to the room to write...
After saying goodbye to Thelma and Adolfo who went back to Guatemala City, Aura and I stepped out to go for tickets at the Hermitage; there was a box office, and price was steeped by local standards, Q270 a head for platea general admission.
We them serendipitously came across the church of San Francisco Grande where  Saint Brother Pedro -Guatermala's only canonized saint -he was lost from Vatican attention for over 200 years until JP II got him canonized in the 1980s; seems like a person who really deserved the veneration of the poor and indigenous to whom he dedicated his life...
My wife, Aura, is very proud of the fact that her last name is the same, Bethancourt; Brother Pedro was from Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Wedding of Carinio and Gerardo at San Bartolome de Becerra, Antigua, Guate

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Wedding Sat 26th at 4:30 p.b.

naturally, they did not take out the statue of Christ, as this was not Holy Week
but rather a very happy occasion
The reception was held at Antigua Finca Santa Isabel

Friday, February 25, 2011

In Beautiful Antigua, Guatemala

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 a Tuc-Tuc

Thursday 24 Feb

up at the crack of dawn, 10am

Had to find a safe place for our valuables; it was the first time in my life i had ever deposited anything in a safe deposit box! We did this here at Soleil La Antigua, impressed as i was with the two key song and dance...
Late we took a trip on the Tuc Tuc into the city center
Breakfast in the wonderful setting of La Condesa accross from the Central Park main square; there were too many Americanos there! But they did not order the huevos rancheros.
Later we began taking care of the essentials, going to the Farmacia  Don Miguelito to buy aspirin and a couple of creams; Aura chatted with the owner, a cousin of the original owners whom she had known in Ciudad Vieja "a few years ago" when she was a girl and was staying with her aunt who lived across the street from Don Miguelito; she remembers spending Christmas at his home and with his children. That was a nice coincidence...
We visited the rather disappointing "Museo del libro" [book museum and they charged us 30 Quetzals, $4.50; Aura went back and got her money back because she is a native of Antigua! ]" in the square and optained good views of the plaza from the Town Hall balcony. Up there I spotted an unusual green bird in the trees below; a local told me it was a "clarin" and I took note of that; he said it was greenish blue. There were a fair amount of armed guards around but they are young and friendly; this area also has special tourist security police; we felt completely at ease as we walking around. Knowing the lingo, of course, is a big advantage. People smiling and friendly; i like to notice the local nuances and customs which i always delight in. In Guatemala, instead of "Have a nice day" they say "Have happy day" Que tenga Ud.un dia feliz!
Around 5pm we had a rather heavy rain shower; the guide we chatted with explained that February is the crazy month when the weather changes quickly during the day. "Just like Ireland" I remarked to Aura but she reminded me of that cold wind that was hard for her to take. In the cool evenings here a sweater or light jacket is enough.
Only the facade of the Cathedral can bee seen from the square; the cathedral has collapsed so many times because of seismic activity and floods that this is like the third reconstruction. We took the street on the right side of the cathedral and strolled north; I noticed a fine building across the street; the plaque read "This is the building that housed the University of San Carlos founded in 1675; from here culture spread throughout the kingdom of Goethemala." I was enchanted by this building, one of the few to have survived floods and earthquakes; covered in white stucco with pink decorations of Spanish baroque and Moorish influence; of particular note are the scalloped arches of the main square, adorned with a beautiful fountain in the center.
Here we bumped into an Irish American from Chicago, Tim, with whom I shared my excitement for this building; across the street we visited the ruins of the cathedral and paid a guide Q50 -$6.00 for a tour; he was very knowledgeable and a bit uppity about his qualifications as a tour guide; he had an ample knowledge of the history of the cathedral and Antigua as well as native traditions and beliefs -the Mayan underworld -  and Tikal.
Tim had plans to take a bus to Tikal later that evening and wanted to grab a bit to eat; he was yearning for local fair and we were able to oblige as we had been following a tip for a very good Guatemala cuisine restaurant; so off we went to La Cuevita de los Urquizu; the food is displayed at the entrance and you pick your dish and they lead you to your table. Tim was delighted with the ambiance and the food and we three chatted away amicably until it was time to go and he took off for the main square and Aura and I just walked the streets; she was keen on me seeing the magnificent Santo Domingo Hotel; night was falling as we entered the main door and strolled around the gardens strewn with ruins; she took me as far as an impressive canopy covered auditorium which was being readied for a performance -men were lighting candles around the grounds to [be continued]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Arrived in Guatemala City

Municipal Palace, Guatemala City

picked up at the Guatemala airport by the bride and groom, Gerardo and Carinio, we adjourned to the Garcia home  where we partook of sumptious local cooking and finished off with a drop of Bailey's Irish Cream...; The airport is in the middle of the city and the city is surrounded by mountains; the old colonial acqueduct immediately jumpt into view surrounded by building old and modern.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brunch at Cedar Knoll Restaurant, Alexandria, VA

Sybil, Theo, Aura, and Eugene, August, 2010

Sally being Sally showing off one of her presents

My small group of English speaking birthday celebrating friends got together at midday on this glorious Spring day at a restaurant over-looking the Potomac River 3 miles from Mount Vernon, home of G. Washington, the revolutionary general.
After a very short while Theo, our Swiss friend, botanist, hiker and nature lover, noticed a mocking bird outside the window - the first one I had seen this year. The mb looked healthy as it bobbed on the bow briefly before bouncing off.
Theo and Sybil -from Shropshire - is one couple, Aura and I are another, Sally our full-blooded American from Denver, CO, who also loves to hike  and has just been to the Himalayas, is single; and Eugene is our Portuguese friend who lost his dear Esmeralda two years ago, is retired and living in DC close to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
It had been a few months since we were together so there were lots of presents to exchange; we were getting to gether to celebrate my November and Aura's December birthdays! We also brought along our Christmas presents. The presents were wonderfully wrapped and appropriate for each one. The fare was good and the conversation lively and good natured.
As I drove home later with Aura I could not help feeling very moved: How I love to be surrounded by my friends, to see them happy and enjoying themselves. "How good and joyful it is for [brothers] friends to be together as one", as Scripture says

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Planning Guatemala Trip

I am planning a trip to Guatemala on February 23, Deo Volente.
I already have some background but will be learning more before I go.
Will start off in Antigua where my wife is from and where a friend's daughter's Catholic wedding is taking place -World Heritage Site colonial city.
I also plan to write during the trip -at least this is my intention; it would be fun to write a simple travelogue in Spanish and English
Geograhically this little country of 13 million people seem to have it all:
a variety of warm tropical microclimates
mountains, valleys, two coastes, plenty of volcanoes -some active
beautiful lakes,
Maya ruins, Tikal the highest pyramid
Colonial Cities

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let's take a Short Trip to Charlottesville, VA

this was in Annapolis at that nice Irish Hotel...

If we can just get away from our numerous obligations!!! and take off tomorrow for that historic city...visit Monticello and the University of Virginia.
Work has been hard in the new year, kids and families feeling the stress of back to school...and needing support, an attentive ear, and guidance.
Let's go!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vatican could learn from Israel to Rehab Children and Women Cult Victims

Authorities handling fallout of breaking up polygamist cult

Jerusalem Post



A year after police raided TA headquarters of suspected cult that involved some 40 children 20 women, welfare authorities say they are still dealing with rehabilitation process of cult members .

One year after police raided the Tel Aviv headquarters of a suspected polygamist cult that involved some 40 children and 20 women, welfare authorities say they are still dealing intensely with the fallout and rehabilitation process of the cult members as they return to live a normative life.

According to information published Tuesday by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, the 20 wives and 40 children of the yet-to-be convicted cult leader Goel Ratzon continue to receive a wide range of welfare services, including constant psychological monitoring.
“The Goel Ratzon affair is a clear sign that we have a policy of zero tolerance to cults and other groups that prey on vulnerable women and children,” Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said in a statement Tuesday.

“It also raises awareness to the dangers of belonging to such cults.”
The minister said that in the coming months a specially formed committee to look into the phenomenon of cults and their long-term effects on members would present its findings and hopefully improve the rehabilitation process for those involved.

A spokeswoman for the ministry told The Jerusalem Post that the prosecution is still gathering evidence on Ratzon, who could be convicted of sexual abuse and rape of a minor.

The information released Tuesday regarding the fallout of this unique case showed that in addition to standard social welfare assistance, the women and their children are being given help in finding public housing and employment, access to legal aid and intensive therapy to reconnect with their extended families.
Former cult members have also received financial support to repay debts accrued while in the cult and funds to pay for the removal of the cult’s signature tattoo, which depicts their grey-haired leader and was inked in very visible places on most of the women’s bodies.
Social workers have also helped the children to acclimatize to the mainstream education system and financed psychological treatments for them.
“The role of the social services did not end with the rescue operation last year, but rather, that is when the hard work began,” stated the information published by the ministry, which described the work of a special team of social workers who have been continually examining the needs of each woman and following their progress in order to provide them with proper treatment and solutions for their complicated situation.

“We will continue to assist and rehabilitate the women and children for as long as they need and provide financial and professional resources for them,” said ministry director-general Nahum Itzkowitz.

In an interview last year with the Post, the ministry’s deputy director-general Menachem Wagshal, who worked for six months before the raid to make sure that breaking up the cult would not have an adverse effect on those involved, said that nothing like this had ever happened before in Israel.

“We looked at other similar cases from around the world,” said Wagshal in that interview. “We prepared for all the possible outcomes because there was a fear that the mothers could hurt their children the minute we entered their homes.”

At the time, there was also a concern that Ratzon had dictated a suicide pact to the women. The ministry assembled a team of 150 professionals to deal with the immediate fallout.
In Tuesday’s statement, the ministry said that most of the women and children had started to re-integrate into the community and had improved relations with their families.
“Most of the women have already left battered women’s shelters and are in various stages of integration in the community; some women have received grants for permanent housing and others have already purchased apartments,” said the ministry’s spokeswoman. “All women and children who need psychological treatment continue to receive it.”