Discovering the Great Unknown…

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness.” – Mark Twain

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

Traveling: a passion embedded deep in my heart  and soul to experience and better understand this world with all its different people, cultures, languages, beauty, and of course, FOOD! Whenever I begin to think about discovering a new place something stirs deep inside of me that I cannot quite explain. Excitement consumes my whole being and I revert to my memories of being a small child on Christmas morning waiting not so patiently to rip open my presents and see what’s inside. Pure child-like joy, something that I seem to rarely come across as an adult.  Continue reading

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Relationships – Bringing Meaning To Our Lives Part III “Being Present”

Here is my final reflection on relationships in my life covering the past 5 years since I graduated from Gonzaga, sorry for the delay if you were actually waiting for part 3. Hopefully you have enjoyed my reflections thus far and that I’m not boring you all! If you have read my previous 2 posts on relationships you can find part 1 here and part 2 “The Gonzaga Years” here.

If there is one thing I have learned about relationships over the past 5 years of my life it is the importance of being present. By being present in our relationships we show that we are invested in the relationship and it is not simply an acquaintance that is here today and gone tomorrow, although these types of relationships have a place in our lives as well. Simply showing someone that we care about them allows the opportunity for love and trust between two people to develop and grow deeper and more meaningful, even if we don’t say a word.

Up in the rolling hills of northern Nicaragua lies the small village of San Jose de Cusmapa, an oasis in the sky. Anybody that knows me knows just how important this place is to me, and while only living there for a year and a half this place has become like home to me. The first time I found myself in the back of a pickup truck scaling the unpaved road up to Cusmapa in July 2004 I had the sense that this was a special place, but at the time I had no idea just how special it really is. Continue reading

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Relationships – Bringing Meaning To Our Lives Part II “The Gonzaga Years”

This entry continues with part 2 of my 3 part series on relationships, my experiences with them from when I was born until the present day, and how they have impacted my life. If you haven’t read part one yet, read it here.

After high school I headed off to Gonzaga University in search of new friends and a new community. They didn’t take long to find. The Gonzaga community is one of the most incredible I’ve ever been a part of, and something nobody can truly understand unless they have experienced it for themselves.

Relationships formed in many different ways at Gonzaga. One of the first was through a pre-orientation “Reality Camp” where a group of us incoming freshmen gathered to do community service around the Spokane community for a week. It is amazing how a group of people who have never met before can come together through service and form bonds so quickly. Through loving others we were able to love each other and carry these newly formed friendships with us as we embarked on a new adventure in our lives. Continue reading

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Relationships – Bringing Meaning To Our Lives Part I

This entry begins my 3 part series on relationships, my experiences with them from when I was born until the present day, and how they have impacted my life. When I say relationships I am referring more to friendships than romantic relationships, however romantic relationships do play a part of that.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my 27 years as a member of the human family it is that relationships are the driving force of our lives. God made us to be in relationship – with Him, with family, with friends, with all of creation. Nothing satisfies my heart more than being in relationship with others, and while I am not always the best at cultivating relationships, I try to do my best and without them I would not be the person I am today. Continue reading

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Beyond Our Differences

I recently just watched Beyond Our Differences, a documentary about human beings coming together to celebrate their common humanity. It’s discusses setting aside our differences – especially religious differences, which are some of the most common sources of hatred, hostility, and violence in this world. This film takes examples from all the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism – and shows us that at the core we all essentially practice the same values of love, respect, and peace and want what’s best for all of our human brothers and sisters.

Why then do we as humans always insist on focusing on what tears us apart? Does this help us progress in any way? Of course not! Instead for every step forward that we take in coming together as one, we take two or more steps backwards. We all hate being wrong and will do almost anything to prove that what we think or believe is right, even if that’s at the expense of others. We’ve seen this throughout history, and people from every religion have been guilty of this – no exceptions. Millions of people have died because of our differences, and yet if we simply focused on what we have in common most of these lives would have been saved. Can you even imagine this?

When I see people so closed off to another way of thinking that they don’t even want to listen or respect what someone else has to say it both angers and saddens me. So many people don’t even want to take the time to understand where another person is coming from. Instead they simply cast them off as being wrong because it’s not what they think or believe. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am perfect and not guilty of this too because I no doubt am. It’s hard to get past this wall in our minds because we all truly want to believe that we are right. I know I don’t like admitting I’m wrong any more than the next person! Admitting we are wrong about something can bring our whole world crashing down, and that’s a scary thought. It is something I’m trying to work on, and though I am a Catholic and believe that Catholicism offers the fullness of the truth, I know that there is some measure of truth in all religions and want to be open and accepting of others and their beliefs.

In the end it all comes down to this: LOVE. If we truly love each other as we are all called to do by our respective religions and beliefs, then we will be able to be more accepting of others as well. Then peace will rule our world.

Check out the film here at Beyond Our Differences.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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Growing Old With You…

For better or worse…..in sickness and in health…..till death do us part.

Do these words mean anything anymore? Does true love even exist? Some would say yes, others no. It’s so easy to doubt in something like true love if we haven’t experienced it ourselves and we see people getting divorced at a higher rate today than ever before. Is there any hope?

Today I found hope in Mr. and Mrs. Jones. I witnessed a love so deep and so true between these two people that I can only hope that I may one day find the same thing. Mr. and Mrs. Jones met when she was 16 and he was 22, and have been married for the past 55 years. That alone is an incredible accomplishment, but I believe that they love each other more now than they ever have before.   Continue reading

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The Next Queen of Hip Hop?

I found myself with far too much time to surf the internet today, and thought this was just too funny not to share! So here’s a little humor for a Tuesday…..Enjoy!

“Little pimpin’ eatin’ grilled cheese…”

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Legalize Racial Profiling to Fight Illegal Immigration? I Hope Not!

Dear Friends,

I just signed an urgent appeal to Governor Janet Brewer and urged her to veto an anti-immigrant law that would legalize racial profiling in the State of Arizona against Latina/os and others who police suspect to be immigrants.

The law would authorize officers to pull over, question, and detain anyone if they have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe they are in this country without proper documentation. Not only will this create a police state for immigrants — it will essentially legalize racial profiling.

This bill is heading to the Governor’s desk and is expected to be signed into law as soon as today. This is a moment for all of us to stand with the people of Arizona against this injustice.Can you join me in telling Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto this bill?

http://presente.org/ref/112248/campaigns/arizona

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Ok now for my own words on this. I’m sorry but this bill is not the right way to handle illegal immigration in our country. We are all human beings and should be treated as such. Most illegal immigrants here are good people simply trying to better their families, believe me I’ve met, worked, and befriended many of them when I was in San Diego. While we can’t allow a free for all for anyone who wants to come here illegally, we need to find ways to help the ones that are here and have already established their lives to become citizens instead of throwing them out.

Besides, there are much bigger problems out there for police to be spending their time on rather than stopping any random latino/a. Get the real criminals off the streets.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Something that has been in the forefront of my mind especially in recent weeks is modern-day slavery and human trafficking. It is a serious problem in our world today with estimates of over 27 million people stuck in slavery of all different forms – sex slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, and chattel slavery – but it is almost impossible to get an accurate count because slaves are kept hidden from our view. The fact is nobody wants to believe that slavery still exists – even governments are afraid to admit it.

Not in the US though – the US abolished slavery with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation back in the 1860’s, right? True, but unfortunately it is estimated that 50,000 people are trafficked into the US each year to be slaves. That’s right, there are slaves here in our own backyard, right here in Denver, Colorado.

Most of us don’t want to believe it, so we turn our heads the other way. It’s easier for us to ignore it and act as if it doesn’t exist. That way we don’t have to feel bad, we don’t feel guilty, because once we feel guilty we can no longer ignore it. We feel compelled to take action, and action takes work that is far from easy. We’ve gotta get dirty because the world of slavery is ugly beast.

Over the past 3 weeks I have read 5 books on this subject. When I read the story of a young girl who has been sold into sex slavery and is raped, beaten, and starved 24 hours a day for years, it breaks my heart. I can no longer turn a blind eye to the reality that slavery exists and people are put through so much pain by others. Their human dignity is stripped away and they are looked at as less than human, with no rights or freedom, and many lose all hope of ever getting out. This is not right and we need to do more to eradicate slavery in our world.

Here are some of the books I’ve read recently and I highly recommend reading:

Slave Hunter: One Man’s Global Quest to Free Victims of  Human  Trafficking by Aaron Cohen with Christine Buckley

Description: Aaron Cohen is a man who travels all over the world posing as a sex  tourist  attempting to free women as young as 8 years old from bondage and forced  prostitution.  From Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, Aaron  describes the often dangerous situations and young victims he encounters. Sometimes he’s able to actually free one or a few of the young girls, however more often than not he has no other choice but to leave them in slavery hoping that one day they will be free.

For a more in-depth description and review see: Slave Hunter: Aaron Cohen, 21st Century Emancipator
Aaron Cohen’s WebsiteThe Abolish Slavery Coalition
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The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian  Heroine

by Somaly Mam
Description: Somaly Mam recounts her heartbreaking and powerful experience of being  sold into sex slavery as a  young girl in Cambodia and, after fighting her way out, how she  now helps other girls in  sex slavery find  hope in such misery.
Somaly Mam Foundation – Home

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A Crime So Monstrous: Face-To-Face with Modern-Day Slavery

by E. Benjamin Skinner
Description: See A Crime So Monstrous

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Enslaved: True Stories of Modern-Day Slavery

Various Authors
Description: See Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery

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Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves

by Kevin Bales
Description: A 25 year plan to end slavery. For more see Free the Slaves – Ending Slavery – The Book – The Plan
UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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A Simple Man

One morning last week I woke up and thought, why don’t I start a blog? The thought had never really crossed my mind before, and I’m not sure why it popped in there now, but here we are with the birth of simple man ruminations. This is my attempt to humor those who care with my random and crazy thoughts about anything and everything. Who knows, maybe I’ll just be reading my own thoughts?

Well I thought I’d start out by introducing myself a bit. I’m a 27-year-old single guy who has lived everywhere from Kansas to West Virginia, Oklahoma to Washington, California to Colorado, and Italy to Nicaragua. This past year I returned to Denver to be closer to family and start my own group travel business. I must say after living in the more tropical climates of Nicaragua and San Diego the previous 4 years my body didn’t like the Colorado winter very much.

I am bilingual – y me siento que soy medio Nicaraguense! I’ve traveled to 24 different countries. I’ve trekked to the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. I was present in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for the Beatification of Mother Teresa. I’ve witnessed first-hand the concentration camps at Dachau and Auschwitz where horrible atrocities took place during the Holocaust. My eyes have seen one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world on the island of Santorini. I’ve enjoyed beers with locals at Oktoberfest in Germany and on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

I’ve lived in the Nicaraguan campo where roads are unpaved, running water is scarce, electricity comes and goes, and the food of choice (or necessity) is gallo pinto, yet despite their poverty the people are some of the most beautiful, loving, caring, generous, and joyful I have ever met.

I’ve seen and experienced things most people never have the opportunity to do in a lifetime, and my journey has just begun.

I am blessed. I am Catholic. I love to sing, rap, and beatbox. I love Gonzaga basketball, Chipotle burritos, and playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, and golf. I have loved and been loved.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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