Archive | October, 2011


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El Camino de Santiago: The Way of St. James

Posted on 30 October 2011 by Ashley Mancha

This is my first time doing the Camino. The first time I did the Portuguese Camino which is a lot shorter. This one is the French camino which takes 6 weeks to complete. I could only do five days this time and I was injured. I plan to finish it over the years.

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College Smart: Creative Writing

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College Smart: Creative Writing

Posted on 16 October 2011 by Ashley Mancha

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Adventure Living Now: Turkey

Posted on 10 October 2011 by Patricia Gras

When I travel I can only remember moments. I have been to over 50 countries and I do get frustrated I can’t remember more. I do know my trip to Turkey was one of the most extraordinary, exotic and relaxing trips I have ever made. I was there when there were hardly any Americans visiting. It was right after 9/11, in May of 2002. I remember the Turkish merchants; well known for their charm and ability to convince you to drink tea and eventually buy the whole store, were frustrated to say the least. They kept saying we love America. Why don’t they come? That happened when I spoke in English. At the time I was afraid to do so because of the Iraq war. I also choose to speak Spanish often on my trips so the locals won’t over charge me. Yes, they overcharge Americans almost everywhere I have been in the world. They think we are rich and we deserve to pay more.

In reality, Turks love everyone who buys their wares, but besides that, they are genuinely generous, welcoming and friendly. I never had any troubles. They were hospitable and respectful. Some of the merchants were obnoxious. They chase you around and it is hard to turn them away because they can be very charming, but when I would look at them perplexed and said I only spoke Check, They would back down. You see, Turkish merchants speak at least 5 to 10 languages. They make a living selling to tourists so they have to.

Some of the best moments I remember about Turkey happened in Cappadocia. The landscapes there are bizarre. They look like a conglomeration of phallic symbols! They are so extraordinary; these terrains make this place the most visited in the region. It was a kingdom 600 years before Christ, probably made out of a number of tribes. The exotic terrain allowed them to protect themselves, especially from the Persians. The Romans took it over in 17AD after Christ and Tiberius made it a Roman province. St. Paul visited here and apparently the Christians were so devoted in the region, it became a sort of capital for Monks of the Eastern rites. There are more than 1000 churches, sanctuaries and chapels here. The history of Cappadocia began about 30 million years ago, when three active volcanoes erupted and created these strange rock formations. Many say Star War producers got their ideas for many of their set designs from Cappadocia.

I also remember a subterranean city known as Derinkuyu, which at at time served as a hiding place for thousands of people. It was connected by tunnels and was built most probably by the Romans and later used by Christians.

Another memorable moment I had in Turkey happened when we were aboard a Gullet, unique boats which sail around the ancient sites of the Turkish coast, and they were playing Arabic dance music. I love to dance it so I was showing off to the group. Most of them were Australian and Kiwis (New Zealanders) I sure acted like I knew what I was doing until I met Didri, a Tunisian woman who lived in Italy and was travelling in Turkey on her own. She watched humbly as I made a fool of myself and then told me she taught Arabic dancing and showed me and everyone else the real dancing steps (nothing like mine, mind you). We laughed a lot. I must say, one of the things I love most about travelling is meeting strangers who become friends. She only spoke Italian and Arabic. My Italian is not very good but I sure can get my ideas across in almost any language when I want to.
I would probably never see her again, but the few days we were together, sharing the beauty, mystery and cuisine of Turkey, we really enjoyed each other’s company.

Another special moment took place in a carpet shop. I met a sales guy who would later become a friend and visit me with hundreds of rugs and goods on a van a year later in Houston. I loved learning the history of carpet weaving and the meaning of the colors, patterns and designs. I bought two wonderful rugs which I still show off today!

Then there was the visit to the Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus. I am not a practicing Catholic but I am very devoted to the Virgin so this meant a lot to me. St John and St. Paul also walked these ancient city’s streets. Almost everyone has been through this city, the Ionians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Goths etc. That’s what happens when you last this long.

Turkey offered me a lot of lifetime memories besides these. I remember rafting
down a pristine river on tubes surrounded by beauty and laughter and filled with adventure. Walking inside one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim World, the Blue Mosque or the 1400-year-old Hagia Sophia, The church of sacred wisdom, A Byzantine jewel.

I can’t remember dates or specific historical facts. I just remember how I felt when I walked into these sacred spaces. I felt peace and gratitude these monuments were made. The beliefs in the divine had motivated, enlightened and empowered artists, architects, artisans, philanthropists and believers to create these wonders the rest of us can enjoy, hopefully, for eternity.

I give Turkey a thumbs up if you enjoy exotic, mysterious and an adventurous travel experience. Almost everyone speaks English and they are eagerly waiting for you to visit. Whatever you do, don’t try dance steps you don’t know. I learned that the hard way!

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Women War and Hope: A Conversation with Jodi Williams

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Women War and Hope: A Conversation with Jodi Williams

Posted on 07 October 2011 by Ashley Mancha

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How do we make marriages work? Stop Your Griping!

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How do we make marriages work? Stop Your Griping!

Posted on 07 October 2011 by Ashley Mancha

Be sure to watch marriage counselor Donald Cole on Living Smart with Patricia Gras this Sunday at 3pm (repeats Friday night at 10pm)


Why is it that most American marriages end in divorce? How can I get my marriage to last longer? What should I know before I get married? These are too often asked questions by many couples today. If there were a book that told couples exactly how marriage would be, the divorce rate still wouldn’t budge because humans have flaws and unexpected behaviors.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 2,443,000 people wed in 1990, yet 1,182,000 couples divorced in the same year.  The numbers haven’t changed much from then until now and that’s enough to discourage any couple right?

What are the enemies of a great marriage? One of the most common is overactive criticism. Have you ever said something humiliating, hurtful or insulting to your spouse? Have you done it more than once? That’s where most arguments start; that’s were most marriages begin to end.

It’s Impossible to predict the future but much research is being geared towards saving marriages. According to Lutheran Minister and Relationship counselor, Dr. Donald Cole, miscommunication is more normal than you would think. It’s all about what you do to fix the miscommunication.  Dr. Cole’s approach reinforces these basic problems and antidotes:

The four horsemen that kill relationships


Defensiveness: feeling a need to defend yourself in the conversation.

Stonewalling: removing yourself from the conversation before it’s over. Shutting down and not speaking.

Contempt: developing an opinion of our partner that they are somehow less than us.


Gentle complaining: one partner mentions a problem in a direct but respectful manner.

Taking responsibility: the other partner recognizes what they are doing wrong and tries to fix it. Helps to lower the defensiveness.

Self-soothing: During stonewalling the stonewaller is becoming heated and needs to calm him/herself down.

Creating a culture of fondness and admiration:

In a relationship of any kind, it’s very easy to realize all of the negative things and couples rarely step back and appreciate one another. Here are Dr. Cole’s tips to maintain a good marriage.

Three things to remember about marriage

Be good friends

Learn to have a softer approach when something is bothering us

Create an idea of we-ness


To get the real tips on how to save a marriage watch Donald Cole this Sunday at 3pm on Living Smart with Patricia Gras




For more information on Marriage, Divorce, and how divorce affects children visit the links below


More articles on this topic:


by Ashley Mancha and Patricia Gras

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Rape as genocide Watch on You Tube Jody Williams Women War and Hope

Posted on 07 October 2011 by Patricia Gras

Did you know approximately 4,000 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo get raped every month? Did you know no one is being held accountable? Do you care? If you do what do you plan to do about it?

Today, even though there are laws that supposedly protect women around the world, they don’t. Very few men are ever held accountable and tried for the crime. Women are forced to live with the incident their whole lives and at times, they must raise the children they had from the rapes. Yes, I understand no one likes to talk about rape. It is a subject that makes us feel uncomfortable, disgusted and fearful but if we don’t start talking about it now, Rape as a weapon of war will continue. We are not doing better in this area. We are doing worse. Why is this so?

I interviewed Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams who is one of only 12 women in the world to get the prize. She’s known for banning landmines but now she is so disgusted with the issue of violence against women, she and the other Nobel Laureates around the world got together and decided enough is enough.  They are launching a campaign of 1 billion women rising to make the world more aware of this problem and to teach them what can be done. First of all, we must keep fighting for equality with men under the law. Listen to this statistics. Amnesty International found. 1 out of 3 women around the world have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

What? Did you hear that? one out of 3? That means if we have 7 billion people in the planet and half of those are women, approximately 1 billion women are suffering from some sort of abuse.



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