Category Archives: Travels Around the World

Not Shock, but Cultural Surprises in Asia via Haiku

Alan and I had a lot of wonderful experiences in Asia, many of which were surprisingly pleasant (such as green tea ice cream),a few that we pretty much all disliked (such as silkworms), and many that were very different but turned out well even though they weren’t at all what we were expecting!I was constantly struck by the beauty of South Korea and the immaculately manicured cities in Japan. Just for fun, I wrote a few haikus commemorating some of the cultural surprises.

On Asian Restrooms   (Yes, this is a bathroom…in the Seoul Tower) Such fancy bathrooms!  Soap on bars and heated seats, But—don’t stand on them!
(In some rural areas, you squat over a hole in the floor. Twenty-two years ago,
I rode a train where the toilet was a hole in the floor emptying onto the track! Times have really changed since then! Now some restrooms are ultra modern, with music, heated seats, and several types of special wash and dry options!!)

On Asian Cuisine  The food looked so strange  I was afraid I would not  Like it, but I did!

On Asia’s Beautiful Flowers  Flowers overhead,  Underfoot and all around.  Asian majesty.

On Pets  Everywhere you go There are pampered pets in tow Like happy children.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34; may we embrace each other all over the world, even in areas where others seem strange!).

April is National Poetry Month NaPoMo: Want to Join in on the Fun?

“Poetry spills from the cracks of a broken heart,
but flows from one which is loved.”  ~Christopher Paul Rubero

Since 1996, Americans with a love for poetry (like me) have been celebrating NaPoMo (National Poetry Month).  In the spirit of sharing the joy, I’m inviting anyone who reads this blog and would like to contribute a (G-rated) poem…please send it to me at kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com. If you have a photo to illustrate it, so much the better! If I publish it, I will list you as the author, so please give me your full name and the date it was written (otherwise it will post as written the day I publish it). I won’t steal anybody’s work, and you will retain your copyright. My understanding is that publishing something effectively protects it. (The other inexpensive way is to send yourself a certified letter/package with the information enclosed, but don’t open it after you receive it; it will be evidence in case your ownership is ever disputed in court.)

I also want to share some of my photos, feelings and stories from our April visits to Southeast Asia, so I’m going to be putting them into haikus with photos off and on throughout this month. Part of the time, we visited our kids in South Korea, and then we all went to Japan together. I hope you enjoy these little glimpses into how we felt being foreigners in a very strange, beautiful, and sometimes surprising culture.

On Traveling  Fly above the clouds Little faces press the panes.Where are we going?  

On Being Different  Instant attraction:Asian tourists really like Blue eyes and blonde curls.

On the Popular Trend of Wearing Masks Why do you wear masks?  To keep germs in, or out, or  Is it yellow dust?

On Riding Trains  Morning trains delight.  After noon? Well, hold on tight. Evening Train? Goodnight!

“The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time,and in the night his song shall be with me,  and my prayer unto the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).

 

African Food and a Recipe for (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian) Stuffed Acorn Squash

             What do you think of when you try to imagine African cuisine? I’m embarrassed to admit that I was preparing for pots of stew filled with unrecognizable chunks of whatever lurking beneath the surface and threatening to cause indigestion or worse…parasites?…the three D’s: diseases, dehydration, and death??!

I’m sure in remote areas or without using precautions, American stomachs might have trouble with some of the cuisine, but our trip had nothing less than spectacular, exotic and gourmet food every day! Grilled ostrich competes favorably with a good beef steak, and warthog is succulent and tender! Our resorts served first-class meals (including the “Full English” plus). Museum cafeterias offered classic favorite like burgers, fries, and cokes.The specialty dishes at our hotels were always appealing and most often bursting with flavor! (If you like seafood, try kingclip [fish].)If not to your taste, at the least the foods are fun and interesting to test!

It is in this frame of mind that I’d like to offer you a recipe for my own adaptation of something that I found in a Spar Deli in Capetown, South Africa. (Spar stores are a national chain like Tesco in the U.K. or Kroger in the U.S.) It’s Lent right now, and my son Joel has given up meat, so I’ve been trying to find vegetarian recipes that have lots of protein and flavor. Although I’m giving you the recipe for what I did, my theory is that  you could do the same thing with any variety of “stuffings,” including chicken salad, tuna salad, or your own unique concoction based on your personal palate of tastes. The unusual aspect is that it’s served in a cup of acorn squash, which is actually sweet, filling but not too caloric, and can be easily scooped out and blended with the other ingredients as you eat. It was a hit with my family.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
(4 servings)

Halve and clean (scoop out the fibers and seeds) 2 acorn squashes. Roast them in a covered roasting pan with 1/2 cup water at 350° for an hour. Cool.

Filling:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 jar grilled, mixed vegetables (or make your own and let them cool)
5 oz. Greek yogurt dip with Spinach and Parmesan
5 oz. Artichoke and Jalapeno dip (you could substitute your favorite dips)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts 

Mix until blended, and fill the cups. It’s remarkably easy and surprisingly good! I think it would be best on a warm day, but I was almost shocked by how much I liked it. (Not all of my creations have been so well received, but I won’t pass along the duds!  🙂  )For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake” (1 Corinthians 10:26-28; this verse does not refer to issues of health and safety, it’s talking about receiving hospitality without worrying about where the food was purchased or processed).

The Three Rondavels of Mpumalanga

From the overlook at Blyde River Canyon, there’s a dramatic view of the “Three Rondavels” (named for circular African dwellings with conical thatched roofs). These fascinating rock formations are shaped like round, grass-topped, huts similar to those still in use today among the indigenous people groups of Africa.   Renier, our guide, explained to us that the people believe evil spirits like to hide in dark corners,              so they make their homes (and even hotel and other structures)                     somewhat round to keep away such unwanted intruders. Of course, these massive shale, dolemite, and quartzite “huts” are monumental in size, rising 700 meters from the ground (which is already 1,390 meters above the river floor below). They are utterly spectacular!Traditionally, the three peaks were known as “The Three Sisters” and were named for three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile, who was the courageous nineteenth-century Pulana chief that defended his people from a Swazi invasion.Legend has it that the three wives were Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto, and the three rondavels are named to commemorate these irksome busybodies! In this photo, you can see the “three sisters,” and to the right is a long, flat-topped mountain known as Mariepskop, named in honor of Chief Maripi, who used the mountain as a stronghold during the invasion.Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous, and the Three Rondavels are definitely worth visiting, but I’d really hate to be commemorated for being a troublesome wife.                                                            Wouldn’t you?   “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 21:1).I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ so that we don’t have to fear evil spirits hiding in the corners of our homes! Instead, God tells us that we’re protected by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-14), and that we do not need to fear evil spirits: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Later in the same chapter God explains: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Anticipating the View from God’s Window

“God’s Window” is in South Africa and was our first stop on the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.* For  those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might notice that I haven’t written anything about Africa for a month, and that I have as yet to say one word about our safari in Kruger National Park, which is likely to be even more interesting to you than the view from God’s Window.

I apologize. At the most interesting sites, I take hundreds of photos,
and it takes hours…no days!…to choose and process the best to share. This requires unhurried days at home without any heaven-sent opportunities to interact with family and friends
(which often fill many days to overflowing).

That aside aside, I want to share three favorite stops along this famous Panoramic Route in the coming week before April begins and I try to finish telling tales from our adventures in Southeast Asia last spring. (I will return to African experiences sometime, though, because they were great!)Renier, our travel guide in Africa, explained that God’s Window was a special place in Mpumalanga along the Drakensberg escarpment where the cliffs drop over 2,200 feet to the “lowveld” (low grassland) below, opening up vistas of the entire Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and on a clear day you can see some 150 miles to the border of Mozambique!**                         That’s pretty close to “On a clear day you can see forever!”                                                   We were all super excited! Unfortunately, by the time we actually got there, clouds had filled the canyon and we couldn’t see anything but a sea of mist. So disappointing!  😦  But, how like life on earth! We have hopes and dreams and prayers for vision, and sometimes it does seem like we can see everything clearly from God’s window…from His perspective. However, other days our vision is totally obscured, and we have no clue what the future will hold. No matter how clear or cloudy the present is, may we keep calm and carry on with what we know to do (even if that means not going very far), waiting patiently for the clouds to lift and the Lord to give us more vision for the next steps in our journey.  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40: 36-37).

(Photo credits: *First photo from South African Tourism: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-gods-window
**Photo from Wikipedia
I took the animal photos during our safari in Kruger National Park and the rest on our trip to God’s Window and along the Panoramic Route in South Africa.)

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)