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!).

How Are You Feeling About Muslims?

Christmas PartyIn the light of recent terrorist activity, how are you feeling about your Muslim neighbors and coworkers? If you have Muslim friends, I hope you feel secure with them, but what about the strangers? What if you have a coworker with a last name very similar to that of the terrorist who just mass murdered a group at his Christmas party…would that make you anxious about attending your own Christmas party, or would your concern be to make that person feel welcome at a time when he may be feeling unwanted? What if a group of middle-eastern young men walked into your favorite Mediterranean restaurant while you were enjoying dinner there…would it make you uneasy, or would your heart be to smile and reach out to them with words of peace? Actually, these aren’t simply hypothetical cases; they’ve been my experience in the past few days.

How should we personally respond to Muslims? Should we eye them with suspicion and treat them like the Japanese were treated during World War 2? I sincerely hope not. Instead, let’s take Jesus’ shocking stance. We need to love our neighbors. Sound naive? Jesus told us: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  Loving our neighbors doesn’t mean we ignore the possible threat of terrorism: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).  It does mean we don’t react out of fear; God still expects us to respond with compassion and goodness: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).

Last night our medical staff Christmas party was a warm and wonderful celebration with no terrorist attacks…not that I was expecting any. But, we do have some Muslims on our staff…even one whose last name is strikingly similar to that of the Muslim terrorist in San Bernadino. I am sorry to say this particular young man didn’t come to our party, but I sincerely hope it wasn’t because he was feeling unwanted. He’s an excellent doctor and highly regarded by his patients for his abilities and demeanor.Mom and DaughterPlease don’t misunderstand how I feel about ISIS. I am painfully aware that radical jihadists don’t just number “a few thousands,” they number millions, and although only a small percentage of the population in Muslim nations are favorable toward ISIS, when you run the numbers, there are a staggering number of ISIS sympathizers. For instance, only 9% of Pakistan’s 199+ million people feel favorable toward ISIS (see chart below), but that equals 18,000,000 people, and keep in mind that before Hitler seized power in 1933, there were only 850,000 Nazis (less than one-twentieth of the number of radicals in Pakistan.) Even at the height of World War 2, only 10% of Germans were Nazis (about 8 million out of 80 million). Pakistan is 2.5 times as populous as Germany was, and that’s just one of many Muslim nations. There are easily enough Muslim terrorists to provoke a third world war that could destroy our entire planet. That’s why we live in countries and have governments, “for the common defense.”Christmas GatheringBut, as Christians—on a personal level—we are called to love our neighbors and overcome evil with good. It’s the Christmas season, and I think the message that the angels brought when Christ was born is still the message we need to receive and live out: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

PEW Research(

“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).


Jokes from Texas

Warning sign in pastureMike’s family is visiting us this and next week. They’re in transit from South Korea to Italy via San Antonio, Texas, so I’ve prepared ahead a few blogs for days when I’m too busy having fun to write. Today I have a series of cartoons about Texas, where Mike’s family has been this summer. I hope the humor makes you smile but doesn’t offend anybody. Forgive me if they’re not all P.C. Once the kids are gone and I’m home alone, I’ll resume attempting to write thoughtful posts about life. Blessings~ Steer on a CarTexas Rain GaugeHeart-shaped valentine steakHorse in oceanSpeed Limit Sign in TexaxSlow Down. The cop is hiding behind this signPopulation of Alpine TXMap of Texas. TemperatureWhat kills people in Texas. Joke!Texas Food PyramidTexas Tornado Joke      (Hope this doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings; I actually like the Cowboys…) Warning sign about getting shot on sightMule and lady laughing togetherCowboy riding to Starbucks    (I mean, really…have you seen this at a Starbucks drive-through near you?)Horse looking down on you             So, what’s so funny about a horse stopping for a cup of coffee? Austin, TX tee shirt           And, if you think Texans are strange, be assured the feelin’s mutual!

“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).

Universal Gifts of Beauty

Lan Tau IslandAre you wild about flowers? I am!!  Shanghai flowersEverywhere we go, I’m pausing to admire and photograph brilliant flowers, Orchids. Singapore 2 and I never cease to wonder at their delicate textures, exquisite forms, Busan, South Koreatantalizing aromas, and luscious coloring. Hong Kong Alan, on the other hand, has a bit of motor mania.
(Can you tell who exclaimed over what in this picture?) Nagasaki Peace Memorial Over time, I’ve learned to recognize many garden flowers Azaleas. Hong Kong and have found to my delight that the vast majority of these beauties Daisies in Nagasaki seem able to flourish almost universally around the world. Vietnamese Flowers at Palace All these pictures were taken on our Southeastern Asia cruise Flowering Crab. Temple of Heaven. Beijing (from the equator to near the 45th parallel), and yet—if you’re a flower lover—Orange Tulips. Japanyou’ve probably noticed most of them growing in some garden not far from you. Viet Nam Lotus Of course, many of these flowers— such as the gorgeous lotus
(national flower of Vietnam) Orchids in Singaporeand orchid (national flower of Singapore)— Flowers in Vietnam have been transplanted from various countries where they are indigenous, Orchids. Lan Tau Island and they have to be maintained with great care in their new environments. Poinsettas Hong Kong Have you ever considered that foreign people are like foreign flowers? Flowers in Hong Kong Mountains They have been transplanted, and if they are to thrive in our culture, Spring Blossoms Shanghai they will need special care. Singapore. Bouganvillea Do you know people who’ve moved from another country to your neighborhood?Wedding party on steps of Reconcilliation Palace. Vietnam May we reach out to them in love, Tianamin Square Flowers in Spring appreciating that they’re also universal gifts of beauty
to be treasured and nurtured! Camellia. Shanghai“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).

Cultural Differences in Hiaku

Sunday night Daniel’s family came over for dinner, and I have a renewed appreciation for the stress their two exchange students are facing as they adjust to living in a foreign culture. Lois is from Sweden, which isn’t too different from DSCN1932the U.S., but Oh is from South Korea, and Asian culture is extremely different, even things as simple as where they shop and what appeals. For an example, DSCN1935Oh told me that his family has an entire refrigerator dedicated to keeping their kimchi (which is made from cabbage around Christmas for the entire year). As NaPoWrMo (National Poetry Writing Month) comes to a close, I decided to share just one more time via hiaku (until next April), this time on cultural differences between America and South Korea. May it inspire all of us to be kinder and more outreaching to the foreigners among us!

IMG_5160On Shopping: DSCN1911Shopping for presents… DSCN1925Where shall I go?  I cannot DSCN1933 Read a single sign.

Normal Modes of Transportation:DSCN1687To go by subway, IMG_5532 Train IMG_5149 or bus is cheaper,Hang On! but You might have to stand!

What You’ll Find in Street Markets:IMG_5074 Second Market stalls IMG_5089 Filled with exotic foods, but IMG_5093They all seem so strange!

What’s Considered a Really Special Treat: IMG_5130 Golden-haired children IMG_5179Would you like some pie? We have IMG_5083 Lots of octopi!

Up (and down)scale Toilet Facilities: (many are for squatters only) IMG_4988  Such fancy bathrooms:DSCN1302 Soap on barsToilets and heated seats, But— DSCN1727don’t stand on them!

Wearing Air Filter Masks: IMG_4664Why do you wear masks? DSCN1685 To keep germs in, or out…orIMG_5718 Is it yellow dust?

The Beauty of Korea During their Cherry Blossom Festival: IMG_4335Flowers overhead, IMG_4440Underfoot and all around. IMG_4414Thank you, Korea. IMG_5441But 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).