Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Up In The Air Again

True confession, of which I am much ashamed: shortly after I returned from my stint in Vietnam, it was time to renew my passport. I haven't used it once tho travel overseas since. Until this week.

Now, some 24 hours in the air (including one 15 1/2 hour stint stuck in a single metal tube), three countries, and some 10 hours sitting in airports later, I am merely 3 more hours in an airport and one international flight away from my final destination. 

It feels wonderful. Old hat. And I probably won't want to do out again for at least another year.

Still, this trip is teaching me some lessons, new and old, already. Like:
  • When you get a new passport, sign it before the boarding gate attendant at your third airport finally notices. 
  • Yes, even if your final destination is 95 degrees and humid, do pack a down jacket for that first flight at 6 am and -5 degrees. You can use it as a neck pillow later. 
  • O'Hare sucks to hang out in. 
  • Yoga pants are great for long international flights. 
  • 16 hour flight? Go prepared for misery. Plan to read at least two books and watch at least one in-flight movie. Out won't seem as bad when you realize it's just going to be bad. 
  • Asia's version of the TSA  is worse than the regular one. You will get screened getting off the plane and transferring to your next flight (no filled water bottles allowed) and you will get screened yet again at your gate before you board your next flight. Again, no half-filled water bottles allowed. And if you forget, you will have tho chug that water while you hold up the ray of that line. 
  • Sleep is highly overrated. You can sleep when you're comfortable, or dead. 
  • If you have as many connections as I do, do NOT expect your checked luggage to make it. It didn't. 
  • Wi-Fi is everywhere now, but don't expect it to be on a plane, and don't expect to actually be able to connect to it. 
  • Do know where you're going. And don't rely on having a cell phone or internet access when you get there. 
  • Even if you're just transiting through Bali, you need to buy a visa. 
  • In the world where online check-in doesn't exist, you will have to wait until the appointed time too check-in for your flight. You can't just waltz in and expect tho spend 4 hours hanging at your gate. 
I haven't reached my final destination yet. I hope my next lesson is that this is entirely doable. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Simple Thoughts on “Christmas” Programs

There are ever and on-going controversies about the correctness of public schools offering “Christmas” (rather than “Holiday”) programs, having “winter” break instead of “Christmas” break, etc., etc. 

I was born, raised, and choose now to live in a part of the world that is still vast majority Christian of some stripe. To this day our local school district has annual Christmas concerts and programs with a mixture of religious and secular selections. (When I was in school the major controversy was the Jehovah’s Witnesses who didn’t allow their children to celebrate any holiday, including birthdays.)

I have lived overseas in two countries and traveled in more with many different traditions. Never once did I expect the communities I traveled to or lived in to remove their religious or cultural identities because it might exclude my beliefs. Schools took holiday breaks around major religious festivals and sang songs or performed skits with religious words, messages, or stories. Even if I didn’t agree with it all, I appreciated it. This was a celebration of their culture. If I were to raise children there, I would think of it as a great cultural opportunity to experience that way of thinking.

I sometimes wish we had a little more diversity of celebration and belief in our area. I think it would be great to include more ways of celebrating. But I do not believe it should be at the expense of eliminating one or all. I don’t expect others to hide their traditions when I travel or live among them. I don't expect my own people to hide their traditions when I am home and others are traveling and living among them.

But I do expect us to continue to celebrate while being respectful of outsiders. I hope we always continue celebrating and sharing our unique and festive culture, while adapting and growing it as change comes and new and blended traditions emerge.

God Bless Us, Every One

God Bless Us, Every One.

This morning I received this e-mail forward, sent with the good intentions of sending holiday greetings. At first I dumped it directly in my e-mail trash, but then couldn’t stop thinking about it. To say that this e-mail is ruining my days off would be overdramatic and to actually let it ruin my holiday would be “letting the terrorists win.”  But this year I can’t ignore the urge to say something in response (and yes, I will be sending a link to this post back to the original sender).

So I rummaged around in the trash and dug it back out.

I will be making a conscious effort to wish everyone a

Merry Christmas

this year

My way of saying that I am celebrating the birth of
Jesus Christ

So I am asking my email buddies, if you agree with me, 
to please do the same.

And if you'll pass this on to your email buddies, and so on...

maybe we can prevent one more tradition from being lost in the sea of

"Political Correctness".

This, my dear zealous Christian friends, is why Christians and non-Christians alike are annoyed and fed up with you. Sadly, some to the point of hatred.

Because, rather than simply and purely wishing the best of what true Christianity wants this holiday to stand for: peace, love, hope, sharing, bringing relief of the physical and mental strain many suffer, etc., once again, you make it all about you.

And not even your personal joys and hopes or witness. It’s all about you and your fears. You take a simple pledge to wish your fellow man a Merry Christmas instead of handing over the beautiful rose e’re blooming, you turn it into a dagger to stick into your neighbor’s eye.

Have you ever personally been attacked for smiling and wishing somebody a simple, Merry Christmas? Not just heard about it from a friend/relative/fellow church-goer or pastor/TV evangelist/Internet source?

And if any of you in northern Wisconsin have been attacked for wishing somebody a merry Christmas, consider that perhaps you – or the friend that you forwarded this e-mail from – did not wait to turn a cheek. Rather, somebody threw the first dagger as they approached the holiday with the idea that the best defense (against what?) is an overly active and paranoid offense.


I can’t end on that note. Regardless of your personal beliefs, and even whether or not you agree with my thoughts, I truly do want to wish you all a merry, blessed, joyous, and renewing Christmas. This is my way of saying that I am celebrating the birth of the one who told us:

The second [greatest commandment] is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’


Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom.
Blessed are you who hunger, for you shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you who mourn, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you who are meek, for you shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are you who are pure of heart, for you shall see God.
Blessed are you, the peacemakers, for you are the children of God.
Blessed are you who seek justice, for justice shall be yours.

My prayer for you is that you go and share the peace. And not leave others thinking of you as an asshole.