Gratitude in Challenging Times

Last week, my wife and I, unbeknownst to the other, wrote a piece on life during Covid-19. Mine was a bit “technical,” her’s was more “personal.” Here’s a glimpse into our family’s life during this pandemic. #Coronavirus #Covid-19 #familylife

At lunch today, we went around the table with each person sharing something they are thankful for. This practice isn’t new to our family, but we usually do it sitting around our Thanksgiving Day feast.

Today was different because we are wrapping up week 7 of being at home; working, doing school, and attending church worship remotely. Like so many people, we have participated in extended family “gatherings”, Bible studies, prayer meetings, team meetings, game nights, and check-ins using Google Duo, Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, MS Teams, FaceTime, and a few other technologies. I’ve gone through three different headsets and am still in search of the right ones that are comfortable and work consistently with the various conferencing options I’ve been using (without breaking the bank).

Of course, in a household of 3 teenaged girls, there have been tears, laughter, irritability, stir-craziness, silliness, and arguing. Ok, that’s mostly me. We’ve experienced moments of anger, grief & loss, loneliness, isolation, restlessness, frustration, and sadness. Sometimes all in one day! But we’ve also shared in celebration, community, productivity, and new learning.

We’ve learned to sew facemasks out of cloth, how to thread a sewing machine, embroider small flowers, hearts, and other cute things onto clothing and facemasks, bake madeleines and homemade bread, give haircuts to each other, and to design online learning modules.

We live with one day blending into another, never really sure what day of the week it is or what month even! Now I understand why prisoners mark the wall with the number of days they’ve been detained. We’ve instituted Taco Tuesdays and Pajama Fridays to help break up the week and help us recognize what day we’re on. When our youngest is finished with her work for the week, she plays “Celebration” by K.o.o.l and the Gang and we dance together for a few minutes.

We’ve found different ways for us to cope with the changes to our routines. We have a somewhat flexible daily schedule, a whiteboard to help us track key information like whether the dog has been fed and a menu for the day’s meals. We’ve learned to respect each other’s space, especially while on calls or recording an assignment to submit.

And in the midst of it, we have found so much that we are grateful for. We went around the table 10 times today with some of us sharing 2 things at a time because there was so much we are thankful for. We had to cap it at 10 rounds because we had meetings and work to get to after lunch. I wasn’t sure if they would cooperate, but was so encouraged.


What does your life during this pandemic look like? Please share in the comments below.

Thriving During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Kim Family Whiteboard for Thriving During COVID-1

On this Friday, May 1, 2020, we are marking eight (8) weeks of “lock down.” Although video conferencing and online classrooms have allowed people to work and study at home, many are still struggling with the “new normal.” Talking with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, most people are longing for the day that things will “get back to normal.” But will we ever get back to “normal?” What is “normal,” anyway? These and other questions and frustrations are causing people to be anxious.

Anxiety is not only limited to the people that I am talking to, but recently, we received an email from our middle school child’s school with an article that we were recommended to read. “Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19,” has some good suggestions for parents to guide their young children.

Here are some things that have been helping our family. They are very simple; however, for our family, it has made a big difference.

  • Establish A Routine: Before the pandemic most people had a routine, whether they set it or not. Most people went to work outside of their homes, and the kids went to school. There were routines at work and school. Students, especially, had a schedule that they had to follow. But with the lock down orders, many people are struggling with finding a routine; therefore, at the end of the day, they feel like they have wasted too much time.
    • Put Together A Schedule: Putting together a simple schedule, and even a daily to-do list, will help to give you something to celebrate at the end of the day. The schedule doesn’t have to be elaborate. Figure out what time you should get out of bed, what time you should eat, and some activities that are relevant to you during this time, and what time you should end your day. Our family put together a white board (pictured above) at the very beginning of the lock down order, and it has helped us to thrive during this time.
    • Get Dressed: There have been a lot of people who simply roll out of bed, tidy themselves up, and show up to video meetings under dressed (some even in their pajamas). Sometimes one must wonder if anyone’s brushed their teeth, thankfully foul smells do not carry over the internet. It’s “whatever is most convenient!” However, getting up at certain times (see point a) and actually getting ready, makes you feel better about yourself. This feeling, in turn, takes some of the anxiety away. Those people whom I have found to be thriving the most are the ones who show up to video chats dressed as if they were going to the office.
    • Schedule in Family Time: Some may have screamed at the screen when they read that. After all, we are with our family more than ever, and they just seem to be in our faces all the time. We’ve all seen children come across the screen to demand attention while on video calls. That is why this is so important. When family time is scheduled, and clearly communicated to the rest of the family, there is a better chance of not being interrupted all the time. When done well, everyone in the family will look forward to the family time. So, how do you make family time valuable? Make it meaningful. Play games. Complete a project together. Watch movies together. Talk. Be creative with your family. This is a golden opportunity to build or re-build your family bond!
    • Plan A Menu: There are plenty of people who already do this, but I was surprised by how many people are struggling with this. One of the difficulties of this time is that most restaurants are closed. And with the entire family home, it’s difficult to figure out what to prepare to eat for each meal. About a month into the quarantine, we decided to schedule a weekly menu. We were surprised by how much stress it relieved! And, when I have suggested this to others, they thought this was brilliant! (I’m not sure about that, but hey…).

  • Stop Thinking About “Going Back to The Normal.”: “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal!” is a common outburst from many after two months of restrictions. However, we must remember that many things have changed already due to this pandemic. Yes, we will be able to go back to our offices and schools. However, coronavirus has made working from home more commonplace, even after the restrictions lift (read articles like this). Rather than being frustrated with what we no longer have, think about what is possible as a result of this pandemic. The data on jobs point to over 80% of jobs that will exist in the future are not yet available – LinkedIn article from October 28, 2018 predicts “85% of Jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This idea, that new jobs of the future are not yet in existence, is not something that came about during the pandemic. However, this pandemic has changed things, and accelerated innovation (remember, crises are the laboratories of innovation). So, embrace the changes (everything is changing, constantly, anyway!), and put your energies to what opportunities maybe available as a result of this pandemic.
  • Have A Sense of Humor: I love the way that our teenage daughters are finding ways to laugh about things. Even on the whiteboard, you can find their sense of humor. Find ways to laugh about this situation. Find ways to laugh at yourself. Find ways to make others laugh.
  • Pray: Finally, pray. Prayer focuses us. Prayer also reminds us that no matter how much we try; we are not in control of things. And, prayer comforts us.

These suggestions are not exhaustive. What are the things that you are doing to thrive during this unprecedented time? Please leave your ideas in the comments below.

More Good News

Price of gasoline dips below $1

In the last post, I wrote about some things that were hopeful during this Covid-19 crisis. As I write this, some of the States in the U.S. have either announced that they will begin to lift the “stay at home” restrictions, or considering re-opening. Although some countries and states have seen “flattening” of the cases, many have yet to get there, and some countries are just beginning to report that this crisis has hit them.

In the midst of all this confusion, fear, and frustration, environment seems to be benefiting from the rest that it is getting from reduced human activity. Satellite images from space are showing marine life in once murky waters of Venice’s canals. Across the globe, emissions of air pollutants have gone down significantly due to drastic reduction of vehicles of all kinds being grounded due to “lock down” orders from many governments. Maps like the one below show the drastic decrease in emission of green house gases in many parts of the world. According to Newsweek, even seismic activity has gone down.

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Satellite images of emissions in China (Image: Reuters Graphics)

For those of you who may have been able to venture out may have noticed historically low gasoline prices. As of today (Wednesday, April 22, 2020), the average price of gasoline in the United States is $1.80 per gallon. Fox Business report that there are at least 18 States where they have seen less than $1 per gallon. They are also predicting that the average could drop to $1.50 per gallon by next week, and maybe even lower for some time.

All this is good news. However, the scientist are also cautious about what happens when this crisis is over. Many of them remember similar situation back in 2008, during the financial crisis, to point out that the environment will take a hit once things go back to normal. This may well be true. However, my hope is that the “new normal” that we will enter into, once this pandemic is history, will make all of us more conscientious about the environment.

In processing all this as a Christian, I am reminded that God has always been an Advocate, if not the original “Environmentalist.” When God created the earth, He “saw that everything that He made… was very good.” (Genesis 1:31. ESV). He also planted the first garden (Eden). Of course, that garden was hidden from mankind when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, causing not only mankind to fall, but all creation. Therefore, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22-23 that “all of creation has been groaning together,” for redemption.

Moving further along in the narrative of the Bible, God, through Moses, gives His people not only the Ten Commandments, but also the regulations for the citizens of His Kingdom (Exodus to Deuteronomy). In Leviticus, God also gives His thoughts on how the Israelites are to care for the land. He told them to give the land a Sabbath (rest) every seven years. And every 50th year was to be year of Jubilee, where all things concerning the land are to be “reset” (Leviticus 25). A chapter later, God also predicts that His people will not listen to His commands. Therefore, the land will have it’s rest when the Israelites are exiled. All that came true in the Bible (see the Prophets section of the Bible).

When we get to the end of the Bible, the description of Heaven, where God’s people will once again walk with God, is the restored Garden of Eden (see Revelation 22). God cares for and will restore all of His creation, not just His people. In a sense, God is an Environmentalist.

Please do not misunderstand what I am writing here – I am not saying that God brought on Covid-19 so that the environment will recover. Nor am I trying to make a political statement. I am simply pointing out, on this Earth Day, that God saw that what He created was “very good.” And that He cares for the earth and all that is in it.

Which brings me back to the point; that I am hopeful that even after this crisis is over, we will be better stewards of this earth. I hope that not just the environmentalist, but all of us, no matter what our religious or political persuasion, will take better care of our earth.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

How can we take better care for the earth? Please post your comments below.

Hope for Us in the Midst of COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is at the forefront in the minds of most of us these days. Even if we wanted to, it seems we cannot escape from constant bombardment of news about this pandemic. And most of the news puts fear into even the strongest among us.  

In the midst of all the scare, if we look carefully, we can find a few positives. My hope is that as a result of this article, others will also contribute to things that this virus threat has brought that are positive.

  1. This Crisis Has the Potential to Rebuild Family Life.

It is no secret that family unit is fractured today. One of the biggest culprits for this is the busyness of each member of the family. And even when the family is together, myriad of devices calls for our attention, not allowing us to fully engage with the people that we should spend most time with.

Due to this pandemic, most schools have closed their physical doors. But on the brighter side, the school systems are figuring out ways to move to virtual learning. We also hear about some industries that have slowed or closed temporarily (i.e. – Sporting events, most public performances, libraries, etc.), and businesses that are suffering (like the restaurants). Even the religious worship gatherings have been affected – many going to worship via video casting.

Even in this, there are positive things. Yesterday morning (April 5, 2020), our family, including our dog, sat down in front of our television, watching live stream of our pastors and praise leader, and worshipped as a family. After four weeks of this, even our dog seems to know that 10 a.m. on Sunday is worship time; he comes into the family room to worship with us. Of course, I would rather go to our church and worship with the larger church family in person. But the fact that our nuclear family could worship together, rather than be split was nice. On a normal Sunday, our teenagers go to the Youth Service, and my wife and I go to the Adult English Service. For other families, they are further separated if one parent goes to a Korean service and the other to an English service.

Almost a month ago, before the strong recommendation to stay home (with fines imposed), our family went on a hike. We saw many families out hiking. Even as we walk around our neighborhoods for exercise, we see families spending time together – practicing good social distancing.

Of course, we also hear about abuses and other bad things happening to families during this time, too. But as I interact with people through social media, and virtual classrooms and meetings, I am hearing more thankfulness from parents who now have time to spend with their children.

My hope is that we would all take advantage of the “quarantine” situation and take the opportunity to strengthen our family bonds.

2. This Crisis Has a Potential for Greater Innovation.

Have you seen the viral public service announcement from Vietnam? It is pure genius! They used a pop hit song, created dance moves, utilized cartoon, and sent it out by social media (TikTok) to spread a helpful message to fight this pandemic. Click here to see the video.

South Korea was in the news only a month ago as having the highest cases of Coronavirus outside of China. The number of cases were rising fast. Today, South Korea is heralded as the model for fighting pandemics for how they handled the situation. The South Koreans have quickly set up and  tested nearly 20,000 people 24 hours a day. Since the outbreak, South Korea has created network of 96 laboratories to test for corona-virus. All this has resulted in South Korea having 0.7% fatality rate verses 3.4% worldwide (BBC News; March 12, 2020).

Our girls are doing their school work online, as I type this, and have been for a week. Last week, I was able to teach 3 classes via Zoom. Of course, hackers are busy trying to interrupt these meetings, finding weaknesses in technology. However, these tech companies are working hard to not only fix the problems, but to go beyond to introduce new features that people are suggesting.

Other innovations abound. If necessity is mother of invention, then crisis are the labs for innovation. New ways of expressing gratitude to the health workers, who are on the front-lines of fighting this pandemic are popping up in various places and various ways (Vancouver’s 7 pm health-care workers salute). Stores may have missed the mark in distribution of essential items, like hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies, but innovative methods will be devised to better handle crisis like these in the future.

I am hopeful for the innovations that will inevitably come out as result of this crisis.

3. This Crisis is Good for Individuals.

How many times have you thought, “if I only had a little time for myself…?” Thanks to the “Stay At Home” orders from our government officials, many are getting that wish.

Remember the stack of books that we set aside for when we may have the time to read? We can go through them and start reading. What about the projects that we have had on our “honey-do lists?” We could get to some of them, too.

One thing that has helped me is to look at my week and block out chunks of time for different activities; time for focused reading, focused work, focused family time, and even “catch up time.” Without having to commute to work it is easy for us to lose track of time. The scheduling allows us to actually get up at a certain time and get ready for the day. Of course, no one other than my family may see me throughout the day but getting cleaned up and putting on clean clothes allows me to show my respect to them.

Binge watching movies or tv shows, or whatever the streaming services have available, is so tempting, and take away so much of our time and our brain functions. But when we keep a regular schedule, it helps to get to those stacks of books, the “honey-do lists,” or exercise that we’ve always lacked time for.

One of the biggest advantages of this time can be our ability to slow down enough to think about deeper things in life. Before the coronavirus, many of us were filling our calendars with so many things that we had to “do.” We had to accomplish so much in our work. We had to make sure that our vacations were full – so that we can post fun pictures on our social media accounts. We had to go to as many trendy restaurants, try new things, and post them. This time of forced isolation maybe one of the best gifts that God has given us – to think, “why do I do the things that I do?” And, maybe that’s the beginning of us figuring out, “who am I?”

I hope these are helpful in seeing the bright side of this crisis. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” And “for this, we have Jesus.” Please post in the comments some of the positive side of living through this “Plague of 2020.”

Practicing Social Distancing on a hike.

An Unfinished Work

Here’s a poem that Lauren, my wife, wrote. It blessed me greatly. I pray you will be blessed, too.

I am an unfinished work of God
He designed me for His good purpose
With His plans in mind He formed me
He knows me well
In this world filled with evil
I fight through the barriers that box me in
I battle against the pressures to conform
I struggle with the expectations of others
and what they would reshape me to be
I wrestle with my inner thoughts
as I hear my own words of self condemnation
Amid the noise I fail to see what He sees
and I fail to hear who He says I am
I am a child of God
I am being renewed
He refreshes my soul
He refines my innermost parts
He faithfully continues His work
I am His unfinished work

Junk Swap

Tree fort made from recycled material

“We’re going junking!” Exclaimed our friend’s four year old daughter.

This is not a common term for what happens each Spring in the Thames Centre area, but it is catching on with those whom we call friends. The municipality of Thames Centre, situated in South-Western Ontario, Canada, schedules a week in early May each year to pick up large items that are not normally picked up by the sanitation crew each week. Starting from late April, when the weather is nicer, people begin to bring out all kinds of things that they deem no longer necessary for them to the curve side of their homes. One can say that the pickup dates mark the end of “Spring cleaning” for those living in the municipality of Thames Centre. 

“You won’t believe what I found today!” A neighbor said as he slowed his car down to greet me. “I found a good sofa set, and solid wood book cases!”

A group of kids were pulling a wagon loaded with all kinds of toys and books. The old saying, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure” is definitely true here.

We took part in “junking,” too. For a few years we collected wood and playground material (slides, swings, etc.) to build a tree fort in the back yard. Although we had to buy a few things (deck screws, a few more planks of wood for support, etc.), we were able to build a solid fort with recycled material found during the “junk swap.” We also learned cross country skiing by salvaging the skis and boots one year.

We contributed, too. Toys that our kids out grew, sports equipment that we no longer used, flower pots, and anything else that we could no longer use, but others could, we put it out on the curve. And, of course, whenever we saw someone come and picked those up, we cheered and celebrated. We love seeing our “junk” find a good home!

Although we are not what people would label as “environmentalists,” we are glad for the culture of our “neck of the woods,” in doing what we can to reduce the amount of landfill junk by salvaging and reusing things that still have shelf life.

This culture of “junk swap” is one that we are thankful for, and hope that other municipalities can adopt in their own strategy to reduce waste. In a “disposable” economy, where it is almost cheaper to buy a new printer with cartridge, than to buy replacement ink cartridges (check out the prices), little acts like these help.

An added benefit is to see those little kids learn to celebrate what they have found by going “junking.” For some of them, they are learning the benefits of recycling through experience.

Junk swap is a part of the culture that we have come to appreciate and embrace here, in our neck of the woods. What unique culture do you have in your neck of the woods?

Human Migration: Stopping to Think

Statistics like 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide tug at our hearts. Numbers like the ones in the chart above overwhelm some of us with many different emotions. Some may feel anger at the atrocities that these numbers represent. Others may be moved to do something about it – send funds or volunteer to help with agencies like the UNHCR, World Vision, various missions agencies or myriad of other relief organizations. And there are those who may acknowledge the plight of these refugees, but quickly get back to their own lives, not giving it a second thought.

68.5 million is a large number, and much of the focus of the media is on these unfortunate people. Much of the reason for that is because “news” as we have come to know it today is centered on sensationalism – we are generally bored, so we crave better stimuli, therefore, to keep up with our attention, the news outlets have to find sensational stories. And with the rise of “fake news” we don’t know for sure if what we learn is true or not. Let me give you an example.

Recently I read from a “refutable source,” as in Time magazine, that the human attention span is now shorter than that of a gold fish – 8 seconds for humans, and 9 seconds for gold fish (see the May 14, 2015 article here). Two years later (March 10, 2017), an article was posted by yet another “reputable source,” as in BBC, debunking that notion (see the article here).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the UNHCR’s numbers are wrong. I am simply pointing out the fact that there is a lot of information at our finger tips. In fact, the amount of information out there is overwhelming to sort through to find the truth. Therefore, too many of us are either indiscriminate in what we read or see on the internet, or simply tune out all information. What I am advocating for, if I may, is that we pay careful attention to some of the changes that are going on around the world, and ask some intelligent questions.

For example, what does it mean for the world if 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced? If 85% of the world’s displace people are in “developing countries,” what does it mean for a country to be “developing?” And, if 57% of those people are from South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria, where are the other 43% from? The chart also shows that 10 million people are stateless – what does that mean? If they are “stateless,” where do they live? What does all this movement of people do to the cultures of the places that they are moving to?

Let me throw another statistic out there. 244 million. That is the number of people who are living in countries outside of their birth countries. Who are these people? We know that 68.5 million are forcibly displaced people, but only 25.4 million would count in that number (remember, 40 million are internally displaced – meaning, they are still within the borders of their own countries, just forced out from their home town). Others are people like my family. We left Korea (my birth country), and became a U.S. citizen. Then my wife (born in Korea) and our three daughters (all born in the U.S.) moved to Canada, and became citizens this year. Vast majority of the 244 million are people who have moved willingly, mostly due to job situations, to other countries. Many of them are living in the region that their countries are located (i.e. South Korean moving to Japan or China, French moving to Netherlands, Brazilian moving to Peru, you get the picture).

244 million is 3.3% of the world’s population. When we’re talking about percentages, the migration numbers do not seem huge. However, in his book, Microtrends: the small forces behind tomorrow’s big changes, Mark J. Penn gives numerous examples of small movements changing the world. According to his research, 3.3% is a significant number – it, indeed, is a “small force behind tomorrow’s big changes.”

If we open our eyes, we will see that the changes are already happening around us. Let me give you a few here as “appetizers,” then tackle some of the changes in the coming posts. As you go through the day, see if you could spot some of these changes around you (I will limit these to North America – U.S. & Canada – as this is where I am familiar with).

  1. Number of “ethnic” food restaurants have increased
  2. Labels of the products that we buy are in two or more languages
  3. It’s not too surprising to see women wearing head scarves, hijabs, or burkas around us
  4. More mosques, and temples (Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, and other) are being built
  5. Inter-cultural marriages are more common

I hope you enjoy noticing how your neighborhoods, cities, and countries are changing as a result of human migration. Please leave your observations in comments below.

Perspective: Little Things…

“Good morning!” the gentleman who looked to be past his seventies greeted everyone as he walked into the coffee shop that I happened to be perched, to work on a writing project at 7:00 am. He was way too happy and way too loud this early in the morning; which annoyed me – just a little. Then he walked over to me and got in my face and said, “have a nice day!”

I looked at him as kindly as possible, hoping to shorten the encounter, and said, “you have a good day, too!”

Oh no! He took that as an invitation. Buggers!

“You know, six years ago, I had a brain hemorrhage and lost most of my memory. My memory returned slowly, and about a year ago, I was told I’m back to my old-self!”

I didn’t ask for this… but I wanted to be kind, so I gave him my full attention – sort of…

“I understood then that I was given a second chance at life. Since then, I decided that I would bless at least five people a day.”

Wow! A dagger to my heart! My perception of this man was turned completely upside down at this point. He no longer annoyed me. Rather, I was annoyed with myself for being so self-absorbed.

“It doesn’t take a a whole lot to bless people, you know. It’s the friendly greetings. It’s holding the door for someone. It’s millions of little things. It’s simply noticing people and being kind to them in little things.”

Little things. Noticing little things. Acting on little things. Changing perspective. Not being self-absorbed, but seeing things around us. Pausing just long enough to take in the blessing that is in front of us. Giving a friendly stranger our full attention. Simple things.

I learned his name – Arnold.

“Thank you, Arnold, for blessing me this morning!”

Marathon At 60

A few years ago a friend of mine crossed off running a marathon on the Great Wall of China off of his bucket list.  That was a great accomplishment. What was more amazing to me was that he did this when he turned 61.  That inspired me to add running a marathon before I turn sixty to my bucket list.  At the time I was fifty, so that meant I had exactly ten years to accomplish that goal.  

The problem with that goal is that I am no longer a runner.  Although I have been playing sports (golf, softball, swimming, etc), my knees, lungs, and other faculties were in no shape to run even a mile.  So, I went to see a doctor.  My doctor sent me to various specialists, and several tests were conducted to see if running a marathon was even possible for me.  The consensus was that if I started off slowly, and built up my strength, then my knees, along with the rest of my body, as well as mental stamina, will be ready for me to run a marathon by the time I turn sixty. 

Therefore, we set some goals.  First year was spent simply to assess what it would take for me to accomplish the task.  Next, with a gift of Fitbit from my wife, I have been walking 15,000 steps, daily, to strengthen my knees.  In the next few years, I will be registering and running 5k and 10k races.  Then within five to seven years, my hope is to run a half marathon.  And finally, when everything is ready, I will run that marathon. 

Running a marathon is a goal to check off a bucket list.  However, that is not the overarching reason why I want to run a marathon.  It is a part of meeting my aspiration to live a healthy life, spiritually, mentally, and physically, so that I can better bridge workers to His harvest fields (my life’s purpose). 

Whether we like it or not in ten years our children, and for that matter we, will change.  For one thing, we would have aged ten years.  We may not be living where we are living now.  Our health may deteriorate.   

Some may say, “But we trust God will take care of all that.”  It is true.  As a Christian, I have no doubt that God is sovereign over all things.  However, sovereignty does not mean micro management.  God has given us stewardship over our lives, and over the calling that He has for us.

God’s sovereignty is brought more into focus by human responsibility. As we obey God, His sovereign plans are carried out. Of course, even if we don’t obey, His plans are still carried out. But wouldn’t it be so much more rewarding to us when God’s sovereign plans are carried out by our obedience? And in the process, we become more like Him?

What is it that you are aspiring to in ten years? What are you doing to make that a reality?

Where Are You From?

Golden China Restaurant – Casablanca, Morocco

Seriously? Did we just ask that question? Anyone who’s seen the YouTube video that made the question “where are you from?” famous should not be asking that question! Especially not Asians!

We were four “Canadians” celebrating the birthday of a friend at a Chinese restaurant in Casablanca, Morocco. How did we end up here?

Brian is a Caucasian Canadian, who married across the border and became a citizen of the United States, then moved to Thailand with his family.  He is a photographer/videographer. We met in Chiang Mai, Thailand almost a decade ago, and we’ve been talking about traveling together to see the world and to capture photos, videos, and stories as we experience the changing cultures of various parts of the world. We chose Morocco.

Joseph and Selina are a couple that I knew from Toronto area. Joseph was born in Toronto to a Chinese couple from Hong Kong, who met in New York, and moved to Canada to start their lives together. Selina was born in Philippines and immigrated to Canada at an early age. After getting married, they decided to move to Morocco. So, naturally, when we were coming to Morocco to tick off our “bucket list,” we contacted them. It turned out that the day we decided to go to Casablanca was Joseph’s birthday.

Me? Almost every time I enter a new country through customs and hand the customs forms, I get double takes and questions about my country of birth (South Korea), my nationality (USA), and my country of residence (Canada).

So, there we were, four “unusual people.” Then things got even more surreal as Joseph asked our waiter where he was from. He is Congolese – living and working in Morocco. We were communicating through French.

To help us better order from the menu, the Congolese waiter asked the owner’s daughter to come over. She began in French, but when she heard us talking to each other, she broke out in perfect North American English. We had to ask, “where did you learn how to speak English so well?” She told us that she went to an American International School there in Casablanca. We also learned that she was born in Ivory Coast, grew up in Morocco, and went to a University in Taiwan.

The real gem of this evening for me was hearing about how the restaurant came into existence. The owners, who are Taiwanese, read a book written by one of their favorite authors about Spain, and wanted to go and start a restaurant there. However, they were not able to obtain a visa. They somehow ended up in Ivory Coast, where they had at least the daughter that we met. Eventually, they ended up in Casablanca, and opened their restaurant 27 years ago (established in 1991).

All throughout the dinner, and as we continued our journey, we could not help but to wonder over the reality of the impact of globalization today. At that table, in that little restaurant, we were represented by at least 10 nations. A simple birthday dinner turned into a celebration of globalization for the six global nomads. What an incredible night!

And, we learned that the question, “where are you from?” is becoming more and more complex.

What is your experience of globalization? Please post your stories in the comment section.