July 15, 2018 § Leave a comment
“South African-Lithuanian Stuffed Matzah Balls”
9. Divide the matzah meal mixture into 8-10 balls of equal size.
10. Flatten the balls, then and place 1 tsp of meat filling in the center of each. Enclose the filling, pinch the edges together and form into balls.
11. Place the matzah balls into the rapidly boiling salted water and simmer 20 minutes.
12. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
13. Drain the matzah balls and place in a pan greased with chicken fat; cover with remaining 4 tsp chicken fat and sprinkle with cinnamon.
14. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly browned.
June 28, 2018 § Leave a comment
After my mother’s death last year, my sister and I sorted through the items in her house, and I came home with some boxes that Mom had saved for me, holding grade-school spelling books, newspaper clippings, cards and letters, and old grad-school acceptance letters. There were some posters, too, ones that I’d used to decorate my room when I was a university student.
Do you remember those Argus posters with inspiring words printed over inspiring photos? (If you don’t, ask your parents—it was that long ago.) I recently unrolled a few of them, and remembered them hanging on my wall. There’s the photo of a sailboat against the horizon, reading, “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.” And there’s the image of a man climbing a nearly vertical cliff face. That one says, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
That’s one of the “If” phrases that used to guide me, but I don’t believe it as much now after living overseas. I can’t say for sure it was the location that changed my thinking. Maybe it was just the time that went by, and I would have come to the same conclusions regardless of where I lived. But I can’t separate the when and the where—from the experiences that made up my life then and there.
If it is to be, it is up to me
You’ve got to admire that mountaineer on my poster. He’s straining for his next handhold, his bearded face a display of determination. He knows that he must—he will—reach the summit. He knows the printed message is true. It’s made up of 10 two-letter words. How cool is that?
I understand what the poster is getting at—that we shouldn’t wait around for others to get things done. But somewhere along the way I learned that I’m not the center of the making-things-happen-universe. And it’s a good thing for the world that I’m not. Now I’m more on board with an image that says something like “If it is to be, it is up to God using whomever he sees fit to grace with the opportunity to join him. Finding what I can do to help is the part that’s up to me.” Not too catchy. Too many words and letters for a good poster. And for the picture? How about a guy pausing as he climbs the stairs?
If you want something done right, do it yourself
This phrase is a second cousin to the one above. . . .
Finish reading at A Life Overseas.
June 22, 2018 § Leave a comment
My wife, Karen, has been reading Kate Bowler’s book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. She’d heard about Bowler, a professor at Duke Divinity School, when I showed her some short videos that introduced the author.
Bowler previously wrote Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, but her focus changed when, in 2015, at the age of 35, she was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer.
“Why don’t you put those videos on your blog,” Karen asked me. I reminded her that Clearing Customs is about cross-cultural issues, and though I’ve stretched that definition at times, I need some kind of hook to pull an idea into the boundaries of this site. Bowler hasn’t been a missionary (that I know of), and though cross-cultural workers face struggles and loss, they aren’t usually of the terminal-cancer-diagnosis kind.
But . . . I’ve decided to post the videos anyway. Why? Because Bowler’s message resonates with Karen, a Christian who’s served overseas, who’s dealt with grief, who’s survived cancer, and who’s talked with many former and current cross-cultural workers who need Bowler’s kind of thoughtful encouragement and empathy instead of trite phrases, even those that come “from such a good place.”
So that’s my hook.
And here they are.
I think everything happens. Period. . . . I do think things just happen and some things come apart and some things come together. If I could pick one thing it would be that everyone simmers down on the explanations for other people’s suffering and just step in with love.
I realized . . . that I’m not special. And like, yes, I’m special to my parents and I am a beloved child of God, but like, I’m not—I’m not special insofar as, like, I am not the exception to the rule that sometimes bad things just happen.
. . . the tyranny of prescriptive joy . . .
June 10, 2018 § 2 Comments
As if learning a new language weren’t hard enough . . . here are some tongue twisters from around the world to remind you that talking isn’t always easy even for native speakers:
Need more ways to twist your polylingual tongue? Then go to the “1st International Collection of Tongue Twisters,” which boasts 3,660 entries in 118 languages.
Even American Sign Language (ASL) has it’s own tongue. . . uh . . . finger twis- . . . uh . . . “finger fumblers.” Here’s an example:
If you’re wondering what the hardest tongue twister in the world is, Google will point you to several articles claiming that the top spot belongs to “pad kid poured curd pulled cod.” (Try it for yourself.) That list of words was put together by researchers at MIT, while using tongue twisters to study the “brain’s speech-planning processes.”
But is “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” really the toughest thing to say on the planet? That’s a pretty bold claim to make. First of all, choosing a phrase in English would seem pretty lingo-centric. And second, even Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, the psycholinguist at MIT who presented the study’s results, says no such thing/ “I make no claims,” she tells NPR’s Ira Flatow, “to have found the hardest, the mother of all difficult tongue twisters.”
Maybe you’re not into tongue twisters at all (though, in that case, I’m not sure why you’re still reading this). Maybe you don’t like making things more difficult than they have to be. Maybe, you agree with the comedian Brian Regan, who thinks it’s enough of an accomplishment to speak English—by itself without any added challenges. Here’s what he has to say on the topic in his show “Standing Up”:
Can you imagine being bilingual? Would that be . . . Or even knowing anybody that was? I’m not even unilingual. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I don’t give myself enough credit. I know . . . I know enough English to, like, you know, get by, you know. No, like, like, I can order in restaurants and stuff, you know. “I want ham. One ham, please, to eating the ham. Bring ham to eating the ham, please.” I can do that. You know, just not fluent, I guess.
(American Institute of Physics, “Tripped Tongues Teach Speech Secrets,” EurekaAlert!, December 4, 2013; Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, et al., “A Comparison of Speech Errors Elicited by Sentences and Alternating Repetitive Tongue Twisters,” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, December 2013; “Speech Science: Tongue Twisters and Valley Girls,” Science Friday, NPR, December 6, 2018; Brian Regan, “Standing Up,” 2007)
Risk and the Cross-Cultural Worker: An Interview with Anna Hampton, Author of “Facing Danger” [at A Life Overseas]
May 31, 2018 § Leave a comment
Dr. Anna Hampton, along with her husband, Neal, have lived and worked for nearly 20 years in war-torn Islamic countries. This includes almost 10 years in Afghanistan, where they started raising their three children. Their experiences led Anna to write Facing Danger: A Guide through Risk (Zendagi, 2016), which is based on her doctoral dissertation at Trinity Theological Seminary.
Many cross-cultural workers recognize the need to develop a theology of suffering, but you write that a theology of risk is also necessary for resilience on the field. You cover this in depth in Facing Danger, but could you give a short elevator speech on how the two are different?
A theology of suffering asks a different question than a theology of risk asks. When I was a young mom facing daily threats of all kinds but especially kidnapping and murder, I needed to be able to evaluate what God was calling me and my children to that day. We hadn’t suffered the reality of kidnapping, but we were facing the risk of it. So how was I to think, to process my emotions, hear God’s voice, and then make a decision on what I was to do?
While risk and suffering are closely related and really go hand in hand, they are not the same thing. A theology of suffering does not answer the challenges of how to think, feel, and make decisions in risk. Instead, a theology of suffering answers how I am to respond to God in suffering, how I am to think, feel, and view God’s heart once I am in suffering. Suffering in many ways is more of a “static” scenario, whereas risk is inherently dynamic—one is moving toward or away from risk and danger, and the situation is often unstable and confusing. A theology of risk answers how I am to act on the opportunities presenting themselves in risk: Risk equals opportunity for both great loss and great gain.
For the rest of the interview, go to A Life Overseas. . . .
May 27, 2018 § Leave a comment
Nöden är uppfinningarnas moder.
That’s Swedish for “Necessity is the mother of invention” (unless I’m just completely mistaken).
For Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, industrial design students at Sweden’s Lund University in 2005, the necessity was a new law that required children under the age of 15 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. They understood that many people, including kids, don’t like wearing traditional bike helmet’s, so they wanted to create something that people would enjoy wearing and that would still keep them safe. The result was a collar worn around the neck that uses an accelerometer to detect a crash and instantly inflates an airbag to surround the head when needed.
In 2011 the Hövding (or “Chieftain”) passed required safety testing in Europe, receiving CE certification, and is now sold in 17 European countries—as far east as Istanbul—and in Japan. So, to readers in the US, when will you see one on a street near you? Probably not soon.
At first I assumed that the major issue was that Americans just aren’t sold on the idea, so I was hoping for some brave early adopters here to get the ball rolling. (I have the same hope for the Ostrich Pillow, another headgear innovation that I’d like to be the second or third on my block to own.) Or maybe it’s the cost: about $350—and it has to be replaced after deploying. But no, that’s not what’s holding it back, at least not yet. Right now, it’s nearly impossible to get one here.
First of all, according to the company’s website, the Hövding hasn’t met American testing standards for bicycle helmets. Second, it can’t be mailed outside of Europe (Japan has them because the airbags are made there). And third—because I know you’re thinking you’ll take your next vacation to Sweden and bring one back with you—TSA won’t allow one on your flight because of its CO2 cartridge.
As for the safety-standards factor in the States, a 2016 Stanford study shows the product’s potential. Mehmet Kurt, part of the Stanford research team, states that “air bag helmets, with the right initial pressure, can reduce head accelerations five to six times compared to a traditional bicycle helmet.” But the kicker is that “right initial pressure.” If the airbag doesn’t inflate with the maximum amount of air, then a forceful impact could cause the helmet to “bottom out,” and the head would strike the ground (or other obstacle) through the cushioning.
But maybe someday . . . here. The Stanford group calls for a general updating of US helmet standards and testing, which, they say, “are very far behind.” And then they want a more in-depth look at several aspects of the Hövding: how it protects against rotational accelerations and forces, how it performs when dropped from greater heights, what can be done to eliminate bottoming-out issues, and how to make it “smarter.”
Here’s hoping all that can get worked out and the Hövding, or something like it, can make it to our shores. Not only would having “invisible helmets” in the US prevent injuries, but it would also increase my odds of getting to not see one firsthand.
(Taylor Kubota, “Stanford Researchers Show Air Bag Bike Helmets Have Promise,” Stanford News, October 3, 2016)