Monday, July 31, 2006

Dog Dirt

I am not fond of dogs. In fact, I do not like animals very much in general. However, regardless of whether one likes dogs, I think we all agree that dog excrement is not very nice at all.

Compare dog dirt to sheep excrement. It is quite different. Sheep excrement is a bit messy, but not much more than mud. It dries out easily in hot weather. The smell of sheep excrement is not that unpleasent, it is part of the English pastoral experience. The reason for the difference is that sheep only eat grass, while dogs eat meat. Hence, dog dirt is a serious potential health hazard. Being exposed to dog dirt is not very good for you at all.

Most places have laws to stop dog fouling, however, there are people who are careless enougth to let their dogs foul up. There are also stray dogs.

You may think that you are careful enougth to avoid stepping in the stuff. However, it is very messy. Even after the bulk of it has been washed away or consumed by insects, there will still be traces of it that you would never notice.

For the sake of your children, take off your shoes at the door and ask visitors to remove their shoes. Even if you do not have children and do not care about your own health, ask visitors to remove their shoes. That way, other people will feel more comfortable making their own homes shoe-free.

By the way, my father was informed by his mother, when he was a boy, that chewing gum is made of dog dirt. I understand that is not actually the case, but like my late grandmother, I believe chewing gum is a bad habit. But wearing shoes at home is far worse.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Japan!

Japan Page in Wikipedia

Japan National Tourist Organization

Japan-guide.com

Japan Today

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Japan, as it is cutomary in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

Come on, everybody knows that. This is probably the most obvious of these awards. Many people are quite ignorant of the fact that shoes are removed in Swedish and Polish homes, but are well aware that you need to take your shoes off when entering a Japanese home. And it is not just homes. For some reason, the Japanese are more inistent upon this custom than any other nation. In Japan you often have to take your shoes off in hotels, some restaurants, offices, schools, universities and even some shops.

When visiting a Japanese home, you will probably be give a pair of slippers to wear. If you sit down on a tatami mat, you need to take these slippers off first. When entering the bathroom, you need to exchange your normal slippers for a set of slippers worn only in the bathroom.

My choice was inspired by my attendance of the Japan Christian Link conference this weekend. The Japan Christian Link is affiliated with the Japan Evangelistic Band, an historic mission organisation working in Japan. Japan Christian Link is commtted to sharing the Gospel with Japanese people both in Japan and elsewhere.

Japan has freedom of religion and freedom to evangelize. Missionaries can easily obtain visas to enter the country. However, Christians remain a tiny minority within the Japan. It is deeply sad that so few Japanese people respond to the Gospel. Churches are few and they tend to made up of the elderly and have many internal difficulties.

Japan has a dual-religion of Buddhism and Shintoism, but for the vast majority of people this is a religion of rituals, not beliefs. There are also many cultish new religions and of course those familiar jokers, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Unification Church.

In recent years, Shintoism has been returning to its nationalistic and imperialistic roots. Very public manifestations of this is the visits of the Japanese prime minister to shrines honoring war dead of the Second World War and the use of a revisionist textbook in schools. It is feared by some that the resurgence of nationalistic religion could eventually lead to curbs on freedom of religion.

The obstacles to becoming Christians for Japanese people include the alienness of Christianity and its concepts, the importance of traditional rituals in family life (which may lead to conflict with the family of a convert) and the centrality of the group mentality to Japanese psychology. Nevertheless, a young missionary I met at the conference said:

Everybody says that Japan is a really hard place to evangelize, but maybe rather than blame the Japanese, we ought to blame the way we do evangelism there.


Two major mission agencies which are active in Japan include:

OMF International

WEC International

Monday, July 24, 2006

Making Friends with Japanese

At the Japan Christian Link conference I purchased an evangelism resource 'Making Friends with Japanese' by John Taylor and Hugh Trevor. The authors wrote, on the subject of a Japanese person visiting a British home:

Japanese friends hesitate at the door when you invite them in as if they don't quite know what to do. They may have noticed that you are wearing slippers, and wonder if they should take off their shoes when coming into your house, as in Japan. You need to assure them that it is OK to walk on your carpet in outside shoes- after using the door mat!


Maybe it is not OK to walk on this English person's carpet in outside shoes? There may not be many Japanese folks who wear shoes at home, but there are a few of us British people who do not like people wearing shoes in our homes.

Even if one did not mind shoes walking on one's carpet, I think perhaps a better approach might be to say 'Feel free to take your shoes off.' The Japanese person might feel more comfortable and at home after removing his or her shoes.

Mixed Couples

There were quite a few Japanese/ English married couples at the Japan Christian Link conference, some who lived in Japan and others who lived in England.

I could not help wondering about whether or not they applied strict shoes-off policies in their homes or not. I did not actually speak to any of them on that subject as there were plenty of other things to talk about.

I expect those living in Japan would almost certainly have followed the custom there. However, it is possible that some of those couples living in England might have been less strict for the sake of visitors. I suppose it would have been interesting to know.

Of course, even couples who are of the same nationality might disagree about the issue. Personally, I think it would be something to bear in mind if I ever consider marriage again. I would probably rather marry a woman who did not object to having a shoes-off policy. Maybe I need to marry a lady from a shoes-off country.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Morocco!

Morocco - Wikipedia

Morocco - World Factbook

Moroccan News

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Morocco, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

My primary interest in Morocco, I admit, is culinary. I have had the opportunity on a few occasions to eat at Moroccan restaurants and the food has been fabulous. The experience was very similar at each of the restaurants. They attempt at each to make the eating areas look as much like "tents" as feasible. Each party is seated at a low, round table, on soft stool-like seats or cushions. The first ritual is hand washing. As with everything else, this is done together in the center of the table. The server pours warm water (at one place the water was scented with roses) over a bowl onto the hands of the guests. After the hands are cleaned, they bring out bread and put a platter on the center of the table with various food to eat with the bread. I recall an eggplant dip and vegetables. My favorite part of the meal is a large, round pastry filled with shredded chicken and seasoned with cinnamon. Very good stuff. I think there are three courses prior to the main course. The main course is the meat. The meat is according to the common choice of the guests at the table. I have had lamb, beef and chicken with various sauces and seasonings. Dessert is served with tea and typically consists of a variety of whole fruit. Dinner entertainment is often provided by a belly dancer. Some stay in one place to dance and others come table to table. The meal can take two or three hours to eat and there are no eating utensils provided. While a bit pricey, it is a very fun and tasty American Moroccan experience!

At roughly 33 million souls, Morocco is the fourth most populous Arab nation in the world. With 99.85% of the total population professing Islam, the gospel is much needed and much resisted. The country is officially closed to missionaries. As of 2001, there were an estimated 500 believers in Jesus Christ.

The government officials of Morocco admitted to the international community in 1999 that there were over 500,000 children under 15 in their labor force. They are working toward changing their dependence on child labor.

In short, enjoy their food, pray for their souls, and appreciate their courtesy for removing their shoes in homes!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Appalling

In the local newspaper yesterday, there was a photograph of a woman who had her feet propped up on a sofa- with her shoes on! Dreadful behaviour.

Her shoes were jewelled leather flip flops that she could easily have slipped off, but I suppose she probably wanted readers of the newspaper to see her new shoes.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Surprise

I do find it amazing that in internet discussions on this subject, Canadians and Scandinavians so often express surprise at finding out that Americans and British people wear shoes at home. Removing shoes just seems to them to be the natural thing to do.

Friday, July 14, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to... Poland!

Poland- Wikipedia

Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Poland.com

Poland Online

I hereby grant the National Etiquette Award to Poland, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes when entering homes.

We have a temporary worker in our warehouse who is from Poland. One of my colleagues told me that he had said he was earning more money for just a few days work there than he would earn in a month back home. Apparently he plans to remain in the country for three years.

There are huge numbers of Polish people coming to the United Kingdom. As Poland is part of the European Union, Poles can freely come to the UK to seek employment.
I am very glad that these people are coming. I think Polish people are very hard-working, respectable and conservative. The increase in Poles and other East Europeans also provides a demographic counterbalance against the growth in the number of Muslims here (interestingly, there is a tiny minority of Muslims in Poland of Tartar origin).

I have met two Poles.

The first was a student at university. He was not a believing Catholic. He was a deeply intellectual young man. We had many long discussions about religion and God. I rather wish that I had been better practised at sharing the Gospel back then. He even visited the Reformed Baptist church I was attending at the time.

This student deeply detested the Roman Catholic hierarchy. He said that he had once been punched at a shrine to Mary. He had not been sure whether he was supposed to kneel or stand at a particular point in the service and a man there thought he was being disrespectful and punched him!

He was expecting to be conscripted into the army after completing his studies. As Poland had joined NATO, he might have served anywhere in the world.

The other Pole I met was a Pentecostal who was working in Britain. He attended the Pentecostal church I was going to about three years ago. The parents of my ex-fiance invited him to dinner. He took off his shoes, of course. He was also very intellectual; he was doing a doctorate in the philosophy of science. He claimed to have the gift of healing. He abandoned his job in Britain so he could go back to Poland to lay hands on his sick father.

I know an American who served as a missionary to Albania with one of my best friends. He is now serving in Poland.

Poland has had a very turbulent history. It has been chopped up and divided amongst a number of European empires. Int he Twentieth century, Poland experienced some of the most terrible atrocities ever.

The entry of Poland into the European Union is probably the best thing that ever happened to this wretched organisation. Poland, having experienced Communism is far more pro-market, pro-American and defensive of its national sovereignty than a lot of European countries.

Poland is probably the most devoutly Roman Catholic country of Europe. It is tragic that having escaped Communism, it remains under the bondage of the ritualism and idolatry of Popery.

For more information about Roman Catholicism, please visit:

Chick Publications

For the work of the Slavic Gospel Association in Eastern Europe, please visit:

Slavic Gospel Association

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Philemon

The preacher today was preaching on Philemon. He referred to Philemon's love and care for the church:

Philemon hosted the church meetings in his home. He was willing to put up with people bringing in mud onto his cream carpets.

Who says he did not ask those attending to politely remove their shoes? I certainly would have done.

It is generally thought that ancient Greeks removed their shoes when entering homes. I am not certain of Philemon's ethnicity, but he was probably more likely to have been Greek than Roman (the Romans kept their shoes on in homes).

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In the Gym

At the sixth form college (high school) I attended, you could not go in the gym without removing your outdoor shoes. However, this rule was always ignored at exam time, when the floors were loaded with tables and chairs.

I suppose it is understandable that students were not asked to remove their shoes before the exams; it might have made them feel uneasy. After all, they were used to attending classes with their shoes on (unless they opted to study dance or perfoming arts).

This would certainly not have been an issue in a Japanese school or college, where all the students change in to slippers on arrival. The wisdom of the East.

Friday, July 07, 2006

This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD goes to.... North Korea!

North Korea- Wikipedia

World Factbook- North Korea

Democratic Republic of North Korea- government site

Infoplease- North Korea

I hereby grant North Korea the National Etiquett Award, as it is customary in that country to remove shoes in homes. Or at least, I am guessing that is the case, with it being a Korean custom. North Korea is one very secretive place and most people outside the country know little of what life is like for North Koreans. If I was to visit North Korea, I would probably not be able to visit the homes of any North Koreans to find out if they removed their shoes. And I would probably be given a government minder to make sure I did not go talking to any North Koreans about forbidden subjects.

North Korea has been in all the headlines this week with the firing of those missiles. It seems a dumb thing to do, but it is a very volatile region of the world. I do hope there is not going to be an East Asian war in the event of my going to Japan as a missionary.

North Korea is a terrifying place. Angie expressed her horror at the regime in Turkmenistan, but they are amateurs next to the repression and totalitarianism of North Korea. Stalinism never came to an end in this place.

To make matters worse, the county has suffered from famine in recent years.

Christian activity is strictly prohibited with dire consequences for believers.

You hear Christians in the West say some silly things about persecution. You often hear the glib comment that 'persecution makes the church grow.' Well, there seems little evidence of spectacular church growth in North Korea despite the worst persecution on earth. I am sure there are some very brave Christians who share their faith as best they can in that nightmare regime, but let us rejoice in the freedom of the West and rejoice in the huge church growth of its free neigbour, South Korea.

Some Christians say that all believers will show spectacular courage in the face of persecution. Well, if they only lived in North Korea, they might be able to be sure of that. I am not so sure I would show much courage in the face of torture and slave labour camps.

For me information about the suffering church worldwide, please visit:

Barnabas Fund

Open Doors International

Monday, July 03, 2006

Barefeet

In the UK and the USA a lot of people feel a sense of disgust and abjection towards feet. Of course, in many Asian countries, the foot is considered to be unclean. However, this is in connection with the fact that the foot touches the ground. Thus, shoes are considered to be far more unclean than the naked foot. In an Asian home, barefeet are acceptable, but shoes are not. This is actually the very opposite of the western abjection of the foot.

It is very common in internet discussions about shoes-off in homes for the subject of barefeet to be raised. It is argued that barefeet are disgusting, more so than the dirt on peoples' shoes. Of course, if you do feel that feet are disgusting, you can still ask visitors to remove their shoes if you lend then flip flops or socks to wear. Angie mentioned this in a previous post.

It is very likely that the sense of disgust about barefeet will decline. Sandals and flip flops have become incredibly popular in the UK and the USA. People are becoming more used to exposed feet. And ladies (and some men) are spending good money on keeping them looking nice.

The argument that feet are more unhygienic than shoes is quite wrong. Unless a person has been going barefeet outdoors, they will not have been picking up the awful things that the soles of shoes pick up (though sandal-shod feet do get a bit dusty). You may think your feet are disgusting, however, you undoubtedly have more germs on your hands than on your feet. Feet are usually remarkably cleaner than the average pair of hands.

Of course there is Athlete's Foot and Verucas. Hopefully, if a person with such a condition is an invited guest, he or she would bring some socks or slippers and if an unexpected guest, he or she would hopefully accept the loan of some clean socks.

One should remember that the oils on barefeet are acidic and can cause some wear on carpets, though not as much as shoes. Thus, it is best to restrict going barefoot on carpets to spring and summer.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Carpet is magic, says Rachel Simhon

Carpet is magic, says Rachel Simhon

Article defending carpets. It is not actually certain that carpets are as much a bad idea as some people think. They are certainly not very fashionable.

The article recommends getting family members to remove their shoes, but maintains that it is rude to ask guests to take their shoes off. Who says? Modern manners are in a state of flux. Nobody is quite certain what is polite and what is not any more. Most people feel comfortable with shoes-off and are aware that shoes-off is practiced in some cultures.

Going Shoeless Keeps Floors Clean

Going Shoeless Keeps Floors Clean