Thursday, November 11, 2004

Such Low Standards

Such Low Standards

This morning I was reading Scribbner's Cafe, an american ex-pat in Japan, who celebrated the fact that she had taken a taxi ride alone and ordered pizza over the phone in Japanese sucessfully. She commented that her excitment over such mundane accomplishments must represent "such low standards". I disagree. To me both are amazing feats worthy of celebration. (The pizza was ordered to celebrate the taxi ride.)

I, of such low standards, have some bragging/celebrating to do of my own exploits. Yesterday I bought potatoes. *a moment of silence so all can appreciate my wonderful success*

Hubby was out of town on business, the boys were out on the town on monkey business and we girls of the house needed groceries and veggies. The girlies were making Iftar (sundown break-fast) so Abez dispatched me off to the local plaza to get the needed items. The groceries are no problem since the shop we frequent is run by Pakistani American-returnies. They understand my funny American and I can even detect the traces of Texas in their accents.

The veggie seller, that's a different story. There it requires me to think in Urdu AND in kilograms AT THE SAME TIME! Yep, you can see the smoke pouring out my ears, as this 50(-going-on-80) year old brain of mine goes into multi-tasking mode.

My mode of commerce is mostly point and nod. I name the object first in English, then in my limited and grossly mispronounced Urdu and I hope the vendor can hammer together the clues. Then after the item is identified successfully, he asks me how much I want. If I haven't preplanned my responses and gotten the family's advice about how much to buy then I'm in trouble. How do I know what a kilo of potatoes looks like in reality!? Will I get two or twenty? Getting an American to think in metric is like asking a cat to bark or a dog to climb trees. He asks if I want a kilo, but I safely opt for adha (half) kilo. I later realize that a full kilo would have been safe.

I'm not the only one in the family who has problems converting metric to imperial to practical. Yes, I know that a kilo is 2.2 pounds, but how does that convert to useful information? Abez once bought a kilo of potato chips. Do you realize what a kilo of potato chips looks like? You could fill a pillow case with them! Aniraz and I were shocked to see her return to the car with a huge bag. It seems she was too embarrassed when she realized her mistake to ask the man to take 90% of the chips back. She resisted our urging to return the chips, saying we would have them all eaten in a few days. We ate chips for days and stale chips for weeks. (abeZ sez: They were delicious! Even soggy! Mwahahaa!)

The only measurements I know are kilo, adha-kilo and something the locals call a "pow". I don't know if it's Urdu, English or Urdu-ized English or what. It's a fourth of a kilo.

Last night when I returned from my shopping adventure and was proudly displaying my acquistions, adha kilo ahloo (1/2k potatos), aik pow gajjar (one 1/4k carrots) and ak bunch paalak (one "bunch" spinach) Aniraz questioned Abez, "Hey, why did you send Mom vegetable shopping?"

Then she turned to me and asked, "How much did you pay? Did you get ripped off?"

My reply: "I don't know? When they say the numbers in Urdu, I just start putting money into their hand until the hand withdraws, then I put out my hand and hope for change. Then I know how much I've paid."

Such low standards, indeed.

Monday, November 08, 2004

There, but for the Grace of God Go I

Last night when Hubby and I were out for a drive, we passed a fresh road accident. Broken glass filled the intersection and off to the side of the road, a late model black Lexus SUV was standing on it's side. It had obviously rolled several times, crushing the vehicle badly. You could see the deployed airbags and wondered if they offered much protection to the passengers.

The next day Abez and I had to drive past it again on our way to run errands. Cars were not only rubber-necking and causing a traffic jam, but people had parked their cars and were swarming over the wreck. Pedeatrians were crossing the road to get a closer look. You could have sold tickets.

Abez asked what was the morbid fasination that drew Pakistanis to the carnage. I reminded her of when she was in the hospital a few years ago awaiting surgery; the nurses and cleaning ladies from other parts of the hospital left their work stations to come stare at her and offer their condolances and prayers. We were amazed at that behaviour.

Both the hospital and the accident site are manifestations of the same phenomeon. These poor people believe from their movies that the rich lead charmed and wonderful lives and when reality shows them otherwise, they are amazed. The hospital staff came to marvel at her and to secretly thank God that although they were poor, at least they were healthy. I told Abez in the hospital she was the tragic heroine; the beautiful, moral, rich foreign girl facing emergency surgery.

It's the same at the accident. Here was a RICH man's car crushed and totaled. (The import taxes for luxury vehicles in Pakistan is 300% of the purchase price!) The same fascination attracted the masses, grateful that they could thank God that they may not be rich, but at least we are safe and healthy.

Song: There but for the Grace of God

What kind of madness rule the world today
What earthly reason holding sway
There is no heaven at all
For some may weep
And some may sleep
While some may rise
And some may fall

No one is an island
No one born alone
No man can turn the tide of fortune on his own
Though some may dare to try

Say there but for the grace of God go you my friend
Say there but for the grace of God go I
Go I

And so we live in lives of fantasy
And dream of dreams that hold the key
And we follow like sheep
We thread the path
That leads to Thee
We seek the soul that is not ours to keep

No one is an island
No one born alone
No man can turn the tide of fortune on his own
Though some may dare to try

Say there but for the grace of God go you my friend
Say there but for the grace of God go I
Go I

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fast-Sunday Iftar

Today was the first Sunday of November and as a Mormon, it was my Fast Sunday. The first Sunday of each month we fast for 24 hours and give the money we would have spent on food (plus more, if you can afford it) to charity. We are to fast and pray with a purpose. My purpose today was to ask God to soften my heart towards beggars. I've become so callous towards them, that it worries me.

Yesterday I bonked one on the head when he wouldn't go away from my car and Abez gave me a stern dressing down, which I must admit I took silently with full guilt of my actions. Although it was a prefuntory bonk and I thought the kid deserved it, Abez insists it was unChristian, unladylike and unnecessary.

Indulge me as I sort through this complex issue. I have no problem giving to charity. I give generously at Church, and to other organizations I know are meeting the needs of the poor without ripping off their donors. I give to the working poor, but I have a BIG problem giving to beggars. I still don't think it's right. It seems to me I am feeding an unwanted industry, perpertuating an ignoble perfession.

Here's why I don't give to professional beggars. First of all, begging is not allowed in Christianity or Islam. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonialns 3:10 "if any would not work, neither should he eat." Proverbs 19:15 says, "an idle soul shall suffer hunger." Mormon scipture backs this biblical principle in Doctrine and Covenants 56:17, "Wo unto you... who will not labor with your own hands." and in D&C 42:42 "the idle shall not wear the garments of the laborer." Harsh words, but this doesn't end the issue here.

In the Book of Mormon I read from Mosiah 4:16-27 "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

"Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just.

"But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

"And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

"And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

"And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

"I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

"And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

"And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may awalk guiltless before God I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." ***

So there you have it. Two different answers for the two different perspectives. To the beggars the scriptures warn to not be lazy. To the rich man, come the warning to not be stingy and to remember that we are all beggars for God's mercy.

So now I got some soul searching and repenting to do. How I can apply this advice in my life. I think the family tradition of giving food, but not money to beggars is the best approach. The harsh reality is if you give money to a woman or child beggar, they have to give a cut to their beggar pimp. It's best to give them what they can eat right away, fruit or snack packs of biscuits. Then you are feeding the child without feeding the industry. Any ideas or suggestions in this area would be appreciated.

Time to go cook Iftar (break-fast). Today, I timed my fast so it would end at the same time my Muslim family breaks their fast (Iftar). The Queen of Cultural Confusion reigns supreme.

Sunday hugs to all those who perservered through this very untypical "Sunday School lesson" blog.