Sunday, 17 April 2016

Notes on Harmony

I sit at the bedroom window, and allow my gaze to wander aimlessly at the scenery on the other side of the glass pane. What do I see? The streetlights cast a shower of brightness under their hoods, and illuminate certain spots in my window picture, while dark silhouettes obscure secret meetings and romps around corners and underneath them. But all is still in the air, the quietness enveloping us in an aura of reverie and contemplation. It silences our nervous system, and our senses are heightened. I hear my antennae travelling around, searching for answers to the great mysteries of the universe. I contemplate the neighbors, their lives intertwined with mine, yet distant, we each having gone through different paths to arrive to the same place. Where did they come from? What brought them here?
Why are we all here? Like a huge organism, each of us are like a cell, with a certain life span, a certain function, certain location, all contributing to keep the entire organism alive and healthy for as long as possible. 
It is like listening to a Beethoven symphony, where the smallest of motives are conceived as building blocks for the neighborhoods, which in turn hold up the city, and so on.
I hear the opening of the Eroica symphony, and it revives my faith in a higher order, a faith that we all serve a purpose, to do our very best to keep life as healthy and strong as long as possible. 
When we hear the beauty, the truth, the harmony of the interconnectedness of the universe in a Beethoven Symphony, how can we do anything but to have faith in God, to feel special and humbled by the magic of life? We begin to feel what our individual roles are, and to have renewed love and respect for Bach and Beethoven. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A Streetcat named Ming Ming, Chapters 1-8

Chapter One

I love cats. All sorts of animals I hold dear, but cats and I have a special mutual understanding. I can tell it was not always that way, but cats have a way of making you tune in. They are magnificent creatures, particularly my orange striped little tiger, Ming Ming.
In 2006 I went to Istanbul for the first time with a friend and colleague of mine. It is a fascinating city, but the streets were littered with homeless cats and dogs, uncared for and to a large degree, traumatized from the hectic and potentially dangerous city rhythm. Many cats had already become, as could be witnessed in their eyes, neurotic; jumpy at every slight noise, and suspicious of any physical advances towards them. I took to the habit of buying chicken and rice off the street vendors and placing them on comparatively quieter corners, and if I stepped back enough, at least three or four cats appeared out of nowhere to gouge on this very welcome repast. 
On the last day of my stay in this rather exotic city, I was duly shopping for my sister who had requested Turkish porcelain. Not having enough cash at a cash only shop, I had to go to a bank machine. My friend suddenly pointed downwards, and there, taking cover from the gradually accelerating rainfall was a sweet, sleepy, and very clean tiny kitten with her tail curled around her body. Heart melting rapidly, I crouched down and patted my lap. She immediately jumped up and curled herself up ready to take what was perhaps the first protected and therefore truly restful slumber of her young life. 
I could tell that she was female, given her narrower face shape, and that she was thoroughly relieved. As she was still young, she'd not yet become suspicious. Orange striped cats are rarely female, so she was, in my eyes, already a rare and special little kitten. 
I picked her up gently and she lay in the crook of my elbow, not wanting to ever leave it. She remained quietly in the same position during my walk back to the shop, the transactions,and the walk back to the hotel. As soon as we arrived in my hotel room, she jumped out of my arms and gulped the entire leftover fish I then offered her. I packed with her sitting on the floor like an Egyptian sphinx staring at me, and finally scooped her up to take the shuttle to the airport. I thought and whispered to her, "Keep still and maybe we will both get lucky." In any case, I did not believe life at the airport would be any worse than life on the streets of Istanbul. So there she went into my tiny black bag, along with a small face towel I took to give her some comfort in my bag.
My car mates, from America I learned, were not impressed. Neither was I, but sometimes you have to listen to your guts. They were quick to comment that I had no health papers, no travel bag, nothing! How was I ever going to get her past security, much less onto the plane? Good questions, but being the eternal optimist, I thought to myself, que sera sera, what will be will be, bar anything. 
I have to admit, my car mates did leave a seedling of doubt in mind, or at least, my eternal optimism was coming down to hopeful realism, especially when, upon arrival at the airport, I was greeted with security at the front entrance. My heart did jolt, but I forged on ahead with as calm a demeanor as possible. Looking back, I now realize just how intelligent cats can be when they want to be. She behaved as if she were in the finals of a cat show; friendly, amiable, non- plussed, calm. The security ladies were charmed, complimenting me on my sweet adorable kitten, and cooing over her. Whew. First obstacle over.
In she went back into my bag, and onto the next hurdle, the check in counter at Lufthansa. Seemingly cool as a cucumber, I stepped up at my turn, and the lady checked me in without nary a look at what I was carrying over my shoulder. In fact, I had almost forgotten about her in my bag, as she was so quiet, she could have been a figurine!  
It was probably luck, as it was one of the only times I ever flew Business Class, so we were treated well, and directed immediately to the upstairs business lounge. There I was able to give her, amongst a crowd of busy business travelers, cheese, sausages, meats, etc. all of which were devoured in seconds. After her first smorgasbord, she lay down beside me on the couch, satisfied at last!
As it came close to departure time, we were called over the PR system to head to the gate for boarding. There, right before entering the corridor to the plane, was another security check, X-ray and all. Although I was somewhat calmer after her great performance the first time round, the thought did flicker vaguely in my mind as to what would happen should they not allow her on board now. There was no need to worry. This little kitten was again amiable and sweet, and the gentleman kindly brought me an animal transport box, as I hadn't known the rules, flying for the very first time with her;), and asked me for payment of 50 EUR. I never handed away my credit card as quickly in my life. He was well-disposedand, and pleasant. Business class does have its cache.
I put her in the box and boarded the aircraft. Her first flight, and she was curled up, fast asleep! 
After arrival in Frankfurt, luck held through, and not a green uniformed border agent in sight. 
We took a car, my obedient new kitten was silent, and I finally breathed a sigh of relief.
As we entered my apartment in Ingelheim, I was sure she was still fast asleep as not the slightest sound could be heard from within the box. I walked the stairs, opened my door, and set her down at the entrance, ready to let her out. She did not give me a chance. With a force and speed, she ripped the box at the seams in one karate chop, and whipped around in her new home as if she'd eaten a pound of catnip! I realized then how intelligent these creatures were about survival. Her personality never ever reverted back to the day I met her in Istanbul.
Chapter Two
Now that my new friend was ecstatically getting accustomed to her first home, I went about unpacking my things and cleaning up. It was too late to shop for food, as stores do close earlier in Germany. After settling in, I went searching for the little one and found her in the kitchen, sitting beside a tomato stub. She had eaten the two large tomatoes I had left on the the kitchen table! Survival does breed necessity.
That certainly meant no dinner at home tonight, so my friend and I discussed other plans. 
In the midst of our discussion, something began to smell. I hurried over to the living room to see that she had used one of my plants as her toilet, and that clearly the tomatoes had had a particular effect on her digestion. Soil was strewn on the floor where she attempted to cover her ...ahem...runs, and I admit I yelled at her. My friend sat, calmly expressing his utmost respect for her intelligence at having found the most suitable place for her needs. First of all, he didn't have to clean up, secondly, he is a dog person who previously thought cats were not quite up to snuff, and lastly, he was responsible for her presence as he had pointed her out to me. . . Well, it really wasn't her fault that stores were closed and I could not buy cat litter for that night.
I thought I did a decent job of cleaning up, and forgot about the incident completely. About 9 months later, I came home one day and sat at my usual place in front of my desk to work. At some point, I detected a faint scent of tomato, although there were no actual specimens in the apartment to justify that smell.  I was puzzled, and looked at whether it could be coming from an open window. I checked. No open windows. Not content at not being able to find the cause, I sniffed and sniffed, trying to follow the scent. I opened the door, thinking a neighbor had perhaps just brought just returned from grocery shopping. Another deadend.
As my gaze shifted downwards to my new adopted, hairy "daughter", my eyes caught a glimpse of something I hadn't seen before. There, in the very plant holder where she had located her first bathroom ... was a tiny tomato plant. 
This determined little tomato plant grew quickly, bore no fruit, tinged the air with its scent and after many months of diligently watering, it suffered its death at the hands of my neighbors who decided, during the dry hot summer months when I was away, that an indoor tomato stalk was a bit of an excessive, not to mention eccentric, habit.

Chapter Three

My adventures with my new friend began immediately. Now that she had a "mother", she was going to milk it as much as possible. Literally!  She found a ribbon on my nightgown and decided it was the closest to a cat nipple she'd ever get and proceeded to suck at it for 10 minutes every night before lying clear across my neck and chest to sleep. I tried to "wean" her, but she was so determined to look for something to suck on that she ended up sucking holes in some of my clothes when I was out. The Linus syndrome also works for cats.
During my busy weeks in Casalmaggiore where she could not see me until very late at night, she took to sucking big holes out of the bedcover in the hotel. The bill of 50 EUR at the end was an expensive reminder that she did need attention as a, what one of my colleagues quipped, single parent child. The following summer, I tried my best to prevent this from happening, lying my violin case, music stand, anything on the bed to keep her from missing me too much. She is the most persistent cat, as my mother reminded me, and she still succeeded in chewing three holes. I waited for the bill, but surprisingly, none came. I assumed they thought they had overcharged me the first year, and let it go this year. 
I walked away and forgot all about it.....until the third year. As usual, I checked in and proceeded with Ming Ming to my room. I entered the room and there, tucked neatly over the bed, was the same bedcover with three holes from the summer before! They didn't charge me.
I finally decided that a nightgown was the less expensive option, and gave up the idea of weaning her. Nine years later, a slip of it remains, but she still sucks on it every night.

Chapter Four

Being, to my mother's chagrin, a night owl, I tend to concentrate better when everybody is quiet, and no light outside can beckon and seduce my attention.  In real fact, I actually would prefer not to have to sleep at all, if my body would have cooperated well. 
In any case, my first night with my new suckling baby kitten was rather short. After four hours of sleep, I was awoken by a wet and sandy tongue gently licking my face, with rather aggressive intentions. With my first movement out of bed, I had surrendered, and duly gave her breakfast.
The second night was even shorter. Exactly one hour earlier, at 6 am, I again felt her licking my face. Pavlov entered my mind and I decided to stay put. After almost sliding back into subconsciousness, I was jolted by a set of sharp teeth on the tender insteps of my feet! She had slid underneath my duvet. I kicked her off, but she persisted with a determination worthy of Muhammed Ali. I gave in and again got out of bed. She got her breakfast.
I do like the number three. There is something about the saying, third time's a charm. Always the musician, I also notice that good composers never repeat something more than three times.
So when night number three came round, I had no idea but only faith that the tides would turn.
It didn't start out quite so promising though. Exactly one hour earlier than night number two, I felt again her gentle tongue on my face. Cats must have an internal clock. I threw the duvet over my head, wrapped it around me like a sleeping bag to prevent her from getting underneath, and went back to slumber. Like a cat, curiosity made me peek out to see what her next tactics might be, and there, perched like an owl on top of my closet was my little nemesis, looking sweet and innocent. I fleetingly wondered what her intentions might be, but curiosity satisfied, I closed my eyes, covers over my head. 
Just as I was slipping away, what felt like a rock flew onto my stomach with a heavy punch, and knocked me into startledom. That was it. I was determined to get the upper hand, and went back under my covers, somewhat recovered. Again, she landed like an airplane with a bad pilot.
I endured the shock waves better the second time. She did try it once more - I guess cats also like the number three - and seeing that I was not going to budge, she never again woke me up before I was good and ready.
Chapter five
I needed the help of a good vet that she had a clean bill of health..... and no fleas or ticks. She certainly was energetic enough, finicky about her own cleanliness, and she showed passion readily. In fact, she oozed emotion. I guess she was so thankful to have a home that she would not allow me to give her any normal cat pleasures, such as rubbing under her neck, for at least two years. She would always pluck out her paw, bring my hand down, and lick my hand for a very long minute, all the while purring contently. At least I did not need to buy one of those sea sponges for peeling! Her tongue was just as effective, and came with a motor. 
 Ming Ming also hated bad odors, particularly her own. If I forgot to clean out her droppings for more than a few days, she would let me know. First, she would search the entire house looking for a bag, either plastic or paper, or if none was lying around, a hand towel, bring it to her toilet and cover it completely. If I happened to be occupied, she had two solutions: first, read my mind to find out when I might be making a trip to the bathroom and second, if no bathroom pause seemed to be in sight, she would take a run from a comfortable distance right towards me, spring up and take a bite right where she would get a reaction. This developed later to a third solution, for times when I was often out of the house and she therefore had no chance of getting my attention. Drastic measures were now called for. She would wait until evening when I came home and was fumbling in the kitchen for something to eat, and then make a huge commotion by scraping out handfuls of dirt out of my house plants and flinging it to the floor as loudly as possible. She knew I hated to clean up. And she knew I would associate plant soil with toilet.
As soon as her "bathroom" was clean, she would spend the first minute doing a dance in the new litter in delight! One of my colleagues happened to see this dance and quipped" Happiness is a clean toilet".
When I first got her, I didn't know her well enough to know her daily habits, nor her industriousness and intelligence. She did already have a personality change upon arrival, so what could I expect from her next? What if she had a personality disorder due to some rare hereditary disease? Highly unlikely, but sometimes a flick of neurosis passes by my mental window. 
A visit to the vet was necessary, for my own peace of mind. I looked up the list of vets in the neighborhood, chose one I had an instinctive good feeling about, and made an appointment. Not having a cat transport cage of any sort, as she had destroyed the cardboard one courtesy of Lufthansa, I drove her to the vet at the designated time, and carried her in to report our arrival. There, in the waiting room, was another customer with a large dog, perfectly friendly. My little tiny kitten screeched loud enough to overshadow the most brilliant coloratura, hissed, and lashed her saber claws at my poor face, nearly scratching out my eyes. She was terrified. So was I. I guessed she must be healthy, but how could I be certain I was not infected with some strange disease?
Finally the doctor called us in, kindly gave me some Kleenex to wipe my bleeding face, while I tried to explain where this little monster came from. She listened quietly, and reassured me that had she been carrying rabies, she would have been long dead, and by the looks of it, she was one healthy, young, albeit undernourished, and therefore undersized kitten of six months. That meant she was a May baby, a Taurus, just like me. No wonder.
Then the kindly doctor attempted to give her shots, and take her temperature, only to be met with flailing paws, more screeching, and finally, disappearance into a shelf, face forward ready to pounce again, and strike anyone who had the gall to poke at her private parts without permission. She is a self respecting female after all. The vet took out a fistful of cat food, and it did the trick. Bribery works when you are that hungry. The hissing and screeching were now in counterpoint with rapid gulping, exhibiting yet another female talent, multitasking.  From that visit on, Ming Ming earned a nickname at the clinic, " Die Verrueckte" , the Crazy One. 
Chapter six

It took some serious consideration to find just the right name for her: it had to be simple enough for her to respond to, sound female, and I wanted her to have a chinese name.
I come from a liberal background, full of influences from all sides, and grew up, as I said, during Trudeau's multi cultural Canada. My father was born and grew up near Tsingtao, or Qingdao nowadays, and as a youngster heard the German language being spoken, as the province of Shandong lay under the sphere of influence of the Germans. Later, it was given to the Japanese before returning to Chinese rule. Tsingdao is an important coastal city, and much of its architecture is European. It is also home to the famous Chinese beer, again a reminder of the German influence. With the help of a distant relative, who made a fortune in the fishing industry in Taiwan, my father studied at the Academia Sinica, the top research institute in Taiwan, and emigrated to Canada to earn his doctorate.
My mother comes from a quite well to do family of notable scholars, officials, etc. She also comes from the province of Shandong, near the capital of Jinan. Her family ancestors were very adventurous with a strong rebellious streak. Every generation boasts a female member who defied the traditions of the time and did not marry, preferring to run away rather than kaotao to an arranged marriage, or even to simply escape the torturous foot binding custom.
Both of my uncles look very Caucasian. One of them looked like a spitting image of Jascha Heifetz when he was younger, with the deep set sleepy eye look and a head of thick curly hair. My grandfather worked for Chairman Mao, then became a  "traitor" and worked for Chiang Kai Shek. He was hunted by the Communists and the family, including my five year old mother, almost got themselves killed. They escaped to Incheon, Korea, and lived there for a year before settling in Taiwan.  My mother has a family tree book going back at least 400 years and I asked her if she could find out where and when we lost Han pure blood status. She replied, " you think they would admit to mixing cocktails?" 
I guess it will remain a mystery then, but it accounts for the Shih-Lius being quite a mishmash of east and west traditions. Now that my sisters married outside of the Chinese race, one to a half Indian, half British violinist, and the other to a Russian-Ukrainian-French violist, we really are a United Nations family, or as Obama said, mutts. 
And that even extends to our pets. So far, we have had hamster Pinky, chinchilla Reina, rabbit Chiara, dog Angel, and cats Teeny Weenie, Scherzo, Shalom, and a couple of no name hamsters we returned because they proved to be cannibals, eating their own babies! No Chinese name amongst them! 
Mimi is kind of a noun used affectionately for cats in China, but again it sounds more Puccini than Pujing and we had already two Italian pets. So Ming Ming it was. A Muslim refugee with a Chinese name and a German passport. 
Chapter seven

Now that she was equipped with a passport and the required shots, I could travel with her almost everywhere. I fly back to Canada thrice a year, and after a month or so of adopting Ming Ming, I bought her one of those hard cat cages for air travel for her first Christmas in Vancouver.
I was optimistic about her enduring the flight, given her absolute nonchalance on her very first airplane from Turkey to Germany. I packed some cat food and a blanket so she could sleep on something soft.
The check in went smoothly. With the required papers in hand and a credit card, I was fully prepared. And Ming Ming seemed quite calm through the entire security procedures.
After entering the plane and seating myself down, cat in cage at my feet, I was feeling quite relaxed. No phones would ring, no email alerts. I was stuck, with no pressing obligations! 
The flight was full I was told, so luckily the seat next to me was the only empty seat. Should Ming Ming want company, the cage could go up on the seat after reaching cruising altitude.
We just started taxiing when suddenly, Ming Ming somehow unlatched the door, and got out! It started a bit of a commotion, and a flight attendant came over to remind me that, " due to safety regulations, pets must be in the cage at all times." I apologized and tried to explain that she'd gotten out accidentally, and proceeded to get her back into the cage, all the while puzzled as to how the lock became unlatched. Ming Ming was determined to put up a fight, screeched loudly, claws and paws flailing about wildly, and spitting at anything. She was too much for me, and I grabbed both my blanket and pillow to protect myself from becoming a patient for the Red Cross. The two gentlemen, one sitting across the aisle and the other at the end of my row, felt sorry for me, plucked up their courage and also grabbed their blankets to help me push Ming Ming back into the cage. Finally the three of us succeeded against this tiny kitten, and after I made sure I locked the latch carefully and securely, set her back on the floor at my feet. No sooner had I done so, bang went the door, and out she sprinted again! 
Heads shaking in disbelief, faces ashen, all three of us grabbed our blankets as the stewardess sternly came over and admonished me for holding up the flight. I had to think fast, and after we three finally succeeded in pushing her into her cage, I threw a blanket over her so she would not be able to see. It seemed to work as she did not come out again. I think the two gentlemen deserved a medal for courage. 
Not five minutes went by before Ming Ming decided to complain, loudly and incessantly, heard throughout the entire aircraft. I was utterly shamefaced, trying to fathom the reason for her behavior. I decided she was scared of the feeling of abandonment, so lifted her onto the seat as soon as I could, and stuck my fingers through the cage so she wouldn't feel alone. It worked for all of 5 minutes before the meowing commenced again, maybe not as loudly, but just as incessantly. My trips to the toilet were particularly embarrassing. I covered her cage before getting up, and was rewarded with screeching meows which penetrated both my ears and my sense of shame to the core until I got back to my seat. 
Gradually we all had to get used to it, as it continued for 4/5ths of the flight, in other words, 8 long hours! Two hours before landing she finally fell asleep in exhaustion, and for the poor passengers, it was a very welcome gift of silence.
It did not last though, as 45 minutes before landing, at the exact moment the announcement came on to fasten our seat belts and return to our seats, the most horrifically pungent smell emanated from Ming Ming's cage. She had just pooped. 
Passengers were groping and covering their noses in disgust. The sympathetic gentleman in my row quickly called a stewardess over and practically begged her to allow me to go to the washroom and clean up the mess. No, not a chance, against the regulations. Then she came to me and told me quite succinctly that either I think twice about taking her in the cabin, or fly another airline next time. Her colleague was kinder, and came up with a solution: she got out every last pack of coffee she could find and distributed it to all the passengers within breathing distance. We finally arrived in Vancouver, coffee masks in place. It was the longest flight I ever took.

Chapter eight

Life with Ming Ming is an autumn harvest;  fresh, colorful, bountiful, and sometimes spiky. She is basically, though, a very well-behaved cat with quite a bit of fantasy, thank goodness. I certainly would not want a boring personality in my household. Her deep sense of gratitude at having found a home manifests itself in some form of her response and reaction to me on a daily basis, but, like any self-respecting female, she lets you know immediately if she doesn't like how she's treated. One needs time to earn their love and trust, and to do that, it takes also some effort and sensual intelligence.
One of the main problems I have seen amongst youngsters is that they are convinced and brain washed not to be like an animal, but smart! that they can end up being insecure, fearful and not sure about anything.
Yes, our brain is a wonderful asset, no doubt, but it is also that which has caused the most horrid mistakes and evil in the world. It is our brains which hold us back very often. All the major tyrants in the world have lead with an idea born in the head, not aligned to natural reality. The extreme ways in which they "see" the world give them an almost supernatural aggression and energy with which they are able to manipulate masses. 
The only way of prevention is good education, education which is not based upon fact retention and fear of looking like an idiot, but upon rational analysis. And to return to our animal talents! Animals must fight against all odds to survive; they deal with death on a daily basis. Through these hurdles and obstacles, they learn to use their sensual powers most efficiently and effectively. 
Our five senses are man's best friends, as they are our only connection to the outside world, to reality. The brain has no connection and needs the senses to feed it information. When tension or negative thoughts set in, it is the brain which stimulates these destructive impulses, and then shuts down our sensual faculties to sometimes such an extent that we can become self destructive, sick, angry, and much worse. God gave us the brain to be able to judge the world accurately, to give us the extra capacity to protect and help the world so that we can all benefit from the wondrous gifts that are present around us. God gave us a heart to work with the brain so that we work from the right starting point. It is the heart which determines how we use the brain. They must work jointly, fed by our five senses.
When we are stressed or insecure, we shut down our senses, lose our contact to reality, and therefore make mistakes. It can range from slipping on the stairs, to locking oneself out, to losing or forgetting keys, to saying the wrong thing, to be inconsiderate and offend someone, and the list goes on. We need to take a step back from ourselves and our egos, take a deep breath, and realize that nothing in life is so important as life itself. We are lucky, special, but not so important that what we do is noticed by everyone. We serve humanity, not the other way around. 
I have known many people who are desperate to be rich, and would do anything to have a large bank account. They may get it, but that will be all they get. The higher truth of the universe is that you are often victim of that which you most prize. No person has ever been able to take his wealth to heaven or hell. We are all borrowing during our lifetimes that what we need to live happily. We do not own anything materialistically forever. 
Good education can teach children to live without fear, to see, hear, taste, feel, smell the world, and use the information well by then processing and analyzing the information objectively, intelligently, and rationally with our brain and heart. Over time, we understand what a flick of the eye means, what tension in a face muscle reveals, why someone is in a bad mood, etc. We begin to understand and perceive more deeply and truthfully the world around us through experience. Our pets are doing it every day.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Me, Canada and the World

I have been to my share of different countries, experienced the peoples and their cultures, and although I am far from being a world traveller, I have developed a deep love for our global garden. 

As I was born in Canada, the appreciation of multi culturalism comes naturally. As an interested and curious youngster, I read the newspapers with due diligence, and was exposed to Trudeauism. He embodied my idea of a model politician - intelligent, open minded, passionate, charismatic, principled and had a great sense of humour. He was a strong leader, with clearly formed ideas, which made him also quite unapologetic and unwavering at times. 

I enjoyed, not yet loved as I was still relatively young, the Canada Trudeau had shaped. We were proud without the arrogance, liberal and disciplined, hardworking but fun, and we respected each other. They were good times for the country. His son, Justin, seems to have promise but I hope he has the strength of belief and character to stick to his guns.

What I liked most, as a minority Chinese, was Trudeau's respect and love for differences. He loved the variety and nuances of the world and sought to cultivate the wondrous diversity within the country of Canada. 

I wish so keenly that every individual would share this respect and appreciation of diversity. How much better we could work together on the improvement of the important things in life: the quality of our nature, our food sources, our resources, the education of our children, the health of our citizens. One of the priorities to achieve these goals is the universal teaching of music to all children, but this would be another topic for another day.

It seems so clear to me that our outward differences are superficial indeed. Yes, some of us are white, some yellow, some brown and some black, nowadays some of us are even multi coloured!

We eat different foods, different spices, speak different languages; some of us are loud, some soft, some burp publicly, some do not even know their spouses have bodily noises after thirty years of marriage. We are all human.

In fact,we come from the same ancestors who looked very similar back then. The differences we now see are only the result of nature running its course and separating into different continents in different directions. Over time, our genes change to adapt to our climate and surroundings in order to survive best. If you live on a crowded small island, of course you will develop a love or at least comfort level with all things miniature. The familiar is often safer. 

If you live in a country with serene nature surrounding you, you would develop a tendency towards peacefulness and patience. If you are living in a bustling city or region with millions of people, your tempo will accelerate over time. Thus we begin to develop traits and habits to adapt to our "neighbourhoods", and after several generations, those traits and habits become ingrained in our genetic makeup. My young niece, whose father is half Indian, but who has eaten during her grand sum of four years mainly Chinese and Italian food, sweats eau de curry! She doesn't even like Indian food, at least not yet, but her clothes all smell like butter chicken!

At the age of two and a half, I took her out to play and every time she accomplished a task, I yelled enthusiastically "very good!" She ended up trying to climb fences just so, as she so endearingly said, dada ( her nickname for me, the aunt) has to say berly goot ( Indian accent). Just think of those who need to practise hours to get the Indian accent down pat, and here she was, a perfect Peter Sellers. 

On to more serious things again, such as the Middle East eternal crisis. Here we have strife and violence since the Bible existed. I do not think this tragedy will ever stop. It seems that every time we have something precious or sacred, every insecure person will fight for its ownership or at least closeness to it. The very fanatical actions they take indeed are glaring proofs that they are the furthest from the precious or sacred. It reminds me of the words of wisdom, "you only have something when you no longer need it." And that is true of respect as well.