Wearing a face mask in Asia has become a social courtesy

I was served by a Starbucks barrista wearing a mask in Taiwan (Changhua county, 2017).

I visited Taiwan in 2017 and even back then, you’d see the random healthy person wearing a mask while out-and-about doing their thing.  The thought there is the opposite of what we have here. In Taiwan, the wearing of face masks is the norm for everyone. It is highly encouraged by health authorities. It is more than just a social courtesy but it is a health precaution for the healthy and not just for those who are ill. 

Today, given our Wuhan virus situation, if a person in Asia is seen not wearing a face mask while shopping for groceries, they might be barred rom entry. Shopkeepers and shoppers alike will give you odd stares and perhaps the evil eye. Everyone will carry a face mask or two on their body when they are outside. Wearing a face mask is a duty and a social responsibility for everyone.

Failing to wear a mask is seen as inconsiderate as when we see others who fail to sneeze into their own sleeves and just let the germs fly. Down right disgusting right?I know, it’s bizarre according to our social standards here.

It might be more convenient to sneeze or cough into your own mask than into your own sleeve (if we’re not quick on the draw). It’s happened to me before.

Personally, I haven’t been one for wearing face masks but I’m noticing more people wearing them in public these days. Currently, we are being told during daily local coronavirus news conferences to wear face masks only if you are sick or if you are a frontline worker like a nurse or a doctor.

People in Asia are expected to wear a mask in public at all times and in all places–both adults and children alike.  The wearing of masks has almost become a sign of public courtesy.

It heightens our awareness of germs and sends out the message that one is cautious of not spreading or contracting germs.  Regardless of whether it’s really effective or not, at the least, it’s seen as a symbolic gesture of social courtesy.

The downside of this in Asia is this. To be seen not wearing a mask comes with a price–a stigma. A person who walks into a store to buy essential services will be viewed as one who exposes themself to others’ germs and/or who exposes their germs to others.  That person will not feel welcomes to shop there. They might even be asked to leave. That’s how it is in some places.

Why has it come to this in Asia? Asian people are deadly afraid of the virus. When Asia had the SARS and the MERS outbreak, thousands of people died, it didn’t much affect the rest of the world. The rate of fatality was close to 10% for those who did contract the virus (vs Covid-19’s 1-2%). Asians in Asia have become extremely sensitized to the dangers of sickness through their experience of SARS.

The practice of donning a mask has been carried over from Asia, but we regard this practice as socially unacceptable. It has been deeply socialized in the culture and has nothing to do with whether one has the virus. We really shouldn’t fault Asian in North America for wearing masks in public.

An illustration in point. I saw a story on social media about an Asian person in the U.S. getting harassed and beaten up for wearing a mask in public.  Either the attackers had falsely assumed they were sick, or they were just racist and wanted to take their anger out on some random Asian person for bringing the virus into America. I don’t know.

In Asia, some front line workers like doctors and nurses died because they were exposed to the virus. They reported for work knowing the chances of contracting SARS or MERS was high. It was a sense of duty to serve the people.  Those nurses and doctors who died were honored as heroes.

Some of us need to change our understanding of wearing face masks in public. We might be seeing a change very shortly. Rumors have it that the CDC has been considering a change in public directives regarding wearing face masks in public. A change might come after production of face masks gets ramped up in the United States. Is there a reason why we are being fed the line that face masks are reserved for frontline workers and the ill only? I think there might be.

Travelers at Hong Kong Int’l Airport at sanitizing station.

From start of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, Asian countries have been taking the Wuhan Coronavirus very seriously.  It explains why Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong have been successfully in maintaining lower infection rates. Their rates of infection per capita have thus far been relatively low in comparison to that of Italy’s. The wearing of face masks is not the only contributor to their success.

They also do mandatory public temperature/fever screenings at check points, though its reliability is not high. It seems somewhat draconian to have to check everyone. This is done everywhere, at airports, at schools and in some large public spaces.

A health official checks temperature of incoming passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand on 9 March 2020 (AFP)

Public health workers doing temperature screening will wear protective clothing. It gives the impression that the deadly virus could be lurking anywhere and could hit at any moment. It strikes fear in the public psyche. Some might opine that we need to increase this awareness and alertness to the dangers of the coronavirus.

These hardline measures are a stark contrast to our culture where social freedoms and liberties are highly valued and protected. Can we do this kind of thing in Canada and the United States?

Will we get to the point where a wide spread infection of coronavirus will require mandatory or random public check points, and if the donning of masks might become socialized in the western world?

Hope exists – even in our suffering

We might be asking ourselves, when is this Covid-19 pandemic going to end? We might be bored out of wit’s end and stuck in our home in isolation but around the world there are other negative events happening this week.

A Kenyan farmer tried to dispel desert locusts in a village east of Nairobi last week. The infestation in Kenya is the worst in 70 years.
  • Pestilence of biblical proportions in eastern Africa and Middle East: Massive swarms of 500 billion locusts are devouring entire swaths of vegetation in eastern Africa, i.e., Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and others, and now the Arabian Gulf. The likes of this has not been seen in 70 years. One swath measured 60 km long by 40 km wide. Over 20 millions people are in danger of starvation due to food shortage.
  • War and terrorism in western Africa: terrorists group, Boko Haram, is mercilessly murdering men, women and children and inflicting harm upon innocent people in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon.

We might be able to mitigate some evils but we cannot control all the bad and evil things happening in the world today.  The wise teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes speaks of equal and common treatment toward all humanity. 

“This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.”

Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 (NLT)

Regardless of whether we’ve been a good person, or done lots of bad things, this Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in some way. 

This shows that control over the events in the world is not in our own human hands.  We might be rich, powerful, strong, healthy, smart and intelligent, funny, beautiful, weak, poor, ill, good or evil.  We do not have as much control as we might have thought we had.  Ultimately the destiny of our world is not in our hands.

The good news is that there is still hope. Hope is in the love of God.  There are things we can do to experience hope.

  1. Be teachable and listen for God’s soft voice during self-isolation/quarantine/lock-down. 
  2. Take this time alone to focus and pray to God. Ask yourself: what is God’s will in my own life.
  3. Enjoy the good gifts that God has already given to you. There’s always something.
  4. Pray to God for joy and hope, even in my own suffering, anxiety, sadness (or even boredom).

Marriage after Corona/Covid-19

Hi, I’m Kevin. I want to share a part of my life’s story in the blogosphere. It’ll be a longer read than usual.  I grew up seeing my parents suffer together.  When I was a young kid in Vancouver, my father raised the family (my Mom, brother and me) by working two or three part-time jobs.  Life was tough in my younger years but I didn’t know the difference. 

Later on we moved to the prairies of Saskatchewan. We worked hard together.  I grew up seeing my parents live a family-first model of marriage.  In this model, marriage is not so much about romance but it’s also about the kids, money, raising a family together.

When I grew up, became a young adult, went off to college in Ottawa and Virginia. I was taught to believe that the soul mate model of marriage was the only true way to live.  Life was about seeking happiness, and marriage was supposed to bring happiness.  From a secular view, marriage was actually seen as optional.  Marriage and children were a hindrance. These things can get in the way of achieving happiness and a comfortable lifestyle.  This is today’s current view of marriage. This will, however, change.

After college, I moved to Toronto.  I believed that life was all about achieving success in one’s career.  It was about finding the love of your life; one could then live happily ever after.  I bought into society’s ideals hook-line-and-sinker.  Love and success were supposed to make a person happy.  If one doesn’t find success and happiness, you would then be settling for second place; and second place was a loser’s place.

In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, author W. Bradford Wilcox said this about the soul mate model of marriage:

“For those who are already married, the stresses and strains of marriage and family life in the time of Covid-19 will send thousands of couples to divorce court. Marital failure will be especially common for husbands and wives under the sway of what I call the “soul mate model” of marriage. The soul mate model—trumpeted in books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” not to mention countless songs and rom-coms—is the idea that marriage is primarily about an intense emotional and romantic connection between two people and should last only so long as that connection remains happy and fulfilling for both parties. This self-centered model gained in popularity for many Americans starting in the 1970s, the ‘Me Decade.’”

Later in my young adulthood life I realized this model to life and marriage was wrong-headed. I could see it taking me no where. I then realized that this was actually a mass deception created and perpetuated by the mainstream media and by Hollywood. A Me-First mentality.  I looked back and began to consider history and traditions, and why life seemed better in the golden olden days. Call it nostalgia if you wish.

I looked at myself and didn’t like what I had become.  Self-centered.  Selfish.  Prideful.  I knew that there had to be more to life than just seeking happiness for myself. I confessed and repented of my ways. I made a switch, slowly but surely.

Wilcox said of the family-first model of marriage: “in times of trial and tribulation, most people—and most spouses—don’t become more self-centered, they become more other-centered, more cognizant of how much they need their family members to navigate difficult and dark times.  He believes that in a post-Covid-19 society, the family-first model of marriage will gain ground against the soul mate model.  I agree with this.

Since the great depression of the 1930s, we haven’t had such a big downturn in job losses. During this Covid-19, experts and economists are saying that we will definitely have a recession, or even, a depression.  I have never seen communities as a whole pull together. Perhaps 9/11 in New York City was one instance but on a national and worldwide scale, I don’t think this generation has ever seen anything within our lifetime as during this pandemic. There may very well be or a soon-to-be economic collapse, but of course, I’m hoping there won’t be one. It’s safe to say that everyone is coming to realize the dangers and calamity the virus will inevitably cause. 

I believe that in the end, people will pull together as communities, for the good of the community.  Families will also pull together and stick together.  Why?  In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

An opposing direction that a post-Covid-19 society might go is the prepper-survival mentality.  Every man (and woman) for himself.  Screw the rest.  Prepare your home as a fortress to hide out.  Fill it with food, bullets, and survival items in order to stave off collapse for months or even years.  And bear fire arms. Have your ammo ready.  Lock and load to protect your fortress.  If the situation ever gets so bad, it could come to this low level post-Armageddon mentality.  Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I don’t think it will come to this level.

In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

Families will come together because as human beings, we know there is something more to life than just living life in order to seek happiness.  There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.  It puts the pressure off of yourself, the individual.  The pressure to succeed now lays in the bigger group, the community, and the family.

“There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.”

My parents taught me something about sticking it out for the long haul.  Suffering for a short time will pay off in the longer term.  After I took on this new view of life, things began to change.  God blessed me with a life partner (rather than a soul mate).  We began a family together.  We now have a daughter in middle school.  Life hasn’t always been easy but life has been good together.  So far, so good.

This has been a part of my life experience and I wish to share this with the community I’m a part of in the blogosphere. I hope it encourages a few people out there who might read this.

When This is Over

Self-isolation has effected many people, if not everyone. I saw this online so I’m sharing this to encourage others out there. You might be feeling the same.

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted:

A handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theatre…

 Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine checkup, the school rush each morning…

Coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring, each deep breath…

A boring Tuesday, Life itself.

When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be…

we were called to be….

we hoped to be and may we stay that way…

better for each other because of the worst.”

– by Laura Kelly Fanucci –

I wanna wash my hands

What is the Corona/Covid-19 virus really teaching us?

Someone has written a series of very reflective thoughts. Some have mistakenly attributed it to Bill Gates says the Independent newspaper (UK). Any way, it’s still quite good and I’m sharing it here.

I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:

1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should to. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.

2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.

3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals. If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.

4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.

5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.

6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.

7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.

8) It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.

9) It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colors.

10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.

11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.

12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.

13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.

14) Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a *great corrector* It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.

A prayer for those who have died

In the news, I heard a story about a spouse who could not leave the house to plan for her husband’s funeral.  There was also a doctor who worked in the same hospital where his father had died. The sad thing was she could not be with him due to mandatory quarantine so he died while apart. For those who recently lost loved ones, here is my prayer for them, and for us, and you may also make this a prayer for yourself too.

Dear God, guide us as people on earth from nations
to support and care for one another during this pandemic.
May your healing wings rest upon us
and cover us with your protection.

Show us the reason and purpose for our lives
so that we may live with hope
which is in God, in life, in death
and in life beyond death.

Loving God, by the peace of Your abiding Presence,
give us your peace and comfort us
through the support of our family and friends,
though we may be in imposed quarantine or in isolation.

Merciful God, You created us all in your image
Continue to hold us in your arms through these trying times.
Thank you for the gift of your servants
who have recently passed from this world,
for the gift of their life,
and for the love and mercy they received from you,

Holy God, we entrust all your people who have passed
into your tender care and everlasting arms.
Amen.