Some things are the same the world over.  Like seagulls.  Karen and I are touring Turkey this week.  They have seagulls!  Why is it that the seagulls here look the same as those in Uganda, Taiwan, Germany…even Saskatchewan?  Ever wonder how they managed to populate almost every corner on the planet?  I sometimes wonder…do all seagulls eat diapers?  The ones in Moose Jaw do.

There are other things the same the world over…marketplaces.  In Turkey, they call them bazaars. I’ve come to the conclusion that, while each marketplace has its own distinct flavor, they all share striking similarities. Karen and I went to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul last week.  Here in Turkey, everyone says that its sellers are aggressive.  From my experience, they are no more aggressive than they are in Mexico City or Nairobi.  In Nairobi, I was lovingly surrounded by about eight artisans who were not going to let me leave because I showed an interest in their wares.  I left that market with an empty wallet and a new camel-skinned drum.

It’s tough going to a marketplace and being Canadian.  Maybe it’s because you’re used to lots of space.  And maybe it’s because you’re overly polite.  I think the sellers in the Grand Bazaar have an uncanny sixth-sense about Canadian niceness.  They specialize in getting your attention.  All they have to do is say, “Hello, how are you today?”  I mean, what true-blooded Canadian is not going to stop and say, “Me?  I’m just fine.  Thanks for asking!  How are you?”  Then they have you. You just opened the door to useless-novelty-trinket-stuff limbo.

And because you’re uber polite, you don’t know how to walk away. After all, you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. So you pretend you’re interested even when you’re really not. But the longer you stay in the scene, the more guilty you feel for wasting the seller’s time. So you end up buying something you don’t really need, or you break off the conversation and walk away, your sorry heart smothered in guilt for hurting someone’s feelings. Meanwhile, he’s shouting “How are you?” at another Canadian and has already forgotten you.

So I decided to just keep walking whenever someone asked, “How are you?”  I know it sounds rude, according to Canadian culture.  But according to the culture of the Grand Bazaar…I’m not so sure.  “How are you?” might mean “Hello, would you like to buy a rug?”

Karen and I are having a blast in Turkey.  We love traveling and experencing new cultures because when you step outside your own culture, you experience humility (if you have the right mindset).  You discover that not everything in your own culture is perfect. You also experience enrichment as you learn from other cultures.

I’ve been reflecting on the new church that we will be starting in the fall.  One of our defining characteristics is that we will be multi-ethnic.  We’re going to be launching in the northeast part of Edmonton.  This is an ethnically diverse region, rich with people groups from every corner of the globe. We want our church to reflect this beautiful diversity.

I look forward to celebrating and learning from other cultures. What might that look like?  Today…I have no idea. But it’s in my heart.

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