Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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Archive for March, 2008

Is this the Law of Attraction of Work or has my friend found his switch?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

CL and I were colleagues for a few years. We used to exchange views on our personal financial positions. He had no investments, besides the house he stayed in, which had a very manageable mortgage. 

All his plans for providing for his family and his old age, was by way of insurance. He had endowment policies that he was contributing to. These policies would pay a lump sum of money should anything untoward happen to him. His idea was that so long as his children’s education was provided for, it should be okay. He used to complain that he had no money left over for savings. 

I used (with the little knowledge I had on pfm) to advise him that he should:- 

-         draw up his current net worth statement,  

-         set a goal that he would increase his NW by at least 5%,   

-         then think and come up with ways to earn or to save that extra 5%,  

-         that he should set all these in writing. 

-         And that this little victory would soon him set him on the way to keep improving his NW. 

(This was way before, I discovered pf blogs.) 

We met up for lunch last week to celebrate the birth of another colleague’s first child.  I was surprised, when he asked our mutual friend on his plans for savings for the child.

One thing led to another, and soon he was talking about his recent investment. He had bought an investment house in a locality well populated by private colleges. He had increased the number of rooms and bathrooms. And he was renting them out to students at a rate that was giving him a healthy positive cash flow monthly. 

This property had been fully let out within a couple of weeks and on top of that, he had a waiting list of interested tenants. And the house was about 25 minutes from where he lived, making the job of checking up on the property very easy. 

In addition he also had investments in Unit Trusts.  

All these were done in a period of about 8 months or so since our last meeting. 

I was impressed! What a turn around! 

I asked him what made him start. He told me that he had been thinking about investing for quite a while, and then it just happened. Of course, he had also done research, looked at a number of properties, talked to various banks on financing options etc. 

Is this the Law of Attraction at work?  Or has he learnt to do things in the certain way promoted by the 1910 book, The Science of Getting Rich.(not an affiliate link). Or has he found his wealth creation switch? 

It does not really matter. I am just happy that I have an additional friend in my peer group whom I can talk to on growing our wealth.  

Welcome, Readers of Consumerism Commentary

Monday, March 10th, 2008


Welcome! Readers of Consumerism Commentary.

You can read and understand a little about me and the reasons behind my blog here.

If this is your first visit here, please feel free to look around and comment to your hearts’ content. I hope you’ll visit often.

And thanks again for dropping by.

Is the world’s financial roof about to fall off?

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Economic and financial miseries can never be truly understood unless a person actually experiences one. 

I have never ever been retrenched out of a job. Well, technically, I was, but the next day, the holding company took me in. All my life, there always was money every month, there were no pressing unpaid bills, there was food on the table, clothing and transportation were not a problem, etc. 

When the Asian Financial Crisis struck us in 1998/99, I was working in a small company. And thankfully, almost simultaneously we got a substantial contract in Ghana, where we never really felt the financial typhoon that mercilessly lashed Malaysia and most of the region.  

What if a financial typhoon lashes us now? What if what all the doomsayer’s predictions come true? Or even if some of their predictions come true?

What should I do as the leader and provider for my family? 

Let’s look at some of the recent gloom and doom stories. 

a)    These people have come up with 15 predictions about how the near future will play out. I was most concerned to read about Prediction No: 5 and 6.

- The Asian economies are not going to “decouple”, they are going to have their own financial crises and recessions. Yes, this includes China.

- China’s stock market will collapse some time next year. China will go into a recession. There will be huge amounts of violence and the Chinese government will redirect anger towards the US and Japan.

b) JP Morgan has now forecasted that a tsunami of systemic margin calls will sweep the banking industry. The amount they are throwing about is USD325 billion. No small change! Margin calls are particularly vicious, as they come when we are usually least capable of paying. So the collateral held is sold indiscriminately and the loss just lumped upon us.

c) Goldman Sachs is predicting oil price to hit USD200 per barrel, a view shared by the EU’s Energy Commissioner These are the same guys, who three years ago, predicted that the oil price would hit USD100 / bbl. So they cannot be simply ignored as being over pessimists.  

There was a time when I would have been completely ignorant of all this kind of talk. Then there was a time, when I would have known, but completely ignored these.  

Now, I have a family, a family that looks upon me for leadership and as a provider.  

I cannot just keep my eyes blinkered. I personally think:- 

-         that there would be no violence in China or Japan or the US and, 

-         The Asian economies may not be so strongly and intricately coupled to the US economy as before. 

However, it is likely that a number of banks will fail. The first to fall would be the smaller US banks, and the public will then try to take their money out of some of the larger ones and this should start to shake their foundations. The banking world is seriously intertwined, so some major ripples will hit our shores. 

In the extreme case, currencies and paper assets of any kind will see drastic declines in values.  

And all it takes is public perception that such a scenario is going to unfold, and it will. This may result in a wave of companies closing and rampant unemployment.

What should I do? I do not have an answer yet. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we have to go through something as cataclysmic as this to understand. And this is something I have never experienced.   

I think the answer would be a little of living as a warrior, a little of living life as Katie and a little of back to the farm kind of living. 

Do you think I am being too alarmist? Have you ever wondered about whether you could survive in a 1929 setting? 

What do you suggest we should do? Or should we just merrily carry on and continue to save in our ETF’s, Index Funds and the like?  

How I intend to help my daughters secure jobs they would like – Part 3 – Basics of life as an employee

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

My two elder girls are almost ready to join the rat race. I am trying to discuss with and suggest to them the things they can do to better position themselves to get the job of their choice from the employer of their choice. And not to repeat the major mistake I have made of not managing my career.  

In Part 1, we covered an overview of the process. 

In Part 2, we covered the additional employability skills they would have to familiarize themselves with.

In this Part 3, we look at the realities of life as an employee as compared their past years as students. 

I have made some bad mistakes in my life and in guiding my children. One more to add to this list is the fact that I did not do enough (or rather anything) to make the elder girls do internships. The benefits of internships have been well documented.   

Since there is no point in crying over spilt milk though, I just have to make sure the girls have a firm understanding of the sometimes harsh realities of life as an employee as compared to their relatively cloistered life so far. 

I have read Ms. Dawn Rosenberg McKay article titled “From College Campus to Corporate Climate” and added on my thoughts. 

a) My children lives have so far involved “education and knowledge coming to them.” They would sit in some classroom and a teacher/lecturer would teach them. In working life, however, they have to go looking for education and knowledge.

The fact that there is proactive effort needed on an employee’s part to learn and progress is what I think contributes most to their progress or lack thereof. Employers often offer insufficient training and time for new hires to get completely familiarized with whatever they are supposed to do.  

b) People will depend on them and they have to depend on people. They become cogs in some wheel of an organization. As students what they did had no impact on their college, but the reality as an employee is vastly different. Their work will impact themselves, their co-workers and possibly even their bosses. And often the employee may not get to see or understand the full picture. 

c) Exams happen almost daily. Their work will be seen and evaluated almost continuously, despite the formal performance reviews which may be at set timetables.

d) Deadlines will happen frequently and quite often unreasonably. No consideration is usually given to your own priorities. (Perhaps my girls now understand why I missed so many of their important events when they were little princesses.) These deadlines will, hence, affect their personal lives. Time management will become an important skill to practice and master. 

e) They may end up with unreasonable co-workers and bosses. Learning how to manage these people will be paramount. It’s not possible to just ignore these guys and hope they’ll not end up in our class next term or semester.  

f) And lastly they’ll no longer have the parental umbrella for them to seek shelter over work related issues. 

Having said all the above, life as an employee will have other benefits and perks. Had they undergone an internship, my girls would have had a chance to do some trial runs as employees. Nevertheless, the good thing is that whilst life as an employee may be a culture shock to my girls, knowing, anticipating and preparing our minds will greatly reduce the negative impacts.              

The 8th of March 08, history in the making for Malaysia

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The 8th of March 08 is set to be a day of historical significance in Malaysia.

Our 12th General Elections were held on this day. Malaysians long used to having only the Government controlled mass media as information sources, have now alternative information pipelines like the Internet, a proliferation of political blogs and sms’es. Coupled with an influx of new young voters, a tsunami of political change resulted.

For the first time in 50 years, 5 states are now in the hands of the opposition.

This is great as we, members of the general public, want more accountability, transparency and governance in our Government . At least the levels of checks and balances should now be better.

I want to see the pillars of democracy restored. An independent judiciary, executive and civil service. During the long reign (22 years) of our previous Prime Minister who though, credited with putting Malaysia on the world economic map, did a lot of damage to this icon of democracy. He was changing laws whenever it was an impediment to his plans.

(I think we may be holding the world record for the number of times our Federal Constitution has been amended.) 

Malaysians have matured politically, and for the good of my children and God Willing, my grandchildren and their children, I hope the new political leaders will set down iron clad rules for:-

a) Transparency, accountability and good governance in Government,

b) Limiting the terms of major political posts to 2 terms,

c) Separating and creating independence for the three pillars of a democracy, i.e. the judiciary, civil service and the executive.

d) A press that is more free and responsible. A press that will report the good, the bad and the ugly of our country, and let us, the people decide on what we want every 5 years.

The next few days will see this tsunami of political change  analyzed and counter analyzed to death.

However, the Malaysian people have already succeeded in telling our political leaders that they are but our servants and if seen not to perform, they would be sacked!

Round up for week ending 6 March 08

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

These are the posts, I found interesting, useful or different, from the blogosphere this past week. They are listed in no particular order. 

The Dough Roller wrote about the 7 habits of wealth, where he lists the 7 things if done by us repeatedly should make us wealthy. I   strongly suggest that we should all take a look and rate ourselves. (I am very low on some of DR’s rules. I really should buck up.) 

My Money Blog, in turn speaks about the 9 traits of the middle class millionaire. These 9 traits summarized from a book “The Middle Class Millionaire” make interesting reading. As a working stiff, I may identify more with this list than the DR’s list above.

 Sometime back, a number of selfless bloggers (here’s the full list of the bloggers and their respective articles) worked on a group project laying down suggested ground rules for managing money for people at various age bands. These series of posts have now been condensed into an E-Book which is being distributed free.  

As a not too financially competent father of 5 children from ages 9 – 22, this book will be a great help and guide for me personally as well as my children. 

I downloaded mine from Ana’s blog (yep, she’s the one from the “I’ll climb mountains and swim oceans, but credit cards and debts never!!!” school).   Thanks again, guys! 

Steward at My Family’s Money makes an astute comparison between NINJAS and Ninjas. Most of us would immediately think of the invisible at will Japanese fighting machines armed with an array of odd weapons. Pop over and find out what the other NINJA means. I am sure you would agree with Steward’s observations.  

Flexo at Consumerism Commentary made an observation that his net worth was increasing, and at the same time the US$ was falling. I have no idea what the economists would say or do about this. However, when working in Ghana, I was told that 9,500 Ghanaian Cedis could have bought a house around 1980 – 85. In 1998/9, it could not even buy a bag of cement. 

A falling currency, if not managed, can extract some serious financial pain. 

Is there a bug going around?  Hot on the heels of the Simple Dollar and The Digerati Life, One Snarky Chica with Issues also seems to decided to do away with her full time job. In her case, it may have been a little involuntary, so she is addressing being a problogger with caution. Her academic qualifications seem so right for being a problogger. I have every belief that she may decide to remain pro.

The Mighty Bargain Hunter suggests we approach high priced seminars with caution and instead invest time. I do agree with him. No amount of seminars and books will be of any help if we do not invest time and energy putting into practice what we have learnt. However seminars do have the added advantage of meeting like minded people, and perhaps joining a network or peer group. I took the calculated risk of sending my daughter for a property investment seminar to learn as well as to meet people. (And this was after reading some of the presenter’s books and deciding that this guy was all right.)

Jeff of Wise Money Decisions talked about how his dad paid him and his siblings allowances. I liked the way that his dad had a family meeting when the allowance was distributed. It also seems that Jeff’s father had a secret formula for calculating the allowances….rounded to the nearest cent. 

Jeff also mentions another family that used an open bid system to determine amounts to be paid for chores.  

Compared to Jeff when he was younger, my children seem to be having a gala time. Since we started the allowance system, only one child has ever done any extra work for additional money. Hope my kids change their thinking. 

The 4th of March is going to be special for Mrs. Micah.  On this day in 2008, she became a member of the M-Network. On this same day, she launched her Finwikian, a wiki on all things dedicated to personal finance on the Internet. This is a great undertaking, and I am sure, all of you will join me in offering our heartiest congratulations to Mrs. M.  

The 142nd Edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance was hosted by the Baglady. A gifted writer, she has interspersed a number of little known facts about the homeless amongst the many great posts that are being exhibited at this Carnival.  

Even if you are too busy to read blogs daily, I would strongly recommend that you read the Carnivals, at least.        

This is all for this week. I am looking forward to the weekend when my wife and I will be casting our votes as part of the process of choosing our next Gomen.

To all of you, have a great and enjoyable weekend.

Review of my younger children’s money habits

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

boyandpiggybank.jpgIt’s been 4 months since we started giving the children a weekly allowance.  In November 07, Abang (14) and Nana (13) signed an agreement with their mother that:

a) They would keep weekly accounts of how they spend their allowances,

b) Save at least 10% of their allowances.

So far this exercise is going well. They show me their accounts book each week (the entries are neat and tidy) and I give them the next week’s allowance. The amount they note as having “transferred to piggy bank” is also noted in a separate page, so that it can be compared to their bank books later.

Bank savings accounts have been opened for all three younger children.

I have not explained to them the concept of “paying themselves first”. Though they save the money weekly, currently they are doing so just because I have told them to.

I have reviewed this process and now propose to tweak it as follows:

a) Based on advice from Lynnae in her installment of the free e-book Money Matters for all Ages, I am going to change this weekly allowance to a monthly one. Hence it becomes more like a salary. The kids will learn how to stretch this salary for a month and also learn to budget.

I am setting 1st June 08 as the target date for this.

b) They have to learn that just whining and complaining will not get them any extra money. They have to do additional chores in the house and negotiate additional payments for this. So far only Nana has earned extra money and that, too, only once.

c) They have to pay for their own special expenses like presents for their friends’ birthdays and stuff like that. I have to elaborate on the frugal ways that are available to come up with a present that is memorable and yet very light on their budget.

This Friday, their first term holidays start. It’s only for a week. Now that there is no cable TV in the house, they should have a little more time. I plan to take them out and have a chat with them on :-

- what are salaries and wages,

- how do people spend their salaries

- what happens when expenses is more than income,

- the concept of budgeting, living below our means and paying ourselves first.

d) I’ll ask the youngest girl, if she is ready for a weekly allowance. So far she has not asked for this. She still receives money daily from her mother for school.

Well, I certainly don’t expect my three musketeers to enthusiastically grasp this talk. I’ll have to take them out to a place they’ll enjoy, soften them up a bit and try. At least I get a chance to talk to them at an earlier stage in their lives than their two elder sisters.

I’ll keep you posted.

Note: The picture is from Google Images.

Please help me to help a friend advise his daughters on PF

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

BC is one my best friends at work. He is a civil engineer cum MBA who qualified after having worked as a general laborer, a brick layer, a plasterer and a site supervisor for a number of years. He is the one all of us look to for technical advice and what BC says is taken as the gospel truth. 

He converted to Christianity when he was in his twenties, I think. Since then he has lived life as a good Christian. He has two daughters, and he has dipped deep into his savings to ensure they got an excellent education.  The elder girl is a lawyer and presently works in one of our country’s leading legal firms. The younger girl is now in her final year of medical studies in one of the best medical schools in the UK. Both the girls are outstanding students and well behaved. The type that every mother would want their sons to bring home.  

The two girls have been very active in Church affairs since young. The elder girl is the Youth leader of her Church, and is very well versed in the Bible.  

BC and I have traveled often together and our work is often intertwined. Not surprisingly, we have discussed often our respective journeys in raising our children and doing what we could to ensure they get a better start at life than either of us did. Lately the talk turned to how to inculcate good pf habits in our children. And what BC told me took me aback. 

The elder girl gives her mother her entire pay check. (I am not sure if she has her own bank account). Her credit card is a supplementary card under BC’s name. (In all fairness, this has been the arrangement since her University days). She uses the card quite responsibly, for example to pay for a meal with her friends, when they go Dutch. The cash received from her friends as their share is given back to BC.  She collects a weekly allowance from BC.  

Though she lives below her means, a lot of her expenses are paid for by BC. She has no budget. In effect, BC is still paying for her upkeep. He does not begrudge this, but he is concerned that his daughter may be a little naïve when it comes to affairs of Dollars and Sense.  

Historically, BC has been her provider all her life. In a way, BC blames himself for not having given his children some grounding in PF when they were much younger.  

Now BC has a feeling that his elder girl seems unable or even unwilling to fit into this secular world. She does not express contentment as a lawyer, but she comes to life in serving the Church. BC feels that his daughter has taken it as a “calling” to serve. To do Theology and to devote her life in the cause of her faith seems to be what she has set her sights on.

BC is sure that she is just waiting for a sign before she embarks on the journey of her life’s calling.  As such, pf seems to be not too high in her list of priorities, and she is taking the view of “The Lord will provide”.  

Naturally, as a father, BC has no objections. He would be much happier if his daughter took it upon her to have a firmer grasp of pf before she embarks on this journey. 

I suggested that he should speak to his Pastor and maybe get the  Pastor to speak at a sermon on the need for us to manage ourselves as well as we can, and then seek the Lord’s blessings and provision. 

(BC had told me that his elder girl wanted to do Theology rather than Law. It was her Pastor who had suggested she should do Law first, and work. This would allow her to understand better the problems faced by working people. And if she chose to do Theology later, her experience would help her address these problems much better. Sound advice, I thought. ) 

For some reason, BC believes that approaching the Pastor may not be the best solution now. I remembered Lynnae’s post on “Discerning God’s Will”. I believe there are some similarities in the situation that my friend BC finds himself in.

I am sure that BC’s girls would sort themselves out somehow should push ever come to shove. However isn’t the main point of sound PFM to prepare ourselves ahead of time? 

I ask for your help now. I would really like to be able to suggest some ways he could talk to his wife and girls. Ways that weave verses from the Bible with the need for sound PF management. Verses that support the view that we should endeavor and help ourselves as much as we can and then seek the Lord’s blessings. 

Please help me to help my friend. 

PS:     In my earlier draft, I mentioned some names of bloggers whom I thought would be the best people to advise my friend. I have now taken off their names, based on a suggestion by one of the bloggers I contacted.  The draft has also been amended a little, after discussions with BC.  

How I intend to help my daughters secure jobs they would like - Part 2 - Additional Skills to pick up

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

My two elder girls are almost ready to join the rat race. I am trying to discuss with and suggest to them the things they can do to better position themselves to get the job of their choice from the employer of their choice. And not to repeat the major mistake I have made of not managing my career. 

In Part 1, we covered an overview of the process. In this Part 2, we look at the employability skills and character traits that my children would have to demonstrate to better their chances.  

Malaysian Employers have long been complaining that the educational system is churning out graduates, many of whom do not possess sufficient employability skills and traits. And it looks like the Malaysians are not alone in their lament. 

Just what are the skills and traits employers watch out for? What are the skills and traits they do not want to pay for the graduates to learn on the job?  

I have done a comparison of the desired skills as researched by following organizations:- 

a)    The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NREL) 

b)    The Cooperative and Career Division of the University of Limmerick, Ireland 

c)     Quintessential Careers.com, which claims to be the most popular online career site for teens 

d) A study of Employability Skills of Malaysian Graduates, by University Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR), Malaysia 

These diverse institutions / research sources have about the same results. They have listed the following skills and character traits as what they would consider as employability skills.  

A) Basic Skills 

Oral Communications

Written communications

Reading and Understanding Instructions

Basic Arithmetic

IT Skills 

B) Higher Order Thinking Skills 

Problem Solving

Decision Making

Learning Skills / Strategies /

Creative Innovative Thinking

Analytical / Research Skills

Ability to Plan


Presentation Skills  

C) Affective Skills / Traits 


Multi Cultural Awareness

Enthusiasm / Motivation

Willingness to learn

Adaptability / Flexibility

Self Discipline / Self Management

Honesty / Integrity

Dependability / Responsibility

Positive Attitude Towards work

Desire to Achieve

Conscientiousness / Punctuality / Efficiency

Self Confidence / Positive Self Image


Ability to work without supervision  

I have not discussed this list with my children yet. They are both busy studying for their final exams (Along, our eldest girl has her exams in April, whilst Azah, our second girl is sitting for hers next week.) 

I am confident that the skills listed in (A) and (C) have been fairly well covered so far in their lives. However these 2 parts will have to be revisited when we cover the “Preparation for the Interview” part. 

I shall have to spend some time on the (B) section of the skills set. (Perhaps my children may even end up teaching me). The Internet should be full of resources on these. For example, a search on “teaching problem solving skills” returned 740,000 results and “learning problem solving skills” returned 3,300,000 results.Luckily my children are already very used to doing their research on the Net. 

I am certainly no expert at these skills. All we’ll be shooting for is for my girls (and I) to have some understanding of the subject, so as to answer any questions on these intelligently.  

Whilst writing this article, the mandatory 4 types of people talk given by my friend to all his new employees came to mind. He used to say, there are 4 types of people. 

i)                 People with a good mind and a good heart,

ii)                People with a not good mind, but a good heart,

iii)               People with a good mind and a bad heart and

iv)               People with a not good mind and a bad heart. 

(i) and (ii) was what he was looking for as he could always teach those in the (ii) classification. For those in the (iii) and (iv) classes, he said that it would be too difficult and that their parents should have done their work better.  

My wife and I know that our children are in the (i) or (ii) category. My background is clear proof that outstanding academic results in school and university are not really compulsory requisites for a good career. 

To sum all these up, my father would have looked at this post and said, “It looks to me that all they need is common sense.”

My advice to my children on traveling in the post 9/11 world

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

The world was quite different before 9/11. 

Travel was a lot easier and I dare say, the world was a lot more trusting place. Now there appears to be a lot more apprehension amongst Muslims when they travel to/in some non Muslim countries. And I believe this feeling could be reciprocated by non Muslims traveling in many a Muslim country. 

In all my travels I have never had any problems as far as my religion was concerned. 

What advice can I give my children as they prepare to leave the family nest and may want to travel? 

My earlier suggestion on “how to deal with people” is relevant. Here I want to address the issue of religion in particular. 

1. Never ever judge anyone by their religion, their religious rites or beliefs 

I have earlier stated my stand that we should never judge anyone by our standards. This is re emphasized. Faith is a tremendously powerful force, sometimes seemingly completely disconnected with logic or science.  Whatever the religious beliefs or rites of the people of the country or locality that we are visiting, we should just respect them.

We do not have to show that we believe or show that we don’t believe.  Just show our respect and show it sincerely!  Exactly as we would want others to respect our beliefs, equally sincerely.  

If we must remove our shoes before entering a particular place, then we must do so. No question. If we have to cover our heads, then we cover our heads, no question. If we feel strongly about removing our shoes or covering our heads, then we just don’t enter the place.  I am sure, our option not to enter the place will be equally respected. 

This is exactly what happened when I visited a particular part of one of the ancient palaces of the Kings of Benin, West Africa. It was their belief that everyone should take off their shoes if they wanted to enter the place. I did not want to, so I did not enter. No problem. 

Many tourists of all nationalities visit our National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. They respect our rules that we should cover our heads and take off our shoes.  I have visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, the holiest temple for people of the Sikh faith. I was made to feel most welcome.  

2. We do not have to be ashamed that we do not know much or anything of other religions 

This is pretty self explanatory. However learning about and understanding other religions are always very good. During my working stint in India, I have visited a number of Hindu temples with my colleagues when they went to pray. I’ll wait for them and after their prayers we’ll leave together. They’ll do the same for me.  

I have had many talks with my colleagues on their religious beliefs and rites and the talks have always been very educational. And they have not made me less a Muslim in any way. 

3. If we meet someone seeking to debate with us on religion, or to justify our beliefs, just smile, say that we are not experts and change the subject or excuse ourselves. And, of course, we should never do the same.   

This seldom fails.  Just keep on smiling and remember our family’s rule number 2 and 3 on dealing with people. 

I have only very pleasant memories of traveling in non Muslim countries.  In Hanover, Germany a lady taxi driver took me to a mosque and waited for me till I finished my prayers. In Kobe, Japan it was also a taxi driver who took me to a mosque.  Restaurants have also been very accommodating when I ask about “kosher” or “halal” food. 

Again, in Benin, a member of a Christian Missionary group went through a lot of time and trouble to configure my laptop when I had some problems.  

Hence to my children I’ll say, travel as much as you want and as you can afford. The world may be a little less trusting now, but people are still people.  

Treat everyone well, politely and as you want to be treated and you should have no problems. No problems at all.  

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