Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Blog: Gift Giving in China 101

Wordpress and I have a complicated relationship.  We were going strong at first, and then when the Chinese government put up the internet blocks that stopped access to all blogs, well... you could say that absence made the heart grow fonder.  But Wordpress, you are indeed a fickle lover.  We were reunited and feeling good, but you turned your back on me.

So I welcome you to my new virtual home away from home here on Blogspot along with the other blogger masses.  And what better way to start off the new year than to give you the perfect example of what it's like to live here in China?

You know those lists that identify all the signs that you belong to a certain category of people?  Such as, "You know you're from California if..." or "You know you're Korean if..."?  Well, if there was a list like that for English teachers in China, my contribution would be:

"You know you're an English teacher in China if you have a closet full of bizarre, useless, and ridiculously overpriced gifts still in their original packaging."

Over the last year and a half, I have received some outrageous gifts.  Some are so wrong, it's right, and I put them out on my mantle as conversation pieces.  A snow globe that says, "Congratulations on your first communion" (because I'm a Catholic baby, as we all know), a model of a high-speed train, a tiny Mongolian yurt, a porcelain cat with a feather tail are just a few of the many treasures I've collected in my relatively short time here.  But the gift I received last week was the gift to end all student gifts.

And here it is:

This little Buddha is carved from a single piece of bamboo root.  Eerily enough, its carved eyes also seem to follow you around the room.  My students told me that they all pitched in some money to purchase the gift for me and three of them spent two hours in the freezing Beijing winter cold looking for "the perfect gift."

You can imagine the feigned, plastic smile that I had to wear while accepting this more than generous gift, all the while thinking, "What in the world were you thinking?"  Thousands of different scenarios run through my mind when I look at this smiling and mildly creepy Buddha, imagining what must have happened when my students (all of them adult Ph.D's who have met foreigners in the past) went shopping, trying to follow their twisted train of thought that would eventually lead them to wasting their funds on this piece of glorified junk.

I've tried to figure out what to do with this Buddha.  Because of my beliefs, I'm not comfortable putting it anywhere in my home, nor would I want to re-gift it.  On the other hand, I'm sure it was expensive and I feel badly just chucking it in the trash.  And so, a predicament lies before me.

For now, Rooty (I've named it) has a temporary home hiding between my two house plants (an example of GOOD gift giving, for those of you taking notes), but it still gives me the heebeejeebees when I'm in my living room or watching TV and it seems to be watching ME.

What do you all think?  To chuck or not to chuck?  It is rather cold, and it would make for a nice fire on my balcony... hmmm...


  1. why don't you carve a little cross on it's shirt, so now it can be an asian guy that just can't get enough of JC.

  2. That is the best idea I've heard since this one guy suggested creating a fish tank toilet bowl filled with poop-eating guppies.