Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Rant

Being removed from your country allows you to appreciate the good and really despise the bad aspects of where you came from, it's kind of like an out of body experience. Being away from family and friends can be tough during the holiday season, but it also gives you an opportunity to realize what you miss and appreciate versus what you can do without.  For me, celebrating Christmas in Korea for not one but two years now has really opened my eyes to the consumer driven, materialistic season the US has turned this holiday into.  This year, headlines spread across news sources and social media alike critiquing companies for opening their doors on Thanksgiving day and reaching all the way until Christmas.  While living in the United States I was aware of what Christmas has turned into but was able to turn a blind eye to it.  Maybe it's because it's the norm and everyone is doing it mentality that allows just that, everyone to continue to do it.

Friends back home have been posting pictures of all the great presents they've received or maybe complaining about what Santa had forgotten.  It really struck me yesterday, as I watched 한결, my co-teachers son erupt with excitement over the one, yes one, present Santa had left him this year.  Couple that with my time spent distributing presents at the orphanage last weekend and you could say my Christmas was a real 'eye-opener' for lack of a better expression.  

I may not always be the most expressive when receiving presents or showing my gratitude, but I truly hope that those close to me understand my true heart and feelings.  Actually, that's something my mom has always complained about, sorry i'm just not the type to jump for joy when opening presents. I've always found more joy in the giving aspect of Christmas, the days leading up to the big reveal of what I thought was, the best present of the year, were always filled with anticipation.  Although I wasn't working with my Dad to hide jewelry inside bath towels, or trick my brother into thinking I forgot about him, the tradition of giving continued.  This year the lucky  recipient of my master present was none other than my principal.  Even if it does take a good amount of soju for him to express his true heart to me, I know that he sincerely wishes me the best for my life here in Korea.  After nearly two years of his assistance, dinners together, soju sharing, hospitality, special treatment (Jeju-do, extra days off), care for my family, and unique memories it was about time for me to repay him. I decided to make him a photo calendar capturing some of my favorite moments while living in Korea and teaching at Buksam high school.  Like me, he is a bit shy in expressing emotions and gratitude but when he proceeded to go room to room showing off his calendar to our staff I knew I had succeeded. 

Recently I was complaining to a friend about people buying me presents which probably made me out to sound like a bit of a Scrooge, but I hope my message wasn't too misunderstood.  My problem with gift giving is when people feel the need to buy something just for the sake of giving a present. I'm sorry, but if you're going to buy me some trinket, random clothes, a 10,000th bottle of body wash/lotion, or chocolates/candies, I'd rather you save your money.  But wait, it's the thought that counts, right? While I agree with this statement, the context that it's generally said in, is where everything goes wrong.  I hope i'm not making myself out to sound too cynical right now, so let me explain.  Isn't it true that most people utter this statement after someone receives a completely inappropriate, cheap, or otherwise problematic gift? So, what i'm saying is, if you really thought about that person your buying a gift for, then this entire situation could have been avoided.  Just the fact that you 'thought' to buy me something is a bit superfluous, if you took the time to really think about me it'd be that much more appreciated.  This point was driven home with my recently when fellow foreign teachers were posting online for suggestions of what to buy their staff. One post read: "Any gift ideas or places to get gifts (aka expensive wine/soju) are appreciate."  To me this is a perfect example of I"m buying you a present because I have to/should.

Okay, one more thing I want to mention before I wrap up this rant, hopefully someone is still reading. As I rode to Daegu in my co-teachers car on Tuesday evening, the radio host started a discussion on the topic of re-gifting.  Ultimately the talk show determined that this is an extremely distasteful method of gift giving and sends a message of I don't care about the recipient of this gift. Personally, I disagree with this, sure that's one of the possible reasons for a re-gift, but what if you received something that you knew one of your friends would like better/really suited them.  In my opinion re-gifting, if done in a tasteful manner (and of course not giving used/old items) is perfectly acceptable.

I meant to start this post as a recap of how I spent my second Christmas away from home, truly enjoying myself and making some new memories.  Somehow though, that did not happen, instead I wound up with a rant of what is wrong with Christmas. Hope I didn't offend anyone or make myself out to be a grinch, i'll be back soon with how I actually spent my Christmas this year. 

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