Shoulda, Coulda, Didn’t Pack: Gifts

This morning, I complimented one of my coworkers on her earrings, and got a new set of earrings. I tried to not accept them when, to my horror, she took them off and placed them in my hand. (Horror might be too strong, but it felt like I was in the midst of something messy and there was no going back.) It’s not that I wanted her earrings, I just wanted her to know how nice they looked, on her.

Um, where can I learn about the ethics of gift-receiving?

Last week at lunch, I mentioned how much I love sweets. The coworker I was dining with walked down the street and brought back two chocolates for us to share over tea. Another coworker brought me a Colombian dessert  (guayaba con manjar blanco) the next day.

Friday night when my supervisor called. Her cousin has a room I could rent. A doctor takes me to her house after work, introduces me to her whole family, invites me to live with her. After work last Saturday, one of the psychologists drove me to her house, where I met her mom and son. We had arepas and hot chocolate for dinner, talked about life, watched the soccer game.

Over lunch my coworkers noticed I have been at work too much, that I haven’t seen the city outside the couple blocks I live and work in. I now have invitations to the Museo de Oro, another coworker’s house, a personal guide for the bus system (Transmilenio). I’ve been invited to attend dance classes, dinners, festivals. One coworker is setting me up on a date. Another is taking me out dancing.

How can I not want to be at work every day? I’m learning how to navigate this extraordinarily giving culture. How can I be polite and share what I like – without receiving anything? The doctor I’m sharing an office with told me not to worry, that it means people are accepting me, that they like me.

I wish I had packed things with me to share – things I could be giving away. It’s poor form really, to arrive somewhere without a gift. Maybe if I convince some friends to visit, they could bring some gifts down.

What US  or Russian item(s) would make a good gift?


8 thoughts on “Shoulda, Coulda, Didn’t Pack: Gifts

  1. Pingback: Sunday Night Songs « Ksenia DV

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  3. When I was in Iran, we asked a taxi driver what music he was playing because we liked it. He got on the phone, had his brother burn a copy of the CD, drove us to his house, ran in and then gave us the music. There was a whole protocol for complements and gifts that I only began to scratch the surface of! Sounds like you’re figuring it out there!

  4. I think the best gifts can be simple ones like maybe American candy. I say that b/c when I lived in Germany that was the one things we all missed in school was the junkiest of junky American candies.

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