Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What did you buy for me?

You travel to places.  You change planes.  You rake up miles. You take pictures and put them up online. People get to know your face at the local airport. Sometimes, they get to ask you "where are you off to this time?" Some times you answer, some times you just smile.

Every trip is has its specifics.  Ups and downs. Long overlays at airports, lack of Internet Connection, luggage that does not arrive, the jetlag, eating stuff you would rather not.. but well, since you have to eat to keep alive..

All of that is not the problem of your loved ones. Friends, family, employees, colleagues, and people who think they know you.  What all of them have in common, though, is that one line "Buy/bring me something". I hear that line over and over and over again.

 You get to destination.  You are battling heat or cold, sleep, work, adapting to hotel, finishing your presentation, keeping up with the scheduled and unscheduled meetings. Depending on who you are traveling for/with, you may have a bit of financial margin to take you to the mall.  People at your destination expect you to shop anyhow.. The hotels always have those maps/brochures that show you where money can be spent.

You get 2 hours and you rush off to the mall.  You shop.  You find yourself parting with "a handful of 100s" of  $, £ or €. You  buy perfumes, shoes, bags, make up, clothing, jewelry, body care, chocolates, electronic gadgets etc.  You are calculating, not just the cash.. but also the weight.  You want to keep within the airline official weight limitation.

You get home and you begin to distribute. Everyone would love their gifts in a separate bag. If you are like me, you tell yourself that just one piece of gift item may not be nice for some loved ones.  You add a bar of chocolate to the bag, and a perfume to the shoes ... something like that. Some will collect theirs from your home, for others, you need to drop off.  In some cases, you need to arrange to have them sent.. at your own expense..

You get different feedback, depending.  The first group are exhilarated.  They thank you profusely.  You are happy that you have added value to their lives.  The second group says thanks and life continues. The third group, which is where many loved ones belong, just go quiet. You dont hear from them.  Some times, you call to find out if  "it arrived" just to double check. And they say yes. These days, I have come to accept this third group.. I dont worry about them anymore.  I just give, I dont expect them to confirm, I dont expect anything..

There is a fourth group. This is the group that you hear them say (either as an aside or as a 'behind') "So this is all s/he got for me?"  The feeling is.. you have gone all that way.. and this is all you think I am worth?  This group never cease to amaze me.  

Why do people think that when someone travels, it is "only them" that the person buys a gift for?  Why will you summarize a person's trip in the financial value of the gift the person gives you? On what grounds do you raise your expectation of gifts according to cities? When did a gift become a right?

As a frequent traveler, sometimes these things get back at you.  You are discouraged and some times, you swear never to buy gifts for anybody anymore..But as we say in Africa, loved ones (family) are like your buttocks, where ever you go, you go with them

Bon voyage!


Our Man in Africa said...

Great post. I was teasing my wife about this on Tuesday saying that Africans were materialist because they always ask 'what did you bring me?'

Nnenna Nwakanma said...

My mother has a bag from almost every major city in the World.. now she tells you what she wants, depending on the city you travel to..