Sunday, June 16, 2013

Do You Want Soy Sauce With That?

I just finished reading A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni, gifted to me by Eva Miszoglad. This book has been on my wish list since it first came out in 2008. It has been worth the wait.

If you are not familiar with the book, reread the title. If you still need some guidance to understand what the book is about, click here

Bongiorni has used her and her family’s expedition into the world without Chinese goods, not only an enormous fun read, but an eye-opening one as well. Mind you, she did create some loopholes for the year, but there were few lapses in judgement when followed by Sara's immediate family. Relatives and friends were another story and dimension entirely.

The book made me laugh out loud more times than those in public appreciated; at the gym, one apparently should not be laughing while walking at 5.4 kmh and those who patronize Starbucks were startled or amused when I would guffaw out loud. The writer is gifted and having read some reviews of the book both before and after my own reading it, there are points to be made that are pertinent.

As much as I was amused and educated, I was also alarmed. It produced nostalgic memories of the materialistic nature of many whom I know while also invoking my own childhood Christmas reflections . My mother always made sure my brother and I had an equal number of gifts. Any outside who did not know better would have thought we were Siamese twins the way she went on about it. 

We each always had at least one large gift, but generally more. Our major gift was generously supplemented with a roomful of smaller ones. Even as adults she would exclaim “Now you received this gift which is twice as much as your brother’s gift, so he gets two large gifts. But they are still equal in value.” Often she made us feel as if we were sitting there with an abacus calculating our worthiness in wrapped surprises. Later on while still in my youth, one of my presents was an early version calculator so I could do just what she suspected of me. It was a clunky manual one, so it held up the gift opening process, so I could compute sums.

It seems to me that when I was living in the US, I was heavily involved in the gift giving and getting frenzy. It has slacked off considerably since coming to Hungary. Yet, I have to say that for many years before leaving CA, I cut back on trying to buy my way into certain relatives’ lives. I would order gifts and have them sent directly after trying to pinpoint interests at any given moment. 

Ron spent days in line at various stores one year to get a full collection of Power Rangers in all colors. After they were mailed off, we never heard a word about their being received. Later it was a telescope for star watching because that was what was happening in cub scouts at the time. The list was extensive, but when there was never any acknowledgement, the universe snapped closed my wallet while opening my eyes regarding future extravaganzas. End of that story!

Just last week my Hungarian private student shared with me  that his sister has been invited to an American (bride)/Hungarian (groom) wedding. She is friends with the bride so wanted to follow American customs. She asked her older brother to grill me on the doings. I laughed heartily as I explained the bridal shower gift and then the wedding gift, gift registries, et cetera and so on. Then I sent him a couple of links to bridal registries. The next time we met, he admitted he was overwhelmed with the overindulgence associated with many (not all) nuptials.

That is nothing. There are registries for all occasions now. Full disclosure: I have an Wish List, but the practical purpose is that it keeps as a reminder what books I have read about that I would like to read. If someone buys me something from it, generally it is because they feel a need to repay me for a list of good deeds.

So as I was reading Bongiorni, I am fantasizing about China taking over production of the world’s goods due to cheap labor. Factories worldwide shutdown as they send their raw material to China for assembly or manufacturing. We all become complacent about cheap goods, disposable since they so cheap, but then China makes a turnabout and raises their labor costs. They now have the world of greedy commerce and consumers on their knees and the landfills on overflow.

If you don't believe China is taking over, click on to this site that claims over 10,000 items in every category to satisfy your needs. Then look at the stats from US - China import/exports here.

The book is a definite read!
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