For You, Daddy!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Step

Happy New Year, dear readers!

In my third career avatar, I was a teacher at an international school in Zhongshan, China. This post is about my New Year’s Eve celebration in Zhongshan a few years back.

I brought in that New Year at a watering hole that is popular with the expat crowd because of the live (Filipino) band and dance floor. I love dancing, so I roped in twenty other acquaintances and friends, and had reserved seats for us at the pub.  

Auld Lang Syne-ing with friends

My (capitalist style) Mao suit was designed exclusively for me by Mr.Haute Stuff, Marc Jacobs. If you believe that, then you will also believe that he surprised me by creeping down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Hmm, probably not because I think I had told anyone who cared to listen that Jon Bon Jovi was spending the holidays with me. Ai ai ai ai ai! It’s so hard keeping track of all these men in my life. Wait, I need to get one first – a life, that is. 😉

That night, I did something for the first time. Something I had thought of doing for a few years, but was too afraid until then. I bought gifts for the twenty people who had promised to attend … and I wrapped them in newspaper. (I know!) I  had read about this environmentally friendly tip for a few years, but only then did I finally pluck up the courage to do it. (Go, me!) I was not afraid of being thought a cheapskate because opinions I know aren’t true don’t matter to me.  

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Dale Carnegie

I was afraid the recipients would think I did not care enough about them to get the customary wrapping paper. I do not like receiving gifts from people I don’t much care for, and I am the same when giving gifts, too. Expectations and traditions? Stuff that. I give a gift only if I like the person enough. Then, I try hard to get what I think is suitable. Now some of the twenty people I gave the gifts to that night did not fall into the category of ‘People I Really, Really Like’. So why the charade, you ask? Because of the place I bought the gifts at.

When deciding on gifts, initially, I looked for organic products. No luck. Then I searched for biodegradable or recycled items. Still no go. Next, products made by families or individuals. No, no, no. Finally, I went to an Australian acquaintance, Jeremy, the longtime Zhongshan resident. I would go to him with questions about all things Zhongshan. With that query, Jeremy came through yet again. He told me about ‘The Charity Shop’, so I bought my gifts there.

‘The Charity Shop’ in Zhongshan is a small supermarket and all profits go towards local charitable causes. Among their many deeds, I remember the surgeries to correct congenital heart defects of twin boys and food supplies to the farmers in the countryside.

That year, I wanted to do something different. Instead of merely donating money, I wanted to share a little awareness as well. I decided to give gifts from ‘The Charity Shop’ to make my local friends and acquaintances aware that they could get an extra feel-good bang for their buck with something as routine and regular as grocery shopping, and I wanted to use the wrapping (news)paper to pass on a green message, too.

Buying edibles at ‘The Charity Shop’ was a great option, I thought, because I could give people I did not know very well things they’d actually use; consume, more precisely. So I got each a box of tea or coffee sachets (the ‘Just add water’ kind), a packet of digestive biscuits (they seemed to be popular) and a bar of dark chocolate (my fave). I made all the gift tags myself using the plain side of printed sheets from the school office. I attempted fancy frilly edges with little drawings, calligraphy-style name inscription and stapled a little strip of swirl ribbon on them. Big Sis is great at this artsy stuff.  I’m not, but I tried.

The gift tags opened up like a book with the name of the recipient on the cover. When opened, on the left hand page, I had drawn a map of ‘The Charity Shop’ area and included the name of the shop, the address, telephone number and hours of operation. On the other page, I had the landmarks legend. I did all that with the hope that all who received those gifts would do their groceries at ‘The Charity Shop’ in future. I did. It was a trip into the heart of town for me, so I combined it with my lunch/dinner meetings with the downtown-ers.

BFF Two holding the gifts of the no-shows of the previous night. The newspaper wrapping doesn't look too shabby, eh?

I must add that everyone was quite puzzled when I pulled out the newspaper wrapped gifts from my travel bag. After I explained the whole thing to them, they kinda believed that it was not a prank. Their expressions were simply precious! When I picked up a gift and called out their names, the first three or four recipients bravely, but very suspiciously accepted my gift. All eyes were on them as each of them turned the odd item over and finally opened it. The look that flickered across their faces was a mix of surprise, relief and a feeling that could easily be read as, “This Kate is nuttier than I thought a pecan, pistachio, peanut butter sammy!” The perv that I am, I derive immense satisfaction from bedevilling the heck out of people. 🙂

In the end, everyone was happy with their goodies and thanked me for being (as opposed to merely thinking or talking about something) a Jill-Out-Of-The-Box* yet again.

*People who know me well are now familiar with my outside the box thoughts and practices. I twisted ‘jack-in-the-box’ because I sometimes, quite literally, spring surprises at the people I like.

I’ve always been very mindful about electricity and water use. (Thank you, Daddy and Mummy!) I felt good about kicking off that year on a green note. Ever since, I have rarely wrapped a gift in regular gift paper. The few instances I reverted to regular gift paper have been for more traditional folk; only because they would just not get the green bent and I did not want to hurt their sentiments.

In addition to the common practices around the house, here are some of the other environmentally conscious changes I made a few years ago:
– Avoid travelling by cab if I’m on my own. (I allot extra time for travel by public transport.)
– Carry my own set of plastic and fabric bags when I go shopping – groceries and otherwise.
– Use bus ticket stubs to make my grocery lists or brief ‘To Do’ lists.
– Use the blank side of unwanted printed material to jot down notes at the initial stages of my work. I get these sheets from the office. I used such sheets from my school office to make the name tags for the gifts that night.
– Carry my own Tupperware (and carry plastic bags) to restaurants for take-aways. (Styrofoam is toxic.)

I’m quite a tree hugger, and would love to get some more ideas from you about your practices to add to my list above.

I do not make New Year’s resolutions. But a few years ago, sometime in the middle of that year, after months of mulling and planning and nail-biting, I made a drastic about-turn in life and headed off into a brand new direction.

Shortly before I went to China, I began listening to my own thoughts and tried doing what I felt made me happy. Not that anyone forcefully dictated my actions before. But, I used to pursue what was deemed important by society – brand name clothes, expensive restaurants, regular holidays away from the home state or country, higher positions at work, an exclusive neighourhood to set up home. I enjoyed all of that, nay, I revelled in it all like a pig in mud, but after a while, it left me feeling empty. When I finally tuned in to my inner voice and began pursuing things that engaged me at a deeper level, I began to feel a certain calmness and peace. Ever since I switched careers and became a teacher in China and a social worker in the different country that I am currently in, my savings account tells me that I am (comparatively) poor now, but my happiness bank? Doth overfloweth.

“Ordinary riches can be lost, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde

I am content with my life today because I heeded Tim McGraw a few years ago. And I finally began to



  1. I’m impressed by your adventuresomeness! Yes, I realize that’s probably not an official word. 😀


    Comment by Cheerful Monk — Monday, 2 January 2012 @ 11:00 am |Reply

    • >adventuresomeness! Yes, I realize that’s probably not an official word. 😀
      – Probably not, but I hear ya!

      >I’m impressed by your adventuresomeness!
      – *said in mock seriousness* See, it’s people like you, Cheerful Monk, that make it hard for me to, uh, behave. I do things that ruffle feathers for the most part ….. and then, I have a handful like you who spur me on. 🙂

      I read this article yesterday. Regrets of the Dying

      I felt very good when I read the first point because it defines me today. And it reminded me of how far I’ve come. It’s not easy in the least swimming against the hordes that I was once part of, but it is satisfying. Exhausting many a times, but oh so fulfilling!

      Thank you, Jean, for helping me bolster my determination to continue being the oddball that I am!



      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Tuesday, 3 January 2012 @ 9:01 am |Reply

  2. Kate, great post. I love your idea of giving gifts from the Charity shop, and I’m with you on your environmental stance. I need to make the shift to actually making gifts one of these years. I’ve always wanted to do that, but am fearful of the receiver not liking what I make.

    I love the line, “… began pursuing things that engaged me at a deeper level, I began to feel a certain calmness and peace.” I think that’s how life is. Blessings to you, my friend!


    Comment by mj monaghan — Friday, 6 January 2012 @ 12:21 pm |Reply

    • Thank you for your words of encouragement, mj!

      >I need to make the shift to actually making gifts one of these years. I’ve always wanted to do that, but am fearful of the receiver not liking what I make.
      – You can make stuff? That’s great! Okay, what I really meant was – you don’t just make up stuff only? I jest. Your posts are rib-ticklers. Or thought provokers. What the heck, they’re both.

      I understand your trepidation over the recipients not liking what you make because I experienced the same when I went for the newspaper and gave those seemingly ordinary snacks that New Year’s. Some who receive your hand-made gifts may not like them, but some definitely will. The latter will look beyond the fact that your gifts do not bear some well recognised logo or that they did not cost you an arm and a leg. 😉 They will treasure the thought behind your gifts and all the caring that went into making it just for them. And that, mj, is what will make your handmade gifts, priceless! Because for all these years, you’ve used MasterCard. (I’m kidding, MasterCard Big Guns. Don’t sue me or anything.)

      Since my Charity Shop stunt (?), I was so emboldened by the positive response, I’ve largely switched to food items as gifts. I enjoy cooking, so I risked gifting things I rustled up myself.* And eureka! I’ve found that the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach! Who would have thunk?

      Give your handiwork a chance, mj. It’ll be a 50-50 gamble. Oh, just like life! 🙂


      *As I typed that, I realised I could share some recipes in future posts. Hmm. Yes, I will.


      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Friday, 6 January 2012 @ 6:51 pm |Reply

  3. Usually I use Visa, so you’re okay! 🙂
    “Charity Shop stunt” – good terminology!

    Yes, you should definitely share some recipes!


    Comment by mj monaghan — Friday, 6 January 2012 @ 11:03 pm |Reply

    • >Usually I use Visa, so you’re okay! 🙂
      – Ah, so they weren’t kidding. More people go with Visa!

      (Alright, Visa Big Guns, you, too, please spare me. The slogans – yours and MasterCard’s – are so good, I can’t resist playing around with them.)

      >Yes, you should definitely share some recipes!
      – *scribble, scribble* Done! Entering that request/idea in my schedule of topics.

      In the planning stages of this blog, I had created a schedule for a whole year. (Do I qualify as a blogger with OCD now?) There were a few blanks I left deliberately because I expected to pick up ideas as I went along.



      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Saturday, 7 January 2012 @ 8:39 am |Reply

      • Yes, you’re definitely OCD now!! I’m lucky if I know what I’m writing for the next post or two! But I do check my stats ALL the time!


        Comment by mj monaghan — Sunday, 8 January 2012 @ 10:17 am

      • >Yes, you’re definitely OCD now!!

        – Aw-rrrright! I fit in! I belong! Who better to certify me than the top dog in this game!

        >I’m lucky if I know what I’m writing for the next post or two! But I do check my stats ALL the time!

        – (To be rapped)
        Type A! Type B! Types X, Y and E*!


        We all make up the wonderful alphabetti spaghetti of per-so-na-li-ties!

        Uh huh! Uh huh!


        Vive la différence, mon ami!


        *I skipped the next logical alphabet in the first line of my, uh, rap verse because the letter ‘Z’ is pronounced as ‘Zed’ in some countries and as ‘Zee’ in some others.


        Comment by For you, Daddy! — Sunday, 8 January 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  4. She writes AND she raps!! Watch out Eminem! Nicely done, my friend!


    Comment by mj monaghan — Sunday, 8 January 2012 @ 9:18 pm |Reply

  5. *very deep bow of gratitude to mj*

    Yo Eminem, you got no reason to worry, dawg. My (ahem) flash of brilliance was a mere flash in the pan. Know what I’m sayin’? You still da bomb, bro. S’all cool, my hommie. *fist bump* *chest bump*


    P.S.: I like Eminem, too, although I’ll admit his level of uh, colour, is way beyond my vocab palette.


    Comment by For you, Daddy! — Monday, 9 January 2012 @ 10:02 am |Reply

  6. I know, I wish his language wasn’t so bad, but he is a genius with words.


    Comment by mj monaghan — Tuesday, 10 January 2012 @ 4:18 am |Reply

    • >but he is a genius with words.
      – Which is precisely the reason I endure the … the.. technicolour terminology. I like how MM III has channelled his angst and anger in a creative manner. With what he’s experienced in life, he could easily have been an unfortunate stat. But he didn’t “just lose it”. Slim Shady went out and got himself a bunch of shiny Grammies.



      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Tuesday, 10 January 2012 @ 8:32 am |Reply

  7. Congratulations! It’s official – The Academy, okay, mj monaghan, has recognized your wonderful blog with the Candle Lighter Award!

    Here’s the envelope with more details:!

    Thank you for all of your support over my very short blogging career, Kate!


    Comment by mj monaghan — Tuesday, 10 January 2012 @ 10:36 pm |Reply

    • Did Daddy tell you to do this, mj? Because your gesture reeks of his “Attagirl!”.

      I’ve just learned that I am shockingly shy in the cyber world, too. I love winning. I strive towards prizes that I, well, prize, but come that all important moment of being centre stage and …. the publicity shy half of me takes over.

      Thank you for deeming me worthy of the ‘Candle Lighter Award’, mj. Just as the light of other bloggers shone on my path these past few years, when this blog was being conceptualised, I had aspired for the light of my experience to similarly illuminate someone else’s. Whaddya know? I gone done it! 🙂

      >Thank you for all of your support over my very short blogging career, Kate!
      – Well, well, well. You brought it all on your ownsome, mj. 😉 Oh, and ditto your sentiment, too.


      P.S.: Since none of you can see me right now, I’m all over the room, busting some Elaine-from-Seinfeld moves out here and going, “WOO FLIPPIN’ HOO! I WON ‘THE CANDLE LIGHTER AWARD’, PEOPLE! I ROCK!” *little kick*


      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Wednesday, 11 January 2012 @ 9:39 am |Reply

  8. Awesome post! Another winner!


    Comment by The Hook — Friday, 27 January 2012 @ 6:44 pm |Reply

    • Thank you, Hook! So does that mean I win some coffee, bikkies and dark chocolate wrapped in newspaper? Wait. I gave those away. When I hear ‘win’, I immediately think ‘prize’! Yup, I’ve got grubby little paws hands. 😉



      Comment by For you, Daddy! — Friday, 27 January 2012 @ 11:05 pm |Reply

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