Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Glorious American Culture

The more I began to travel the world and enjoy the diverse array of customs - a basii spirit-tying ceremony in Laos, drinking snake wine in Vietnam, the brutal but cathartic sauna of Russia, the everpresent mate of Uruguay, the Indian head bob, etc.- the more I began to wonder what we can claim as American customs. With a melting pot of 300 million people from around the world from virtually every country, what is there that is distinctly American? Perhaps one of our most pronounced customs is Christmas. Granted, almost everyone around the world celebrates some version of Christmas, but in America it becomes an entire season of cherishing the family ties, the root of religion for some, hidden generosity for others, etc. People crowd around the TV to watch the old classics or tingle with excitement as they watch the romance and mystery displayed in new ways on the big screen. They celebrate advent through gifts, readings, or candles. There are office parties, hymn sings, carols, special church services, and extended family reunions. It is the one time of the year when most lifelong friends who now live far apart update each other with tales of the year past and dreams of the year to come.
And because of all this magic, it is also the hardest time of the year to be away from home. For the past three years, I had been in Korea and before that India for Christmas, and those were some of the most homesick times of my life. That's why this year was particularly special for me (in addition to introducing JooYeon to her first American Christmas season). It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Our family was complete on the night of the 24th when we picked Heather up at the Columbus airport, and our digestive systems were complete after mom and dad treated us to a luxurious 4-course selection of fondues and salads at the Melting Pot in Easton.

As for presents, our family tends to get more and more ornery with each passing year. For instance, Dad unwrapped 50 packs of ballcards, saved all the cards for his collection and freely gave the gum to JooYeon...

And JooYeon utilized Photoshop for some fun times...
She made an entire calendar by revising old family photos. I'll put a couple of them in here...

But by far the picture of the year award went to the Costa Rican zipline shot of Heather's face as the G-forces flattened it out and the fear distorted it into an interesting position. This picture showed up on her otherwise beautiful Bluffton magazine feature, her yearly Christmas ornament (handmade by mom) and who knows? It may still surface in years to come at the most unexpected moments (Mwahahahaha!)

Dad got a soothing Argentinian head massager...
Heather got a lovely handmade purse from Jusu (JooYeon's sister who is an artist).

And mom got an original Juan Valdez coffee bag from Colombia, hand-made by women cooperatives who have lost their husbands in guerrilla warfare over the years.

I got some nice presents too, but since nobody took pictures, they will perhaps never be chronicled in the annals of history. Honestly, my best present was by far just having a Christmas season once more with family, friends, and Christmas cheer :)


  1. Hi, I'm looking for information about Snake wine, do you have any ?
    This is Snake wine:
    I found your website on Google when searching other shops to buy Snake liquor but I can't find any more information here.

    thanks for help.

  2. No, other than I bought mine in Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) and so if you could find the website for some shops in that area, I'd imagine you could have it shipped. That said, I'm not sure if they would confiscate it at customs... good luck! (And if you can't find it, you're not missing out- it tastes HORRIBLE!)