A Seasonally-Appropriate Story

(I posted the following on our local El Valle Yahoo Group, but I thought that it would make a good blog post, too.)

This year, Cynthia and I discovered an excellent gift to give to employees. You might want to keep it in mind for next year or for Easter. Of all the gifts we have given over the years, including cash, this one drew the greatest amount of thanks and appreciation. 

It happened like this: We currently have three men laying the tile in our new home. Four days before Christmas I overheard them talking as they worked on the front steps. I’ll loosely translate their conversation to English:

Armando: “Wow, did you see the price of hams at Supermercado El Rey this year?”

Hanibal: “Yes, almost $40. Too expensive for me.”

Francisco: “Me too, looks like arroz y guandu y pollo (rice, pigeon peas, chicken) at our house for Christmas.”

I could see that they were very disappointed, and as a man myself, I could see that they were distressed as they really wanted to provide it for their families. 

I was busy marking and cutting tile (with my ear plugs in), and I don’t think that they thought that I was paying attention. But I chimed in.

Me: “So ham is a traditional thing for you at Christmas?”

Armando: “Si señor.”

Anibal: “But not this year.”

I went in the house to talk with Cynthia, and we decided to offer them the hams as a Christmas gift.

I went back outside and talked with them, asking them how many adults would be at their tables. The average was six. We asked if we could give them the hams as a gift and they lit up like Christmas tree lights.

So Cynthia went shopping and bought three, frozen, double-smoked hams, about twelve pounds apiece.

I was pretty sure that they didn’t have refrigeration at their homes, so we said that we would thaw them in our refrigerator and that they could take them home the day before Christmas.

The reason that I said that the hams were the most-appreciated gift that we have ever given is that when we presented the hams to them, they each shook our hands with genuine thanks, much more so than with cash in the past. Then, not even remotely expected, they each gave us a hug and another thank you. I think that the hug went way, way beyond the boundaries of the “classes,” but they were so moved they couldn’t help themselves.

Those hugs were our best Christmas presents.

For Cynthia and me, this experience was reason enough for us to work so hard to learn Spanish. Otherwise, we would never have known, and they never would have asked.

Season’s greetings to all, Fred


14 thoughts on “A Seasonally-Appropriate Story

  1. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and Cynthia!!

    …need to drop in again soon for a building/tool/”ways to do things”/worker-reference/etc. inspection!!

    The whole story is fantastic – but TRUE!!


  2. Merry Christmas Fred to you and Cynthia, what a wonderful story, thanks for sharing it.
    It does go to show how much we gain by learning the language of the place we choose to make our home.
    We will be leaving here in 9 days, heading to your wonderful country for 3 months. El Valle is one of the places we will look to relocate in the near future.
    All the best,

  3. A GREAT story to share, thank you … wish I had read it before Christmas when cash was the usual gift, received with the usual (and always surprising to us) ‘lets not get too excited, but thanks’ response.

    WILL remember next year, thanks. Wishing you both a great and happy New Year in your getting-lovelier-every day new home!

  4. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the both of you!

    I have been following your blog rather religiously and just wanted to thank you for your updates, your stories, and the knowledge you have passed along. Your info that will come in handy once I start building. I am a few years younger, but I may be the same age when I get around to building a container in the tropics. For me, you are an inspiration.

    It has been an immense pleasure for me to see that house go up. I can’t wait to see the time lapse photographs from beginning to end. PLEASE don’t feel that I am rushing you to do so. With the progress that is made every week, my patience is not tested, and, in fact, I will miss the updates once all is said and done.

    Thanks again to you, Cynthia, and your crew for making it all happen. If you could be so kind as to send a Feliz Navidad to your crew as well. I wonder if they know their work is noted throughout the world.

    Saudi Arabia

    • Hello Steve,

      Thank you so very much for your kind comments. I’m happy if you can take some ideas from what I have done, just make sure to do your own due diligence as I may have made a fatal error or two along the way! And it makes me happy that you derive enjoyment from my stories. My goal is to make them human whenever possible.

      Just yesterday, before your comment arrived, I mentioned to Cynthia that it was time to do a time-lapse compilation. Thanks for the nudge…

      And as to age, it is just a number. Eat well, get enough rest, avoid the real bad things, accept the things that happen with growing older, and never stop moving. I hope that you do indeed get to build your shipping container house. May it take less than the five years that I will have into this project!

      Best regards, Fred

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