Second edition

The Christmas Spirit: between malls and memories

When did the ‘exotic’ become more available than the traditional, and how did we move so quickly from dial-up internet connections to Wi-Fi on high-speed trains? While sipping from an extra-sweet coffee, subconsciously aware of the fact that the coffee beans must have been picked by impoverished women and children in remote plantations somewhere in South America, I felt repulsed by Mother Globalization.

Borislava Mitevaborislava.miteva@gmail.com

borislava

In a Vancouver mall

I was sitting at a coffee house inside a Vancouver shopping mall, waiting for a friend to get off work on a typical rainy day in late November.  While restlessly trying to make myself comfortable in a very uncomfortable wooden chair (those that make you leave the coffee house right after finishing your coffee; sure with all the social media what’s the point in one-on-one socializing anyway?!), I was observing the customers: regardless of their age, ethnicity or other personal characteristics they were all vigorously moving from one store to another, intensely focused on safeguarding their purchases in the hazardous crisscrossing. The Christmas spirit was evidently prominent, but in case in the midst of the frantic crowd there were people who were not yet concerned by the need to procure enough presents for their loved ones, the big and colourful Christmas tree in the middle of the mall and the merry jingles in the air would surely stimulate them to get down to shopping. The festive atmosphere would have almost gotten me going as well if I were not thinking about a very analogous situation from just a couple of days earlier: a bright mall with a sufficient number (in the hundreds) of stores, cafés and places to eat for every taste; a similarly-big, perhaps even better-decorated Christmas tree; ‘love’ly holiday music in the air (although it could have been Cascada instead of Mariah Carey), etc. There were only two important differences (no, the chair in which I was sitting was not more comfortable, and no, the crowd was not more chilled): the observable one was that the majority of the people were Caucasian, while the contextual difference was that the mall was thousands of kilometres from Vancouver, one of the many in the South-Eastern European capital city of Sofia.

So what? Well, before my family and I moved to Canada back in 2002, there were no malls anywhere in Bulgaria; Bulgarians did not hurry on the streets with 1L coffees in Starbucks mugs and possibly Starbucks did not even know about the existence of Bulgaria; with the exception of 2 or 3 McDonalds and KFC restaurants in the capital city (visited only on special occasions), there were no fast food chains; the grocery stores did not confuse the elderly with a wide-range of exotic produce (that they do not even know the names of) displayed on colourful shelves; the cafés were not haunted by businesswomen having a bite or two in between simultaneous emails, text messages and video conferences on a number of smart electronic devices; kids used to spend their after-school hours outdoors, hanging from plum trees and devouring the fruits, or playing old-fashioned games like hide and seek and annoying the neighbours with the noise they made; their fathers would then yell out the children’s names from the balconies in order to finally get them back home. Yes, the children still play, but it usually happens indoors, in the company of Wii games instead of schoolmates; and yes, it is still possible to find Bulgarian grapes and tomatoes in Bulgarian grocery stores, but given that they are more expensive than Italian pears or English cucumbers, they appeal only to those willing to spend more money on local organic food, be it for health concerns or for social status (as ‘bio’ has become an equivalent to ‘cool’).

When did the ‘exotic’ become more available than the traditional, and how did we move so quickly between dial-up internet connections on bulky home computers to widespread Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces and on high-speed trains? You might think that sitting in that uncomfortable chair in a Vancouver mall, while sipping from an extra-sweet coffee (how is the obesity rate to be maintained without dependence on the chocolaty-caramello-mocha-vanillius-cinnamony omnipresent topping?!), subconsciously aware of the fact that the coffee beans must have been picked by impoverished women and children in remote plantations somewhere in South America, I felt repulsed by Mother Globalization. No-o-o-o, I’m not such a hypocrite: getting this message from the Wild West to you by a messenger on a horse would have taken at least a year, just in time for Christmas 2013, while my 100 flights across the globe (I wonder if there is a meaning to this number, which I achieved before the world is supposed to end), international living and studying experiences, and similarly-cosmopolitan friends would have been impossible without the aid of the respective globalization currents. Nevertheless, my acknowledgment of the positive impact of Mother G’s gentle caresses on my personal development (at the expense of others’, of course, but our dear Mr Darwin long ago called for the survival of the fittest) could not cancel out my tender childhood memories, when a toy from a faraway land meant the whole world to me, and Swiss Santa-formed chocolate goodies were indeed special holiday treats; neither could G’s generosity, embodied by the festive atmosphere outside the coffee house, keep me from longing for the good old days of the simple life, when the Christmas spirit was not in busy bright malls, but in people’s hearts.

Borislava Miteva, Contributing writer
borislavaBorislava is Bulgarian-Canadian and has a BA in Social Sciences (UBC) and in Italian Studies (UniBo). As part of MA Euroculture (2009-2011), which she undertook at the University of Groningen, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and the University of Pune, she relied on her previous academic studies by focusing on sociological issues, often related to migration and discrimination practices. Since graduating from her MA, she has continued her commitment to these fields by becoming involved in a relevant trans-European NGO, thus exploring the respective legal and human rights approaches. When she’s not in work (and sometimes when she is), she laughs a lot, pretends to be a cook, and fights for her right to write.

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Categories: Second edition, Your Story

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