I need some cultural advice. Joyce (my Mosotho house helper) gave me a gift for my birthday. While it was the most meaningful gift I received, it's also the gift I like the least. Maybe that's putting it too mildly. I really dislike it. (I'm trying not to use the word "hate", but I think you get the idea.)
When Joyce gave me the gift, she also said that since she didn't get a chance to buy a card, she'd just tell me what she would have written. "You have always given me so much, and I could never repay you. I don't even have enough words to say how much you mean to me. You are my family, my only family."
Joyce shared that her daughter recently asked her, "Why do you say, 'Hello, Mama' when you talk to Mme Alece on the phone?" Joyce said her reply was, "Because she is like a mother to me. She is my mother."
It was so special. You can't put a price tag on that kind of a gift. Joyce spoke from her heart, and it meant the world to me. That is what makes her gift so meaningful.
What makes it something I strongly dislike is... well, it's what the gift itself actually is. I cringed (only on the inside) when Joyce unpacked it (opening the gift for me, in typical African style). "A toilet set!" she proclaimed excitedly.
"Here, let me show you..." and she immediately started putting each piece in its proper place in my bathroom. There's a toilet seat cover, a toilet tank cover, a toilet paper roll holder, and a curtain. And they were suddenly all on display. In all their frillyness, gaudiness, and tackiness. It was almost overwhelming.
"Wow, Joyce! It's so fancy!"
"No, it's not!" And I'm sure she's thinking that it's not fancy because practically every home in Intabazwe has a set like this. So in her mind, it's commonplace, not fancy.
"Joyce, it was so thoughtful of you. Thank you so much!"
After we hugged and talked a bit more, Joyce left and I stood in my bathroom a while. Contemplating. The question going around my head was: How do I get out of this? Joyce works in my home, so I can't simply just not use the gift... So how do I get out of this?
"Aww, come on!" you're thinking. It can't be that bad! Oh really?! This is what my bathroom looks like at the moment:
So, I need some advice. Remember that I'm feeling the tension between how strongly I dislike the state my bathroom is currently in and the fact that I love Joyce, value her friendship, and desire to be culturally sensitive.
What should I do?
**UPDATED** Make sure you read part two!