Mar 10, 2011

Oh the Places You'll Go

So when I got home from getting Cora her 2-month shots today (yuck!), there was this interesting package waiting on my doorstep.  If my heart could leap for joy over an item, I swear it would over this... :)  (And my heart can leap for joy over an item. I was downright giddy.)


So, what might this odd-shaped package contain?  Here's a hint... you can find its likeness in the picture below...


About a year and a half ago, we went and visited a good friend of ours in Zhejiang province.  It was rice harvesting time in the countryside, and everywhere we looked, there were farmers with these giant baskets.  I have this odd penchant for the everyday items farmers use... if I were a Mongolian nomad, I might be thrilled with a plow disc or a John Deere tractor.  And it isn't the first time that I fell in love with a farmer's basket...

So, I asked one of the farmers if I could buy his basket.  He wanted $100.  I laughed.  At the next bend in the road, our (Chinese) friend asked a different farmer if he could buy the basket.  The guy looked at him like he was a wee bit crazy, but said sure... and sold it to us for about $3.

It had been used by his family since the mid-1990s, as evidenced by the writing on the side of the basket.  It also had his family name painted on it, and to me it looked positively amazing.


But then there was the challenge of getting it home.  I checked it on the airplane.  I didn't have a box big enough for it, so I just showed up at the airport with my basket and was sent to the oversized baggage area by an incredulous ticket agent.  The old guy at oversized baggage was bent over laughing when he saw the foreigner with the farming basket... he laughed so hard he cried, which is an unusual thing for a stoic Chinese gentleman.  I was a little embarrassed, but the basket was totally worth it...

By the time we got to Beijing, Jacob had his exit route carefully planned out.  He made a beeline for McDonald's and left me to "get the baggage."  But really he just didn't want to be there for the moment when my basket came tumbling down the luggage carousel.  Sure enough, as it made its way around the belt, my fellow travelers were elbowing one another and whispering and pointing at the basket.  Who in the world would bring such a thing to the metropolitan city of Beijing?  The crazy foreigner, that's who...

So the basket sat in my apartment for the last year and a half... sadly, in a corner, as it was simply too huge to fit in our small living area.  But I schemed and dreamed about getting it home to America.  But it is HUGE!  Like 2 feet in diameter and nearly 2 feet tall!  We didn't have room in our luggage (though some suggested I pop Cora in it and claim it was my baby carrier), so I left it behind, hoping it could be shipped later but too practical to bite the bullet and pay over $100 in shipping fees for a $3 basket.

But then my dear friend Joan brought it home with her on the plane!  And though it technically exceeded the size restrictions, no one charged her anything. (yippeee!)  It arrived, safe and sound in Madison, WI carrying 50 lbs of her clothing.  She then wrapped it in plastic and popped it in the mail to me... and for about $17, I ended up with this on my porch today.


I am one happy gal.  Now, there's just one more item I'd love to get home from China... an amazing farmer's hat that is nearly 3 feet in diameter and made from straw.  It's incredible, and would make a great wall decoration!  Anyone interested in being a courier? :)

11 comments:

Tara Anderson said...

Carrie, that basket is worth every penny! I'm almost ashamed to admit that I would have paid the first guy $100 and then paid the same amount to have it shipped! If you're friend is willing to do some shopping, let me know. :) I'd love to get my hand on a broom. One of the "old time" handcrafted ones that look like they stepped right out of the 1700s. I saw them on the way to Caden's orphanage, and if I could have crammed one in my suitcase I would have had the driver stop and do some bartering!

Valerie and Jeff said...

TOTALLY worth it! I would have cried to have had to leave that behind!! SOOOO cool! ... your friend Joan is a DEAR for having thought to just put her clothes in it and give it a try! I can imagine how excited you were to see it arrive maybe even by total surprise?!
I'm totally with you in finding joy in the everyday things. My kids are constantly reminding me about the joy of finding everyday "treasures" where ever we go ... although I must admit ... the size tag from the hangers at Walmart retrieved from under the shelves really fall short of the coolness of your basket!

Laine said...

Okay...you have really got me chuckling LOUD. Cracking up a Chinese man? That is good! Oh Carrie...the basket is pretty awesome. And now, it's got an even greater story!

I am going to China sometime this year. And because I love you and your blog and am a blatant blog stalker, I would bring your sombrero home with a smile on my face. :) (and everyone else's face too, I'm sure...)

What are you going to put in that enormous basket? I can't wait to see!

Sharie said...

That basket is gorgeous!! I would have a piece of wood cut for the top and use it as a small table - then you could still store stuff in it.

Ruth Marie said...

your hat is safe in our apartment right now I am leaving Tuesday and will try to bring it

Carrie said...

@laine and ruth - you make my heart sing!!! I might just take one of you up on it! (Ruth, maybe you, since you're coming home first!)

Julie said...

I love that basket! And your story reminds me of the time I bought a yak milk pail in Tibet and the locals thought I was nuts... and of course I shipped it home. (It's a lot smaller than yours but sentiment is the same.)

Caroline said...

Carrie, I seriously thought about asking you if your basket and hat made it home with you! I had a picture in my mind of Jacob wearing the hat and you carrying Cora in the basket - seriously, I did! I'm happy to hear you'll soon be reunited with BOTH. :)

Laine said...

I realize that I haven't updated my blog in weeks and so I have no business wondering when you're gonna update yours...
but I was just wondering...
where are you gonna give us an update? :)
Seriously, we are praying for your family and hoping that everything is still going smooth and sweet!
Hugs!

Lexilooo said...

what a gorgeous basket and such a great piece of your life in China! I love treasures like that!

Anonymous said...

Oh Carrie you are brilliant!! You always make me laugh. I can just imagine the scene at the airport and I'm not surprised Jacob ran in the other direction hahaha. Did Ruth manage to get the hat home to you? If you don't get any other suggestions I'll give it a go...it will have to go via England though and will arrive to you in August when I come to the States! Love, Arwen

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