Dan Dot Blog

Based on a true story

Tea Ceremony

Just finished having a tea ceremony in Jingshan park. I was “hooked” off the street by promises of coffee and tea and was quickly talked into a tea ceremony. It seemed reasonably priced and I was bored so I figured it was worth a shot. As we went through the ceremony there were definitely many points where the hostess was trying to upsell various products and teas. I was playing along with her script until she showed me a cup with Chinese writing on it and asked if I knew what it meant. I could read the beginning that said China but didn’t know the second two. She pronounced them for me and I recognized xiang mao as panda bear (or bear cat) since Jie had taught me yesterday after I showed her my awesome panda hat.

At that point we started to go a little off script, and things got a lot more interesting.

I asked her where she was from and she told me Hubei (or maybe Wubei or something like that). She asked me if I knew any Chinese and we got to talking. The conversation got more and more interesting. I always forget what an awesome trump card discussion about my work is. I’m so lucky to be in a line of research that is actually excellent cocktail party (or tea ceremony) conversation.

She had studied English at a teacher’s university and had been a primary school teacher for several years, and was about the same age as me. We started in on how Chinese kids learn to read using pinyin for phonics versus whole language approaches.

She expressed an interest in learning Spanish, so we started talking about differences between English, Spanish, and Chinese. I taught her how to say a few things in Spanish.

We exchanged contact info after talking for maybe an hour when another group of people came in and needed the table we were using and she had to go back to work.

This was definitely the high point of the day. For me, there’s nothing as fulfilling and satisfying as making meaningful, new connections with people in places where I don’t expect it, especially when those people are pretty girls 😛

Sometimes there’s some tension between those connections existing only for business purposes and people really meaningfully connecting. I love it when we can get beyond our economic relationships and engage on a deeper, more meaningful human level. Everybody has a story to tell, and I love connecting them.

I have to imagine that if my Mandarin were better I’d be able to do that sort of thing more often.

I think my desire to make these kinds of connections is what makes me so often a sucker, and nothing eats at me more than bad feelings after such interactions where people connect just for the purpose of selling me something. I suppose there’s really nothing morally wrong with that, but somehow that just feels so perverse and wrong that I always feel a little violated for a little while afterwards. That’s kind of how I was feeling after I bought my tiger painting, but this interaction has totally cleansed my bad feelings from that one and restored my optimism in the joy of travel that’s filled with many interesting connections.

The group that displaced me is pretty interesting, too. It’s a group of six comprised of two Illinoians, one Taiwanese but now American, one still Taiwanese, and two Japanese. They’re pretty outgoing and seem to be having fun with it. They’re guarded and entertaining but they’re not condescending to the hostess or to the process. I think they offer a good example of a nice multi-cultural way to travel that I’ll have to keep in mind the next time I’m planning a trip with friends.

I’m hanging out kind of to the side right now not sure what to do now. I haven’t paid for my tea ceremony yet, and I don’t want to short this girl who is admittedly in Beijing to find a better life. That said, I’m not sure if she’s trying to let me go without paying…I figure it’s safer to hang out until she can give me a clearer indication. I can’t meet Xiaobei until 6 anyways, so I figure blogging is a good way to spend the time, and also to appear busy so that I’m not just in the corner weirdly watching everybody else.

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April 12, 2010 - Posted by | Personal | , , , , ,

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