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Friday, April 13, 2012

The World Comes to Me

   I am hosting people from California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and beyond who have followed the path to my door.  They are attendees for a local conference where I have just met a myriad of people who have lived or do live all over the world.  It took me back to the time when my parents hosted musicians from Europe, I believe.  Maybe it was Canada... when the world was so much larger.  I remember it was like meeting someone from Mars back then, or at least someplace I'd never visit and those whom I'd never see again.  Heady stuff for a eight-year-old.
    My parents gave us the gift of travel and appreciating nature and history.  My reading drifts me around the globe, via paper and online.  However, nothing compares to learning from an actual person where you can ask questions.  I'm not a big interview fan, though, because the host has some preconceived questions or the guest some provocative answer to sell something.  I like talking to thoughtful people in the literal sense of thoughtful.  Like yesterday, I marveled at the very tall, gracious and graceful Chinese woman who showed me how to drink the Chinese tea a friend gave me.  I knew it would be coarse tea not the herbal bags I occasionally imbibed.  I mainline coffee unless I am with a tea drinker.  Here's the conversation:

    "My friend brought this tea from China.  I thought you might like some."

    "Oh, you have good tea!"  she said, "not the other stuff they put in bags to sell other places."

   "They keep the good stuff for themselves?"  We all laughed, but was I just bad for thinking they would be the only people in the planet to do that?  Do Belgians keep the best chocolate for themselves?  Americans?  Ugh, my Midwest is showing its naivete' again.

   "Taiwan," she says like any other American would say "Taiwan" as she inspects the can.  We both laughed when we realize her politics unintended.  "But it's not opened.  I do not want to be the only one opening it."

   "I have been waiting for someone to come to share it with me.  So you are not one, we are two!"   I hand her the scissors to cut the sealed wrapping.  She put a half-dozen or more of what looks like flower buds in the mug (instead of my fine china, probably another Americanization faux pas on my part, now that I think of it.)  She holds the cup while I pour the hot water.  She showed me how the buds open into full leaves from the twig tip.  She leaves the debris in her cup.  "Like seaweed,"  I said.  She giggled at my audacious remarks on what is probably a more refined ritual.  Or is that Japanese?
   We also got into a conversation about communism, which she was raised under, but sees as harmful, its corruption keeping China divided.  "You should not fear the people of China," she says. "They have nothing.  THe government pits them against each other.  They are so afraid of stepping out of bounds, they do nothing."

   She related a story about a young man who helped an old woman who fell in the street, but instead of being a hero, was sued by her and her family.  "The judge made him pay,"  she said, "Now there are stories of old women who call out for help.  No one helps anyone.  People just watch and move on, afraid to do anything."

   She continued, "but in America, even though we complain about injustice, it is not like the evil there.  It is typical; there they are all corrupt.  You trust the judges here, right?"

   We nodded.  Not 100% of course.

   Maybe the news should carry stories like that and my father would quit his "hell in a hand-basket" stories about my country.  He may be right about one thing --perhaps we should first worry about the plank in our own national eye.

The tea was good.  

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of Chinese tea. I'd like someone to come and drink some with me! Show me how to prepare it and how to drink it!