I met up with some of the other teachers at Lingyin Si and we decided to see if we could find this Tea Plantation in Hanzhou. I talked to some people and we found out the bus headed in the right direction, so we hopped on and eventually found the place. It was stunningly beautiful. Suddenly we were in open fields of tea, the sky was a bright blue, and there were mountains all around. It was like something they show on the “Explore China” documentaries.
The place turned out to have the only “National Tea Museum” in China. Inside, I met a German guy who had lived in Memphis for a year and a half working for Enterprise. We spent a good 15 minutes talking about how much we missed barbecue. I also learned a good deal about tea; it’s history, methods of preparation, health benefits, and different types. Here, I was able to pose with many different pieces of art–all featuring the symbol for tea (cha):
If you didn’t already know, tea is really popular in China. They don’t drink cold drinks here; most nice meals will start out with tea being delivered. I think it’s especially nice, because you have to boil the water for tea (therefore purifying it). I learned there are more than six different types of tea that are popular here; some of them being red tea, black tea, and oolong tea. They’re each prepared in a different way. I got to witness each of these, as they offered us a complimentary tea tasting session.
After the tea-tasting and the museum, my friend Henry and I stepped outside to wait on everyone else. My brought his hacky-sack with him, so we started playing to pass the time. Before long, I think we had attracted a larger audience than the tea museum. The Chinese, as far as I can tell, have a big fascination with foreigners–or at least white people. Generally, I’ll get stared at. Sometimes people will talk about the “laowai”–the foreigner–when I go by. And if we ever do anything minutely noteworthy (playing basketball or soccer, singing, talking Chinese, playing cards or chess … anything), there’s a good chance of attracting a crowd. Occasionally it’s annoying to be stared at so often, but I usually like the attention–I feel like a minor celebrity. People move out of my way, I get special treatment at stores and restaurants, and I’ll get invited to play in any sports event I happen to be near. People go to great lengths to get pictures of me; sometimes for the heck of it, I’ll jump into other people’s pictures and they think it’s hilarious. Even kids want to be in pictures with the laowai: