by Elza Gross
On a rainy morning near Guilin we spent a couple of hours at a charming organic tea plantation where we learned the fine art of brewing tea. For those of us who are used to plunking a tea bag in a cup of boiling water, we had a lot to learn. All tea comes from the same plant but the type depends on when the tea is harvested. The high quality white tea is picked when the leaf is still almost a shoot, green tea when the leaf is young. When the leaf is more mature it is used for ordinary green tea, black tea, and oolong teas. Each type of tea has diffefrent healthful properties. Each of the different types of teas has it's own brewing method. Who knew? A tea tasting was just what we needed on this cold rainy morning and we were ushered into a long room by our dainty tea guide, Helen. She explained that fermented tea such as oolong and black, or red tea should be brewed in a clay pot with boiling water. We were served a post fermented tea which had been pressed into a brick and then shaved off in pieces with a special knife. A small amount of water was poured over the leaves in the pot and then poured out to wash the leaves and enhance the flavor. Next the boiling water was added, the top was put on the pot, then more boiling water was poured over the outside of the pot. The tea is brewed when the moisture evaporates on the outside of the clay pot. We were all given tiny cups of this superb tea, while Helen explained that one must drink it in three sips, anything else is bad manners. If you drink it in one gulp you are considered a water buffalo, two a donkey, and three a polite guest. In addition to this, the method of holding the cup was important. She demonstrated how to hold the cup and the correct placement of the fingers so that the hand looked like a lotus blossom, then one raises the cup to gently take in the aroma, before partaking of the first sip. Helen's delicate maneuvering of this ritual was like watching ballet, and then 25 klutzes tried to copy her.
Next came a green tea which is always brewed in a porcelain pot with water just under the boiling point. Helen explained that green tea should never be taken on an empty stomach, but enjoyed with or after a meal, and never taken before bedtime.
We also enjoyed tasting as many thus made tea from the rare asmanthus flower grown in the mountainous Guilin area. Since the tea from this small plantation was of such high quality and not exported to other countries, we all loaded up on their specialty tea in the gift shop. This experience makes me want to go home and throw out all my tea bags. I can hardly wait to brew oolong in my new little cozy tea pot.
Buying Brushes in Beijing
by Diana Shepherd
"Off the bus-hurry-hurry!" explains Maggie (our tour guide). "Our driver can not park long or he will get a ticket." Like obedient little ducklings, we follow Mother Goose down the block to Liu Li Chang Xijie (Art Supply Street). We are in search of brushes, paper & Ink. We have a strategy-we will buy everything in one store! Nan will select all the best items, orders will be taken, then Nan and Maggie will negotiate the price. As we walk down the street, a store is chosen-Liu Li Chang #2 Art Store. We enter enmass, heading first to the brush counter. Hundreds of brushes hang in the window; it takes a while, but eventually 5 different types of brushes are selected. On to the paper and Ink - much discussion before items are chosen. Now - time to negotiate. The sales person states the prices in Yuan; Nan asks for the prices in dollars. "no-no-no, too much," says Nan; "I can get better prices in the U.S.!" Back & forth it goes; Nan & the saleswoman grappling for the best price, with Maggie as the interpretor/referee. Finally, an agreeable deal is reached - both sides saving face, Yuan changes hands. Happy artists, we leave the Art Supply store with brushes, paper & Ink in hand - smiles on our faces! A very good day in Beijing!
High Finance Negotiation Comments
If it were not for Lauren Beyeler we would all still be in the #2 Art Store. With great authority and skill she handled the payements for said supplies as all prices quoted were for a 'group rate'. Lauren, with assistant Sandie Girl, broke down each individual's cost, paying the full amount herself and then having her grateful followers reimburse her. It should have been video taped as she was truly magnificent and I do believe I shall call her 'General Lauren' from now on! I shall always be grateful and forever remember her magnificence!!!
The Great Wall
by Ellie Lynn
"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man." Mao Zedong
On a hot and smoggy day with but a hope of blue in the sky, I encountered the Great Wall. It looked just like the photographs, but it was exciting to feel its scale and to see how it followed the contours of the steep-sided mountains. As others began their climb or watched I saw that knees, hips, blisters and colds were the first barrier to climbing to the top. The heat and the high and uneven stairs added to the climbing challenge. About 2/3's of the way up I encountered Lauren resting. Although she really wanted to go all the way to the top, she thought she couldn't make it. I knew she could with encouragement, so I showed her my 'straight knee weight transfer' step and we plodded upward. We would see a tower at the top of the hill, only to find another one higher up when we got there. At the very top. Lauren still had the energy to climb the narrow and uneven passageway to the roof of the tower that stood near the end of this section of the wall. We were elated and proud of our accomplishment, and we took photographs of ourselves and the surrounding landscape. After our return, Nan presented each of us with a metal plaque engraved with our names to commemorate our special success.
Neither Rain Nor Snow
The perfect setting for a birthday celebration? The very top of Yellow Mountain and so it was for Sandie Girl on May 8th!
Just brief mention of the porters who work harder than any may should have to carrying luggage, people and everything visible to the very top ... so many stairs, so much time.
Stranded in Huangshan
by Bonnie Schwartz
While stranded in Huangshan, we decided to take a walk down the street and found a little market to buy water. When we appeared at the cashier, all dressed in our lovely polyester outfits, she became very excited and started shouting over her shoulder. Suddenly, a lovely young girl, about 8, glided into the store from the back on roller blades, dressed in a pink outfit with knee socks and pants that had the words 'Shirley Temple" on them. We all smiled & waved bye bye.
Going First Class
O.K., so the 11:00 P.m. plane that we waited an hour for didn't want to fly. No problem as our beyond belief wonderful guide Jeffrey got us into a hotel back in Huangshan. We had a much needed good nights sleep and a leisurely A.M. and went to the airport to catch a 1:00 P.M. flight to Shanghai.
The airport was completely deserted and our group had the plane ENTIRELY to ourselves! The plane was charted just for us. How's that for service!!!
Getting Coffee at the Huangshan Hongta
By Chaz. Schwartz
Awakened at dawn by a headache, I was in great need of a cup of coffee. Alas, no coffee was served at the 'western' breakfast (that meant it was served on the western side of the hotel). I asked the Banquet Manager. No coffee. I asked at the front desk. First, they said they have no coffee, then the manager made a call. "It is not included. You "have to pay." That was fine with me. "Where do I get it?" I asked. He told me to go back to the restaurant. I told him I was already there and they have no coffee. "Then-free of charge!"
The rhythm and pitch
of water dripping makes its
own free melody.
Half Finished conversations
meeting the schedule
Dark compelling forms
Push upward and encircle
Click for More Photos Only posted on the road