Monthly Archives: January 2014

All The Tea In China

For as long as I can remember, my dad was a tea drinker. As a kid, I loved having a cup of tea with him. He always added sugar, too much sugar, and I always added a little milk. It was like drinking a dessert.

Having a cup of tea with my parents became ceremonial for me as we grew older. I would call and say I was coming over and my mom would say “I’ll put on the water.” We would catch up and solve all kinds of problems over a simple cup of tea.

A few years ago, after taking my parents to an eye doctor appointment, my dad asked where we might get a tea pot like the one they use at P.F. Changs, a local chain restaurant. He liked the way the tea stayed hot in the cast iron enamel-lined pot.

We stopped off at a specialty tea store located in The Pearl District of Portland. Both parents just having their eyes tested and dilated, were wearing BluBlocker type sunglasses, a real sight (pardon the pun) for the shop owner. We checked out a few options and landed on a beautiful, burnt orange colored tea pot with 4 matching small cups.

I picked out some specialty tea as well that I thought was $18 in total, when it was really $18 per ounce. Someone needed their eyes checked and it wasn’t my parents.

Close to $300 later we walked out. I jokingly wished my dad a Happy Birthday, Happy Father’s Day and A very Merry Christmas.

They saved that tea for when I would come over to visit, calling it The Queen’s Tea.

This weekend, Greg, Meredith and I headed out to spend the day in Qibao, the ancient watertown located in Shanghai. As Kenny led us down the main food street towards the soup and dumpling shop, we passed the tea house.


Our new friend

This sweet, old, man came out and invited us in. He spoke very little english, but was able to say “Americans. Americans.” How could we resist?

We followed Kenny and this man into the tea house through tables of men of all ages enjoying cigarettes, a cup of tea and lively conversations.

TeaHe led us to the back where he cleared others away from a table and offered us the very small benches to sit as he served each of us our own pot of tea.

He joined us and through Kenny’s translation shared that he was 90 years old. That everyday he came to the teahouse to write out the current news in traditional Chinese characters. In doing so, he kept his mind crisp and could practice the art of writing.

Today's News

Today’s News

He openly shared that he had lived in Qibao his entire life and proudly said he owned two houses. Kenny shared that he was a man of great wealth.

Over a cup of tea he answered my question about what led to living such a long life. He credited it to four things. Good food, good sleep, spending quiet time after lunch and walking at night after dinner.

Sherry and her grandfather

He asked how old we were and pointed to Meredith and I, and said “daughter.”

He got up and moved towards another table where he began writing. I followed him to see his work and was greeted by a young girl and her grandfather.  She immediately warmed my heart as I imagined how many stories this young girl has heard while sitting listening to these men and enjoying her ice cream.

A gift for Meredith

As our new friend finished, he approached Meredith with his completed work. He gave Meredith the paper that read across the middle “Qibao Travels” and down the right, states “American Friend.”

As we all gathered around to see the gift, the little girl who was sitting a few tables away came closer. She stood next to me looking at me for a long time. I could tell she was trying to say something and wanted to share in the conversation.


After much time she said, “hello.” Her grandfather was bursting with pride. He said something to her in Chinese and she then said, “banana, apple, orange, pear.” She paused and continued, “mother, father, sister.” She wanted to share the english she had been learning in school. I asked her name and after a bit of a pause she said, “Sherry.” I told her our names and she repeated, “Rosemary and Meredith.” Kenny coached me on how to say “Xīnnián hǎo” which is Happy New Year. The lunar new year begins on January 31st this year. Everyone giggled at my troubled Chinese.

We had a great time at the tea house visiting, learning about each other’s cultures and sharing a nice cup of tea.


I lost my dad just over a year ago. I would buy him all the tea in China if it meant I could share this story and introduce him to my new Chinese friend.

Thank you for letting me share with you.

Are we on camera?

Recently, on a trip to Beijing as we were unpacking at the hotel, Greg realized he had left his iPad in one of the grey tubs going through the security screening at the Shanghai airport. We quickly wrote it off based on any and all experiences from the U.S.

I did send a quick text message to my assistant, Evie asking if there was any chance someone would have turned it in at the airport. She asked for a description of the case and the screen saver and within 15 minutes she texted back that the iPad was at lost and found and that she had asked Kenny, our driver, to meet us there when we returned, and help with any translation. Incredible.

When I got back to the office the next week, I was explaining to Evie how that would never happen in the States. That either a passenger behind us or someone from security would have picked it up, never to be seen again. She asked “what about the cameras?”

You should know that there are cameras everywhere in China. Much like in the U.S. of A., they are on the street corners, on the elevators, in restaurants, in lobbies, everywhere. Greg and I have even been suspect of the “smoke alarm” in our bedroom as every once in a while it flashes a bright light in the middle of the night.

Not so different that everything is on video, it’s more what is done with the video that makes China different than the U.S. – anything here deemed as suspect would most likely be turned in to authorities.

Today, we attended our first tai chi/yoga class. Greg, Meredith and I grabbed our newly purchased yoga mats and headed down for the first offered class in our gym.

The tai chi part was nice. Easy, slow motions that are meant to help one find his or her inner Qi. Qi (pronounced CHē) is the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine. I’m not sure I’ve found mine yet but I intend to keep looking.

The yoga part was the real challenge. Not being all that flexible, 2 of the 3 Saints became the students most in need of help from the instructor. Greg required the belt to help reach his toes and I required repeated instructions to just relax.

I’m okay with being coached. It’s always a good reminder to take a deep breath and relax.

I giggled at the move where you’re sitting with legs crossed, torso long and chest open, and you are asked to grab your foot and bring your big toe to your forehead. Not going to happen for me. Not on day one. Maybe never.

Where I really lost it, is when I was in a pose that required you to have the side of your head and one shoulder to the mat, one knee on the ground and the opposite leg lifted to the ceiling. Okay. Tough but I could feel the stretch. And then, we were instructed to lift the opposite arm to the sky. Now imagine if you will, all your weight is really on just one knee, your chest, shoulder and head are pushed into the mat and one leg and arm are in the air.

That’s when it happened. All in slow motion. This “long lady” as the instructor had called me earlier, while helping me with a different move, slowly rolled and fell to the floor. Embarrassing alone, but with the added sound effect of the body hitting the hard wood floors – well that’s just devastating.

It reminded me of the Youtube video of the fainting goats. Seems whenever these goats feel a certain level of excitement or stress they just faint. Yes. All in slow motion they just fall to the ground. Check it out.

When I came to, I turned to see if anyone had noticed. Meredith was in convulsions with laughter. I then quickly looked to the “skies” to see how many cameras were placed in the studio.

I spent the entire cool down and meditation time, laying on my back, breathing, trying to relax, staring at the cameras and thinking about how I might ask the manager to delete the video recorded from 10 to 11:00am in our gym.

Music Man

While I was home in Oregon for Christmas I made a much dreaded trip to Michael’s Arts and Crafts store. As I was walking out with my daughter Meredith, I made the statement that if anyone ever wanted to truly torture me, they should force me to work at Michael’s for a weekend.

It’s not that I’m not crafty. I went through an arts and craft phase. I have the scars from the hot glue gun that melted my fingertips together as I secured pine cones to a wire wreath to sell at a school auction to prove it. I can do crafts – I just choose not to.

No, it would be torture because of how disorganized the place is. Nothing seems to make sense in the way the store is laid out and whoever the buyer is should be fired. The service is terrible and the entire layout of the cash registers is inefficient and just wrong.

Making me work at Michael’s might be my worst nightmare.

That’s what I thought until I arrived back in Shanghai. Meredith came back with us and as we were out exploring we happened upon The Music Man.  A title I’ve given a man who sells CDs on the street corner. The most annoying man with perhaps the worst job in all of Shanghai.

I know, seems harmless enough but what you don’t understand is he “samples” the same 2 songs over and over on a very loud sound system, attached to his motor scooter. It’s a great sound system. You can hear the music from a block away.

For the four months that we’ve lived here, I have passed The Music Man everyday on my way home from work. As I approach I hear one song. A jazzy number done in Spanish. Not sure of the title but it’s a catchy little tune. Makes you want to stop and do a dance. I’m thinking of organizing a flash mob but no need to stand out more than I already do.

I captured it on a video for you to enjoy. Listen to it over and over and you too may find it annoying. Check it out.

So there’s that song and then it seems, every time I get closer to him, he reaches down and switches over to the theme song from the 1979 movie The Rose starring, Bette Midler. Just as I’m choreographing the flash mob in my head to the spanish number, he switches over, bringing the party down with The Rose. I now know every word and often find myself signing along. Take a look and listen.

So now I’m conflicted. What’s worse? Working at Michael’s Arts and Crafts store or standing on the street corner everyday for hours on end, being forced to listen to the same two songs over and over, rarely making a sale.

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