Happy Anniversary

I know. I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog about our adventures in China. Well I decided to take a summer hiatus from writing. You know, like your favorite TV series. Just a break while I regroup and come back with a fresh new outlook and new experiences. Don’t worry. We haven’t stopped with the adventure and I’ve got plenty to write about.

This weekend marks our 1 year anniversary of working, living and exploring in China. Can you believe it? The year went super fast for me. Greg? I’m not so sure. That’s a promotion for the upcoming season of Square Melons. Stay tuned as I resume writing this weekend.

In the meantime. Here’s a re-post and reminder of why I branded this blog Square Melons. Enjoy.


Ever heard of, seen or purchased a square watermelon? The topic came up at lunch while chatting with some co-workers. As we typically do, someone at the table Googled “Square Watermelons” to find that the Japanese began in 2001, growing watermelons in square containers so they would fit better into a typical Japanese refrigerator.

The conversation got me thinking. Isn’t it interesting how something as familiar as watermelon can become “weird?” The fruit taste the same. The color, texture and pattern on the skin is all the same. So what’s the big deal? Why does this one change in shape make it so strange? Why does it take you outside your comfort zone?

As Greg and I begin our Asian Adventure with a move to Shanghai, China we’re going to take advantage of all the “weird” experiences. We’re going to explore the differences and celebrate the things that are familiar. We’ll look for experiences that just might be the same with perhaps a different twist.

Square Melons. A phrase to remind ourselves to look for what’s familiar in a world that seems so different.

Everyone Should Live In China At Least Once

Thank you Andrea Xu for describing so well about the challenges, opportunities and realities of living in China. I’ve been struggling this last week with a few “Bad China Days” with the pollution, the heat, the humidity, the crowds, the noise and yes, the pooping in the streets.

“Did You Mean Taipei?”

Taipei 101 Building

Taipei 101 Building

A co-worker, friend of mine, was once asked if he was interested in the Marketing Director role for Taiwan. When he attempted a search on the city where he and his family would live, Google came back asking “Did you mean Taipei?” With that, and perhaps a few other considerations, he decided that if he couldn’t spell the name of the city where he was going to live and work it probably wasn’t for him. He went on to do great things in London.

This last weekend, we went to Taipei, Taiwan for business travel and some fun. NIKE has deep roots in Taiwan with early manufacturing relationships going back to the late 1970’s. Some of NIKE’s first employees in Asia were hired and still work in our NIKE offices in Taipei.

It was incredible to walk the streets of Taipei and visit stores where NIKE is sold. We talked with staff to hear how we are doing as a brand and learned where we could improve. I was overrun with pride as the NIKE brand is strong in Taiwan. IMG_1852

Interesting to learn that 7-Eleven holds the number one position for most recognized brand in Taiwan. It becomes very clear when you find a 7-Eleven on every other block in the city. Green tea Slurpee anyone?

The “fun” part of the weekend was getting to experience and participate in The NIKE Women’s 1/2 Marathon. NIKE has held these events in San Francisco and D.C. but this was the first of it’s kind in Asia. I’ve attended and participated in the other runs so I was anxious to see how this would compare. I was not disappointed.

NIKE Training Club

NIKE Training Club

Incredible to see 2000 women show up on Friday night in the rain and participate in the NIKE Training Club event. Two hours of a high impact workout. No big deal until you consider it was pouring buckets of rain the entire time. The rain didn’t dampen any spirits it only added to the experience. The crowd went crazy, turning the event into a dance party in the rain.

The weather in Taipei is tropical this time of year. Humid and hot with daily downpours. The Taiwanese are use to thunderstorms, typhoons and occasional earthquakes. It seems to only make them stronger in their determination to not let the weather or natural disasters get in the way of a good time.

Sunday morning was race day. Because of the heat and humidity the race starts at 5:30am for the marathon and 6am for the 10k. I don’t want to mislead you by calling this a race where I’m concerned. Yes, for sure, it’s a race with real winners but for me, it’s a run. I also don’t want you to think I ran the 1/2 marathon. I participated in the NIKE Women’s 1/2 Marathon by running the 10k.

There. I feel better now after confessing.

I did however line up, by accident, with the 1/2 marathon participants. By the time I realized it, the gun had gone off and the race had started. It seemed more disruptive to try to make my way to the side than to just let the 7500+ women run by me. I made the best of it and did a shoe count while waiting for the 10k participants to be allowed into the starting gate area. NIKE faired pretty well with about 6 out of 10 runners wearing our brand. That’s not official so any NIKE people reading this, simmer down, be patient and wait for the real count from the experts.

So there I was. Super proud of NIKE hosting the first Women’s only 1/2 marathon in Asia. Inviting 15,000 women to run either the 1/2 marathon or the 10k. Whoever said people, especially women, don’t workout, train or run in Greater China might want to come over and take a look for themselves. They workout in the rain. They run in extreme heat. And maybe most importantly, they have fun.

I leave you with this visual. Me, at the 10k starting line, in my first ever international road race/run. Just me, trying to fit in, among 15,000 of my fellow runners. Can you spot me?

On Your Mark

On Your Mark

Get Set

Get Set



Temple of The Soul’s Retreat

Please enjoy the images from last weekend’s adventure to Hangzho and our visit to Lingyin Temple and the surrounding Tea Plantations.


Rules To Live By

This weekend, Greg and I took a road trip with Kenny to the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou is about a 2.5 hour drive from Shanghai and is considered to be the Happiest Place in China. There is an old Chinese saying

生在苏州, 活在杭州, 吃在广州, 死在柳州

“Be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou.”

The meaning here states that Suzhou is known for its beautiful and highly educated people. Hangzhou for its scenery. Guangzhou for its food and Liuzhou for its wooden coffins. Yikes.

I’m almost sure, I’m going to hear from my Chinese co-workers on Monday after reading this, as they will dispute where the best place to be born, live and eat. Seems ancestral heritage and knowing where to the find the best food comes with a real sense of pride. Square Melons. Try discussing the same topics with a Texan.

The big attraction to Hangzhou is West Lake, a fresh water lake that boasts ancient pagodas, temples and gardens.

West Lake

West Lake

West Lake is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and Hangzhou city on the other. The bamboo covered walking paths around the lake is 15k or about 10 miles. It can be longer if you chose to take some of the side paths.

We took off for our walk as soon as we arrived, late Friday afternoon. Kenny walks a 10k every day. A walk in the morning and a walk in the evening. He’s a fast walker. He can walk the loop in about 2 hours. Something he was proud to share with Greg and I. I think he quickly realized we weren’t going to break any records when we kept stopping to take pictures, ask questions about the buildings and take in some good people watching.



Near our hotel was the best people watching. There were several live performances, dance lessons, of course tai chi and a few weddings. We first heard a high pitched, Mariah Carey”ish” voice. As we got closer to the scene, we saw her. She seemed to own the microphone and was more or less driving the crowds away from the performance. I felt sorry for the guys in the band. When there was a break in the lyrics, the music from the instruments was actually very soothing.

No Chance

No Chance

You could rent bikes to ride around the lake. Pretty, bright colored bikes with bells attached to warn walkers on their approach. When we arrived at the bike rental place, I went over to inspect them. They looked like miniature bikes or toys. The seat just reached between my knee and my thigh. No chance we could fit on any of them.

As we made our way around the lake, we started asking Kenny some questions. Things we were curious about. Like why do people walk backwards? Yes. It’s true. We’ve seen people by our apartment and again at West Lake walking backwards. Not turning their heads to see where they are going but walking in clean strides, arms swinging, walking backwards. Kenny shared that if a person has neck problems, they should exercise by walking backwards. It strengthens the neck.


As we continued on, we saw a couple ahead of us and every other step they put their hands out straight in front of them, chest high and clapped.


He said that clapping while walking is good for your digestive system. He shared that people with digestive issues should clap their hands while walking. I whispered to Greg “I think they’re clapping to cover up the sounds of their digestive systems.”

That makes more sense doesn’t it?

I took a short break from asking all my questions to enjoy the beautiful sights along the way. The air was clear, the sun was shinning and we were shaded by the bamboo. It was such a great break from the big city life of Shanghai. It’s funny to think that a break or a get away to a town of 8.5 million people can be that different, but trust me, you can tell when you’re getting away from 20 million people, the noise and the pollution of a big city.

Leifeng Pagoda

Leifeng Pagoda

Across the lake stood the Leifeng Pagoda. A beautiful structure that stood above the trees. It seems the original Pagoda was built in 975 AD. During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Hangzhou was attacked by Japanese Pirates and the wood portion of the Pagoda was burned leaving only the brick skeleton. Later, due to superstitions that the brick powder could repel illness, many people stole the bricks from the tower to grind into powder. The Leifeng Pagoda collapsed in 1924 and was rebuilt in 2002.

There were several koi ponds along the way. We stopped to look and I was surprised to see how many turtles were in the ponds. I asked Kenny if he’s ever eaten turtle, thinking this might be something we could connect on as I’ve had turtle soup while on a trip to New Orleans.

Wrong. Kenny seemed a bit put off and shared that in Buddhism, turtle is a sign of longevity. His family owns 3, one for each family member. Embarrassed, I could not change the topic fast enough.



Just up ahead of us was this lovely couple walking with smiles on their faces, greeting people as they passed. I noticed they were both wearing NIKE.

I had Greg and Kenny doing a shoe count with me as we walked. Never not working, we saw 3 runners total. 2 were wearing NIKE and 1 was not. A lot of the younger people were wearing NIKE so when I saw this older couple sporting the brand we had to talk. Kenny shared with them I worked for NIKE.

They both put their hands together and he said “NIKE good.” He shared that they were both 80 yrs old. They walk 2 times a day. 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. He did share with me that his shirt was not NIKE. I loved it.

At dinner that night, Kenny shared some insights on good health and eating. He said the only alcohol he drinks is red wine. He only has vegetables at dinner. He eats fish, pork and chicken at lunch giving the body enough time to digest. Greg and I were listening carefully as we ate our sweet and sour pork ribs and drank a cold beer.

He said to only drink hot or warm water. Never cold and never ice. It’s too hard on your system. He said that drinking green tea calms you and lowers your blood pressure. He shared several times the importance of walking in the evening.

When I shared with him about my sleep issues, I only sleep about 4 hours a night, we learned that soaking your feet and having your spouse wash them is good for circulation and a better nights sleep.


I actually looked into this and learned that in Chinese medicine, soaking your feet every night will draw your overactive mind back into your body and promote mental relaxation.

So here’s my take away from spending time with my new spiritual, mental and physical advisor Kenny.

Drink hot water. Walk. Walk backwards for neck problems. Clap you hands while walking for any digestive issues. Walk. Drink red wine. Eat any proteins or meat at lunch. Only eat vegetables at night. Walk. Drink the powder of bricks to ward of illnesses. Wait. That wasn’t advice from Kenny. Scratch that. Soak your feet at night and have Greg wash them. Drink green tea instead of coffee. And never, ever eat turtle.

No Problem. No Problem.

Ship on the horizon

Ship on the horizon.

This last weekend Greg and I golfed for the first time since our move to China. Greg flew over to meet me for the weekend after a week of meetings in Sanya, on the island of Hainan.

Hainan Island is located in the South China Sea and is the most southern province of China. It is located near Vietnam. I now know this as I Googled a map after looking up from reading my book poolside, and noticed the Chinese Navy ship patrolling the coast. Look closely in the picture and you can see the outline on the horizon.

I’m very aware of the current dispute China and Vietnam are experiencing over oil wells in the South China Sea but didn’t realize we were so close to it all. Look it up if you’re curious. I don’t want to use my blog as a way to share information on any political unrest.

Sun Valley Golf Resort

Sun Valley Golf Resort

Hainan has been referred to as the Hawaii of China. I agree. It’s really beautiful and very tropical. It’s more humid than Hawaii, it feels more like Louisiana humid but again, beautiful.

We golfed at Sun Valley Golf Resort. A lot of the courses are named after western courses, Sun Valley, Mission Hills, even Sun River Golf Course. All very beautiful and all very empty. I guess it’s officially the off season as it’s too hot for most people to play.

Our golf experience was like nothing I had ever experienced. Oh sure, the bad golf I’ve experienced plenty of times. I’ve played very bad golf on the best of courses. But this time was different. This time we played with a caddie. Not a caddie who carries your clubs, we had a cart. A caddie, who is basically your personal butler on the course. They ride along on the back of the cart with the clubs. They follow you to the tee box, place your ball and hand you your driver.  A little nerve wracking. I get nervous teeing off in front of others and so to add 3 additional people, there were 3 of us golfing and we each had our own caddie, is almost a like having a full gallery at every hole.



Did I mention the caddies don’t speak english? Sure, they’ve been given “scripts” to provide help at each hole. Scripts rehearsed in english. At almost every hole as they line up the tee shot they would state “bunker, bunker, middle.” We took that to mean, there is a bunker on the right, bunker on the left, you might want to hit in the middle.

Greg chose to listen to the instructions and hit right down the middle. I took it to mean, why not hit one of the bunkers and completely miss the middle. My drives got so bad that my caddie walked the course with a rake.

On the green, they line the ball up perfectly and demonstrated where and at what angle you should putt. The “script” for the green was either “uphill” or ” downhill.” Again, not that helpful as they were stating the obvious.

Did I mention it was hot? We drank 3 large Gatorades and 2 bottled waters on the course and did not need to stop for a break at the turn. I did, but only to change out of my white golf shirt as it was completely soaked from the humidity.

As we played along, I  loosened up a bit and was getting pretty comfortable with having the caddies around. When Greg would tee off, they started to cheer and clap. They would follow his shot in the air to see where it would land and proclaim “No Problem. No Problem.”

When I would tee off they would collectively groan. They did cheer once when I managed to just miss the sand trap by a few inches. When I would hit into the woods, we would drive the cart near the area and the caddie would jump off and pretend to be looking. Once I saw the “Caution Snake” sign I waved her back to the cart and started taking balls from Greg’s bag.

I think I had 1 or 2 good holes out of 18. I had fun, sweated off a couple pounds and got a sunburn.

I ended up really liking my caddie. She was sweet and would laugh with me after each shot. I think they all got used to my golf game – commenting in Chinese and then laughing together. Wait. You don’t think they were making fun of me do you?

Caddies. I think maybe we should all have one in our daily lives. Someone to give advice, set you up for the perfect shot, warn you against hazards, laugh with you to keep it real and cheer for you when you’ve done well.

Springtime in Shanghai

The weather in the city has been on and off. Blue skies to grey. A bit of sunshine, rain with a dash of pollution. When the air is clear and the sun is shinning, people are outside in masses.

A walk through the city, brings all kinds of experiences to share. Not experiences unique to Shanghai really, I think you could find these in any big city. Shopping, pick-up basketball and people hanging clothes out to dry. Well, maybe not that last one.

And like any city, there’s always a park to explore. People’s Park is located in the heart of the city boardering Shanghai Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. From our apartment to People’s Park and back is about 4 miles. Perfect for an early morning run or a walk on a Sunday afternoon with plenty to see.

Now here’s where things go Square Melon. On Sunday afternoons, a section of People’s Park is known as “Blind Date Corner”, a marriage market where parents of unmarried adults go to find a suitable mate for their child. “Advertising” is posted, marketing their child’s age, height, job, income, family values and of course the Chinese zodiac sign. Parents walk around chatting about their children to see if there is a harmonious fit but only after the posted standards are met.

With the one child policy in China, there is a real fear that by the time a male-child reaches marrying age, there will be a problem finding female mates. There is a study that says by the year 2020 there will be 24 million unmarried men in China unable to find a wife.

Blind Date Corner required further explanation so I asked about it at work. It seems that most “children” do not know their parents are out marketing them and they do not ask permission before posting. One co-worker shared with me that her dad did post her ad and she did meet a couple men from the posting but she had no interest in taking it any further. Her father understood and to her knowledge he stopped shopping. I looked for her picture when we went back the following Sunday.

Springtime brings great events to the city as well. Greg and I went to see the Shanghai Acrobat Troupe. They travel the world performing an amazing show of talents and incredible athleticism.

It’s a great time to be in China. Perfect weather and all the flowers and trees are in bloom. Are you sure?We enjoy going out for dinner and walking back in the cool evening air.

We did have to pause on our way home the other night in front of this sign stating the obvious.

The Office

The NIKE Greater China offices will be moving to a newly built campus setting in the Yanpu District of Shanghai. We move the first week of April. I’ll miss my 4 block walk to and from work. 

I’ve seen and had some interesting experiences on my walk. I introduced you to The Music Man and by the way, he’s still blasting the same  two songs.

I’ve enjoyed the guy who arrives every morning on his scooter with his cat riding on the back seat like royalty. He has Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits softly playing from his scooter stereo. He parks near a bench, visiting with friends while the cat remains perched on the royal throne.

I’ve played mind games with the guard who stands outside “The White House”, a name Greg and I have given a building that somewhat resembles the U.S. White House.

The building itself is hidden at street level. You can’t see through or above the shrubs surrounding the perimeter. Occasionally one can get a glimpse of the front of the building when the gates open to let very official looking cars enter or exit through the intimidating, secured gates.

We have a top down view from our apartment into the entire “White House” complex. Can’t tell what goes on there but I can tell you it’s just as uninviting from our kitchen window as it is from the street.

The White House

Each day, as I passed the “White House” the guard standing at the gate would just stare, watching me with a straight, stern and judgmental look on his face. I would quickly look away. As time went on, I decided I was going to break through with him so I stopped looking away.

The next week, I added a smile. Still nothing. A couple weeks later I added a friendly “Ni Hao” “Hello.” I got a smile.  I did it. I broke through with the crabby old guard but that wasn’t enough for me. The next week I threw out “Zao Shang Hao” “Good Morning.” This time, I got a smile that showed teeth and a nod. Now, every morning as I walk past the “White House” I get a “Good Morning” in english, from my friend the guard.

So now, the first of April, Kenny will pick me up each morning for a :30 minute drive to the new, NIKE China headquarters. The planning for this campus has been a multi-year project and the excitement and anxiety is growing around the office.

Last week, while I was in Oregon for meetings at NIKE, I received an email from Evie, my assistant, that stated the following:

Hi Rosemary,

The campus team was very kind to give me a note that I should pass on to you. It’s about the Feng Shun of your new office 7056. The Feng Shun Master pointed out that despite its good view, the office is facing the river going downward, meaning the office is watching fortune flow away. As you know, some people are firm believers in this, some do not take it seriously at all, I’m not sure how you feel about Feng Shui, so I thought I’d bring this up and get your thoughts. If you decide not to move into 7056, we can change you to offices on the other side. Could you let me know what you think?

Thank you.


Um. What’s that? “Watching fortune flow away?” Personal or Professional? Does it matter? Are they not tied together? This is a dilemma.

Months ago, as we sat in update meetings about the campus, listening to how we had hired a Feng Shun Master to work with NIKE on the building to ensure that we achieve balance and harmony, I joked when asked did I want to sit on the “power” side of the building or the “fortune” side. I stated with confidence “I want the office on the corner of power and fortune.” And so now, all joking aside, I’m faced with this dilemma.

When I was a kid, I imagined a huge Indian Chief stood outside my bedroom door, arms crossed, standing guard over me at night. My dad was a big fan of The Old West and often shared stories of Great Native Americans from the Northwest and they all seemed larger than life when he told their stories. I felt safer knowing he was there, just outside my door.

If the Indian Chief and my two sisters, we all shared a room, weren’t enough to make me feel safe there was plenty of Catholic representation scattered around the room. A crucifix on the wall, statues of Mary and a photo of The Guardian Angel that was given to me at my baptism. And, I’m sure there was more than one “lucky rabbit foot” keychain and maybe a horseshoe or two in our room. All icons of protection and good luck.

So my response to Evie and the campus team? I’ll take the view of the river flowing away from the building. I’m protected. I’ve got an imaginary Indian Chief watching over me, my Catholic upbringing, a lucky rabbit foot keychain in my pocket and If needed, I’ll nail up a horseshoe over my office door.

NIKE Greater China HQ

And if that doesn’t work, and the business starts to decline and my checking account becomes overdrawn, I’ll pack up my things and move two offices away towards the “power” side of the building.

Made In China

Take a look at the clothes in your closet. I’ll bet at least half have “Made In China” on the label. China’s manufacturing history goes back to the late ’70’s, early ’80’s but the art of craftsmanship and tailoring goes back to, well, the beginning of time.

Walking down the streets in Shanghai, you will pass a tailor or dressmaker shop on every block. We’ve been passing them on our weekend adventures and several times, I’ve mentioned to Greg, “I want one of those Chinese dresses.”  As we pass the tailor shops, he jokes back with me “I want a few of those tailored suits.”

When I brought this up at work, co-workers were quick to share that Shanghai is the best for any dress and Hong Kong is the best for any tailored suits.

They shared with me the area that has the best qípáo makers in all of Shanghai. Qípáo is the real name for the Chinese style dress I had been admiring – that’s pronounced Che-Pow. The qípáo was created in the 1920’s in Shanghai and some of the same dress shops are still operating today.

A few weeks ago, Evie, my assistant, and lifeline to China, and I headed out to find a qípáo that would be right for me. Walking into the very small shop was a bit overwhelming. Beautiful silk dresses were displayed on mannequins and hanging in all colors in a few different styles.

I picked out a dress that I really liked. The color and the design was simple and elegant.

The dressmaker handed me a dress from the rack and motioned for me to put it on. I looked at Evie and shared my concern that it most likely wouldn’t fit. She said something to the dressmaker and the translation was something like “it’s the biggest size we have in the shop.” “Put it on and we’ll take the measurements”

I squeezed into the dress, left most of it bunched around my mid-section and held together the slits on the side and stepped out from the small dressing room ready for measurements. Evie and the dressmaker were going back and forth in conversation. It got a bit louder and more animated as they went along. I asked Evie what was going on and she said the dressmaker was going to need to charge more because I was so big and long.

I had to control my laughing as the dressmaker continued talking in an excited voice, while measuring and pinning. Evie explained to me that she was going to have to charge an extra $100RMB, about $17 US dollars for the added material.

I went back a week later for a fitting of the dress with the material I had picked out and 2 days later it was ready to wear. I can’t wait for the occasion to wear my new qípáo.

With a trip planned to Hong Kong for some NIKE meetings and the marathon weekend, I reached out to a co-worker from Beaverton who I knew had intimate knowledge and years of experience of where to go for the best tailor. He drafted an email introducing us to Manu Melwani and his son Roshan of Sam’s Tailors with the request to take care of us while we were in Hong Kong.

Sam’s was opened in 1957 by Sam Melwani and is now run by his son Manu and Grandson Roshan. When you walk into the very small, 800 square foot shop you can feel the history and can see by the many images posted around the shop of who has had their suits handcrafted at Sam’s. U.S. Presidents, The Bushes, Clinton, Reagan all have photos with Manu or Roshan posted in the store. Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Tony Blair and other varying heads of state. Military officials, religious leaders, sports stars, entertainers all with their photos taken in this same location.

The place was packed with others all looking to get fitted for what is most often promised as 24-hour turn around from first fitting to completion. Roshan quickly got to work with Greg. He talked to him about what he liked, what was his favorite color. He showed him different fabrics, different styles of lapels and samples of different collars. Roshan served each of us a beer as we looked through the options. Roshan and the beers could not have been more helpful.

Not wanting to be made to feel left out, Roshan offered to make me a suit or two. I was reluctant at first as the only images I saw of women in the store were of the late Margaret Thatcher, Princess Margaret and Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany. And as impressed as I am with Princess Margaret and her bloodline and of course the power of Ms. Merkel, I did not see either of them as influencers of style.

With complete trust in Roshan and a couple beers, I surrendered to the moment and took to the measuring process. Awkward as you can see. Only explanation needed here is that we are both standing.

We arrived on Thursday late afternoon and went directly to Sam’s for our first meeting and to get measured. We went back again on Friday night for our initial fitting. We left Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon with a suitcase full of beautifully designed, custom fitted suits, shirts, dresses and a couple coats. We can’t wait to wear our new duds to a meeting with the President and First Lady of China or to the Spaghetti Factory when we return to Portland.


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.

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