Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Homecoming – Hangzhou – Part 8

Click here for Part 7:

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This time our bullet train ride was from Shanghai to Hangzhou.  It was longer than our first time when we went to Suzhou, this time around being 1-1/2 hour one way. 

The weather was rainy and dreary all day.  Who could’ve known that it would become one of our nicest days in China?

We were met at the Hangzhou train station by our tour guide, Pudding.  Yes, that really was her name.  I checked twice, including the spelling.  She said that when it was time to choose an english name, she chose Pudding because it sounded nice.

Pudding was quite memorable, if not just for her name alone.

We went to the tea villages that Hangzhou was renowned for.  And it just wouldn’t be me, if I actually remembered the name of the tea village.  No, that would be too easy!

Then it started raining again.  The tea village and fields were owned by a famous person whose name I didn’t write down in my journal; thus, I have absolutely no recollection.  I just know he was the top tea farmer whose tea was highly prized.

Now how often do you see something like this?  Mine’s on back order as we speak.  Just so you know.

May I live here?

All the green tea you can possibly drink.

What are they looking at, you ask?  Glad you did.

Why, tea roasting, of course!  Isn’t it obvious?

Pudding said that hand-roasting the tender, fragile green tea leaves was a delicate process that took all day.  To show our fondest appreciation for all that hard work, we took home cartons of these lovelies.  The green tea is in the round canister while the chrysanthemum tea is housed in the square package.  (Don’t mind my rice cooker and coffee maker in the background.)

Remember when in Xi’an, Zen Mum and I developed a cough towards the end of our stay there?  Well, at this point it was body-wracking and becoming quite painful.  Zen Master, out of the three of us, was the only one unaffected, and he asked Pudding if there was a drug store we could go to to get medicine. 

And God bless her, she took us to a wonderful pharmacy that sold us wonderful drugs.

After lunch, we went to the West Lake to putter around it in the drizzling rain.  This riverboat was similar to the one we rode.

 We had a blast!

We arrived back into Shanghai at 6:00 PM that night.  I don’t know what it was about Hangzhou that made it so great.  Maybe it was Pudding and her eagerness about her city.  Maybe the smell of freshness in the lingering rain.  Or maybe it was the non-rush of pace in this city that made it memorable. 

It was a lovely city.

And it was a lovely way to end our vacation in China, because we were due to leave the country the next day.

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A Cup of Tea

Zen Master loves sampling new foods.  He adores tasting new flavors.  But honestly, he’s also quite picky.  

So when he went looking for good green tea, nay, great green tea, he was determined to find that elusive cup of heaven. 

So Zen Master plotted an elaborate plan of action.

Whenever he’s in an Asian supermarket, he makes a beeline straight to the tea section.  He would scan the various boxes of Korean green tea, Japanese green tea, and of course, Chinese green tea.  He would pick up a box, read the label, give it a good sniff, and give it a good shake. 

This is the way of the Zen Master.  Thorough.  Methodical.

Once he finally decides on a box, he would buy it, take it home and brew a cup of tea. 

Let me complete the picture by adding that Zen Master would also do his happy dance as he believes that he has finally found the cup.

Don’t even get me started on how many rejected boxes of green tea that are tucked away in my kitchen cabinets.

So when he finds something tasty, he sticks to it like white on rice.

Now this brand of green tea is truly acquired taste.  It’s with roasted brown rice. 

According to Zen Master, this type of green tea is quite foo-foo.  It’s for the truly serious tea connoisseur.

While he was on his quest of finding that tasty green tea, I threw in something that he least expected.  And he slurps it up whenever he brews a cuppa.

I just wanted to let you know what floated in Zen Master’s teacup.  Because although his tastebuds can be quite fickle, Zen Master actually has simple pleasures.

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Note:  These brands of tea don’t know me from Adam.  I’m not getting one penny from them for writing this.  I’m just spreading Zen Master’s love for great tea.  Just so we’re clear.

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Random Acts of Kindness

Part of Zen Master’s philosophy is rooted in random acts of kindness and paying it forward.  His daily actions inherently reflect this belief whether people recognize it or not. 

So when he himself is a recipient of truly random acts of kindness, which is, truthfully, quite rare, he would pause for a moment, his eyes wide, not unlike a deer caught in the headlights.

A while back, Zen Master ran into a neighbor in the stairs.  She was complaining of a fierce headache that she couldn’t shake off.  He said that green tea would help it.  And he went out the next day to the Asian supermarket and bought a box of green tea for her.  (I didn’t know that green tea could help this type of ailment, but Zen Master said it was an extremely slow process, but eventually it did.)

The other night when I got home, there was a blue plastic shopping bag hanging on our front door.  I took it inside in the house.

“Did anyone knock on the door?”  I asked Zen Master and Zen Mum.  They were puttering inside the kitchen, preparing dinner.

We all peeked inside the bag and found three locally grown cucumbers, soil still clinging to them. 

“Nobody knocked.”  Zen Mum answered.

“Who gave this to you?”  Zen Master asked.  “Did you get these from work?”

When I told them where I found it, they both were puzzled.  Erring on the extreme side of caution, because you just never know nowadays, we decided not to eat them right away.  Let’s just wait and see if the owner came forth. 

And the next day, Zen Master passed the neighbor’s husband while in the parking lot.  They were the owners of the cucumbers.  A friend had given them a bunch of them, and they in turn gifted some to us because they had too many and didn’t want them to go to waste.  Zen Master thanked him so profusely his head almost touched the ground. 

(Okay, so it didn’t really touch, but it came pretty darn close!)

A couple nights later, I found another shopping bag hanging on my front door.  This time a note was included with two bags of specially flavored green tea, raspberry and mint. 

“Why does she do this?”  Zen Master was quite befuddled by this action.  He really didn’t know what to make of it.  “What do you think she wants from us?”

“I don’t think she wants anything, Zen Master.”  I said as I sniffed the bag and smelled the minty flavor.  “Some people are like that.”

“I should buy her something.”  He frowned with concern.  “What should I get?  What do you think is a good idea?”

I pat him on the shoulder.  “Saying thank you is good.”

But he remained unconvinced even after I ran next door and stuck a thank-you note on their door.

COST:  two small bags of flavored green tea = $5.94

Zen Master’s paradigm shift = PRICELESS

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