Celebrations were abundant on this journey.
We had a memorable one for the Moon Festival which is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. After a special dinner which included an amazing vegetarian dish shaped like a fish and filled with shredded vegetables, we headed for West Lake. West Lake is a beautiful lake in Huangzhou where we boarded a boat to have moon cakes and tea with the full moon above. Our local guide, Angel, proved to be an angel indeed and that evening treated us by singing “Butterfly Lovers” from a famous Chinese opera.
We enjoyed Dragon Well or Long jing tea in Huangzhou in a beautiful tea house. Dragon Well tea is made there and is a famous green tea. It’s hand-roasted and the leaves are edible because they are so tender. One afternoon, I wanted some down time, but I opted to go on what was supposed to be a tea errand. This meant duck into a tea shop, purchase some tea and head back to the hotel in time to rest. Eric, Julia, Piper, and myself were the errand runners. The district that sold the tea was a lovely valley in the city. The slopes of the valley were green with layers of tea shrubs. The tea shop had moved and grown so Eric had a little trouble finding it. We ended up on tour of tea where we were shown what part of the tea was harvested and watched it being roasted. Then we were lead into a room with a big meeting table. Large flat baskets of tea were put out for us to inspect as they explained the different grades of tea. The options for making a purchase were vast. We had a choice of several container sizes and grades. Then the demonstrator brought out another option – a half kilo of tea wrapped in brown paper and tied into a bundle. It took me back to the days when I purchased a different sort of dried leaf. We most chose the quantity option and they whisked the tea into containers for us.
The ride back to hotel was a wild, hairy one. It was a woman driver…no, I don’t think that women drivers are worse than men. The van stopped at a traffic jam. We couldn’t see the cause and she daringly swerved into the lane of oncoming traffic to get around it. This caused a problem when the oncoming traffic didn’t give way and neither did the drivers in the lane we needed to get back into. Eric remained calm, but that’s doesn’t mean anything. Eric took the job of escorting us around China and he was always calm. We think he’s a Bodhisattva. After many uncertain moments, we made it back to the hotel in time for dinner. So much for downtime.
On another night in Shaoxing, we celebrated Nancy’s birthday with wine and song. Shaoxing yellow rice wine is a specialty of the area made from glutinous rice and millet, this amber colored and very potent wine is used both as a beverage and a cooking ingredient. Patrice lead the Supremes (Sue, Kathy, and Claire) in a rendition of “Stop! In the Name of Love” and Linda Ruth stopped the show with her version of “Ya Got Trouble” a song from the Music Man. She knew all the words and delivered it with conviction!
Shopping was always an adventure for us. We’re the gatherers and shopping is gathering…maybe. Anyway there was a lot of shopping done on this spiritual journey. Purchases consisted of Kwan Yin statues, monk robes and shoes, tea, silk scarves, silk comforters, fans, and malas.
One night, LInda gathered us together to practice Sympathetic Joy. Sympathetic Joy was explained as the practice of being delighted at the good fortune of another. Wow! What a great way to share the bounty gathered. Since we were all on the same floor of the hotel. we gathered in a common area and shared out purchases. It was fun to see what everyone bought. Sympathetic Joy…what a great practice!