For my second event, I attended Zadie Smith’s talk in Empie Theater. I was excited to hear her speak because we all read her book over the summer, and I was thrilled to hear her take on it. Though she mentioned “Swing Time” very rarely during her talk, she focused more on other pieces of literature that I am unfamiliar with, some things that she said really stuck out to me. She described her first steps into the world of writing, and how she typed up other peoples words that she liked and called it her own. She joked that her, “first taste of writing was through plagiarism.” She also said a few more phrases that caught my attention such as, “It’s a huge responsibility every day to wake up as a person”, “What counts really isn’t what you are but what you do”, and “To be no one is one of the great liberties of life”. The way she talked was so inter4esting because you could see how unique and special her thought process is, and she was an all-around inspiring and fascinating speaker.
For my first event that I attended, I went to a performance of Tal: Beyond Imagination. What I thought was just going to be another run of the mill performance turned into one of the most inspiring moments I’ve had on campus to date. From the very first moment the show began, I was absolutely entranced. Each costume, prop, and movement left me spellbound, and I vowed to one day be strong enough to do the same. I used to be a dancer and dabbled in aerial, and seeing these incredible athletes perform in such graceful choreography inspired me to pursue this activity myself. I started exercising with my roommate and stretching daily, in hopes of one day being able to achieve the beautiful stunts the performers executed so fluidly. I don’t know if I would have attended the show if not for this activity assignment, but I am so grateful that I did.
In the Sadler, Sen-No-Rikyu text, the part that stood out to me the most was the lack of judgment held by the author. In other pieces, such as George Orwell’s writing, an extreme set of do’s and dont’s is put into place on how tea should be made. The description of Chanoyu, or Japanese tea ceremony, displays feelings of acceptance and gratefulness for all attempts at enjoying tea, instead of the disapproval of other authors. While some people believe that tea has to be consumed in special surroundings, the author of the Sen-No-Rikyu passage promotes enjoying tea in a spiritual and personal manner. After describing how to prepare the house for a tea ceremony, the author details, “In my little hut, whether people come or not it is all the same. In my heart, there is no stir of attraction or disgust.” The Chanoyu ceremony focuses on the body and soul and relies less on critiquing others. Shedding light on the emotions and traditions common in the Japanese tea ceremonies illuminates the spirituality held by the Japanese at this time. In conclusion, the focus on internal well being and individuality helps display the Japanese tea ceremony of Chanoyu.
For the last two hours of my required garden visits, I found my self immersed in a peaceful and tranquil experience. When I attended there was no one of authority present, and after some initial trepidation, I made my way into the foliage on my own. Though I was initially nervous that I would pull up something important for the most part (I hope) I weeded what was there, though I noticed that the beds are starting to wind down for the winter. After putting in some time with the maintenance, I decided to care for my mind and soul by utilizing my time in the garden to do some inner reflection. I took many pictures of different flowers and a few friendly bees, who luckily didn’t sting me. I also pulled out my bullet journal, a book I use as a combination of a diary, agenda planner, dream board, and more, to take some notes on my feelings of being in nature, Before I knew it, my time in the garden was up, and I was able to go about my day with a newfound feeling of peace and a clear head.
In my career as a student in the American education system, I had heard the phrase “opium war” before but never learned much about it. Through the reading, a whole new side of the trade between England and China was revealed. The section that my group was assigned to delve in to was from page 4 to page 5. This portion of the text dealt with the mispronunciation of Graves’ name and its effect on the traders, and the attacks that occurred between the Chinese mob and the foreigners. A connection that I found between my piece of the text and other group’s sections, was the superiority complex held by the foreigners. In my text, the author describes an interaction with a Chinese merchant where when discussing goods, the man replied, “Lice” (Due to his difficulty in pronouncing “rice”). The author found this conversation especially funny, but it is most definitely a form of racism. This would not be considered “ok” by today’s standards and would be considered extremely offensive. Overall, I learned that there was a whole side to the English and Chinese traders that I had never learned about before.
The poem that resonated the most with me is entitled “Tea Banquet with Zhao Ju” by Qian Qi. I loved the beautiful imagery found within the text and felt connected to the descriptions of the feelings brought on by drinking tea. After drinking the beverage, the author’s description of the, “…minds thoroughly cleansed of dust, our joy is far from being extinguished…” is a lovely recount of the delights of tea drinking. It describes the feeling of alertness from the caffeine and the lasting satisfaction of drinking the brew in remarkably poetic words. I have experienced similar feelings of being both awake and cozy after drinking a warm cup of tea. While all of the poems used descriptive imagery, often conjuring up images of foggy mountains and beautiful scenery, the simple description of the joy from drinking tea resonated with me. While other texts promoted strict rules in order to make tea “the right way”, everyone can relate to the poems’ simplicity and integrity.
When thinking of cultures surrounded by tea, most people immediately think of Great Britain, though this wasn’t always the case. Standage’s work on tea, found in Chapter 9, gives insight into how tea became as popular in England as it is now. In the 1600’s tea had just started to make its way across the pond, but not in the way we imagine it to be today. Some believed that it’s only use was for medicinal purposes, while others believed that after it’s voyage from China it became dangerous for human consumption. Tea did not become a widespread and beloved beverage until it was introduced by the aristocracy in the late 1600’s after the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza from Portugal. She was an avid tea drinker with a love for tea, and many British people wished to follow suit. As soon as 1757 tea was a common beverage being enjoyed by both royals and commoners alike. With the introduction into everyday society, tea became less of an expensive treat and more accessible to the public. Starting as all-male institutions, tea houses became accessible and affordable to all and take home tea became available. For citizens below the poverty line, tea became a staple in diets consisting of little nutrition and provided sustenance to many. Furthermore, with the integration of tea into British society, the beverage manifested into the empire that it is today.
“Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others” (Okakura 6). Upon reading this sentence I was stopped in my tracks, what could this confusing riddle mean? In my free write, I not only aimed to discover how my three paraphrases impacted my ability to understand the text but also my ability to decipher the precise meaning. Some tools that helped me in my paraphrasing was taking words that seemed difficult to understand and change them into more recognizable and comfortable vocab. For instance, in one of my paraphrases I changed the phrase, “apt to overlook” into the more simple, “often ignore”. Creating an easier and clearer understanding of what the author was trying to relay was vital in my general understanding of the text. I was able to determine the message as an explanation in how to enjoy the little things in life, and appreciate them in others. I determined that if one is able to enjoy the little pieces of what makes up others, one will be more likely to appreciate them better as a whole. This is vital to one’s life because with a better understanding of others comes feelings of empathy and understanding making a more well-rounded person. Overall, paraphrasing at first seemed like a daunting task but was ultimately responsible for my deeper understanding for a text I was initially unsure of.
During our classes tea tasting event I started to notice something peculiar about myself: I may be more like George Orwell myself. I have often expressed my dislike towards Orwell’s arrogant airs, but as soon as I was asked to describe different teas an unknown egotistical monster was released from hiding within me. As soon as my lips touched the PG Tips tea, I knew I would not care for it. My notes describe it as “boring” and “one note”, rather harsh words for a perfectly suitable beverage. Looking back on my notes I have discovered many harsh words and phrases, especially belonging to those describing the Tregothnan and Lapsang Souchong. I had described the former as resembling “pasta water” and the latter having an aftertaste of “beef jerky”. In contrast, the teas that I did enjoy, namely the matcha and Jasmine, received glowing descriptions such as “Light and flowery”, “Earthy and smooth”, and others. When embarking on the tea tasting journey I expected to discover a love for a new type of tea, not uncover George Orwell.