There's a Chinese saying that rings true always: At home (when you're young), you rely on family; away from home (when you grow up), you rely on friends. I certainly am thankful for friends like Eden, who sends me clippings of articles from newspaper and magazines whenever he finds something interesting or related to my health. His assistant, Ju, called all the way from Thailand to make my doctor's appointment (those of you who know me know how I can make excuses not to see the old doctor), or like Mr. Chang Jin Qiang, who has virtually never uttered the word "no" to me.
Another friend is Ms. Qian Xiao Ling, whom I met some 16 years ago, when she was employed with the Zhejiang Tea Import and Export Corporation. Ms. Qian has helped me on numerous occasions, from supplying tea, to helping consolidate and export my small orders, to arranging hotels and drivers. I have relied on her help often and am thankful for her friendship. Last night, when I arrived here in Hangzhou, she picked me up from the airport and deposited me at the hotel. This morning she took me from the hotel to her office, where various samples of tea and yi xing teapots have been forwarded for my review. Ms. Qian and her staff set up the cupping for review and recorded all my requests. Her help certainly made my life easier in many ways.
When I mentioned that I have not visited Hangzhou's famed Hupanju Teahouse recently, Ms. Qian offered to take me there for tea and dinner. I immediately seized the opportunity and said yes before she could change her mind! Years ago, I was invited to the Hupanju Teahouse for a formal dinner (formal or informal dinner or just tea can be had in this great teahouse) and I have never forgotten this place. Whenever I do a tea tour to Hangzhou, I arrange a Tea Dinner in the Hupanju Teahouse, where 16 courses of food are served and every one of them includes some element of tea. I have also taken my family there for lunch and tea, and have visited on numerous occasions just for tea, alone and with friends.
Tonight I sat with Ms. Qian in Hupanju's outside balcony overlooking West Lake, sipping newly harvested green tea and munching on some 18 different snack items. The night view of the famed West Lake is beautiful beyond words. West Lake is like one of those glamorous movie stars, beautiful, sophisticated, and elegant, something you just know right off that you will always love and admire. Hangzhou and its West Lake have been celebrated by poets and songwriters for eons, and the love for and attachment to this exceptional locale are not likely to end soon.
With this thought I am signing off so I can wake up in time for the ride to the Shanghai airport, where I will depart for Taiwan, but I promise you that I will take one more look at my West Lake before saying goodbye to China, the Homeland of Tea. You know, this is two days in a row that I don't have anything to add to my "don't say yuk" list!