to be lost in silence

“What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words

What if the temple was the Earth
If forests were our church
If holy water-the rivers, lakes, and oceans

What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.”

-Ganga White 1998

This poem was sent to me by the people who organize the yoga & meditation retreat in which I am part-taking this weekend. The retreat will be in a Buddhist temple and most of the weekend we will be silent, although there will be chanting with the Buddhist monks.

I will of course let you all know how this experience in the Chinese Buddhist temple was.

tianshan tea market: everything you need for a ceremony of tea

This owner of the shop has worked in the tea plantations for a couple of years - the tea is reminiscent of the most expensive tea in the world.
This owner of the shop has worked in the tea plantations for a couple of years – the tea is reminiscent of the most expensive tea in the world.

This weekend Henjo, his friend Brian and I went to the large Tianshan tea market, it is basically a tea mall. Everything you imagine they would sell; they have it, and more.

There are brushes to brush the tea on your pot or your charms (peanuts, Buddha or frog miniatures) to cause the very much wanted discoloration of the charms due to the tea. They sell tongs to use to distribute the tea cups to the fellow drinkers as the cups should be too hot to hold. Wooden blocks with a tube which is meant to pour the tea on, and then you let the tea run out of the wooden block via this suction tube.

Naturally there are many shops in this mall that sell actual tea, many of them specialize in one particular tea. We had a ceremony in Brian’s favorite shop, the owner sells tea from a region which is similar to the most prestigious and famous Da Hong Pao tea of the Wuji region in China where there are six 350 year old trees that when harvested produce 100 grams of tea each year.

Brian shared a story with us about this particular tea, in 1972 Richard Nixon was invited to visit General Mao, which was already noteworthy as is, and after the meeting Mao gave Nixon a tin of tea which was 50 grams. Richard Nixon found it kind, but did not realize the gift he had just received – he received a half of the tea from these six trees – was worth about $20,000 dollars.

Eventually I plan on buying a tea-set for myself, small enough to travel with, but I used the day on Saturday to scour around, compare the prices and styles so that I will become acquainted with the products and figure out what I like and need.

Some photos of the market, sorry for the bad quality – my ‘camera’ (telephone) has been letting me down:

The Tianshan market on the outside.
The Tianshan market on the outside.
Tea ceremony - the little charms will change color over time as you pour tea over them during the ceremony
Tea ceremony – the charms such as this smiling Buddha will change color over time as you pour tea over them during the ceremony

Tea accessories

Tea variations
Tea variations
Many owners asleep
Many owners asleep

the air quality this day

The sky in Shanghai taken a couple of weeks ago.
The sky in Shanghai taken a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a good day for Shanghai. Don’t look at these numbers as a general consensus for these cities, I just looked at the air quality for today. Shanghai can be much, much worse, or better, and so can the other cities.

Air quality today:
Shanghai: 70 – moderate
Beijing: 238 – very bad
New York City: 105 – bad
Amsterdam: 23 – good

Since being in Shanghai I have been concerned about the quality of the air here. When I was sick, for example, my cough would get much worse if I were to be outdoors. Oftentimes the sun won’t be able to penetrate through the layers of smog, although it might just seem that way to me.

When the air quality is very bad, as it is in Beijing today, they advise you to wear a piece to cover your mouth and nose. I haven’t part-taken in this mainly Asian custom.

The first time I ever became worried about the air quality was when I was living in New York City and I would ride my bicycle across the Williamsburg bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This ‘healthy’ bike-ride didn’t seem as healthy while crossing the bridge due to all of the fumes I would be inhaling on the bridge. I would generally cover my face with my scarf, unless it was some time in the summer when it would be too hot to cover basically any part of the body due to the humidity in the city.

When you’re living in a city and you want a breath of fresher air; just head to a park and soak up whatever the trees are breathing out into the air.

tea ceremony con

It’s no secret that I have been very much liking the tea ceremonies here in Shanghai. One Saturday afternoon I was walking with my brother near the Bund, checking out the sights and enjoying the great weather. Soon two girls approached us, one of them was out of town and the other was living here and they were just about to head attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The girls tell us that they don’t have much money, and it would be great to go to the ceremony together to keep funds low. The girls seemed very sweet and genuine, great actors, but we didn’t trust the situation. We decided to just check the ceremony out, just to peek at the space, and then we left much to their dislike. If we would have stayed there and had a ceremony with our new ‘friends’ we would have had to pay a lot after completion of the ceremony.

coconut oil for health

Coconut Oil Info Graphic Source:
Coconut Oil Info Graphic

Besides finding that info graphic, I also watched this video: Coconut oil for skin

What you put on your skin goes directly into your lymphatics and circulation without passing the liver first, as happens when we eat something. And, some chemicals are more permeable across the skin than across the gut. You should not put anything on your skin that you would not eat! Autopsy studies show that mineral oil widely permeates our internal organs and bioaccumulates particularly in the liver and spleen.

Coconut oil is a much better choice because it is not toxic and in fact is healthy for us. It also works very well as a skin moisturizer; it even penetrates the shaft of hair, while mineral oil does not.

– Natural News

I was already putting coconut oil on my skin as a moisturizer – it really is the best, but I had no idea that what you put on your skin is even more dangerous than what you put into your mouth.

eating insects

Honey Bee
Honey Bee

Eating insects is good for the environment. As a vegetarian, I have made the decision to eat insects. I guess now I’m a insectarian. Or something. We were at a restaurant called the Southern Barbarian recently and we ordered a plate full of Mealworms, Grasshoppers and Honeybees. Delicious! They are obviously fried to make them taste good and crunchy. The Mealworms are my favorite, but the Grasshoppers are nice and crunchy as well. The bees are a little bland.

Insects contain protein. This is good.

Why is eating insects good for the environment?
– Less feed is needed. For one kg of cow meat we need 10 kg of feed. For 10 kg of feed we can produce 9 kg of insects.
– Food inputs from waste. The waste from animals can be used to produce insects.
– Less greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are bad for our oxygen amongst other things, mkay.
– Saving water. Much water is needed to raise animals.
– Animal welfare. For the love of animals.
– Less risk of disease. Swine flu, bird flu, mad cow disease.

Eat insects, not meat.
While we’re at it: make love, not war.

vacation on vacation in hangzhou

The Shanghai family also known as Da Pu Lu family (us) decided to go on vacation on vacation. The destination: Hangzhou. To our knowledge this is a cute little town only an hour away by train from Shanghai. We booked a hotel room, quite luxurious for 13 euros per person, we had a girls room and a boys room, and upon arrival we put on our tourist shoes and roamed around looking for sights. The lake in Hangzhou is beautiful, we saw many Buddhist temples and the nature surrounding the temples was stunning as well.

We had a bit of a shock during one lunch when I searched for the inhabitant amount of Hangzhou which turns out to be nearly 8 million people! We had realized that it was bigger than we had anticipated, but we were thinking this city could be about as large as Amsterdam, not half the size of our country!

The atmosphere in Hangzhou is way more relaxed and easy-going, the people are friendly and when you cross the street in a designated place; the cars actually stop to let pedestrians cross. We were amazed! Later we found out that Hangzhou is the happiest city in all of China. We completely understand and concur.

At times we compared certain areas to Amersfoort or Scheveningen. We Dutch tend to compare places to ones familiar to us, for example I call Shanghai: “the Chinese New York City”.

My brothers head
My brothers head

We had a beer in a coffeeshop
We had a beer in a coffeeshop
The big Buddha is Chinese
The big Buddha is Chinese
Where's Henjo?
Where’s Henjo?


Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist carvings
Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist carvings
These ladies and I had an exchange of smiles as a means of communication
These ladies and I had an exchange of smiles as a means of communication


tea addiction

KuDing tea - one leaf tea
KuDing tea – one leaf tea

This whole tea ceremony thing is getting out of control. Yesterday it was a holiday in China; dragon-boat festival. We brought our friends to Pudong airport in the early am. We spent the rest of the day indoors upon returning after hitting up the market first for fresh fruits and vegetables which we devoured during the day.

During these nine hours we had a constant tea ceremony, I was the ceremony master for this entire time. We drank nine liters of tea, five different kinds of tea and had about 9 bathroom breaks each.

The teas we drank:

  • KuDing tea
  • Jasmin
  • A 2 year-old black tea
  • Green tea
  • Another, younger, black tea
  • Besides this one crazy marathon of tea I have been performing constant tea ceremonies for me alone when at home. I might be doing other things during the ceremony, like writing this post; not very mindful, but the tea keeps flowing.

    It makes me wonder that tea might be addictive.