Thursday, December 22, 2016

Going home for the holidays

my little elf

I don't get back to the US so often, but I will this weekend.  This post isn't so much about tea really, and closer to a catching-up email to a friend than a travel blog post.  I suppose I will have something to say about tea in a couple of weeks related to going there but this is just a family visit.  There is more on making Christmas tea blends here and here.  Making arrangements on short notice has been a nightmare but I'll skip all that part.  I think the main lesson learned from that doesn't apply broadly:  don't get married my wife.

I last went home nearly two years ago, to Pennsylvania, during that polar vortex then (a unique version of a cold spell--climate change is real people).  That extreme cold weather made for a great time to drink hot tea.  It was my family's introduction to loose tea, which I was a lot more into then than previously (it had been a number of years).  They sort of got it.  They drank what I brought but didn't stick with it.

crazy how cold!  down to around minus 20 F

Tea culture sort of happened in the US since I've lived back there.  I moved to Thailand nine years ago--the time just flies--and lived in Hawaii for two years prior to that in grad school, where they don't make an effort to embrace "mainland" culture.

I took up drinking tisanes about 26 years ago now (all these time-frames make me sound old), and surely some people were into tea back then, but it somehow never really came up.  I took part in a formal Japanese tea ceremony once in Colorado (12 years back), and another in Hawaii, so the culture was around, I just didn't embrace it.

visiting my Grandma; she is definitely missed

I've written plenty about tea culture here in Thailand, but it's not something I feel like I'm a part of, in the sense of hanging out in a group.  Maybe it's the combination of being interested in tea and being an expat / foreigner.  I know of some other guys in Thailand in the same boat but only because I'm so active online.  I think only one doesn't sell tea or teaware, or maybe he also does now.

About travel plans, since I've brought it up, we'll visit family in Pennsylvania and see a little of Washington DC and New York City.  I don't love New York City; it's a bit much as cities go.  DC is nice enough; good museums for kids to visit, with bad traffic but less of an urban hell effect.

I could seek out tea back there but it doesn't make sense to travel from this side of the world, where tea is from, to find teas there.  We'll do a few days layover in Taiwan on the way back, which is more like it.  But my wife is looking forward to going to Chinatown in NYC for the food so you never know.

the last Christmas at home (my original home); my baby is 8 now

a snowy bridge at my parent's house

I'm most looking forward to the culture shift, to really experiencing Christmas.  It never really did take here, in a Buddhist country, although the malls decorating helps a little.  It's been a struggle to get my kids any impression of the season, piecing together some decorations, playing the music for them, selling the Santa story line (easy enough, related to gifts, but a bit hollow without the culture joining in).  They don't play Christmas specials here, maybe just a mention in a cartoon plot, and the weather is always in the 80s (F, around 30 C).

I do go through some reverse culture shock there, but for my kids it will be new ground.  Our son last visited Hawaii five years ago, so I'm his main contact with American culture, along with cartoons, which are a bit culture neutral.  my daughter hasn't been there yet, although she is an American (officially, a passport holder).  Culture in the US has some strengths and weaknesses, and parts can seem a bit inconsistent and fragmented, but the shared experiences and perspective are really nice.  That's especially true in the rural areas, which retain stronger ties to older traditions.  My kids--Bangkok city kids--are going to love it.

Franklin PA, a nearby town, looks a little like Alexandria VA (credit)

1 comment:

  1. Alas you are only a state or two away from me in Virginia! I may have to meet you one day on a later trip. DC is a few hours away.