What's your favorite nightmare?
What's your favorite nightmare? Here’s mine:
It's 8 pm and dark out, very dark. I'm riding in a Chinese style Smart car with 4 people, hugging my luggage, in a lightning and rain storm with bad Russian disco playing much too loudly; a broken defrost system which means the windows are down, and it’s pitch black outside. Pitch. Black. The windshield washers can’t move fast enough to see the road and the driver keeps wiping the accumulating fog off the glass in front of him with a cloth and honking every 200 feet just so other people know we’re on the road and hope they see us coming - because he can’t see them. (There are no pictures of this moment, but rest assured: they are forever burned in my brain.)
I just spent the best 24 hours of my life on the top of the world and I’m probably about to die unless fate has another plan for me. She’s funny that way. And not ha-ha funny.
We left the mountain late that afternoon after witnessing the 24 hour cycle of processing tea. That day it was pouring rain so hard it sounded like being inside a wave continually crashing against the beach for 20 minutes at a time. No one talked, why, they couldn’t hear each other over the roar of the rain. The rain only let up for about 30 minutes –once- and when the clouds (not fog, clouds) rolled back to reveal the mountains they hid, the sight was spectacular.
I did not buy tea from that day’s harvest. The tea was too rough, bitter, and too late in the harvest. The only tea on the farm that day was Mao Cha – unfinished tea; meaning the sticks, twigs, bigger unattractive, strangely flavored tea leaves were not picked out yet, and the last two firings had not been done. This is a raw farm product not ready for market. The finished product is sent down the mountain daily, tea is not kept or stored on this mountain (there’s no where to put it). Tea, Dan Chong tea, takes more processing than this to be purchased and re-sold. The tea is driven to the store in town and then usually trucked to bigger cities where the tea is roasted yet again. It’s even said that the best DC teas are kept until August, until the mid-autumn harvest and re-roasted 6 months after picking and they are the most delicious. I’ll have to choose some in August to share with you. But for now, I’m in the market for spring tea.
After our nightmarish drive down the mountain, we arrive in one piece back in Shantou at 10 pm and rest in our hotel until the next day. I haven’t been this happy to shower in years. I remember grabbing my shampoo bottle and thinking: “hello darling”. I think I actually said it out loud, I’m not sure. I know I meant it.