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: China - From our Hacktreks Archives

Paul Haire

I park my bike in it’s usual spot just in front, lock it and take my bag off the rack and then walk up the steps peering into the familiar, gloomy interior. I push open the awkwardly fitted door and enter, it’s peaceful as I close it behind me.

Inside I step back in time to another era, bamboo blinds cover the windows and old antique furniture fills the room, shelves made of rosewood hold delicate and beautiful clay teapots and porcelain cups. At the end of the room is a big mirror that covers almost the entire wall and a book case that reaches all the way to the ceiling and is stacked full of books

I sit down at my favourite table on a big antique chaise long and order a pot of white tea. Then I just sit back and relax. This is my sanctuary, where I can get away from the world for a while.Like now, often I’m the only customer. It’s the place which most resembles the romantic ideal I had of China before I came. One of wise men with wispy beards and heads full of ancient wisdom, of paintings with craggy cliffs and clinging pines.

My tea arrives and I chat to the Jennifer the waitress, a slightly bookish girl who I sometimes give English lessons to and who sometimes treats me to tea. We chat about nothing really, she asks how my teaching is going and I ask her how busy the teahouse has been, she speaking in broken English, me in broken Chinese. Inside I really just want her to leave so I can just sit.

She goes and I take out my books, ‘the power of now’, or Krishnamurti or maybe something on Buddhism. Apart from the relaxing music the only sound is the occasional giggles of the waitresses at the other end of the room. It’s peaceful and cool here in my sanctuary as I stare out the window and observe life going past before taking a sip of tea.

I read The Power of Now, hoping that on the fifth reading I will suddenly get ‘it’, though told by Tolle that my search for ‘it’ prevents me from finding ‘it’ and is just another form of grasping, intellectualizing something that can’t be intellectualized and so I am left feeling frustrated. I just watch myself and my futile attempt to find peace, and so paradoxically find it. Then the cares of the world take over again. This is what I do as I sit drinking tea.

A middle aged couple come in looking weary and tired, you can sense it in their eyes, like rabbits caught in the headlights, they look slightly dazed and confused, perhaps this wasn’t quite how they imagined China would be, perhaps like me, they hoped it would be more like this teahouse.

I look around me at the wooden screen in front of me, at the bright light in the ceiling and the dark timber struts covering the white plaster, the big mirror on the wall reflects the whole length of the tea house and I try to empty my mind of all thoughts as I peer all the way along to the group of red uniforms huddled together around the table giggling and drinking tea. I try not to label or compare anything instead just see. Everything feels alive and vibrant, sights and sounds are at greater intensity than normal, but it’s hard to keep this level of attention going it requires constant effort to prevent thoughts barging in.

A pair of Chinese men come in and sit in front of me, I can see them through the screen but they can’t see me. They look like businessmen here to have a meeting. They take out a laptop and light cigarettes, preparing to settle down for an hour or two.

Everything is still peaceful and quiet. I sit and read and think and drink tea. Another day passes like this.

© Paul Haire July 2007
Working as a Model
Paul Haire
Yesterday I had a very unusual experience, possibly the most unusual experience I’ve had in my life so far.
Paul Haire in Beijing
I watched the rugby on Saturday night this weekend, it was Scotland versus Ireland and I drank too much as usual. I had to nip out of my 9 o'clock class the next day a few times to vomit in the bathroom.



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