Category Archives: How I got into T

Taiwan, shopping list!

So, finally I got selected for the 3rd Taiwan Youth Trekker and I can fulfill my dreamt tour inTaiwan. Drive the island by scooter from Hualien crossing the mountain ranges and taste as much as possible local teas and visit the plantations.

Things to do:

  • Learn how to prepare and buy bubbles to cook bubble tea at home.
  • Try the honey tea and learn how it is made.
  • Have a tea meal
  • Visit tea plantations and learn about the plucking and drying of tea leaves.
  • Discover some uses of tea for beauty treatments (I m turning 30 soon)

And out of tea:

  • Going dancing Taiwanese music
  • Attend a karaoke party
  • Cut my hair in Taiwanese style if possible
  • See a sunrise
  • Eat in Din Tai Fung
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Bangkok, Thailand 2009

It seems to be always steamy hot inBangkok. I was kind of reluctant to drink ice, since I had my Indian experience with belly problems, but there ice seems a need to cool down your warm body. Slow sweat drops roll down your back as you walk under the sunny blue sky. I almost can’t remember anybody drinking hot coffee or tea. Iced, iced, iced. The traditional drinks here are Italian coffee style with condensed milk or thai tea, a orange reddish mysterious blend that creates a particular flavoured milk tea with the sweetness of condensed milk and the flavour of some undescriptible spices. Red thai tea chilled for the body… yummy. And as everything in this welcoming country, served by a kind girl with the best of her polite smiles. In a cosy guest house in Bangkok, sea side in the sands of Koh Tao, under the rain in Chiang Mai…


Tokyo, Japan 2008

Unknown, unexpected, incredible. It is weird to say that, but for me the only country comparable to India as a traveler was Japan. Not that street children roam around you and the beggars follow you under an unbearable hot and dust, but there is a very Japanese way to do everything (as there is a very Indian way to do everything). In my opinion, both are the most in itself countries an average traveler could visit. Of course, I haven’t been all around the world… I talk from my experience.

Japan gave me the chance to join a crazy youth program. 2 months sailing in a cruise to meet youth from around the world and discuss about the issues that matter to the actual world. It was a once in a lifetime journey, as you can imagine, and also the gate to the Japanese culture, that upto then was quite a mysterious topic for me. In the fews days we were inTokyo, Yokohama and TokushimaI realized that there were too much to discover and since then I have visited Kanto and Kansai a couple of times. Japan always show a long list of wonders and a huge amount of delicacies. From traditional tea ceremonies where Japanese tea is served to the modern cafés or the crazy meido cafés. Everything is possible in Japan where the latest meet the ancient culture and the ancestors usually meet with the urban tribes in the shade of Meiji Jingu Shrine.


Istambul, Turkey, 2006

Like me, Istambul is settled between Asia and Europe. It was also a dream to visit Istambul. As a history student, I got astonished with the lecture where a professor specialized in Turkish history told us about the ancient Bizantium, the name of Istambul before the Turks conquered it. According to him, the city after centuries of blooming was a huge extension of ruins, and the citizens walk in such a beautiful ghost city, like in Rome or other great capitals of ancient times. I imagined myself walking through Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and sailing in the Bosphorus with a tinny boat. The city so impressive at both sides, Europe andAsia meeting in such a crossroad.

Nowadays, Istambul is less mesmerizing, but still keeps the power to enchant the traveler. Old cafes beside hidden mosques are meeting points of Sultanahmet, where you can smoke sheesha and drink Turkish coffee and çay with friends or alone. In Beyoglu, the most European style is displayed, while in the Asian side, beautiful mansions face the Bosphorus where thousands of tourists ride the ferries up and down the Strait and theGolden Horn. A T point of East and West.


Leeds, UK, 2005

In 2004 I met the first Taiwanese in my life, or at least the first I can remember. Her name was Amanda (her English name of course). I could not understand that thing of using English names, so I kept calling her by her Chinese name. I think I might be one of her few friends that use her Chinese name to adress her. Amanda joined a youth program in Spain where I was a participant and driver. I cannot assure that she always joined my car (A Team Van), but at that time she gifted me  a Grand Hotel postcard that fascinated me.

Some months later, she suggested me to visit her in Leeds where she was doing her Masters. I had visited UK before, but actually it was always alone and a bit paranoid. It is fun how we learn English in school and we speak freely with other foreigners in English, but we cannot communicate properly with English speakers. Amanda was a great freestyle guide and she tried hard to show me the best and secret places of Leeds, York and Lake District. We saw the sunset from a ancient Roman ruins, we slept in a copper mine guest house, danced in a church shifted to disco and drove under the rain by the shore of amazing lakes.

It was a great week, where I sat down for a first time in a tea house, and brewed my tea in elegant china bone cups. I tasted for first time the British scones and I appreciated (but not liked yet) the English tea culture. As a souvenir, I still keep my mug where is written: “Chocolate calories do not count”.

Amanda was a travel mate for the coming years, and if she appears again in the story, don’t get shocked. She might be one of my best friends.


Delhi, India 2002

A year passed by, and I decided to join a volunteer program to teach Spanish in India. The story is a bit longer than that. Actually, I wanted to travel to Beijing and teach there in a foreign language school, but the exchange program with China was cancelled by the university and the coordinator suggested me to join the program in Delhi University. According to her, more or less the experience was the same. I could not imagine:

1. How was actual India!

and

2. That I would be attached to this country for the 10 years to come.

I shaved my hair and travel to the unknown. My experience in Delhi was far from idyllic. I was sick almost half of the time, I got sunburnt several times due to the strength of tropical sunlight and, finally, I went back home with 13 kg less. A real unexpected diet program. But, India was such an amazing intense slap on my face, that I decided to come again and again.

In India I faced for the first time an alien culture that made sense only within itself. Out of it, most of the experiences that I had during my Indian summer were hilarious and senseless. I used to have the most spicy food ever in the canteen of a urban university that, at times, looked to me like a jungle. Under a banyan tree, we chitchatted about this and that, with youth in love with a country, mine, that they have never seen (and some of them would never see). One reason to come back was not Indian tea (chai), for sure. Indian tea is sweet, with milk and flavoured with spices. Cardamom is used in the summers to cool down and ginger in winter to warm up the body. Other mixtures like clove, black pepper, cinnamon and so on are used in certain situations. The man of the tea (chaiwala) is everywhere, and tea is brewed in the most unexpected places in the middle of the street. Dust might be one unavoidable ingredient of this tea.


Casablanca, Morocco 2001

But, something should happen to start to give shape to our story, don’t you think so? It happened in 2001. I was turning 20 that summer and I got selected to work as a English volunteer teacher in a summer camp inCasablanca,Morocco. We had to work 20 hours a week with lower middle class teenagers to improve their English in order they could have chances to pass the Senior High School and access the university. It was hard to prepare 4 hours of class per day, but as challenging as the job was to share the life with a local family of a working class neighbourhood who hosted us. I could not say if I was the lucky or the unlucky of my batch, but I was settled in a humble house in a locality close to Ain Sebha,Casablanca. The father was in the hospital due to some hepatic problem and in the house there were only women (the grandmother, the mother, the sister) and a brother disable who was the only to speak English and give me some help. That house was my first slap of the real world. We shared all the food together, but most of the days, the amount of meat and fish served was a breast and a leg of chicken for 5 or 6 people. The relatives and neighbours came over from time to time and the food was really scarce. I did not want to show my hunger, so I learned a couple of important lessons. I stop being so picky with food and eat whatever was served. No more rejection of ingredients such as yok of egg or onion in the meals. 4 to 6 times a day we could enjoy the food more abundant in the house. Bread and tea. Both products were subsidized by the Moroccan government, and we had the right to eat as much as we want. The bread, named maharaj, was extremely yummy and we soaked it in extra virgin olive oil of really good quality and taste, also subsidized by the government. Moroccans prepare a sweet green tea with mint. They drink it hot in small glasses, with a small lay of foam on top after serving the tea from certain high. This way the hot tea gets oxygen and the scents of tea and mint mix better for an excellent first impression before the first sip. This tea is ideal for the hot summers inSaharadesert and really calm down your thirst. “Vreid ete sjun besef” (I want a very hot tea) was my daily conversation with the old lady who also used the tea pot to boil the water for my morning shower before going to school. One month of sweet teas made us something in between strangers and relatives. When I leftCasablanca, she gave me a white hat brought from Mekka inSaudi Arabia, where she had gone to fulfil one of the 5 requirements of Islam. She broke my feeling of bitterness towards tea and opened in a way my path towards thisTaiwantea tour. Thanks unforgettable grandma!