When you go on a trip with people whom you don't know and haven't even met before, naturally your mind starts to generate different thoughts like: "Will I be welcome? Will I feel good amongst them?" And you start to ponder these questions instead of enjoying the pleasant thoughts about new experiences and friendship. That's what happened to me, anyway. But everything changed when I started to meet people from the Hut on the way to Huangshan. It was as if I was in a big and loving family, where everyone is glad to see you and is willing to help you. That feeling, I now know, is extremely important on such trips as this with large groups. This helped me to enjoy every moment of the trip to the fullest, happily communicating with the people around me and with Tea. Nothing could distract me from observing the mountains, Nature and people.
It's been a while since I've returned home, but sometimes I still see the mountains covered with a veil of clouds. Huangshan is truly marvelous! The mountain scenery is stunning and changes the way you think. I will always cherish the memories of the tea we drank in the mountains.
It was also an unforgettable experience to interact with the tea - with a plant that is budding, and shares itself with people. It was a moment of unity and meditation. The sound when a tiny bud is separated from a branch will always remain among my most precious memories. It is a sound of help, when a natural medicine starts its journey to a person. A tea ceremony among tea bushes, when everything around is permeated with tea energy and vibrates it, when fresh green tea fills you with this energy - all of it helped me to feel unity with Nature on a new level that had been beyond my reach before.
The tea sessions were also unforgettable moments. I was allowed to drink and to connect myself to teas I couldn't even dream of: 1930s Liu An, 1930s Dragon Horse and 1960s Blue Mark. I had heard about those teas only in the stories of tea collectors. But now all of us have had an experience of interacting with these teas. This experience changes you from cup to cup, session to session.The high point of the trip for me was the day when Master Zhou showed us the process of creating a teapot. He made it all by hand! As forty people watched him make something beautiful, something precious, I couldn't have imagined that such a mastery existed.
It was a great chance to reinforce the connection with my inner self, with Tea and with the people whom I consider to be my family after sharing with them all the joys and hardships of this trip.
The evening discourses in the mountains and in the small village also helped me to figure some things out. I feel grateful that our teacher shares his wisdom with us. Before the trip, the Russian tea community told me that I would return a different person. I didn't believe that. But it really happened. Many inner walls have been demolished. I also feel much more inspiration boiling inside me, which I can now share with others in the gatherings I host and bowls I serve. Now I truly understand the meaning of the phrase: "Love changes the world bowl by bowl."