Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rare Tea and the Global Village

Fei Fei stood up in class four years ago, after I'd been here only about a week. She was tiny, with close-cropped hair and a high voice. But from the very beginning, there was evidence of iron in there somewhere.

"Hello, my English name is Bob. You can call me Bob. I know Bob is a boy's name, but I don't care," she said.

Bob it was. Somehow Fei Fei seems more appropriate now though: My students are no longer students, experimenting with names, growing up, at the very beginning of learning a craft. While still very young, they've gotten somewhere now, accomplished things. Evidence of this in the case of Fei Fei is a recent trip she made to Fujian province to work as a photographer for a good friend of mine. The assignment was to photograph tea-leaf picking in a remote mountain area. (See Rare Tea Company.)

More amazing to me about this job she did is the connection created between two people from two incredibly different parts of the world, two incredibly different parts of my life. My good friend Milo is the operator-owner of Rare Tea; I met her years ago on the upper West Side of New York City, where, Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-like, she took the city by storm with her verve and elegant British accent.

I would've imagined thosuands of degrees of separation between Milo and Fei Fei instead of more or less none. What strikes me about this is how fundamentally good it is: While much is made of technological connection worldwide, that connection can also be made personal. And that is good, really good. In a time when negativity dominates what we hear and see, it is important to remember that's only a small part of the story.

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