I just got home a moment ago, from this:
I had a magical time while I was here and I feel like I am still under its spell!
But maybe the magical time really began weeks ago, when I went to this place. Among the people who sat around the fire with me that day was a teacher of traditional art of tea, and within seconds of getting seated, she (and only she) noticed that I had some experience in the art! We chatted a little, and the next thing I knew, she was eagerly inviting me as a guest to her monthly lessons. I do not know what impressed her – maybe the simple fact that I was dressed in traditional wear?
Now, it is generally thought to be a taboo to take lessons from different teachers in this art form, even if it is not at the same time (the only exceptions are when your teacher passes away or you are referred by your teacher to another). And she was a teacher of a different school than mine, so I was not too inclined to take up on her offer. She understood my reluctance and did not force a reply from me that day, but left with me her phone number to call if I ever changed my mind.
I called her a few days later, originally to thank her for, but politely decline, the invitation. But over the phone, she praised me on the way I carried myself and how well I had learned the basic manners of the art… what a killer compliment that was! With her assurance that she would treat me not as a student but as a guest, I was confirming my attendance in no time.
Mind you, I still had mixed feelings.
Maybe I will not be accepted by her other students?
Maybe I will disappoint her when she sees me “in live action,” even as a guest?
Maybe I will indirectly embarrass my teacher if I perform sub-par?
So when I woke up this morning, I took extra care getting dressed in traditional wear, reviewed thoroughly the manners as a guest in tea room… and I even bought a little gift (some chocolates, because it was just before Valentine’s) to better my impression. I was so nervous, I got on the wrong train and almost did not make it on time!
Well, as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. When I showed up at the tea room, she welcomed me in with a BIG smile and introduced me to her students as a guest she “could not resist to invite.” She told me I could carry myself exactly the way I had learned to at lessons. So, with her approval, I did everything but take a lesson – I acted, of course as a guest, but also as a waiter, an assistant to the persons making tea, and a dish-washer.
And every time I took on a role, she praised me for being able to act appropriately (though I am sure I made many mistakes!). I tried to be modest, but she said “don’t be so shy, you could go anywhere with your manners”… she was very good at inflating my ego!
But on second thought, I felt that maybe the compliments should not be directed at me.
Rather, they should all go to my teacher – maybe I did not learn well, I was taught well!
Had she not bestowed on me all her teachings, maybe I would never have been endowed with an opportunity to be noticed and praised for the way I carry myself.
At the end of the day, she even allowed me to handle the box to contain the tea set (can you see it in the photo above? It is called a “travel box,” used only when making tea on road – an item rarely seen at lessons!). I declined at first, thinking that it may infringe upon the taboo, but she said it was just a “reward for all my hard work.” I believe it was another silent compliment to my teacher, indicating that I had been taught well to trust with her precious utensils.
Maybe she was the one responsible for inviting me, but maybe it was my teacher who is responsible for guiding me here today.
I renewed my appreciation for her, and could not be prouder to have been her student. Thanks to her, I could go anywhere, with full confidence in my well-taught manners – she cast a spell on me that will last a lifetime! I can only hope she would be proud to have been my teacher, too, even if I attended a lesson not given by her.