Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Tea Escapades

Recently I've been volunteering at The Tavis Smiley Show on KCET. Today a certain British actor came in for an interview. Both my mother and I are big fans of this actor so I jumped at the chance to escort him around the set. Normally when we're escorting a guest, they're very polite and don't really know what to do with us. But before I was able to say, "If there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask," he had whipped around and requested a cup of tea. "English Breakfast or just regular Lipton, please."

Sure. Fine.

Except for some reason it was absolutely impossible to find a single bag of English Breakfast tea. What the eff is English Teatime?! Finally our craft services girl finds me a bag and I make the most ghetto tea tray with milk in a plastic cup and a somewhat clean kettle of hot water. I place it in his room with a smile. Then...

"There's something wrong with this tea. Nothing is happening to the teabag. The water is not hot enough. It has to be absolutely boiling hot. Boiling hot. I need a new teabag with boiling hot water."

Fine. I boil fresh water and pour it into a cup with a new bag of tea (which I had to steal from another green room) and hand it to him...

"Is there an empty mug so I can take this on set?"

Great. At this point the tea is getting treated better than a large majority of our guests on the show. So I find a mug. Clean it. Fill it with boiling water to keep it warm and wait outside his room until he is ready.

"Great. You can just transfer the tea into the mug then."

Sure. Fine. We're ready to take you to the set, Mr. Tea.

"Oh. Do I have to carry the tea myself? Yes, you can carry the tea for me. I don't want to spill it on myself, so you can spill it on yourself. Ha ha ha."

Ha ha ha. Then one of the producers rushes out to meet us and in a flustered state takes the tea like it is a stick of dynamite covered in nitroglycerin and presents it to him like it's his first-born child.

Whatever. It was a weird experience that has taught me three things:
1. British people are seriously weird about their tea.
2. I don't like this actor as much as I used to.
3. I need to write my final essay for my Colonialism class.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kyogen and Kyoto

Today when Sachin and I were walking, the beeping sound of the crosswalk suddenly reminded me of Kyoto. A few years ago I was given the wonderful opportunity to study theater in Kyoto, one of the oldest cities in Japan. I thought I'd share a few photos...

Living conditions. I was able to stay at the home of a very nice woman who gave us her entertaining room to sleep in. The floor is covered in tatami mats and everyday we would fold our mattress and blankets before getting ready.

The shower. I'm not kidding. We would stand on that wooden board on the floor and shower next to the kitchen and the washing machine. It was also in an outdoor hallway which was only protected by a plastic curtain so every time a breeze came through the curtains would fly around and everyone around got quite a show.

One drizzly day I decided to have my lunch of rice balls and ume (pickled plum) in the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Schoolchildren fishing in the Kamo River one afternoon.

That same river by night. My friend, Matt, and I decided to take a bike tour of Kyoto by night. Not only was it incredibly safe, but we were able to visit the very active Kyoto University and lost 1,000 yen at a Pachinko parlor.

A night view of Osaka taken atop a ferris wheel.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, a tribute to the farmers of Japan. There were hundreds upon hundreds of these gateways winding up and down a steep hill. Quite the hike.

My family was taken on a boat to watch Komerant fishing. The fishermen have strings tied to the neck of about a dozen Komerant birds who dive into the water for fish. Once the bird has swallowed a fish, the fisherman will pull the string, reach into the bird's mouth, and pull the fish out. Yum.

Watching a Kyogen play. Kyogen is a comedic style of Japanese theater that is shown in between scenes of a Noh play. Here we are watching it at a nearby temple and, believe it or not, this professonal actor is American.

A Noh actor dressed up as a samurai. It took about 20 minutes and two men to dress him.

A Noh actor (they are all male) showing a traditional Noh mask. He is demonstrating that by tilting the mask just a few degrees you are able to see a distinct change in the facial expression of the mask. This particular mask is of a young girl and is a few hundred years old.

Our Kotsuzumi teachers. These drums are also a few hundred years old and very fun to play. The woman on the right is part of a famous Noh family - her father and husband are Noh actors and her son recently had his stage debut. He was five years old.

Our Bunraku teacher. Bunraku is performed entirely through puppets and is my favorite type of Japanese theater. Here the teacher is showing us the many bodies of the puppets (the heads are removed and replaced for quick costume changes).

The Bunraku puppet costumes. Some of the costumes are just as expensive as the most expensive costumes used for Noh productions.

Our Kyogen teachers. Both are members of the Shigeyama family. The man on the left is the 14th generation in the family to perform; he was 22 years-old and had been performing for 19 years. The man on the right was adopted into the family and is technically supposed to answer to the man on the left, but he told us he'd punch him in the face if that rule was ever enforced. Here they are performing a scene about two traveling salesmen who meet and compare jokes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. "
- Mark Twain

If there's one thing I'm grateful for inheriting from my parents (apart from being short, excessively hairy, and prone to acne) it is a love for traveling. My parents would take my sister and I to places like Japan, England, and Pakistan when we were only a few months old. And even though we are 18 and 21 years-old, my father still tries to pass my sister and I off as 5 and 7, having gotten used to boarding early with the other families that had small children. Let me tell you, it feels great boarding a plane with kids who can barely walk. Not embarrassing at all.

If I could travel anywhere in the world, here's where I'd like to be right now...

Anywhere in Africa, looking out for a Baobab Tree.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Pretending I'm in the clouds on the largest salt flat in the world.

Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet
Conquering my fear of heights at what used to be the home of the Dalai Lama.

Portofino, Italy
Soaking in the color on the Italian Riviera.

And if that hasn't made you want to pack up and pay $15 to check in your bags, watch this video.