From Liberal Arts to Selling Tea in Chinatown

During my years at Liberal Arts College I became an educated consumer of Western ideas, art and culture. There was so much on the table, and I, hungry, spooned in as much as I could from that intellectual buffet. It has taken so much time and experience to digest what I had learned. Eventually, I found myself in Korea completely unprepared. Everything rational was useless. And so, like the Futurists, I too had to throw overboard all the old perceptions I carried in my suitcase. I dove right in and learned to swim with the currents of people and cultural traditions. In the course of my time spent there I must have had just a little too much green tea to drink, because I found myself transforming. When the current brought me back to these shores it was in the form of a Tea Master, and I found myself a cultural cross dresser. I had traded in my Polish folkloric costumes for a Korean one and set up a traditional tearoom in Vancouver’s Historic Chinatown (also known as the down town East side). So now with my background in Liberal Arts: Western Society and Culture and Russian Studies, I sell tea to the Chinese!

As I continue to bridge East and West I realize that the tea room, and the process of drinking tea in communion, serves to bring together idea’s and dialogue, something we all enjoyed at the college; in the classrooms, in our own small personalized “study” groups and on Thursdays during coffee hour. Upon graduation I felt somewhat isolated and actively sought out other “intellectual consumers”. And so I decided to create an environment where the intellect can grow and blossom, my cross-cultural “Tea Womb” a place to nurture thinking articulate minds. These days I strive to live like water and to create cultural waterways of understanding between East and West, keeping the dialogue and ideas flowing. It is with fondness that I look back at the people and the time I spent at the college. And one day I’ll probably enroll and start it all over again.

http://artsandscience.concordia.ca/liberal_arts_college/

Michael Cichon

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– Michael the Teaman