Archive for September, 2009

Kenyan Tea Markets

NPR had a fascinating report on tea markets in Kenya on the radio this morning.  Follow that link if you’d like to listen the report or just read the article.  The audio report, however, has more information than the summarized article provides.  I was quite surprised to find out that Egypt and Pakistan were the largest tea consumers in the world.  Of course, this is for heavily fermented and roasted teas, not your Oolong or green teas.

The bartering system for bidding on tea is really interesting.

A trader who wants to raise a bid can simply say, “Up,” or he can back away by saying, “Out.” Someone who wants to claim the highest bid tells the auctioneer to “Knock it, sir,” and then the gavel falls.

I wonder if this is the traditional way in which commodities were traded in the British Empire?  I also had no idea that Kenya was a major tea producer.  In my mind I had countries like India, China and Indonesia, or even some South American nations.

As one who generally prefers tea to coffee, I liked the Muchura’s response regarding coffee:

“I’ve never liked coffee, so I don’t drink coffee. It’s bitter, very bitter, and very thick in the mouth,” Muchura says. “Tea is light and sweet if it’s made properly, and you don’t need milk, you don’t need sugar.”

When it’s pointed out that many people like to drink their coffee black, he laughs and says, “Yes, that’s when it’s even worse.”

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Failure at Eco-friendliness

One of the things I admire about Japan is the extensive recycling system in the greater Tokyo area.  At times it was annoying having to painfully separate all of the garbage into components, but I did so knowing it was for a good cause.

Having moved into the new place and purchased quite a bit of furniture, we have a lot of cardboard boxes that I was not sure how to handle.  Fortunately, the fascilities manager told us that there was a recycling area near the tennis compound a couple blocks away.  After having broken down all of the boxes, we loaded them in the car and pulled up at the recycling area.  Sure enough, there was a container the size of a truck trailer sitting there with “CARDBOARD” written on the side.  Much to our surprise, however, the trailer was packed full and there was no way to put our cardboard in the container.  The container was filled to the brim with cardboard and the top was not open to allow us to try to add our cardboard.

We had to drive back to our apartment complex and dispose of the cardboard in the regular waste container, meaning it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere.  What a disappointment!  I suppose a truck comes once every year or so and hauls away the recycling containers.  Minus points for the city of Charleston and recycling…

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Settling In

The move to Charleston is now complete–well, mostly.  We’ve moved all of our belongings, we’ve set up the kitchen and the master bathroom, and now we just need to slowly start setting up the rest of the house.  Today I had my telephone and Fiber-Internet connection switched on, and I’m back in business with the blog now.  Despite a few surprises on the first day, the unit is settling, the water no longer smells like a sulfur dissension system, and I have not been attacked by an alligator–yet.

Unlike Hachioji, Charleston always has a gentle breeze from the sea blowing through making even mid-day more bearable than I thought.  That said, Charleston being essentially a swamp, there is a salt-water smell to the area, especially during low-tide.  I suppose I’ll get used to it soon enough.  There is a jogging/walking trail running along the river bank and along the harbor, and I’m really looking forward getting some exercise and not having to stop for traffic lights!  They apartment complex also has a shared fitness room and I hope to get some time in there as well.  On the downside, as I was warned, the mosquitos are terrible and very aggressive.  I noticed a lot of young men wear long pants and shoes rather than shorts and sandals in the summer, and I believe the mosquitos might be the reason.

Oddly enough, I find myself missing Tokyo somewhat.  I don’t miss the suburbs at all with the awful commutes during rush hours like a sardine packed into a can.  I do miss the heart of the city though.  I miss the urban feel, the late hours of all the watering holes and restaurants, as well as the things you can find just strolling around a street block you’ve never taken before…I miss that the most.  I somewhat regret that I was never able to live in Tokyo, in the heart of the beast.  But then again I really couldn’t have afforded it.

Then again, who knows what paths will come before me.  For now, I’m going to enjoy the almost tropical climate, the palm trees, easy access to the sea, and the slow pace of life here.  I’m going to improve my professional skills and try to make it in the global competitive arena.  I’m going to enjoy this for awhile and try not to push myself to be reaching for the next thing.  Maybe I can even work on a graduate degree of some sort?  I’m in a good place all across the board, and I count my blessings for it.  Maybe I can even do some travel too.  I’m dying to see London, Brazil and Denmark, and at least Europe and South America aren’t are far as they once were!

More to come soon…!

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