01.01.2018. The dust of 2017 just settled down and 2018 is just starting, so this seams like a good time to glance back on what this year has been. I am not super consistent with my blog and to be honest, I am not even sure if people want to see/read it, but writing things down helps me put my thoughts in order, solidify experiences and reflect on things. It is the way not to miss anything, when I write something down I get to relive all these moments one more time. So here we go.
Like any other year in anyone’s life it was a mix of up and downs, but I guess that’s what life is, it’s a wave and waves don’t die … People surprised me times a million and there were a good and bad surprises all together, some times I was left simply puzzled, not knowing what happened, how did it end this way, it’s like you want to ask all these questions, only there’s no one to ask. So i decided to just let things be and accept that it just the way it is, no chasing, no questions, no demands of explanations.
Lessons hopefully learned and I choose to keep focus on all the great moments of 2017 and there were plenty.
Last year January 1st i spend on a beach, the Brighton Beach - so no bikini necessary. I joked that I am like everyone else in my FB/IG feed and “blessed” because I am living this beach life, I was a little jealous of those who got to spend winter in sunny, warm places, ok, not little, let’s just say it - I was jealous, we all are… Little did I know that at the end of January I get to visit Bali! Looking back at 2017 now I am realizing that there’s sort of the theme to it. It is a year when many of mine long forgotten dreams came true. You know there’s a list of places you wanna visit, things you want to do and some of them you are wishing for for so long, that it moves to the back of your mind, because you think that it may not even happen, so you don’t think of it all the time, not to upset yourself. Bali was one of those thing and I still can’t believe how lucky I got… You can read more about my trip to Bali here - bit.ly/2zZZnMJ
Another awesome thing that happened last year happened in Los Angeles. I got to visit the Universal Studios and Six Flags. Growing up in Russia I wasn’t exposed to huge theme parks, I lived in a teeny tiny town after all. The only thing I knew about was Disney Land and only because they played the commercials before "Chip and Dale" would come on or "Duck Tales”, the commercials were always along the lines of - collect 10 yogurt cups for a chance to win a trip, etc,etc. I loved yogurt, I loved Disney cartoons but I never won…
So as far as Universal Studious goes, I couldn’t even want to go there, because I didn’t know that “there” existed. When I came to America, I learned about it, but I thought that I am too old to be bothered. I was wrong, a lot, like really wrong.
Universal was a blast and a splash and a hoot and a half. I loved all the rides and the studio tour, you are never too old for that,since it is simply magical and I got to be a child, who smiles so much his cheeks are hurting! Six Flags was a first too, but I was hot and scared and then hot again too many times to get the thrill of it. Still so happy I finally get to check it out.
I got to fly to Hawaii and even though I only spend a little over then 24 hours there, I still count it a huge win, because I just love it there…
My friends got married this summer and it was all together so special to me, because I introduced them to each other, what followed was totally there magic, but it makes me so happy that I, in my small way, helped them find each other, seeing them is seeing love in action and it always fills my heart. Moreover I got to be the flower girl at there wedding. Here is another dream, I didn’t know I had, come true. Again in Russia (I say that a lot) we don’t have a flower girl as a concept and later on I learned that usually it’s a role little girls from the family play, I was a 5 foot 10'' flower girl, not your ordinary wedding, huh? but considering that the groom wanter to ride in on a camel, anything goes. That’t one of the many reasons I love those guys, they live there truth and do what makes them happy. The camel didn’t happen though, the very tall, asian, twirling flower girl did :)
I got to ride in a fire department car and blow a horn! One more long time wish come true. The fact that it topped the end of amazingly fun and warm bachelorette weekend, was an icing on a cake!
I saw a super bloom at Antelope Valley, California. I grew up in a very remote town in Far East Russia, where winters are long and trees are skinny… Blooming anything was never a thing, so I am getting super excited every time I see a flower on a tree, or Good god an apple growing on a tree, to me it’s like a miracle, so seeing the whole valley of flowers, that was like magic.
I received Presidential Service Award and Letter of appreciation from President Barack Obama for my volunteering with New York Cares. I write about volunteering a lot. You can find other blogs under volunteering tag or read more here - bit.ly/2qKblGo
I got to practice art of Japanese Tea Ceremony and share my love and passion for it with my friends and family. bit.ly/2C63Lf8
I got to see The Metropolitan Museum before it opens to public. Walking through empty halls, chasing morning light is a wonderful feeling…
I reconnected with my homeland and discovered Moscow in a new light -bit.ly/2lDbFFG
I went to Spain at last. Barcelona… a dream,that I had since I was a teenage girl finally came true … - bit.ly/2C6i17N
I peeked at Vienna - a six hour layover, but still managed to find the absolute best beer and stuffed pita place, that was explained to me as a pizza with a hat on …
Even writing this list down I am overwhelmed by how good this year was and I owe many of these moment to my wonderful partner and I am thankful for him being in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of hard moment, a lot of sadness and uncertainty and some times doubt and fear, but I want to remember last year by all the glorious moments and I hope you would do the same in your life… Put a magnifying glass to all good that happen to you, relive it, feel it, multiply it.
I wish that 2018 will be a year full of amazing travel, adventure, new experiences for all of us, I wish it would be full of life, great worth living life.
I love NYC and I realize how incredibly lucky I am to be able to call this place home for the past 6 plus years, but living in NYC comes with the price. The city is so intense, the crowds, the constant movement, tiny apartments and never-ending hassle, this what gives you life, motivates you but at the same time it is what overwhelms you and you end up feeling like you just need a break, a reset button. Some people go to therapy, I practice japanese tea ceremony…
I am not gonna get into the history or describe the process in this post, I just want to share with you what it means to me, why am I doing it and how it affected my life.
Now the school I am practicing at is "Japan Association of the Tea Ceremony “ (JATC). http://www.santokuan.or.jp and unlike some of the other schools like Urusenke or Omotesenke, that were established somewhat 400th years ago, our school is relatively young and dates back 119th years (est. 1898) this what makes it's approach a modern one. Traditionally world of tea was very exclusive and available to noble and wealthy people, blood lines traditions were extremely important and procedure was dictated by the long list of rules and vigorous practice.
Being a huge tea lover I was always curious about tea ceremony, but this feeling of strictness and exclusiveness made me hesitant and unsure, this is why I was so happy when I discovered Tea Whisk - www.tea-whisk.com NYC based japanese tea ceremony school. From the very first trial lesson I was transported (and yes I realize how cheesy this word is) into another world, suddenly it all came together, the purpose of tea ceremony is creating a moment of beauty and sharing it with people. Since then I knew that I want to bring this feeling into my life, I wanted to be a part of it.
For me practicing tea ceremony is a form of meditation, escape from busy NYC life. I leave my phone in a closet and in our gadget powered world it is an accomplishment in itself and for the hour and half that follows I am totally present in a moment, focused on what’s around me. In the tea ceremony world everything has a deep meaning behind it, from greeting, to hanging scroll, to flower arrangement, to incense choice the list goes on… At the recent Hatsugama (first tea ceremony of new year) my team among other things was assigned flower decoration and the 5 of us took about 40 min deciding the best way of cutting blooming brunch, it makes you look at things differently and forces you to think deeper of the world and yourself. Every movement has a purpose, placement of each tea utensil is intentional, everything has a natural flow to it and just makes sense when you look close enough, it is quite logical and I am a big fan of logical.
It is also about community. I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world. One of the students in our school is a ceramics artist with the studio in Brooklyn and we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to create our own tea bowls, guided by her. That was a useful lesson in many ways, as it turned out pottery is hard, very hard and it made me appreciate the craft even more now and although I was all set on creating a very feminine delicate bowl,my clay just didn’t want to go that way, so eventually I had to except the fact that I will just have to let it do it’s thing and I ended up with rather big and masculine bowl.
There is a sense of camaraderie among students and at our big events such as Hatsugama or School Showcases we always come together, helping each other and looking out for each other and it feels great.
We have been lucky enough to use Globus Washitsu space - http://nycwashitsu.com
Modeled after traditional Kyoto tea houses it brings spirit of Wabi-Sabi to NYC and completes the transporting tea ceremony experience. It is also a home to number of events promoting Japanese culture (Kimono artists, Calligraphy artists, Wagashi artists, Musicians and so on)
The heart of every school is the teacher and our master Souheki Mori is an incredible one. She loves what she does with all her heart and it shines through, her passion for beauty of tea ceremony is contagious, she keeps reminding us that when we practice or perform tea ceremony it is about experience, creating new, unique moment of harmony and sharing it with people. Like many Russian born women I have a ballet background and I am used to constant critique, every practice, every showcase people focused on technique, presentation and what you have done wrong, basically you always do something wrong, which is why this new way is so surprising to me, because our teacher never points out mistakes (even tho there are mistakes) she urges us not to get caught up in doing everything perfect and error free, rather focus on your guests and use tea ceremony as a way of showing your love and appreciation and this is what I have been trying to do with the few tea ceremonies I have been fortunate enough to host.
If you’d like to get a glimpse of what it’s like check out my friend’s vlog post www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaS9zwPr1P4&t=1s
Happy tea drinking!