Tea houses
Tea houses

Tea houses

Step 1 in every journey : put it on the new ground and feel like you finally came home. Feel it. Allow yourself to.
Step 2 : find tea, and those who love it.
And then you’ll be fine.

When I first flew to Belarus, I had no idea what to expect. Well. That’s not true. I had some ideas, given the friends who had told me stuff they had experienced here, in that same context. The school. The nine-months long intensive acting school they had attended and I was going to go to myself.

They didn’t tell me much about the country itself though – or the culture. Everything was about the school and now that I am here myself, I get why. I don’t think they had time to go out in the world, I know I don’t. So I started to steal it because if not I’d probably die.

They mostly told me about each other, about their connection. “These strangers you’re afraid of meeting now, they said, talking about my soon-to-be French classmates, there is no way you keep see them as strangers after a month.” Well. It’s been five, and they are now as strange to me as can be. The harder I tried to reach out, the further they went, to the point that I thought – it’s just not for me. Why in the name of sanity would I put myself in such a situation?

By that time I did learn a thing or two about connection, though, from the tea bunkers I’ve been discovering under the ground of this city. You would never guess they’re here. You’ve walked for over an hour under the snow in this almost all-soviet-styled city, and then you push a door and take a stairway that leads to a corridor – and there you are. Tea houses. They’re the safe spaces you’ve been longing, and they’re the common ground from where you’ll be able to heal and grow out.

Connection doesn’t lie in all the What’s your names and the Where are you froms. It’s not about over-communication or spending all your time in the same rooms without seeing each other, or even sharing a same language. Most times, connection doesn’t even require words.

It’s the little things. It’s that person brewing tea, gong fu cha-style, in the middle of the streets for strangers and trusting you with the teapot while he walk away for a bit. It’s the ones who won’t let you circle back to your favourite oolong because they understand who you are and why you’re here, it’s the moment when you’re just sat but they’ve been watching you and they decide that you’re ready and it’s time, and they bring the special teas out and share them with you. It’s the French lyrics that pop under the roof because you’re from France and basically the only person here. It’s that one who noticed that you liked that little flat pig ceramic so much that you came back for it – and now he won’t pick another one for you, whenever you come, and it’s the smile you exchange when it’s your turn to notice.

“I see you.”

It’s actually funny, how easy it is for some people to make you feel like you belong, without actually using any words, without saying anything – because they can’t. Because you don’t share a language with each other.

But it makes sense.

It makes sense because connection was never a matter of communication. It’s not the words or the big conversations or the hugging, it’s not even the kissing and the sex. Connection can happen in the middle of all these things, but it’s not what it is. Connection is about seeing someone and noticing that, at that same moment, they are actually seeing you too.

Wherever I went, tea was always a life-saviour – would I share it with people or have it shared by them. Because when it’s not wild nature, when it’s cities and humans and buildings, you have to reach out to someone. Otherwise you’re just consuming the hell out of the place you’re traveling to.

Tea is my common ground. It’s the way I can connect with someone. It’s how I travel, and from where I can find my feet.

It’s actually funny
how easy it is for some people
to make you feel like
you belong.

(How about you start paying
more attention
to these people.
Hmm ?)