Follow That Flag: To Manchester

02.07.2015 Distance traveled: 5124 mi/8246 km

The flag has made its shortest run, over to Lady Jade in Manchester. Allow me the pleasure of telling you about this woman wonder…

Leeds_ManchesterManchester_Jade

First of all, she was invited to Bucking-freaking-ham Palace last summer by Her Majesty The Queen. As in The Queen of England…For recognition of her volunteerism with the British Red Cross for first aid and humanitarian education. IRL:

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Here is Jade, cosmopolitan Korean peace sign in hand, at that Royal Garden Party, all citizen-of-the-world-ly:

Buckingham_Jade

#womancrushalways

I met Jade back when she was but a fellow commoner. We hadn’t had a fresh face turn up in Cheongju for a few weeks, but then there was buzz about a new girl. Not at our school, and not anywhere else that anyone could seem to name, but everyone seemed to know when there was someone new in town. We would certainly cross paths by the weekend, cause that’s how it worked. The American faculty at my school secretly hoped for another American (we seemed to be out-numbered). When Friday night came around, we struck up where nearly all of us had come out into expat society, at the Westerner bar ambiguously referred to as Pearljam/The Bugle. Though it was apparent right away that Jade would take “one lump or two” with tea instead of coffee, it was unanimous that she was a magnetic gem. I had gotten her choice of caffeine all wrong though, and we soon set the first of many coffee dates, which is a little more special than it sounds.

While Arabica-addicted Americans would probably order the stuff “bottemless” if possible, most everyone else only drank the sludge-fuel, occasionally. Makes sense. Lighter and with the properties to either energize or relax, depending on what you need, it’s not like anyone ever gets wired off a third cup of Earl Grey. Though friends would need to have the real stuff mailed in from home, aside from the crumpet-pairing caricature, “tea culture” existed with them in Korea. It could have been Tuesday afternoon or Saturday at midnight, at any visit, these friends would offer you tea, first thing. Every one of them, even the men (Well, man. There was this one guy, but that’s another story). British/English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh, a custom I miss.

I take my coffee black, and before Korea, would normally just throw a bag of any old tea into a mug if I felt like having a cup of delicate cha. Then, after a time watching and waiting for these friends, letting the water cool from scalding to simply steaming, giving the leaves a proper steep, and taking the time to stir in a little milk and sugar, I started to enjoy the ritual for myself.

As far as I know, while Amy could pantomime explain the shite out what, “plain” meant to baristas to get a cup of black tea, there was no ordering a regular “cup of coffee” in Korea, at least in our day. You think I am exaggerating, that coffee is universal, but try ordering one like I stubbornly did, and you will only receive looks of confusion and offerings of every other java-esque option. The closest you could get was an Americano; a shot of espresso with water. You could try for a Dutch or drip coffee by mid 2013. Unless you stepped into Starbucks.

Whereas locavores seem to despise the franchise the world over, bonafide globe-trotter Jade is a fan. We were standing in line next to shelves of brightly displayed thermoses, cups and saucers (you know the ones), when she pointed out a mug that had a cityscape of Seoul painted on it. She told me that she collected the specialized cups at every country’s Starbucks that she visits because, “It’s comforting, how each shop is exactly the same. Whatever country I am in at the time, if I ever start to feel a little homesick, I just find the local Starbucks, and it’s like I’m suddenly back home.” Which I think is interesting. Normally, people complain about that kind of consistency. But in this situation, bound to happen to anyone away, the familiarity is soothing. Beautiful.

After Korea and before Manchester, Jade volunteered in Russia. There she was involved in environment projects and taught English through ongoing projects with local schools in Petrozavodsk, a city twelve hours north of St Petersburg by train. Since most of what I have learned about Russia comes from watching the brilliant, yet fictional, Cold War period drama, The Americans, I will defer to the expert description of the place, per Lonely Planet:

Russia_KizhiPogost

Set on a bay on vast Lake Onega, Petrozavodsk is the launching point for summer visits to two of the region’s biggest attractions: Kizhi Island and Valaam Monastery. The name (‘Peter’s factory’) refers to a munitions plant founded here by Peter the Great in 1703, superseded 70 years later by the Alexandrovskiy Ironworks (still standing). But Petrozavodsk is by no means the gritty, industrial city its name would suggest. Its neoclassical facades, a large student population and connections with Finland all make for a distinctly European atmosphere, and the appealing lakefront promenade is just made for strolling.

When I asked Jade about her time in Russia she told me, “Saint Petersburg is my favourite place on Earth! I would recommend it to everyone!” In short earnest, I will take her recommendation to heart, ala Kurt Vonnegut, who put it, “Unexpected travel recommendations are dancing lessons from God.”

Currently Jade is volunteering with the Girl Guides (Girl Scouts), and working towards leadership qualification with them. An inspiration, and with the biggest heart, she is someone I feel lucky to have met in my travels and to have gotten to know enough to call my friend. If you want to see where Jade’s enthusiasm for life takes her, you may promptly follow her journeys via Twitter @ablessyourheart.

Para continuar en Español, marque el numero dos. Or check back soon, as the flag makes it’s way to Salamanca, Spain!

MANSPAN

One Comment

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