There are several places in China that my friends and I hold near to our hearts. Many of us may grow fond of a certain destination with beautiful scenery, or amazing eats (you foodies know what I'm taking about!), or perhaps there was an experience which made that particular location special. For me, it's the places that contain people whom I love and it's even better when it happens to check all of those things on the list. This city is one of those places that does just that; it is located in the tropical south, with such high humidity levels it feels like it should be near a beach (if it was, I might not ever leave). A quick trip was in order to visit Jason and Nancy and another friend, Ping. In addition, I also needed to follow up with Jenny who is an incredibly talented artisan whom Raggamuffin has partnered with and I wanted to get to know better. This city is comprised of Thai-influenced architecture, palms, tropical fruit, amazing Dai minority food, and a market in the evenings when the sun has gone down and the temperature has mellowed out. Down one of the walking streets, nestled towards the end, is a little cupcake shop. I could go on about how good their cupcakes (cheesecake, ice-cream, cream puffs, etc.) are, but there is so much more to this shop, namely the people who own it, Jason and Nancy. Jason was working at a 9-5 type job that paid the bills, looked good on paper, but was not something that he even remotely enjoyed. Nancy, who is an amazing artist, told her husband Jason that if he didn't love it, he should quit. The idea of a cake shop arose as something they both enjoyed and could do together, so Jason took a risk, quit his job and not long after the shop became a reality.
These two have hearts of gold. Jason and Nancy have been friends of Kate and James for some time now, but I met them both for the first time in December during the music tour. After a long day on a bus, and a couple breakdowns later, the band played an intimate show outside of their shop and then the next night at a coffee shop. These last two shows were some of my favorite, and we all loved hanging around J + N's shop and meeting them.
During my recent visit, I was able to spend some quality time with these two. I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know them better, and to hear more of their authentic hearts. Their conversations, kindness, and friendship have encouraged and meant so much to me. I miss them both terribly and can't wait until I can see them again.
In the evenings, the city is alive, but in the afternoon heat, it's a ghost town. One afternoon, as I was aimlessly walking around, I happened to walk near a small tea shop with a girl standing outside and, for whatever reason, I walked in. Lucy motioned for me to take a seat, so I did. Over the next few hours, tea was made and consumed. We sat and drank together, while successfully speaking a mixture of slow and broken English and Chinese to each other. I didn't think or plan for the afternoon to look like it did, but somehow I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time. As I left that afternoon, not certain how I had arrived there by wandering, I made sure I would somehow remember how to get back as I promised to go see this new friend and say goodbye before I left. I made it back to talk and have tea one last time and I grabbed a couple quick pictures of her.
Jenny is a free spirit (and silly) and an artist with exceptional jewelry-making skills whom I also met back in December. When evening fell, I made my way down to the night market, started down the first street, and come upon her booth. She stands apart from the other vendors due to her individual style, precision, and quality which visibly go into every piece she creates. She has an appreciation for traditional elements, all while crafting something new and unique. Back in December, a collection of her leather bracelets which she carefully makes, wrapping each one in bits of minority material, were selected to be sold through Raggamuffin. I was so excited to see her again. I wish you all could have been there to see how much her face lit up in pure elation (and a little disbelief) as I sat next to her and told her how much everyone loved her bracelets. We hope to continue to partner with her so that her jewelry can be shared and enjoyed by many.
I didn't get as much time with her as I had hoped, but I plan to continue to get to know not only what inspires her designs, but also her story and heart. I am thankful for the little bit of time I was able to spend with her and that I was able to grab a few quick pictures of her and say goodbye before I climbed in a taxi and headed to the airport and on to Hong Kong to figure out Visa stuff.
World, this is Jenny.