Thursday, June 08, 2023

The optimistic traveler drinks tea - a hero amongst us

Let me introduce Muammer Yilmaz to you, my tea blog readers. He's the most fascinating tea guest I've had the honor to share tea with! He has already achieved fame thanks to several films or documentaries that he has made with his friend Milan Bihlmann. Muammer Yilmaz has Turkish roots, but was born in the same region as I, in Alsace (France). He's a photographer (and has allowed me to use the photos he took for this article!) and he's also an optimistic traveler as I could see in 2 of his movies that he has shown at the Alliance française in Taiwan.

Spring 2023 SanHsia BiLuoChun in a bowl (photo by Muammer Yilmaz MY)

Muammer and Milan had know each other for 4 years, but had only spent 7 days together before embarking on a 3 months adventure ! Its name explains why they consider themselves optimistic: "Around the world in 80 days without money"! (2014) Spoiler alert: I'm going to reveal the end and portions of the movie! The plot is to find out if it's possible to travel around the world, eat and sleep without any money? Are there sufficient generous people in each country to make this possible?

Same tea, my picture

DYL 104K, by MY
I must admit that, at first, I didn't fully understand and appreciate the concept of this movie. It can sound very selfish to go on a world tour without spending your own money and only living and travelling thanks to the generosity of others. 

Indeed, I believe that they wouldn't have gone far if they had had a selfish and entitled attitude. However (spoiler alert), they were able to complete their tour around the world in time, because they brought so much joy, energy and hope to the people they met on their journey.

They listened to people and gave them the positive feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves: making a seemingly impossible dream come true. Because if these 2 guys can make their crazy dream come true than we may all dream big and follow our callings. Napoléon said "Impossible isn't a French word". Muammer and Milan's adventure tells us that 'impossible' is a word to banish from every language!

DYL 104K chaxi, by MY

This doesn't mean that things were always easy for them. They had several setbacks. At one point, a bag with photographic equipment got stolen, a missing visa meant several days lost... But the joys of meeting nice people, discovering new countries greatly outweighed these troubles. 
Open DYL leaves in late Qing teapot, by MY

This first movie they made is very inspiring and I recommend it for the sheer amount of positivity that exudes in each frame. The pictures from Muammer Yilmaz in this article also show what a professional photographer he is. I enjoy the fact that he brings a new perspective to my Chaxi in the gardens of the Lin Family!
DYL104K by MY
This was his first gongfu cha session! In most countries around the world, they were offered tea when they entered a house or a business. This is especially the case in Turkey and Asia. And one of his favorite tea is milk tea with spices in India!

DYL104K, by MY

On a hot and sunny day, I did my best to show him the beauty of the Taiwanese (and Chinese) tea culture. We started with the lightest green tea, my San Hsia BiLuoChun, simply brewed in a celadon tea bowl that I received through an exchange with Michel François. My goal was to show how easy tea brewing can be. I also wanted to show the leaves dancing in the bowl. And the fact that the bowl came from a friend also had its meaning...
With the Da Yu Ling high mountain Oolong from 104K, I wanted to brew the tea from the highest tea plantation in Taiwan. Since it's lightly oxidized, it's also a tea that is thirst quenching and refreshing. The fact that the leaves are able to unfold and grow so large compared to their dry size impressed Muammer!

This Oolong and the Chaxi below, with a white (Fuji) mountain are the perfect transition to Muammer's latest movie, which I also saw this weekend.: "Tour du Mont Blanc without eating". (2022). This tour around Europe's highest peak is 170 km long and takes up 10,000 meters up and down along its way. Muammer came up with a new challenge: fasting for 10 days while completing this tour!
DYL104K Chaxi, by MY

My hands are starting to sweat just as write these words. While the first movie was about 2 young guys goofing and joking around to bring joy around them, this movie is as much a physical than a spiritual adventure. Both body and mind are pushed to their limit. The common theme is that "impossible doesn't exist" if you know how to stay positive. 

The other common theme is that we get to meet several people who have inspired Muammer's journey. Each one is a specialist about a particular subject: 
- a trainer who uses the cold (and the Wim Hof method) to overcome fear and pain,
- a minimalist female traveler,
- a humanitarian traveler,
- a specialist of fasting and its benefits,
- a yoga and meditation master from India.

You can see most of them in the trailer of the movie.
The happy tea master, by MY

In this movie Muammer doesn't just talk the talk, he literally walks the walk. Muammer applies these shared wisdoms as he walks without eating in the Alps for 10 days. We can see his transformation as his body adjusts to the lack of food. He gets thinner, his pace slower and his voice sparse and deep. 

The eighth day was the hardest on him. The climbs were particularly steep and he needed all the support from his friend Milan (the director) to go through it. Maybe this is also a lesson from this movie: that we can do great(er) things when we have the support of a friend (or friends)! Muammer really went to the limit of what is humanly possible (that's another way of saying that he almost died!) After the movie ended, there was a Q&A session with him and he told the audience that after the tour he stayed 2 or 3 days in bed and couldn't do any physical exercise for 2 weeks before his forces came back ! 

This is probably the movie in which the main character has suffered the most for his movie. But for him, this pain made him more mature, focused, aware of how precious life is, how tasty food can feel, how delicious and beneficial  mountain water is... He even repeated the often quoted Nietzsche line "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" Now, his aura is that of a prophet who has seen death with his own eyes, has laughed and come back to encourage us to lead a happy, responsible and beautiful life!
Muammer Yilmaz 

It was a real honor and pleasure to share my tea and my tea knowledge with Muammer Yilmaz. By serendipity, I also shared some tips about a healthy life, diet and tea in a video at the end of April. I didn't go as far as fasting, but now I wouldn't be afraid to skip a meal or two anymore! As for the benefits of cold showers, this is something I've been training for years, which is why I swim in an outdoor swimming pool in Taiwan all year long (even when the water temperature drops to 17 degrees Celsius!). I also explained that making gongfu cha requires a similar mindset as for meditation. And tea is medium to let the mind travel to where the tea is grown. When you drink a particular tea and close your eyes, the lingering aromas are so close to the how the tea fields smell that it's easy to imagine yourself transported there! Tea leaves are very good at absorbing the scents that surround them, and that's why a tea bag should always be well sealed and not be exposed to bad scents.

The point I try to make in conclusion is that our paths are quite similar in terms of direction, even if they differ in intensity. Anyway, he has inspired me to become more fearless and optimistic. I hope that you'll also feel inspired by this hero amongst us (if not, watch his movie online!)

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