Jack Modrzejewski

Jack Modrzejewski

Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A

Intern #148

Instagram @the_bread_and_buddha

Before Obubu

My relationship with tea began with tea bag tea from Italian supermarkets. I had flatmates who enjoyed socializing around tea in the evenings. It helped us endure Covid lockdown. As the lockdown persisted, I was forced to return home to the U.S. My tea journey then turned inward. I had plenty of time to explore the intricacies of Chado, Zen Buddhism, and the many ways that tea was cultivated and drunk around the world. From my university studies in Philosophy and Anthropology, it was fascinating to use tea as an avenue to study different cultures. I craved a more hands-on learning experience after exhausting the available English literature on tea. Obubu offered an experience to work on a tea farm in Japan, so I began applying to their internship program.

Why Obubu

I place a great emphasis on freedom at this point in my life. I believe in traveling while young and energetic. I had never been to Asia. The unknown attracted me. I wanted a sense of discomfort. Moving to a place where I had no grasp on the language or culture provided just that. It was an opportunity not to just learn about tea, but to reinvent myself, to see which parts of my personality were environmentally dependent, and which ones transcended my surroundings. I applied three times to Obubu before being selected. By the time of the third application, I was thoroughly dissatisfied with my daily life in Michigan. Things had become stale. Japan offered an opportunity to reinvigorate my enjoyment of life and sense of creativity. 

During Obubu

The first journey from Kamo station to Obubu is a breathtaking experience, especially coming from the U.S. I felt transplanted into a mountainous farming community with meticulously groomed tea bushes shrouded in mist. I began the internship enveloped in a mystical imagination of Japan, specifically rural mountain Japan. Wazuka and Obubu lived up to the Western imagination of Japan at first. As time went on, especially through the collective experience with other English speaking interns, Wazuka and Obubu became more relatable and familiar. They lost their veneer of mysticism, and transformed into another capitalist modern society, just like home. A simple 25 minute drive led me to all the modern conveniences I left at home. Giant grocery stores, bowling alleys, shopping malls, cinemas, golf courses, and fast food were just a short drive away. With fast internet speeds, I never truly felt away from my friends or family back home. After a few weeks, the presumed environmentally-dependent problems of my previous life reappeared into my consciousness. The novelty of Japan wore off quickly, or rather; the novelty never really had a chance at fully sweeping me off my feet with technology’s grip on the Japanese experience. I never really felt like I left America. Obubu was but a brief perceptual distraction, a beautiful mountain vista when you lifted your head up from the weeds. I wrestled with the consequences of escapism, opening a door that leads to the same room in which you’re standing. Cyclical reaction patterns to environmental circumstances gave me a chance to consciously alter my values, thereby slowly altering my reality. Sameness wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. Obubu became a warped version of the iconic movie Groundhog Day. The sense perceptions were different, but the deeper social and personal circumstances were the same as my previous life in the U.S. 

One unique thing about Obubu for me is that it felt like a vacation. Nothing was exceptionally challenging. I loved the fresh air and friendly faces. If l learned anything significant, it really wasn’t about tea, but rather the relationships that such a plant or beverage could create and nurture. These were relationships that otherwise would never happen if it wasn’t for the camellia sinensis plant. They added flavor to the otherwise dull monotony of modern life.

After Obubu

After leaving Obubu I’ll spend a couple weeks as a tourist in Taiwan. I will probably take a break from drinking tea, and return to enjoying coffee as my preferred stimulant. Tea is a very seasonal beverage for me. Hopefully I can renew my appreciation for tea as winter approaches. In the meantime, I plan to travel to Newfoundland, Canada to do some hiking and farming during autumn. I’m waiting on a work visa to return to my pastry cook job in Florence, Italy. Apparently the visa process is very difficult and obfuscated by governmental bureaucracy. I am considering moving to Colombia to work on a coffee farm this winter, then move to San Francisco in California for a short term gig in the coffee, tea or pastry industry early next year. Beyond that, I don’t have any concrete plans. I just prefer to go wherever life takes me right now, doing stuff until one day I die.