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  • Writer's pictureTanja van Hummel

The teapot is full, let’s have tea

I entered a dark and small room. The light was filtered by shutters and drew a pattern of bars on the ground and the desk. In the corner, a grey bookcase was standing. Dust covered the shelves. This was my first impression of my office at my first day as a PhD-student. There was just one object that stood out in this dark, grey surrounding: a white round-bellied teapot decorated with two lovely and cute flowers. One of the flowers is baby blue and the other is lovely pink. A pattern of green leaves surrounds the two flowers. This earthenware teapot has a handle on top of it so the teapot hovers through the air when you hold it. This teapot became the light bulb in the first months of my PhD.

Just alone

My start as a PhD-student was chaotic. While I was setting up my workspace, my roommate was packing to move to Germany. Before she left, she had just enough time to tell me that I inherited the round-bellied flowery teapot that was standing on the self. There I was: alone with a teapot in a dark office room, on the highest floor, furthest away from the coffee machine and all the other people, who still were strangers to me.

The first days I felt lonely and made myself comfortable with some tea. The teapot forced me to leave the office, to go down two stairways and to walk a long corridor to reach the kettle. The kettle is in a small kitchen were people jump in and out. While waiting next to the teapot, I met my colleagues for the first time. Finally, small talks in a building where I did not see anyone in the corridors.

My roommate and I

Soon I got another roommate. She also discovered immediately the shiny teapot on the book shelf. And more importantly, she likes tea as much as I do. The teapot introduced us to each other and soon the teapot accompanied us during our lunches. While we hold a teacup in our hands, we talked and talked, until the teapot was empty.

In the afternoon, we have afternoon tea in our office. I like to walk down with the teapot, enjoying being away from my desk for a short time, and I love the idea to make my roommate happy with warm, fresh tea. On some days, my roommate is in charge. That is a pleasure too, especially the moment when she comes back, askes “Do you want some tea?” and pours earl grey in my mug.

The Traveling Teapot

Not long ago, we both had a supervisory meeting at the time of our afternoon tea. My roommate went out to a café to drink tea with her supervisor, while my meeting was one staircase away from my office. My roomy suggested: “Why do not you bring tea to your own meeting?” And so, I ended up with a full teapot and two cups in front of the door of my supervisor’s office. But unfortunately, the door was locked. My supervisor was not yet back from his previous meeting. I parked the teapot in front of his door, put the cups besides, and went away.

A couple of minutes later, my supervisor walks towards his office, put his key in the lock, looks down, and sees the teapot. His face expresses a big surprise: “What is that?!” I cannot say anything else than “a teapot and cups.” He enters, without touching the teapot. I hover it up, and place it softly at the table, and ask carefully “Do you want some tea?” My supervisor starts to laugh, puts his arms in the air, and with twinkling eyes he busts out “I never had tea in such a way. How wonderful. What a pleasure.” And while drinking cylon, we had a very nice meeting.

Let’s have tea together

The days are shortening, but my days at my office became brighter and brighter thanks to the teapot we inherited from the people who worked in this dark office room before. This teapot is a first-class conversation starter and gives these talks a cozy sphere. It really helped me to feel at home at my workspace. Thank to this earthenware teapot with blue and pink flowers, I really enjoy my days at the faculty.


Tanja van Hummel is PhD-student at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. She researches the sacred dimensions of climate change-induced conflicts among indigenous peoples in Kenya. She also is Chief Editor of MindMint.


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