Saturday, June 06, 2009

I'll put a fresh pot on.

Those of you who are familiar with my writings will wish to apply the British narration track for the first paragraph. Also, it is recommended that you read this with at least a 'coffee-themed' beverage.

Scene I: the South American Wild.
Supplies are down and although the sun is glintening in the early morning, a Surazo - the cold south wind from the Argentine plains - threatens on the horizon. Its been days since the Brazilian contingent sent the necessary provisions. An early morning foray out into no man's land proves fruitless and the canteen is still empty. Yet our intrepid explorer does not lose hope or her spirit. Back at the camp, she rigs a contraption of ingenuity and wit to bring forth the elixir of life that will steel the resolve of her and her companions: coffee. It is a triumph of will over circumstance- and no little matter of joy. Though the situation was indeed a close call, they will now be able to forge ahead with renewed vigour and strength of heart.

End scene.

Scene II: in Hotel Flamingo, where the girls live. It is night.
Marge: I have sad news.
Kiki: coffee filters are out?
Glum nods all around. The lights go out and it is very black indeed.

Scene III: Also in Hotel Flamingo, morning.
Kiki enters kitchen, surveys the bottom shelf. She finds a seive, picks it out and scrutinizes its mesh. A nod of resolve and she puts water on to boil and pulls out a roll of paper towel.
Lights fade.
Lights back on. Kiki is clearly proud and tickled by her contraption now sitting in the sink. She pours a cup of coffee and goes to sit at the kitchen table. She opens her laptop.
Enter Adreana.
Kiki: I have finally gotten inspired!
Adreana: (absent-mindedly) Great. Is that cuz you had coffee?
Kiki: heck yes!
(pause) Adreana: Inspired to do what?
Kiki: blog, post a facebook status... Live.

End scene.

Playwright's Notes:

Now, dear and faithful friends, allow me to explain much of what may have become a point of befuddlement (yes, befuddlement). I think some of you may have surmised that I have a bit of a fanatic love of coffee. Years ago... oh so many years ago in my short life, I explained to someone why I think the coffee industry is worthy of my dedication. You see, there are many reasons. First, coffee is that dark, brooding, strong warm arm around you when you are first yanked unceremoniously from the warmth and comfort of your eiderdown into the cold and harsh first light of day. Everything is garish and cold. Even light is cold. Yet with a hot shower and an even more-so hot cup of Joe (no plumber here), you feel the strength, the resolve, the courage of the dark friend. Joe has seen much, who has been roasted and ground down by life, just like you. Now he consoles like only one who has been scorched and survived can. When your mother has already been awake for three hours and had time to console her own terror of morning, relish the sweet quietness of early morning and then bake muffins, once again proving what an over-achiever she is in the household department, and you just need an ally, a friend to look you in the eye and communicat - without words - that it will be ok.. in an hour you will be like her, made new and ready to talk. And that she will understand - one day - why you didn't respond to any of her questions. The universal mediator, friend, confidente.

But its more than just a morning addiction, a moment of panic in the midst of disorientation. Yes friends, my love is not the type of the needy and the insecure that calls to her friend only when wanting something. Coffee passes the afternoons away too: sitting with a mutual friend in a cozy spot, watching the rain drip by; by the big storefront window with a newspaper catching up on the reports on stocks, stats and gossip; or by idly staring with you out onto the gentle point grey street from the velvet chair, watching the shopkeeper from three doors down hurry off on her lunch, the pub-owner unlocking the front door, getting ready for the evening's pints, the neighbourhood vagabond who sweeps the sidewalk leaves through fall, pushes pff the snow in the winter and sits under the cherry blossoms in spring and summer.

How many of those conversations have you had over coffee? A wise man named Jim Badke used to talk about 'the third object' in relationships. When I was working at Qwanoes he used to tell his eager little counsellors in training that sometimes what you need is a third object to get conversations moving. Campers were between the ages of 8-18 as the teenagers they are, aren't always forthcoming with chit-chat and verbosity (unlike someone you may know...). And sometimes staring face-to-face to a person and gabbing might not be the first thing on their to-do list, especially if the conversation may have any importance at all. A third object, like a bag of chips or a car dashboard on which to fix the gaze... at least until we are all settled, can make words come a bit more easily. Coffee is the consummate third object. It disarms us all with it's crooked grin - a bitter taste that makes you wonder why on earth you like it. Ironic isn't it? Its not the handsomest, but its winsome because it doesn't pretend to be as sweet as a cola and as smarmy as an iced tea. (Not that they don't have their moments to shine either- indeed they do). But coffee has a bit of an edge - it has wit to put us all at ease and then a straight gaze for when we are ready to divulge whatever is on our hearts. And if nothing else, when we don't want to look in an eye, we can look in a never-empty cup.

Sounds like another cup that I know of...

Allow me to try and wrap this all up and bring it back with us to Bolivia. I am, as many of you know, working with coffee farmers for my research here. As my roommate Courtney said when I told her "that's great! ... Am I supposed to be surprised?" Yet there was a race on, that some of you may not know of - between the coffee project and a few other ones working with farmers that were growing all sorts of different crops. I thought about them for a while, because I had been reminded that "the coffee-thing has been done" - and it really has. How many of us would love to just pack up and move to the beach and open up a little neighbourhood coffeehouse and pass away our days like that? How much literature have you read on fair trade coffee? How ubiquitous is this product???

Exactly. By circumstance (divinely-directed, I believe) I was led to pick the coffee project over rice, fish, or forestry. But the fact that there is so much on it, and it has become almost blasé does not dissuade me. It is, I have read, the second most highly traded commodity. Many of us drink it multiple times a day. But like so many of our foodstuffs, we really have no idea - nor do we often care- where it comes from. Far away, that's all we know.

I have been reading a bit from a guy named Michael Woolcock, who happens to be among other things: a World Bank senior social scientist, a Harvard professor, a political economist and a theologian. He is also my new friend. He was explaining in our latest conversation (entitled "Getting the Social Relations Right: Towards an Integrated Theology and Theory of Development" published in Globalization and the Good, Heslam, P. ed) that the problem with the way we look at 'development' in many circles is that it is often framed by a Justice discourse, and not a Glory discourse. We talk about "Social Justice" and "Fair Trade" and we usually do it with a fair bit of fire and brimstone and contempt in our language - we want the world to be a better place and we are frustrated that it is not. We are mad that farmers in Bolivia earn less than oh, say a grad student working as research assitant part-time in Canada (gulp! that sounds strangely familiar). And we are annoyed that Globalization has made it possible for us to see this easily, without providing an equally easy auto-switch to make it all not be so.

But Glory. That's something different than just an appeal to being fair (as Michael pointed out, "even in a 'fair' world we can all live Hobbesian lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short"). I am still wrapping my head around what Glory really means in 21st century life. In my experience, it is either: a distant Biblical term to be given to and yet already completely owned by God; or it is what soccer and hockey players get when the goal siren sounds. But they can't be the same thing. A short burst of adrenalin coming from a matter of chance and mere human skill working in varying combinations cannot possibly be the same thing that is embodied in the fingertips of the one who spoke time into being and then within seconds (or rather, outside of them stretching years and eons into his morning and evening) created the most specatular and baffling spread.


Coffee? Yes, I am getting there. The point of a Glory discourse of development is that it is about having right relationships - to God, to one another, and to creation. It's about running so hard that your lungs are about to burst and kicking that ball straight to the upper corner, evading the goalie who wants to thwart you and your teammates - even those who are from the other half of the world- at every shot that earns you livelihood not just a trophy. Its about speaking life into a moment and working to create a baffling spread. Its about watching in wonder as a pretty, unpretentious little white flower buds and a few weeks later a cherry appears that gives you a nice view, one that crosses your mind when months later you are back in Vancouver, watching the rain drip outside and sitting across from an old friend on the slightly musty couches in Bean Around the World, getting ready to share the heart. Its about knowing the man who cared for the beans and knowing the agronomist who came by one day to check the plants and sit and chat for a while - also over coffee, although at that point it was still a just a white flower. Its about knowing that that relationship is good, like creation, like the one in front of you now.

Whew. I think that's about all I have for now. Thanks for sticking it out with me through this muddle. Can I top you up?


At 11:25 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Mom

At 9:38 a.m. , Anonymous Susan said...

My life resume is strangely similar to Michael Woolcock's. This must be why we are friends!!!

At 6:10 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiki...that is brilliant! I will never look at coffee in the same light again. Publish it! love jodi


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