Thursday, September 29, 2005

Two Cups of Coffee

Thinking today of an unexpected cup in an unexpected place.

In the early nineties I was in the jungle of Ecuador in and near Coca for a medical relief mission to some of the nearby villages. There are some great memories from this short time- death, birth, miscommunication (someone attempting to pantomime "We have just killed an armadillo and would like to sell it to you for food," CAN be interpreted by an over-eager medic as "One of our friends has just falen off a cliff and broken his spine and we need your help.")

It wasn't a long mission, but our CO had made the odd and brain-dead decision to forbid all personnel from eating off the local economy. If we caught/picked and cleaned it ourselves, fine. But we were forbidden to buy food from the local vendors. That meant MREs and T-Rats. MREs are good, even the old ones but T-Rats.... "Whats yellowish green, greasy, spongy and smells like rotten spam?" "Don't know. It could be the eggs, the eggs and ham or the other thing. Check the label." Worse, other than the little packets of instant in the MREs, there was no coffee.

Get that- we're in Ecuador on the border of Columbia. When we go into the highlands we can smell the coffee blossoms... and we can't get anything other than shitty, iodine flavored instant coffee.

Several days in, after a long day of loading, packing, humping (in the military sense, not the civilian) and treating patients we were unloading gear back at the Ecuadorean Army barracks ("Ejercito del Selva!") when I saw a staff sergeant pull out a thermos and pass it around. I'm quiet, shy and reserved and don't ask for much, but I asked for a cup of coffee. He looked reluctant but said "Sure," and poured some in. It had cream in it, but I was desparate. Took a sip... coffee and irish cream. Alcoholic, caffeinated and ambrosial. I have no idea how he made the coffee, smuggled the Irish Cream in or kept it for that long without drinking it up, but that regs violation did more for morale in that minute than anything else could have.


The other coffee story isn't a coffee story. On a graveyard overtime I brought a cup of good coffee to one of the deputies (it's a good habit, learned from that long ago SSgt) and we talked. I was going through some rough times, a cumulative mass of big events that wasn't settling like it should. He was going through rougher times. We sat for hours, talking, surrounded by sleeping inmates. It was honest talk about loss and change and toying with the idea of suicide. Finally, he said, "Sarge, no one commits suicide because of what happened to 'em. They commit suicide because they thought about it too much."

So... we cut down on the thinking about stuff. We've both kept moving since then, kept active. There's no depression brawling in the dojo (or in the jail) or chopping wood or hacking blackberries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No analysis of yourself when you're tired. That's my rule.

Kai Jones