It was really hot in Guatemala. The kind of hot that made your sweat sweat. Yeah, it was that bad. I’d joined the Peace Corps and was off doing “the toughest job I’d ever love” and since I was a health educator, part of my job was to encourage people to boil their water.
Of course explaining about invisible germs without having benefit of speaking the local language was interesting, but I tried my hardest. You see, in the rural area of this beautiful Central American country, when the rainy season starts, many people get sick. Really sick. Here’s how the disease transmission part works. Without toilets or latrines, many people just find a good place to “go”, and after taking care of business, cover up their mess leaves or other organic materials. When the rainy season starts it rains every day for six months. The rains flush everything downwards so the streams and rivers flow with all the additional rain. And the additional “you know what.”
Long story short, I got my share of gastrointestinal illnesses. I tried to be so careful about not drinking water that wasn’t bottled or boiled, but somehow I got pretty sick.
Going up to visit people in the rural villages was always my toughest challenge. I was constantly faced with the conundrum of accepting offers of hospitality that included things like glasses of lemonade. I was almost certain that the water had not been boiled (even though ironically that was one of my reasons for being there with our local nurses—to encourage boiling water.)
Importantly, it was considered rude to reject an offer of hospitality, but I was so sick of getting sick. Then one day I spied something boiling on the wood stove at the house I was visiting. “That’s coffee” I was told. "That’s boiled” is what I was thinking.
After drinking this "coffee" for several months, one day I went to breakfast with friends at a nice hotel in Guatemala City. That morning, on a whim, I ordered coffee with my food.
I COULD NOT BELIEVE how delicious it was! Black Gold, Texas Tea, hey, this stuff was more valuable than a whole gusher of oil in my opinion.
And that ladies and gentlemen is the story of how I came to love coffee. As a matter of fact, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll head out to buy myself a steaming cup now. Ciao! -Monica