Coffeepacking the Coffee Desert

My name is Bloggerbels, and I have a problem. No, I’m not talking about the problem of being a horrible person – that’s a topic for another post. The problem I want to talk to you about today is my debilitating coffee addiction. You see, I have an addictive personality, something that may or may not be related to my Asperger’s Syndrome. I have been addicted to food, to alcohol, freight trains, classical music, “the ladies”, and now, to coffee.

I developed a taste for coffee a while back. I enjoyed a daily cup or two for several years, but as soon as I stopped drinking alcohol I noticed that, like some sort of Alcoholics Anonymous stereotype, my coffee consumption went completely through the roof. At this point I realized that my restless, addictive mind just needed something to latch on to, and if I wasn’t going to become addicted to making people smile or to curing cancer, I may as well just embrace my addiction to the mostly harmless drug that is caffeine. And embrace it I have!

Another of my addictions happens to be travel, although it might be less of an addiction and more of a bright, multi-coloured distraction from the yawning emptiness of my life. For a time, my addiction to travel meant that my coffee addiction could not always be properly fed – some travel destinations don’t have much of a coffee culture, or good coffee may be prohibitively expensive. Or, in the worst-case scenario, one may find oneself in a veritable coffee desert, where good coffee is simply impossible to find. (Ironic, since the desert-filled lands of North Africa and the Middle East did much to spread coffee throughout the world!)

That all changed the moment I discovered the espresso pot. I was traveling around British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies with my dear father, who surprised me on the first day of our trip by yanking a coffee pot out of his suitcase. At first, the idea struck me as ludicrous, and I ladled untold scorn and derision upon the man who brought me into the world; but over the two weeks of the trip, I learned that the pleasure of starting every morning in your hostel or Airbnb with a good cup of coffee is easily worth an extra kilo of baggage. So, who’s laughing now? Nobody, because coffee is serious business.

An awkwardly shoehorned-in photo from this trip

(more…)

Read More

Hey, Guess What: El Salvador Is Actually Pretty Great! – Part 1

I reluctantly left the wonderful revelation that was Nicaragua and continued my headlong rush toward Mexico City, where I had a flight to catch a few scant weeks in the future. My next intended destination was Guatemala, but I had a small detail to reckon with: the fact that Honduras and El Salvador stood between me and my next stop.

Even after being surprised by the hospitality and safety of Nicaragua (except for certifiably scary-ass Managua), I was still bracing myself for the nefarious criminality of the “real” Central America. Even passing through Honduras and El Salvador, which boast some of the highest murder rates in the world, seemed to be tempting fate.

So when the time came to buy my bus ticket, I originally intended to make an 18-hour beeline directly from Somoto, Nicaragua to Guatemala City. It was only a rather limp desire to be a badass that eventually persuaded me to only skip Honduras and spend at least one night in San Salvador. Aside from my fear of a butt-numbing 18-hour ride, I think I wanted to experience the equivalent to staying in a haunted house for a night.

(more…)

Read More

Beans, Rice and Loneliness – Part 1

Last August and September I took a trip through that most gun-filled of all isthmuses, Central America. I spent a month zigzagging through its small but fascinating countries, starting my way in Costa Rica and working my way up all the way to Mexico. And I ate a whole lot of beans and rice.

Costa Rica underwhelmed me from the start, though I hesitate to speak too harshly of a country that is a global model for eco-tourism. I suspect that I simply wasn’t feeling the vibe, and my wallet wasn’t feeling the surprisingly steep food prices, both of which prevented me from sticking around. The capitol of San Jose was friendly, but not particularly scenic or interesting.

p_20160819_095115

(more…)

Read More

Reflections on the Eve of 2017

With 4 hours left before the inauguration of the new year, I have opted out of all social activity to spend my night at home blogging and cooking Kerala egg curry. This is partly because my original social plans got soured by a personal boondoggle; partly because of my fear of losing a finger or two if I venture outside into the war zone of Manila on New Year’s Eve, with DIY firecracker launches taking the place of the heavy artillery; and partly because I’m just an antisocial old grouch.

A New Year’s Eve spent at home is also an ideal time for reflection, assuming one does not pass out from the firecracker smoke coming in through the window. I do not wish to reflect too much on the fact that 2016 was The Worst Year Ever, even though it indisputably was – from climate doom to the death of the most famous of all Jehovah’s Witnesses to Donald Trump and, perhaps most incredibly, the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother one day apart. No need for another thinkpiece on that topic when everyone already knows it’s absolutely true, anyway: 2016 was the worst year ever. At least, until 2017.

And so, notwithstanding the fact that 2017 may yet bring horrors so appalling that all else will fade into insignificance,  I would like to reflect on the lessons that I hope to apply over the coming 365 days. Some of these are lessons that I only recently unearthed, while others are things I’ve known for a long time but had trouble actually applying. Either way, I believe these are principles that, if put into practice, could help me have a happier 2017 – That is, if I don’t die from a climate change nuke explosion with its ground zero located at a crowded Annual Convention of Beloved Celebrities.

(more…)

Read More