Benefits of Drinking Coffee
When I came to Peace Corps in Armenia, something kind of funny they had us do was make a yes/no list. Oh it was fun, but to this day, only one thing remains on the "no" list, and that is eating homemade pizza - because no matter how wonderful that sounds, it always comes out with mayonnaise and ketchup as sauce and an egg on top. Back in the day, I added "no coffee" to the no list because I left America with the firm belief that I did not like coffee. I added a bunch of things to the no list, and most of them have moved onto the yes list as I've become more comfortable with my life here, but coffee, I think, has the most interesting redemption story - now, I love coffee.
I came to the villages saying no to any offer of coffee - I remember friends learning to offer tea instead, because there was something in my head that told me that being invited to coffee meant that the person was going to serve me coffee and force me to drink it. I slowly learned that this was not the case; when someone invited me to drink coffee, all they wanted was my company, and I've since used these coffee invitations to make friends and become more integrated in my community. Sure, they might keep insisting that I drink the coffee, but I could keep saying no until they gave up or gave me a cup of tea instead -but there must have been some moment when I felt the need to drink coffee out of politeness, maybe when I found myself with the director of my school, my counterpart, and probably an important person from the Peace Corps, and I saw more good than harm in drinking a cup. However, I discovered something important during this first coffee experience: if you drink a cup of coffee, you also get a piece of chocolate.
I love chocolate. And apparently, a piece of chocolate was enough to motivate me to also drink a cup of coffee, and honestly, chocolate with coffee is much more enjoyable than just plain coffee. It's almost good. And so, I started drinking a cup now and then when I was with people; it was probably half the time that I would drink the cup and half the time when I would leave it (and just sneak a piece of chocolate - but this doesn't work all the time). But one day, I found another reward to drinking coffee: you can also get your fortune told!
And, of course, I also love fortunes. If you're drinking coffee with a new tatik friend (grandmother), it's a good idea to casually turn your cup over onto your plate after you've finished, let the coffee grinds run up the sides of your cup, and hope that the tatik or new friend that you're sitting with has the gift of seeing the future. In this cup of mine, we saw two men and two women together, a pair on each side of the cup-- we didn't know what it meant, but with a bit more thought (and maybe an Armenian tatik) we would have been able to figure it out. We've found hearts and elephants and rivers and roads; seen sadness in people, happiness in people, and hope for people. True or not, the fortunes are fun because you can always find a way to apply it to your own life, so you could say that the coffee cup is always right!
So now, not only have I discovered that a cup of coffee means new friends, community integration, a piece of chocolate, and a fortune-telling experience, I've also come to like coffee. I'll even make it for myself now and then, assuming there's chocolate around, and then read my own fortune for fun.
I guess what I'm saying is that the best way to live life is with an open mind. You might not have enjoyed something in the past, but if you try it again, you might like it. You might be scared of something, refuse to try it, and never find out that you actually love it. That's really what Peace Corps is all about: risking comfort, trying new things, and learning to like things you didn't like before. It's about learning to like new things and not being afraid of change and letting your host culture introduce you to the things that they love and learning to love that same stuff. And that's why I love Peace Corps :)