I love coffee. I’m sure it was an inevitable fact of life that I would be drawn into this subculture considering that my dad and elder brother take coffee quality quite seriously. I started off drinking it because I needed (read—wanted) caffeine my freshmen year of college. And like all youngsters, I started off with lots of cream and even more sugar…and sometimes some chocolate powder. But all the taunting from the serious coffee drinkers in my life eventually wore me down into drinking coffee as is. Black. No cream, no sugar, no nothing. And, now that’s the best part of waking up! ;)
A couple of weeks back, someone asked my dad “What is your all-time favorite cup of coffee?” His response was thought-provoking, like many things he says. He named a couple of different coffee brands, but then commented that you can actually drink a fantastic cup of coffee, only to have it completely ruined by the circumstances…meaning that it could be in a really boring meeting, with folks that you aren’t necessarily relaxed with, or even as you hear an announcement of bad news.
So my favorite cup of coffee…it went like this. I had been living in India for about a year and left the country for a couple of days for a routine visa run. I had a friend from my college days teaching in Indonesia and decided that it would be good for my heart to see a good friend and, what’s more, it was below budget to get there!
Indonesia is beautiful, relaxing, and full of things to explore…including all types of delicious food AND coffee! And not just any coffee—they have the special kind of coffee that only the crazies drink…Kopi Luwak. The kind that civet cats eat and process internally, which is then cleaned and processed for us to drink!
One afternoon during my visit, she took me on her scooter to a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop with a garden, and we had the most delicious cup of coffee accompanied by a long, good, heart-to-heart kind of conversation.
There are many other cups that are close contenders, but this one cup was just special. Civet coffee, that is unique. But seeing a friend from “home” after a long year is heart-warming.
What’s your favorite cup of coffee?
These past few months (actually, year if we’re honest with each other) have been a whirlwind of emotions, excitement and change! And, as my beloved mother says,
“Life is about change!”
It’s been an interesting and culturally-enlightening journey for me…this engagement process. Strangely enough, it seems like I have learned more about my own culture than my fiancé’s. Maybe I’ll tackle some of those in a future post.
All that to say, the news is out! We’re engaged! Thank you, social media, for helping me spread the word far and wide. However, we have had a rather enjoyable time telling friends and family face-to-face as we see and meet them. I love re-living our story and the surprised expressions!
I would have never imagined I would be moving back to India so soon, nor did I ever anticipate moving back as the (soon-to-be) wife of a very special Indian (more on that later too)! But I am oh-so-excited, and continually grateful to the Lord for His guidance, provision, and goodness to us in the last year and some months.
With the advent of my wedding and subsequent move across the world again, I’ve had several friends and family ask me if I would start writing again. I have gone back and forth with the idea, but since the point of this blog at its creation was to keep friends and family [somewhat] in the loop as I went about life “over yonder,” it only seems like an appropriate time to return from my hiatus.
So here I am…stay tuned for more!
Admittedly, I’ve never really felt like an expert at this thing we call small talk. I used to be convinced that it was an incredible gift that only really extroverted, talkative, fearless people possessed…you know what I mean? Or maybe it was something that only those friends of mine who went to etiquette school could be taught. And if I’m honest, it wasn’t until college that I even had to think about making conversation with people I didn’t really know on a normal basis (yes…I was one of those kids. I went to a small private school and an even smaller country church).
I am convinced, though, that small talk proficiency should be a skill you can put on your resume. I didn’t realize how important it is to culture and making friends and being established in a community and, well, to quality of life (if you want to take it that far). I think I started to realize this idea when I got back to America and started catching myself asking questions like, “Have you eaten?” at the beginning of the conversation…which is the norm in India (at least from what I picked up on).
It was a little intimidating, honestly, and I found myself being a bit withdrawn and passive in conversations with people–even people I’ve known for a long time! What if I ask an awkward question or say something really dumb? As if that is the most important thing in life. Honest John. As I was coming home from a wedding, I started asking myself, “What is so different about moving back to Georgia…You survived moving to India and actually made friends. What are you missing?”
Here’s what. As a part of my preparation for moving to India, the group coaching us on cultural adjustment emphasized being a “life-long learner.” Basically, it means that wherever you are, choose to be the learner—someone who listens, and observes, and asks questions to get the full picture— instead of being a knower—someone who talks, and tells, and gives the only “good” answer.
I forgot that the best way to enter (or re-enter, in this case) any culture is to be a Learner! So what if I accidentally ask a weirdo question or even a simple question? Every answer that I get, every “small talk” conversation is a chance to grow and learn, to build new friendships or deepen old ones. There is absolutely no sense in getting frustrated with myself for not fitting in the way I used to or not knowing exactly where to carry a conversation.
Lesson: Keep the “Learner Mode” button on always. Even if it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to learn.