BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Thursday, December 22, 2011

300 plus days of coffee

In a little corner of the shack I live in is a magic of a machine that helps me get on my feet, start my day, bury last night's nightmares and start anew. It's a cappuccino maker, the only piece of household appliance I demanded to have with me in the aftermath of my so-called divorce years ago (I didn't win. I bought a new machine).

I'd say I must have survived this year with coffee. And love.

There's all kinds of coffee to give me the much-needed fix. My favorite of course is arabica or mountain coffee.  My little girl, some moons ago, went on a trip to Sabah and brought me white coffee from the island. It kept me counting sheep the whole night. Then there's the usual robusta that the ever reliable Hitler buys for me once in a while.

No two cups of coffee are ever the same. Each one is unique, similar as it may seem. The amount of milk and muscovado has to be just right but can never be exact, just the same. There are bad coffee days when the milk just didn't froth. And I often made a fuss about that. It happens when the milk is taken out of the fridge too soon that it gets warm by the time I pour it into the stainless frothing pitcher. The milk has to be cold, straight from the ref and dry steam is needed instead of wet steam, which adds unnecessary water, to make the perfect microfoam.

I'm guided by instinct and faith in making the perfect coffee. Yes, faith even in making coffee. (I've come a long way. Years ago, I didn't even have the guts to operate a machine that is not even half as sophisticated as those in Starbucks. I repel technology and many other things I'm too lazy to try to understand).

And believe me, I try to do the perfect cup everyday.

When Jes makes our coffee, he adds more sugar than I usually do. That's often in the afternoon because he usually does not wake up earlier than I do in the morning. But yeah, that's how he does it. Never fails. Our coffee is sweeter when it's his turn with the cappuccino maker. But that's how it really is. He is the sweeter half of soundslikechinese. I surrender to that fact. And he puts more milk than I do. But again that's how he is. He always strives to make it less bitter, coffee and me.

Like coffee, each day of this year that is about to come to an end has been different. Topsy-turvy. Life-changing. Chaotic at times. Some days left me counting sheep at night, like the Sabah coffee. Other days just didn't feel right, like a wrong froth or no froth at all. Too dark. Too bitter. Most days of course were just perfect, as right as the perfect brew. Like the recent road trip to Hacienda Luisita. Or in Tawi-tawi. In Lake Sebu. In Cebu. Or that phenomenally unprecedented and still unmatched trip to Java, Indonesia.

The perfect moments are endless. The projects we dreamt of and achieved this year happened because we did it holding hands, better than Bonnie and Clyde or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I know much more than I would ever admit to myself that I would not have done it without him.  But together, we can move mountains, our way, our system, as chaotic as it is, like an efficient motley crew. If we were venture capitalists, our tag-line would be: "Jes and Iris: We Deliver."

There were many dark times, like the time I had to drive my little girl to the hospital because of high-grade fever or when Jes suffered in pain in an emergency room. (I can still see in my mind's eye how much he struggled). As for him, I'm sure he only remembers that cute little nurse in pink who stood by his bed the whole time.

The imperfections are there, too and when I look back on those times, I surrender with awe and amazement at how we survived.

The year isn't over. There will be a thousand more kisses and hugs and trips before the year comes to a close.

As I write this, we're thinking of traveling south to help victims of Sendong. Our problems are nothing compared to their loss. And we feel helpless not doing anything.

But as most of the days had been, we barely have enough breads to make it down south. Yet, hopefully and as always -- without fail -- we will wing it, holding hands.

Just like the coffee that we always share, perfectly brewed or not.