I’m sitting at Acacia Coffee Shop. My coffee has just been made. It’s strong and dark and brimful of taste. It’s called Bune, I believe that’s an Ethiopian word for coffee. It’s made with lots of spices, cinnamon and something that tastes slightly of vanilla. But, most of all, it’s chock full of coffee flavour, tasting richly of the beans that have just been roasted in a pot over charcoal. Starbucks has nothing on this. If they could can it they would!
To my right three sewing machines are set up, and a man in traditional costume is measuring trouser legs carefully to stitch them up just right. His client is standing patiently, leaning on the worktop waiting for his new brown trousers. The cloth looks brand new, it must be for a special occasion.
To the front of Acacia Coffee Shop, the place we named for the beautiful big tree over it, a group of people wearing WFP shirts and chatting on the radio stand up after having enjoyed a nice afternoon cuppa.
The ground is red brown here, it’s mucky in patches, and pieces of debris are lying around carelessly. Goats are being pulled through the puddles on lines of thin rope. A wasp or bee is tempted by my coffee, but seems challenged by the heat. He’s flirting with the rim of the glass and then taking flight again.
Beyond the huddle that is growing around the tailor, a corrugated shack stands. It’s side half covered with advertisements for job positions for NGOs. Undoubtedly my ad is there, requesting a Construction Supervisor. Up to 5 years experience, English, Arabic, Ingassana and Urduk all languages requested or required. Must be a natural genius, a team leader, able to deal with chaos, enterprising and able to work on own initiative…does such a person exist? Not only in Maban, but anywhere? The queue of people is building at the impromptu notice board. I see a woman in peach, another in pink, a lady in yellow, a man in old white shirt and tired black trousers. A lady in blue holds her handbag whilst leaning in to read the ads. Does anything here describe their skills? Where does it say “a multi talented resourceful person who has been bombed and displaced from their home multiple times, a person who has walked for a month to safety wearing only the shoes on their feet and the clothing the had on. A person who did everything to feed their children along the walk, despite their cattle and goats dying on the road. A person who cannot be broken by the fighting for a cause they neither understand nor want. Just a chance for a life free from fear.” I don’t believe that job advert is posted here. But – I don’t fret – these people have endured a hell and made it through. They’ll find an opportunity where one exists and fight to survive. They’ll loan each other meat and grain and water and space to sleep. Despite the very many challenges, they’ll rise again.