Acacia Coffee Shop

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.

The New Latrine – An Ode

The New Latrine

The new latrine, how sweet it smells, so clean, no sign of use.  The old carcass reused to give it some nostalgic comfort.  Yet, barely any resemblance to the old, it has no reek, the awful discharge of man does not creep upwards, moving terrifyingly closer with each deposit.

No, this latrine is blessedly vacant, almost, but not quite unused.  Unsullied by our troubled digestions.  The flies have not yet made a home here, their larvae do not greet each deposit with rampant joy and zest.

Instead, our new latrine is pure.  A beautiful, simplistic slab, clean concrete, simple shapes.  A gorgeous giant hole for ease of targetting.  No more of those awkwardly abandoned messes left behind in haste.  No more of scraping with an empty toilet roll someone else’s folly, across the obstacles to dispose.

Now the sturdy foot pedestals clearly mark where one should stand, to avoid any upset or disturbing concerns.  The dilema over which position to choose to avoid the consequences of splash has been removed.  Now one can release in perfect comfort that all will be accomodated.

Do I miss the old latrine?  It’s stench grabbing by the throat as you approached?  The flies whirling around taking every opportunity for sustenance?  Their larvae growing while you watched them digest as you deposited?  The constant thought that this contribution may be the last that this struggling structure could take?

No, I miss you not, you horrid part of hell!  I hope that I never enter your foul den again.  Today I searched for a latrine to use in camp, not many were acceptable but all were superior to you.  Goodnight and goodluck old latrine, you have passed your prime and so tonight, we welcome with abandon your successor, oh concrete giant!  Oh clean and empty space!