Often, I’m left feeling like the jungle’s biggest nincompoop. Like today, for instance, when I was walking through the bush behind one of my Iski friends. I miss-stepped and ended up in swamp muck up to my belt loops, while my barefooted friend and his 4-year old kid walked along like they were strolling through the mall.
So, yeah, sometimes I feel like a goober covered in lame sauce. Other times though, I feel like a total rock star. (It’s all highs and lows with me.) These rock star experiences are very special, because they are incredibly rare. I would say that a rough estimate would put my idiot/awesome ratio at somewhere around 10:1 (not in my favor). That being the case, you can understand my excitement when I recently got to be Mr. Cool TWICE in the SAME WEEK!
Technically, these two incidents could probably be considered as one, because they involve the same basic activity, but it makes me feel a lot better to think of them separately, so I’m going to do it that way.
My first success was on the domestic front. Since I haven’t always used the best judgement when undertaking some of my other projects,* Rochelle isn’t always thrilled when I tell her about a new idea that I’ve come up with. This time though, she was totally on board. This time, my idea involved chocolate.
Or, more specifically, hot chocolate. I’m not talking about regular ol’ hot chocolate like you might get at Dunkin Donuts. No, this was a drink made from organically grown cocoa beans, picked right from the tree, dried in the sun, slow-roasted in our oven, crushed and boiled ourselves. This was a drink fit for kings.**
And, unlike many of my other ideas, this one actually worked! Our end product tasted just like some Ritzy drink you’d get at a snobby, uptown, over-priced coffee shop back in the States. We were so excited!*** Homesteading never tasted so good!
It just got better a few days later when I got to go through the same process with the Iski guy who had given me the beans in the first place. The Iski grow cocoa beans on a small scale as a cash crop, but they themselves never do anything with them. They know that chocolate companies buy them, but anything to do with the chocolate-making process is a mystery. If the market isn’t good for selling the beans, then they just let the pods rot on the ground.
It was so much fun teaching these guys the simple steps they could take to make an amazing drink from ingredients that are already growing in their gardens! You could see the excitement in their faces as the roasting beans began to emit that unmistakable “chocolate” smell. They even ate all the leftover cocoa bean grounds afterwards! For a village whose only other drink is water, this was a pretty cool activity!
The Iski friend that I made the hot chocolate with told me the next day, “Seth, that stuff was so good that I wasn’t even hungry the rest of the day. And when I went to bed at night, it was like it was still the middle of the day! I didn’t fall asleep until I heard the birds starting to wake up in the morning. I drank more this morning, and now I feel like every ailment has left my body!” Welcome to the world of caffeine, my friend.
I know that, in the big picture of things, being “the guy who knows how to make hot chocolate in the jungle” isn’t a very big bragging right, but it certainly beats being “the guy who can’t talk well and does everything weird,” so I’m happy to embrace the title while I can. Don’t worry; I won’t let it go to my head.
I DO have plans to start growing some cacao trees and sugar cane of my own though!
*Like the time I tried making charcoal underneath the house during nap-time and smoked out Rochelle and the boys, or the time I was trying out a new arrow that I had made by shooting it a teensy, little bit toward the house (in my defense though, the arrow missed her by several feet, and it didn’t really damage the washing machine).
**Aztec kings count as kings, right? I read once that the Aztec king, Montezuma, drank something like 80 cups of hot chocolate a day.
***And, due to an unexpectedly high presence of caffeine, we STAYED excited well into the night.