Pins, Paintings, Drinks and Nerds

This morning I slipped out of sleep for a couple hours in order to go to a flea market with my sister Ilea and her fiance Greg. It was an amusing time and I was happy to see those two again since it’s been a while since the three of us hung out. There were some interesting finds at the market but I only got some baked goods and a piece of papyrus. Ilea, however, got a bag of pins that amused the three of us a lot.
In high school I somehow acquired the nickname Jesus; though it likely was my long hair that inspired the nickname, it could have been any number of other factors. No matter what caused it, the nickname became the root of numerous inside jokes and most of my friends (and some teachers) embraced it, carrying it on even to now. So, when Ilea found a pin featuring an image of Jesus and the slogan “Come along with Jesus” in the bag as she was deciding to buy it, she chose to buy them and give the pin to me. There were some other amusing pins, but none quite as great as that one.

The hotel where I am currently working has been closed for some time and is awaiting renovations. The pool area was painted many years ago with murals that I grew fond of when I visited here as a child. The impending renovations will see the paintings covered up or otherwise removed so I wanted to preserve them as photos for nostalgia’s sake. The mix of images seems rather odd to me, but there are some pieces that I find worthy of a second look. You can see all the photos I took in my Hotel album.

I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m a devoted coffee lover. I try to learn as much about the drink as I can after discovering that I didn’t know coffee “beans” are actually the seeds of a cherry-like berry. One of the things I learned recently is that a new variety of coffee has been discovered in Indonesia and is being called “Monkey Coffee.”

Heard of Monkey Coffee? The variety, an “accidental” find, could transform the life of coffee cultivators for the better in Megamalai Hill area, according to Mathiazhagan, an official of the Coffee Board.

Mathiazhagan said the coffee variety liked by monkeys had been mentioned in the books on Siddha medicine. The monkeys, according to Siddha Medicinal note, take the coffee fruit whenever they had infection or breathing trouble.

It’s always surprising to many people when foods and other things used by people in ancient times (Siddha medicine is 8,000 years old). If this coffee proves to have the medicinal and flavour qualities proposed, it will be just one more testament against our modern arrogance of believing that our knowledge is necessarily better than that of the past. Rediscovered coffee beans may not change our thinking, but surely we need to learn ways to better marry science with traditions in ways that better serve the world.

Also on the topic of new drinks, my new friend Susana recently introduced me to Mate, a tea-like drink that originates from the region of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. What is most interesting to me is how people drink it traditionally.

Yerba Mate (literally, the “Mate Herb”) gets its name from the traditional cup (called Mate as well) used to drink it. This cup, originally a dried and decorated gourd, can be made out of almost anything these days. In South America, where Maté was introduced to the world, Maté is still sipped from the Maté cup using a metal or wood decorative straw & filter called a bombilla.

In traditional Mate use, the cup is often shared among close friends and family – using the same straw, or bombilla. Reminiscent of the kind of closeness written about in Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” where the characters become “water brothers” or “water sisters” when they drank from the same cup one after the other, those who share the Mate cup join in a kind of bond where the sharing of the health and meditation of the Yerba Mate is a sign of total acceptance and friendship.
In Argentina and Brazil, fellow gouchos or farmers, knit together by the work of taming a wild land, will share a Mate around the camp fire to enhance their bonds of companionship. In Buenos Aires it’s common to find a close-knit family or two lovers, or two or three best friends sharing a Mate on an outing to a local park or beach. In all these places, when an individual or group finally offers to include you in their Mate sharing, it should be taken as the highest possible compliment and entered in to with great appreciation.

From all I’ve learned, there’s a wonderful fellowship and ritual associated with drinking Mate. I’m going to look for the drink locally and perhaps have some sent to me, but the cultural experience surely would add much to drinking it and I’d certainly love to be part of such an experience.

My friend Andrew’s wife Allison will soon be launching a new website project,, and I’ve been asked to be a contributor. I’m waiting to learn what she might like me to write about, but I figure I might as well do some brain storming and asking of people with nerdy tendencies what they might like to read about. So, what should I challenge myself to write about that’s nerdier than my usual writings?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.