Fast forward three weeks.
After blinking twice, I found myself walking through Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport. It didn’t feel real. People passed by in blurs. I’ve always thought that airports elicit such strong emotions from people because it either feels like the beginning or the end. For me, it felt a bit like both. “How did I get here?”
My feet were sore. Throughout the summer they had been slowly getting accustomed to the weight of responsibility. After two and a half months, I was on my way back to North Carolina. Even if the seats didn’t recline, it would be nice to sit for a few hours…
The plane arrived early. As the attendant announced boarding, I stood and shuffled with the crowd towards the entrance. In less than twenty-five minutes I was seated with a hundred others in an aluminum and steel container that would hurtle at 575mph away from this country.
My time in Colombia had come to an end.
The weather app had predicted a cloudy evening and for once it was right. There were no stars in the sky and Bogota looked downright dreary. As I stared out the window I had to let out a sigh of disappointment. I had grown accustomed to this place. Sure it had taken me a month until I boarded the bus. And sure I could have traveled more on the weekends. Maybe I could have even taken a dance class or two. Regret over missed opportunities comes easily when it feels like the end…
An elderly woman sat beside me interrupting my train of thought. I glanced over and knew instantly she was the kind of passenger who needed to tell me all about her thirty-nine cats, and how her grandchildren don’t call anymore. I absolved that if she started talking to me, I would nod politely and count her wrinkles to pass the time. She caught me glancing over and she introduced herself.
“Hola, my name is Jimena.”
“Hola, my name is Andrieu.”
“What are you doing here, Andrieu?”
The question caught me off guard. Did she mean in this seat? Did she mean on this plane? In this country? On this Earth? I was silent.
“It’s alright. Take your time. “
I had to think about it. What was I doing here? Well... I was on a plane. Leaving a country that I had spent two and a half months in. I was heading to North Carolina to finish school and continue working with a coffee company. Jimena offered no response. She just nodded, put her head against the seat rest, and closed her eyes.
I stared at her for another minute. What an odd woman. But something about her question was bothering me. Almost as though I didn’t know the answer myself. What was I doing here?
We were cleared for takeoff and the jet engines roared to life. As the planes wheels lifted off the ground I felt my stomach clench. We barreled down the runway, and eight minutes later, we were above the clouds. As Bogota’s city lights flickered away, and the skyscrapers were claimed by the twilight, I continued to think about Jimena’s question.
Why had I even bothered to go to Colombia? Well, for starters, I went because I wanted to. Why did I want to go? I wanted to go because I thought it was important. Why was it important? It was important because I wanted to be part of an exceptional group of people who know how special coffee really is. This went on in my head for about an hour. As I write this final blog post, I’m sitting on my couch still pondering Jimena’s question. I feel like after two weeks of thinking, I have an answer for her.
My name is Andrieu Doyle and I’m a specialty coffee professional. I’ve been trained to procure, communicate, negotiate, and execute decisions. My job is to find things that most people aren’t even looking for. You asked me several weeks ago a non specific question and I’ve been driving myself crazy over whether or not you were being existential or just bored. Regardless, I’ll tell you why I happened to be sitting next to you that evening in August.
I was in Colombia this summer to grow personally and professionally. I’ve spoken with farmers and bankers. Lived in the country and city. Learned agriculture and economics, and that trust is the most important aspect of this business.
I was in Colombia this summer because you don’t know coffee until you’ve walked at least fifty miles through crops of caturra. I was in Colombia this summer because you don’t know coffee until you come home with at least a hundred bug bites. I was in Colombia this summer because you don’t know coffee until you’ve experienced what great coffee and bad coffee taste like and why.
Most importantly though: I was in Colombia this summer because you don’t know coffee until you hold a cherry in one hand, a roasted bean in the other, and can tell the story that led one to the other.
Spoiler alert: It’s a circle.