Thought those were too good not to share.
I eventually got it down to 2000 not-very-clear words (including mention of Ronald Reagan’s lovely “I’m a Contra too!” t-shirt) and came to the inevitably conclusion – with a few statistics to back me up – that Nicaragua is basically screwed. Now I know why I deserve this PhD….
Next came the bit on The Coffee Crisis – that is, when the world prices fell below the cost of production back in the 1990s. Lots of things led up to this, droughts in Brazil, US drives for “free and unrestricted trade” and of course, the massive, World Bank funded over-supply of cheap crap coffee from Vietnam. I now know far more than I ever needed to about Agent Orange and badly thought out development initiatives. I thought it was bad enough that a lot of Colombian coffee was poisoned, but I didn’t realise that the vast quantities of robusta that Vietnam produces is grown on the land that was sprayed with Agent Orange. Now there is a good reason not to drink cheap instant stuff!!
All pretty depressing stuff really, not that I should be surprised by now. I get very cynical about the doom and gloom, anti-capitalist style books I read (main perpetrators here being Wild’s ‘A Dark History of Coffee” and Pendergrast’s “Uncommon Grounds”), but there is no denying that the history of coffee doesn’t make for pleasant reading. Which begs the question, do I really want to work in this industry?
Hormones and presence of the Cheese (now christened Big Foot) have made me think a great deal about what on earth I am going to with myself, and the baby, once this PhD is over? What on earth do you actually do with a Phd in coffee?! Possible plans of action including hoping against hope for some miraculous post-doc funding (where all this Nicaraguan coffee-history could come in, it deserves a thesis to itself!) allowing me to fester in academia indefinitely: I do love what I do now, I love Sheffield and the real world sounds quite tedious in comparison. Or, finally get out of university setup (for the first time in 8 years!) and *somehow* get a job as a coffee buyer – I’d love to go round the world, sourcing the very best coffee, and learn cupping. But then, would that be selling my soul? I am pretty confident that if I looked at any global commodity industry in this level of detail, I’d find pretty horrible things everywhere, and then I’d never be able to eat, drink, buy or work in anything ever again. On a more practical basis, the chances of finding a coffee company looking to employ an untrained, inexperienced buyer somewhere where I’d want to live (ie: not Darlo or London) are even more remote than finding a post-doc. 😦
The other option is, of course, to go full time with Doctor Coffee and make a living off that. But that involves moving – I am resigned to the idea that it is never going to be successful in Darlington. I can’t make a living off the van alone; and I haven’t got the capital to invest in getting my own cafe.
Sigh. I don’t know. I do know that the idea of being suddenly unemployed and with a small baby is quite a scary prospect though!! Can I just rely on my general faith in “something will show up” and hope it is coffee related?