(This post originally appeared in the December, 2016 issue of FMC Connections, a newsletter published by First Mennonite Church, Newton, KS.)
Wednesday, November 9.
We wake at 6:45 a.m. Foochy, our Japanese Spitz house dog, waits outside our bedroom door. She immediately becomes excited; running in circles and jumping into the air. Elena takes Foochy for her morning walk, while I start heating water for my coffee and preparing oatmeal. Before Elena returns, Tulsi and Ujwal arrive to begin baking. After a quick “Jaya Massih”, Glory to the Messiah, they go out to the veranda/bakery and begin mixing up yeast doughs. Meanwhile, I go down to the coffee roastery to see what Mathbar had left behind after roasting and packaging about 20 bags of coffee yesterday. I am in luck! Today I will drink Ring of Fire, a blend of coffees from Panama, Bali and Nepal. I coarsely grind 60 grams, enough for three cups of coffee. As we sit down to breakfast, Tulsi comes into the kitchen, goes to the freezer and gets out prepared banana, pumpkin and carrot. Carrying these containers on a bowl of fresh eggs she heads back to the veranda.
After breakfast, I go up to the roof to mop off the solar panels. It is amazing how much dust settles on the panels, and without daily cleaning we soon would be without power during outages. The roof is flat with a low wall around it and is used as an outdoor living area. It is also home to several dozen potted plants. Sabu who lives in the basement apartment with her husband Bikash is sitting on a mat and giving 9 month old Kazia a sunbath. Kazia is delighted to see Foochy, who had followed me up and has sprawled in the sun near them.
Mid-morning while I catch up on news and Elena sits near me tying small red and green bows which we will soon begin gluing to each package of coffee, Tulsi walks in carrying two small bowls of steaming hot ramen noodle soup, full of fresh vegetables and garnished with a boiled egg. Breakfast is not a regular meal for Nepalis, so by 10:00 the bakers are hungry and even though we have had a full breakfast, they do the cultural thing and share with us. We enjoy the soup!
I step out to check the progress of the baking, verify that the spinach is dry enough to go into the quiche and compliment Ujwal on his prepared pie crust. Several dozen muffins are already out of the oven, the cinnamon rolls are in the pan for their final rise and the sandwich rolls are being carefully formed. I take the muffins inside to protect them from the occasional fly and to free up space on the cabinet beside the oven. Soon Ujwal comes inside to start baking the quiche in the countertop convection oven. The spinach, mushrooms and cheese look beautiful in the pie pan as Ujwal gives the egg mixture a final whisk and pours it over them.
After lunch we are ready to pack up everything and head to the shop. We stack the quiche and pumpkin pie in an aluminum pot, cover it and tie it up in a piece of Elena’s African fabric. Ujwal begins to place the muffins, cakes and cinnamon rolls directly into a large, well-used, cardboard box, but the sandwich rolls are still in the oven so he and Tulsi are cleaning up as we leave for the Top of the World Coffee Shop, a bumpy, dusty, noisy, twenty-minute motorcycle ride away. Elena feels like an African market woman holding the pie and quiche in one hand while holding onto me with the other.
Dale and Bethsaba Nafziger started Top of the World Coffee Shop in 2011 as a natural outgrowth of their earlier entrepreneurial experiences under United Mission to Nepal (UMN). It follows a Business as Mission (BAM) model which promotes sustainable business with a Kingdom of God purpose, perspective and impact. Their goal is “to bring warmth to life, by serving great coffee and food, and by treating everyone we meet in a neighborly way.” Top of the World is both a place where God’s love for the world becomes visible and a community which is extending God’s love.
When we arrive at Top of the World, we are again greeted with Jaya Massih by Anita, Suraj, Lekhra and Bikash. Krishna, who is not Christian, greets us with Namaste. Our staff is young; Ujwal, the youngest, is 21 and Bikash, the oldest, is 30. They are also mostly young Christians, having come to faith as adults. It is energizing to work and otherwise interact with a young staff.
I place the quiche and pie into the display case. Elena checks the yak shawls and ponchos in the handicraft corner. Soon we put on our hats and name tags and take up our posts behind the counter. I make myself a latte and Anita asks the kitchen to make a masala tea for Elena. The rest of the afternoon is blur of activity. Elena and Anita work well together but Elena has noticed that if she sees something that needs to be done and starts to do it, Anita will step in and say, “I do”. So Elena waits until Anita is in the middle of a different task so she is able complete the job herself. I stay close to the computer/cash drawer, but also often serve cinnamon rolls or cake.
We have gotten to know a number of regular customers. Samantha is a black, South African student. She arrived at her usual time, 3:15, and ordered her usual meal: quiche, lemonade and chocolate cake. Samantha often wears a Texas A&M sweatshirt, her father’s alma mater. Recently she has started asking me what she had for lunch the previous day, and amazingly, I’ve been able to tell her.
Later in the afternoon, Dan Jantzen, Lubin and Tillie’s son, and Dan Spare, Elena’s brother-in-law arrive at the Top of the World. Each has spent years in Nepal with UMN and are friends of Dale and Bethsaba. They were in Nepal researching ways to protect villages from the flood threat of glacial lakes and after trekking to some lakes were optimistic that their ideas would be feasible and cost-effective.
At the end of the day, Lekhraj and Krishna are in the back mopping the floors, Suraj and Anita are gathering cushions and placemats from our outdoor tables at the front of the shop while we are counting cash and attempting to reconcile it with the computer. Tonight we are only 185 rupees off, not bad considering how often we were asked to split the bill or lost track of whether a bill was paid at all. When everyone has completed their work, we join together in front of the shop. I ask Lekhraj to pray. I don’t know most of what he prays, but I have begun to recognize a few words. Lekhraj’s prayer is full of “Thank you Lord”. After the prayer we wish each other safe travel home and a good night’s sleep.
We do arrive home safely. We immediately prepare the starting cash for Thursday and put the rest in a lockbox. We bathe with warm water from the solar water heater on the roof, then sing several hymns; sight-reading out of The (red) Mennonite Hymnal. Good night!