I’m 100 pages into Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and it has me completely hypnotized. Years ago, my husband went to the jungles of the Philippines with Physicians for Peace while I stayed home with my imagination at full steam. It wasn’t exactly a safe area then or now, so I waited anxiously for his one-liner emails (In Lloilo; Made it to Cagayan de Oro) and each of two phone calls. The telephone connection was so bad I could’ve sworn tarantulas had crawled inside the wires to nest. He returned with stories I’d never have believed (even in fiction) if he hadn’t had photos to prove them:
Children and adults waiting outside the clinic for days to be seen by a doctor. The names of those eligible for surgery scrawled on a sheet of paper taped to the wall. Latex surgical gloves washed and hung out to dry for reuse. Friendships made through mirrored ailments. It was beautiful as it was heartbreaking. But I was merely a far-off bystander and truthfully, I’d spent the entire six weeks selfishly wanting him to hurry home. I knew he was doing a good work. I knew the people he helped appreciated him being there, but he’s my husband and not knowing where he was or if he was safe can wear a woman down. I’m no stranger to this feeling. My dad was deployed to both Desert Storm and Iraq, and I can tell you firsthand, it never gets easy—the uncertainty, the worry, the prayerful nights, Please let him be okay. Not until my husband walked into our home could I take a full breath again. And it wasn’t until I looked into the faces of his patients and heard him tell their stories that I began to feel what he had lived. Yet even that was only a fraction of the emotional journey. So reading Patchett’s State of Wonder, I’m able to live a little of my husband’s experience. The Philippines and the Amazon may be geographically a world apart, but the stick of heat and foreignness of the jungle is so similar, I can almost hear the giant beetles clicking beneath the words.
I pulled out my Guayakí Yerba Mate just for the occasion. Yerba Mate translates to “cup of herb” and I’ve long been a fan. It’s got a caffeine kick that can’t be beat. I drink it sparingly—no more than 1-2 cups in a day—or it’s sure to keep me up all night, which is sometimes my intended purpose.
Here’s what the packaging says:
Sustainably sourced from preserved rainforests and reforestation projects in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, our Traditional Yerba Mate boasts a rich and robust mate flavor, toasty aroma, and a balanced finished… yerba mate boasts 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and abundant antioxidants… Of the six commonly used stimulants in the world, yerba mate, coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa and guarana, yerba mate, with naturally occurring caffeine, triumphs as the most balanced, delivering both energy and nutrition.
(The delicate semantics crack me up: “commonly used stimulants.” Let it be noted for those using something a bit more… pharmaceutical.)
Yerba Mate is made by steeping the dry leaves of the mate herb in hot water. It is the beverage of choice in Brazil where they drink it from a hollow gourd with a metal straw. The flavor is extremely grassy, so be prepared for something akin to a robust green tea. Whatever you do, do not to use boiling water or you’ll burn the leaves and the tea will be horribly bitter. Some mates have flavor additions (peppermint or citrus) but I prefer the traditional. If I want peppermint tea, I’ll drink peppermint tea. Mate can also be iced and sweetened. That’s how I’m drinking it now.
Sarah’s Sipping Summary:
The novel inspired me to brew this tea, so of course it’s the perfect fit. I’m only in the fourth chapter, but I wonder if Patchett will have her main character, Marina, sip a cup in the Amazon. I imagine the venerated and slightly tyrannical Dr. Swenson would be an avid drinker. She sounds like the kind of lady hopped up on herb juice.
Cheers, my dears! Sarah