Instant crappy; how I survived three months of coffee purgatory on the island

I asked Michael if he’d consider sharing his experience, and to my delight he acquiesced!  You are in for a treat. The topic he shares on is dear to my heart, partly because I had the same experience on the same island a few years before.  Enjoy =)


By Michael Ehrenberg

I’m going to share with you something deep, something from the heart- one of the most difficult and traumatic periods of my life. In fact it’s only now, years after the event, that I feel able to talk about it.

In the summer of 2012, I embarked on what I thought would be the most exciting 3 months of my life to date. I was going to live on a remote island off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand to spend some time growing in relationship with God. I thought I was mentally prepared for the challenges of island life, but there was one thing I could not have prepared myself for.

Instant Coffee.

I’ve heard it described as hell in a cup, and frankly this is apt. This foul brown sewage runoff shouldn’t really be considered coffee at all in my opinion. But for those 3 months, this was all that was available to me without making a 2 hour walk. Some might suggest that I would have been better off to abstain completely, but unfortunately that was not an option. I was given a choice between horrific withdrawal symptoms and drinking a daily dose of poison, and I chose the poison.

Every morning I would wake up, and enjoy a few brief seconds of happiness before I remembered where I was, and the sadness and depression set in. I would trudge down the stairs and pour myself a cup of the foul brown liquid, the only hope I had of meeting my daily caffeine intake requirements.

It wasn’t until I was put on breakfast duty that I discovered the true cause of this horrific situation. Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in the kitchen. I walked in the door to find the coffee pots from the previous day being emptied into a large saucepan and heated over a flame. 10621789_10152375030342875_2117375117_nCoffee which had been left sitting out overnight. Coffee which may have been literally weeks old, reheated and left to sit again and again. Occasionally they would add more water and “coffee” powder to this ungodly brew to give an illusion of freshness. I could barely choke back the vomit.

I staggered out of the room in a daze, my head was spinning. In shock I passed through the dining area, fellow students asked me if I was ok, but their voices were but distant echoes.

I sat alone for what must have been hours, contemplating what events in my life had led me to this point. And then I got up, walked to the serving table, and poured myself another cup 😉

Note from the thesingleside:

Michael is an excellent writer and his tastes involve more  than his experiences of bad coffee =) To read a wider range of his musings, check out:

We are family: Thesingleside road trips it

There are road trips and then there are ROAD TRIPS.  This was the second. Three stops. Three families that really are family to me. With some surprises thrown in. Read on and enjoy the photos and videos!  (I have an announcement via video towards the last third  portion of this post!!!)

Stop # 1:

South Carolina with good friends Linda and David and their 3 children who I claim as my nieces and nephew.



Coffeeshopping it with Linda and her gorgeous 2 year old.


Keeping it chill with Aunt Lizzy’s shades

This was a fun few days with Linda. Her husband and son went on an overnight camping trip so it was just the girls for part of the time. Coffee. Heart time. And a full day of Duck Dynasty season 3. Getting in touch with our inner redneck and laughing our heads off in the process.

Last morning there, Aunt Lizzy watches the three kiddos (baby asleep and not photographed) so Mom and Dad can have a date.


Don’t worry. It’s dry erase marker. My genius plan to occupy her while I blow-dried my hair.


Are you guys preparing for the end of the world?


Helpful (and adorable) little guy showing off that he just emptied the trash. Also, his idea to model with a toothbrush.


In less than the minute it took to snap big brother’s photo, she decided to style her hair with a handful of my gel.


Not super excited about getting her hair washed, but I tried to make it into a beauty salon.


Beautiful mama (Linda) with me (her heart friend) after her morning date with hubby.

Linda is one of those friends that always speak truth. I’m thankful to have her voice speaking into my life. We laugh, we connect, and we challenge each other on deep levels. She is one of God’s most beautiful gifts. A sister.


In Greenville, SC: (road trip diversion)

Last night I spent at the Dayton’s house, I drove over to Greenville, SC for a few hours.  Connection time with some amazing people who live community with intentionality. (Check out After a wonderful barbecue, we played whiffle ball the way I like it- no pressure or competition. Though my teammate,Daniel, kept score and was quite competitive (causing great laughter on both sides).


Jesse points the way.


Helping the little people.


Main pitcher,Matt, for opposing team


My team

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These people are so intentional about speaking life, that Jesse had us take turns encouraging our whiffle ball opponents. Quite humorous.

Tom and Jesse get hip-moving lessons from Karina. A fun time for all. (Of course I had to join in!)

Stop #2:

North Carolina with the Barton family (Gerry, Cathie and their 3 kids). I met this lovely family in 2008 in New Zealand where we did a three month Father Heart school. They truly are family to me.


Lovely walk with Cathie.


One of my photographers 


I’d say he surpasses my tech skills.


Even a foot massage? I am deeply loved.


Duck attempts to steal my coffee. When I get around these kids, there’s no end to the creative flow.


Bartons, Taylors (who also attended same NZ school) and Brown join up for dinner and family time.



While at stop #2, I made my big announcement to the Bartons and Taylors over a delicious meal.


Brother bonding. Gerry and JT.

It’s always a family reunion when we get together. So much laughter, love, and a deep sense of home and belonging. I love these guys.

Stop #3:

Taylor home. We laughed, ate, and Dawn and I spent an afternoon walking down Main Street. Ofcourse, coffee and heart sharing were in order.


Girl time would be incomplete with dropping by a coffee shop.


Dawn spotted this on Jongo Java’s wall of local artists. It is now in my care.


Coffee at Dawn and JT’s is not your ordinary experience. JT was a barista. And he still has standards.


I drink coffee for your protection!


At the library to find the movie “Hitch”. While trying to get the perfect selfie, a man walked by and said “you are beautiful”. The only downside is he was over 70. Girl, we HOT!

This was quite the road trip. I laughed hard. Played hard. Was reminded that family is one of Father’s most precious gifts. His family is big and extends to the four corners of the world. Hope you’ve enjoyed a sample from one of those corners.