He looks 60 or 70. He might be 40 or 50. Kaiser would report that his body fat content is 0%. He has no stainless steel water bottle, although there is an almost empty recycled plastic bottle ten yards away. His dark skin is leathery. His muscles tense every time he throws his tef laden pitchfork heavenward into the baking sun. No lunch bag is visible.
Our Habitat for Humanity crew finished our 2011 latrine building project in the slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a few days earlier.
Now we are touring some of the country side. We've just had a wonderful lunch and stopped the van to talk to this farmer, who speaks next to no English. Our driver translates, but the farmer's quiet, humble demeanor says enough.
As we leave, a couple of the girls leave their water bottles and some lunch left overs including injera (Ethiopian flat bread made from tef flour). The grateful farmer bows several times.
We drive away, moving closer to the day we return to western life, as the farmer returns to his sinew-driven routine of threshing tef on his little field in a big valley surrounded by boulder strewn mountains likely loaded with minerals...
It's now July 2012 and that Habitat group and I are well ensconced back into western life. With many others I now thresh, or thrash, at my laptop's keyboard at a coffee shop surrounded by Golden Gate National Park Mountains. A neighboring thrasher asks, "How you doing?"
My often repeated reply comes out, "Can"t complain. Compared to rest of the world, I'm fine. And you?"
"Working three different jobs. Gets a bit confusing. But, as I told Jana little while ago, it's just a first world problem."
Yeah, it's a first world problem that my, his, and Jana's fertilized egg was lucky enough to be born into.
Episode 1 of HBO's Newsroom opens with Jeff Daniel's sizzling and blistering analysis of what's wrong with today's media and the country that once had plenty of reasons, but today has far fewer, to call and carry itself as special. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpn0vh2Rj0Y
Nonetheless, news anchor Daniel's fact laded response to "Why is America the greatest?" still causes some to react with, "Well, if you don't think America is the greatest, move!"
Maybe the better retort is that more Americans who unswervingly and uncritically believe we Americans are always smartest, hardest working, most generous, always right, the best, etc. ought to just "move around" more at home and in the world.
When one travels the world, does one become less critical of Daniels rightfully and critically pointing out that we are #1 on war spending? Had more super-duper, chest pounding Americans travelled the world more, would America have been more worldly aware and therefore less likely to have been duped into a trumped up $5+ trillion Iraq war?
Had the Peace Corps grown to the size Kennedy wanted it to be, would America haters have sprouted up in Muslim and Arab nations, leading to today's hatred filled post 911 problems?