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The Leaden-Eyed Worker

Traveling broadens the mind and the soul, I’ve heard, and it has certainly made me aware of the desperate lives many people around the world lead, barely earning their bread. Forget about roses. I make a note of horrible, awful, no good jobs held by people I meet on my travels. So this blog is a little off topic, but I've been thinking about it. It's about making money, and since we all know that the root of all evil is money, maybe not so far off.

First, Morocco. Our tour stopped at the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis. Of course, we headed for the bathrooms first, and they were fairly modern, western-style flush toilets. Only they didn’t flush, so a male attendant stood by to fill buckets with water and go into the bathrooms after us to pour water into the toilets to flush them.

On another day, we stopped at a Moroccan brick factory and watched a young man, probably in his twenties, bent over to lay clay out in slabs, cut brick shapes, and then move the unbaked bricks onto pallets. He did this all day long, every day.

Also in Morocco, we stopped by a school teaching young people the exciting and engrossing career of weaving carpets. They sat on the floor before a large loom, and, I suppose, spent their days working the loom. This “school”was attached to a carpet factory. We thought we might buy a small doormat-sized carpet as a souvenir. We offered $100. The salesman was shocked. “Oh no,” he said. “Two thousand dollars.”

In 2014, I spent two weeks in Ethiopia. One day my host drove me into the mountains near the capital, Addis Ababa. Coming down the mountain was an old woman, bent over double under a bundle of twigs bigger than she was. She was walking down this steep mountain road to sell the twigs in town. Then she faced the long walk back up the mountain. How many times did she do this?

In Ethiopia, everything seems to be made of sticks. Houses, seating, stadiums, etc. The country was deforested in the past, and now fast-growing eucalyptus trees are grown everywhere for many uses. We stayed in a mountain hut with a family that had planted thousands of eucalyptus trees. The head of the family looked to them as his “retirement income.”

I’ve mentioned this before, but staying with the mountain family was quite an experience. No facilities. No electricity. We had dinner in one round hut with cows, sheep, a mule, and chickens looking over our shoulders. We slept in another hut with a dirt floor that had been covered with eucalyptus leaves to make our “beds” more comfortable. I grabbed a sleeping bag and curled up inside it and tried to cope. Fortunately, I did have my charged-up Kindle with me.

Ethiopia has a high percentage of disabled people in its population. Speculation is that the cause comes from the method of giving birth and the use of traditional medicines.

These hard life stories are relatively benign examples of people trying to earn a living day by day the best way they can. I remember these people but I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

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