(While traveling from Burkina Faso to Ghana in search of the parents of Solo, the slave I met in Ivory Coast, I spent the night conversing with a group of teenage gold miners. I included the experience in an early draft of WHERE AM I EATING? but space was tight, and it just didn’t fit. It seemed more like a sidebar. So, following this morning’s post on when child labor is necessary, I’m sharing it here.)
The bus ride that took me from Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, ended at a flooded road and a trip in a tiny dugout canoe where the oarsman joked about crocodiles. From the canoe I got in a cab that didn’t have brakes. The driver stopped the car using the “Fred Flintstone” method…
Stephen Terrell is the author of Stars Fall, a lawyer, and one of the many writing friends I’ve made through the years at the Midwest Writers Workshop. He’s also a the host of JUST US at Indiana Talks.
I recently joined Stephen to talk about how my label chasing adventures began and my new book EATING.
Shortly after I landed in Valledupar, Colombia, I was abducted by the indigenous Arhuaco.
Over the previous few week I had been in contact with them and must’ve asked, “Do I need a translator? My Spanish stinks,” ten times. They never answered. They never told me if they were going to pick me up at the airport. They never told me that I was going to be whisked away into the mountains down treacherous roads to the heart of their spiritual world. They never told me that I was about to have an amazing experience witnessing the most preserved indigenous culture I had ever seen.
Of course, I did use Google Translate for all of my emails, so maybe they thought my Spanish was better than it actually is.
I had a blast talking about travel, food, and WHERE AM I EATING with Sean Keener of Bootsnall Travel yesterday.
Sean is a busy guy with three kids three and under. In fact, in the video he confessed that his kids and work keep him so busy that, “Sometimes I have to wait hours to take a dump!” I so appreciate him taking 55 minutes of prime pooping time to ask some great questions and getting pretty deep into EATING.
After I met Solo on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast, and learned a bit of his story, I asked if we could talk somewhere where we wouldn’t have an entire village listening to us. We sat in his bare room, and he shared part of his story. At times he was speechless. We were constantly interrupted by his master. This is what he said…
There are about 160,000 Solos (Forced Adult Laborers) in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry. The cocoa farmers themselves have trouble making a living, let alone paying workers, so they hire guys like Solo. One farmer told me that if he earned about one-half of one penny more per chocolate bar he would be able to provide his family…
I met a slave when I visited a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast researching WHERE AM I EATING.
His name is Solo.
Shortly after we first met, a villager began recording Solo teaching me how to harvest cocoa. (As a writer, it’s rare that I capture such poignant moments on video.) I began to ask Solo about his life, where he was from, what he gets paid, when certain disturbing facts came to light:
1) He called his boss “master”
2) He had worked 4 months and hadn’t been paid
3) He told me that the donkeys are treated better than he is because at least they get fed when they don’t work
John Sutter interviewed me about the Boy Scouts of America’s possible decision to allow gay scouts, but ban gay scout leaders in his well thought out essay on CNN. He quotes me:
The group’s attitudes on gay rights are “more out of style than the scout socks,” said Kelsey Timmerman, a former Eagle Scout who mailed his badge back to the organization because of its discriminatory policies.
“I never wore those damn socks,” he said, laughing.
If you want to know my thoughts on this whole issue, read John’s, that’s pretty much where I stand.
Earth Day 2013 marks the perfect day to start spreading the stories of the people I met on the global food adventure that became Where Am I Eating? These stories need told, and I’m honored to do it. I just hope I can do them justice.
Farmers let me into their lives to share their stories, and now it’s time to do that. I’ll be calling into radio programs all morning. Here’s my schedule.
Recently, I caught up with my 4-year-old daughter Harper to get her take on the book. In this interview we discuss My Little Ponies, the state of China, and she takes me on the biggest trip of all…a guilt trip.