This weekend a printing press in Texas is warming up its rotors and ink jets just for me. For me, that is, and the 90 million people of Ethiopia for whom I wrote the book it’s about to print. Are you cringing right now? Did I really just say I wrote a book for 90 million people? You’re right, I should have said 90 million plus.
Five years ago a taxi driver in Addis Ababa told me that
the book I was about to write chronicling climbing in Ethiopia would save Ethiopia. I’d just explained to him what rock climbing was the minute before. Nevertheless he was convinced and I nodded and smiled as if I were as well.
When that taxi driver told me my book would save Ethiopia I took his statement at face value: write book = save Ethiopia. Who knows what he really meant. I’ve never seen him since and don’t know his name. What I do know is that Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Toward Possibility in the Horn of Africa came out a year later and I spent that year and the two years following learning that I was indeed trying to save Ethiopia. But not just Ethiopia — Ethiopia, myself, the United States, and the world.
When you were a kid did you want
to change the world? Do you still today? You don’t have to tell anyone your answer. Just think it. Don’t worry if you don’t know how, when, why, and definitely don’t worry about if it is possible. Just answer.
Three weeks from today my second book will be released. Coffee Story: Ethiopia is the first book to chronicle the culture of coffee in coffee’s country of origin. I wrote it for the 90 million (plus) people in Ethiopia, and I also wrote it for the rest of the world, for me, and for that taxi driver. He was right. A book on climbing can save a country. Any book can. Any thing can. We just have to be willing to let it, and even more willing to say it’s what we want. It starts now. And mind you, I’m talking about a much grittier conversation that is not just talking about how to tend to one of the poorest countries in the world. I’m talking about how that very country — through our celebrating it, understanding it, being challenged by it — can tend to the rest of us. Stay tuned. That printing press has a damn big job this week. I have an even bigger job to come.