With an unexpected opportunity to blog off the clock while staying at a friend's house in Rijeka, Croatia, I've suddenly realized that the two main sources of inspiration for most of my posts here at Left-Over – a frequent rekindling of anger over the course that George Bush and his cronies have taken my country, and the consistently hilarious stupidity of the many lies offered by his defenders – just don't exist for me here!
I'm sure I could muster more anger and/or derisive laughter about the state of affairs in Croatian politics if I understőod them better, and I don't want to be overly idealistic, but what I see here – at least in the small town life of the residents of Losinj – is a simple appreciation for hard work, and for the sometimes hidden, long-term benefits that go completely unvalued in American life.
For lack of time, and the building aggravation of using a keyboard that has letters scrambled like a game of musical keys, I will limit this post to a description of one example.
Every day of the last week, I have walked along a cobblestone path that leads to the house where I am staying at least three or four times. For the first few days, I kept noticing a man who was engaged in the task of building a stone wall. Working alone, he would mix a small batch of morter, and carefully select each stone, probably weighing about 75-125 lbs each, to fit in the wall like a puzzle. Each time I passed, the span of wall about 20 feet long looked nearly identical to the last time, but after a couple of days it seemed about a foot higher.
After watching him for about 5 days, I finally asked the man how long he had been working on the wall. In broken English (fortunately, I've found that nearly everyone speaks at least ˝a leetle,˝ which soundly beats my Croatian), he explained that he had been working on the wall for three weeks, ˝but only for about 4 hours per day˝. In 95 degree heat and no shade, I initially thought this to be a foolish endeavor, particularly since the island is loaded with trees and one could build a wooden fence of similar length in about a half a day.
But then, I tried to consider the long-term benefits of the rock wall. First of all, the island is also full of rocks, and they essentially free – with a minimal need for processing. Further, moving the rocks into a wall frees up valuable soil for growing food. Wood, on the other hand, would have to be shipped to the island by boat or milled from the existing trees on the island, robbing it of its natural beauty. And the rock wall will be there for hundreds of years with little, if any, need to maintain it.
The rock wall just means that this guy has to invest a month in the hot sun stacking rocks – for benefits that will not be immediate, and are intended to be shared by future generations. But the rock wall will preserve, and even improve, the natural environment in which it is built.
Think about that for a minute: Investing for future generations in a way that preserves and improves the natural environment!
And the funny thing is, from what I've also seen while I've been here, this guy building the rock wall probably still had a state-of-the-art cell phone, a satellite dish on his house, and a new car with five or six cup holders!