Being the Banana Man

Uganda is a very tropical country that has rich soil and plenty of rain so agricultural activity really thrives there. Throughout the country, particularly in the more rural areas, you’ll see banana and plantain farms everywhere. When I was in Uganda last August, I commonly saw men pushing bushels of bananas/plantains stacked up on their bicycles along the side of the roads. Every day, these men would get the bushels from the farms and push them several miles into the local markets. It wasn’t uncommon to see these men pushing between 70 and 100 pounds worth of bananas strapped to their bicycles. Usually the roads weren’t great, there were plenty of hills, and the bicycles themselves sometimes lacked critical parts like tires or the right sized wheels. Each day the men would load up, walk in, unload, head back, and repeat the process.

banana man uganda
A frequent sight in Uganda; men pushing bicycles full of bananas and plantains along the side of the road. From: Flickr

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about these banana men. They do the same exact job, over and over, every single day of their lives. Sure they see different things being out and about each day, but there’s little variety in what they do. Obviously in Uganda, there are few choices most people have in terms of what they do to generate an income and survive. There’s no long term outlook. Everything is simply done in the context of the present. That’s not the case in America. We have choice, we have a long term outlook, and we have a desire for variety in what we do. It’s not good or bad, it just is how life works. The interesting thing to me is that even with all of that choice and variety, we usually can’t be satisfied. Discontent and frustration are commonplace.

I wonder what it would be like to do the same thing every day and have no idea about things like opportunity, choice, and the future. Would I be happier? Would there be more uncertainty? Would I have stress? You get the idea. In some ways, I’m jealous of the simple life of the banana man. I’d imagine that for many of them, they’ve found a sense of contentment and satisfaction in what they do for a living. Far too, often I can’t say the same for myself. I long to believe in my heart that if I just continue to do X, I’ll make it, I’ll be satisfied, I’ll be happy. Perhaps, you are the same way.

We’re constantly slammed with messages, ideas, and concepts from every imaginable source. So many people have their ideas on what we should be doing, thinking about, worrying about, and knowing about. We get it from the media, our friends, our family members, our leaders, our bosses, our coworkers, the Internet, books, magazines, (this blog post!). It’s exhausting. You know it, I know it. Does the banana man have to deal with anything like that? I doubt it. So for those of us who are tired and weary, we have to each ask ourselves, how can I be more like the banana man? How can I be happier, more content, and less burdened by the ideas of this world? Quite frankly, I don’t really know what that looks like yet, but it’s something to consider.

Leave a Reply