Tramping Alex Knob With One Quiet American
'I am Ken from Colorado."
the small man in his seventies
stood suddenly next to me
admiring the Franz Jozef glacier
pure and white
glistening in the late morning sun.
'I am Beata from Australia."
I replied: " I have seen a glacier before,
the Athabasca glacier,
the biggest in the world,
in the North America."
"I bet it was not pure white
like this New Zealand beauty."
Ken looked at me sadly.
"No, it was grey and looked like
a huge dying prehistoric animal,
people waved at me from tourist buses
taking a ride on its back that was breaking apart."
Ken nodded sadly and continued to walk.
"While Kiwis call hiking tramping?"
He asked when I followed him to the top.
"While Americans call esky a cooler?"
I jokingly replied: "We all have our own ways
to label what is important to us I guess."
Ken stopped and smiled: "So true, Kiwis like to hike
and Americans like to drink their beer cold."
It took us another two hours to reach the Alex Knob.
We took a picture together and then he took two apples
from his bag pack handing me one:
"I have got lost once in wilderness back home
no one could find me and I had nothing with me
poor fool I was, I was saved by a Mexicano
his English was so poor but he's had two apples
and he shared one with me."
"My father was lost in Germany in 68 after he ran away from my country fearing for his life as communists wanted him dead." I said to Ken biting into the apple.
"Did someone offer him an apple too?" Ken asked.
"Yes," I nodded enthusiastically,
"A quiet American, he offered him a job
in Brazil, where my father has worked
for next ten years before moving to Australia."
Ken smiled broadly: "I am happy people
still remember good Americans."
"You remind me of him, the quiet American,
My father has had a photo of him in his purse.
An old and black and white image.
He said he was the first one believed in him,
the first one acknowledging refugees as human beings."
I explained to Ken and he looked away.
"I am here because of my brother,
he is in real estate business,
he is looking for a land for sale
here in New Zealand."
Ken coughed uncomfortably.
I looked him in the eyes and nodded:
"Many rich Americans are buying mansions
in the middle of the mountains,
I guess in the case
'America will not be great again.'"
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Ken handed me a leaflet. They built one of these apocalyptic bunker communities deep in our desert.
'Your brother's business yes?"
People feel insecure and scared
and my brother, a good businessman
he makes money out of it.
He says it is the same like any insurance policy,
people may not need the bunkers
and the ex military cars to get out of disaster zones,
but if the disaster struck they are prepared.
I said I am happy I am old and it is not my world
anymore where I need this type of insurance."
"Have you been in Christchurch? They have two earthquakes recently that destroyed three quarters of the city, people didn't hide in bunkers but rebuilt it toget
Ken shook his head sadly: "This is what I said to my brother, we will all end up living like rats hidden underground scared to get out and fearing everyone
Suddenly the top of the hill we have been sitting on
munching on apples got covered in a big cloud.
I shivered in a sudden cold and Ken stood up.
It was time to descend the hill, the views got obscured,
nothing to see and nothing to be shared any more.
"I always wanted to visit American to search for that quiet American,
you know, the one who helped my father."
I said finally, following Ken down.
He turned to me with his serious gentle eyes and said to me:
"Maybe you wait a bit, the quiet Americans of your Dad's era
moved out and the people who are in power now
are anything but your quiet Americans.
But you never know, I love my America and I believe they will come back.
I believe so otherwise how could I still be living there now?"