I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Ethiopian Coffee?

I’m in Ethiopia, filming an upcoming special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’ve been learning a lot about smart development. Coffee is the biggest export here, but it only generates $700 million a year — not much for a teeming country of 100 million people. Ethiopians would like to add a little value to their coffee by exporting it roasted, but the developed world makes it tough for the developing world to add value. We like our imported materials raw — so we can make the big bucks.

The industrialized world’s aggressive trade policies are part of the structural poverty that keeps what some call the “Two-Thirds World” underdeveloped. It’s thought-provoking — and a good example of travel as a political act.

Mountains of Sugar

We’re halfway through our shoot for an upcoming new special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’ve been thinking about something that people in the developing world have told me: “Globalism is a big train. Get on it or get run over.”

With uniform quality, smart branding, and lots of infrastructure, countries like Guatemala are competing in the global market. And with that, comes development. Join me in this clip as I explore a giant sugar plant, filled with mountains of sugar.

Think About This the Next Time You Put Sugar in Your Cereal

I’m in Guatemala with my crew, filming an upcoming special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope” — and I’m learning a lot.

Sugar is big here. And it takes infrastructure, like this giant sugarcane mill, to mulch a 24/7 parade of truckloads of sugarcane and process it all into sugar. This is what progress and smart development look like.

Education — Guatemala Style

I have a lot of love and respect for teachers.

Here in Guatemala, we’re learning how critical an educated workforce is to development. Today, we dropped in on a delightful village school, where Diego was inspiring his students — the future of Guatemala.

I’m here with my crew, filming an upcoming special called “Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hunger, and Hope.” It will air this November on public television across the US.

Drone Photography at the Goat Love Shack

We’re in Guatemala, filming an upcoming special about how modern development aid is helping 700 million people work their way out of extreme poverty — and we’re showing how non-governmental organizations and supportive governments are helping small farmers get into the production chain and join the global economy. Why just grow corn when you can take advantage of a goat reproduction center and get a little goat-dairy income, too?

In this clip, you can see the fine art of coaching people who’ve never been in front of a camera before. (“Ignore the camera and act naturally.”) But our friends did just great. (BTW, this is our first shoot with a drone. We’ve long joked about “calling in the Back Door chopper.” Now we’re getting those aerials. How did we ever manage without our drone?)