On the road again..!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
A Simple Math Problem
How do you divide 6 chapattis into equal parts to provide equal portions and a simple lunch for four foresters? The math is simple enough but the problem, at the time, was bizarre and immediate.
Peace Corps Volunteers Jerry Jensen, John Harper, and Footloose Forester were conducting forest inventory in the high mountains of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Provinces when lunchtime arrived. Our base camp tent was miles down the trail behind us, as we knew it would be. It was a typical day and we had packed typical lunches for the trail: two chapattis each, spread with homemade peanut butter; and a bottle of boiled water from that morning’s campfire. The simple meal was adequate to tide us over until evening. Our Pakistani guide, however, had neither food nor water. He did not even have shoes to cushion his feet from the sharp stones in the trail. We looked at each other and with few words but without hesitation Jerry Jensen, John Harper, and Footloose Forester each tore one chapatti in half and offered it to the guide. All four of us shared a meal consisting of plain water and 1½ chapattis each.
The place, the day of the week; and even the month of the year are forgotten now. But the simple math problem was not:
(3 Peace Corps Volunteer Foresters) X (2 Chapattis each)
(Team of 4 Foresters)
3 X 2/4 = 6/4 = 1½ chapattis each
It was a proud moment and the Footloose Forester will always remember that his fellow Peace Corps Volunteers Jerry Jensen and John Harper always lived the ideals that are part and parcel of what the Peace Corps is all about.
About the author
Upon re-reading this short story, it suggests that the position of the fonts is not stable. Sometimes the simple math problem with a divisor and a subtrahend making up part of the message is intelligible; but other times it is not. When fonts and tabs get out of whack, it devalues the clarity of the message.