Bob in Cambodia
My favorite magazine in the world is Esquire magazine, primarily for the interviews that they publish. When I learned that Bob Harris was publishing a book on his experiences in micro-finance called “The International Bank of Bob,”
I saw my chance. The challenges to getting a coherent interview to take place were many. 1: As much of a fan as I was of the “Esquire” style interviews, I am just that, a fan and not a journalist. 2: Trying to download his book to my IPAD in the middle of the Andes was more difficult than I could have imagined (i.e. his book was released March 5th
but as of the 8th
of March iTunes was still offering me a pre-order). 3: Bob was in the middle of his book promotions so trying to steal some time away from him could be difficult. Thankfully, and eventually, we were able to overcome them all.
Once Bob agreed to the interview I had to come up with some questions. Preferably some new and interesting ones as I am sure that he must be answering the same questions over and over. Below are the results.
Your last writing assignment was to review luxury resorts for a travel magazine. Could you describe what motivated you jump from that to delving into the world of micro-finance?
“The luxury thing is fun to do once, to be honest, no question. But after a while, it gets boring to just wobble aimlessly through these giant marble palaces, trying to find new synonyms for “fancy.” Most of these places are kinda disconnected from the rest of the world. String them together for months on end, and you find yourself looking forward to the chaos of the airport, just so you have authentic human contact. And then in Dubai, I found myself staying in billion-dollar hotels being constructed by immigrant laborers from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Africa — guys making maybe six or seven bucks a day, people who would never even see the inside of places that I was getting paid to sleep in without lifting a finger. We all spend our lives coping with disparities of wealth, but this felt positively psychotic. I grew up working-class in Ohio, and my dad was a warehouse worker for General Motors who busted his butt all day to put food on the table. There was no way my heart couldn’t start shifting very hard toward the workers. So I’d been given all this money just to live a life of luxury, and it just felt like I needed to do something with it.”