Rodrigo and I ran some errands this afternoon, and our way home took us through an affluent suburb of Santiago. The houses were nice, but reminded me of most modern neighborhoods in the United States—too many houses too close together with too little yard space.
Many years ago my neighbor’s garage started on fire. They were planning on grilling inside the garage and the gas they used to start the fire combusted a bit more erratically than they had expected. Within minutes the whole garage was engulfed in flames. As I watched the twenty-foot tall flames lick the roof and nearby trees, the neighbors adjacent to the conflagrant garage sprayed the side of their house down with water to prevent the fire from spreading to their intact garage. Thankfully, the fire never made the leap.
Where was I going with that? Well, if Jose Smith, resident of aforementioned neighborhood, were to blow up his garage in a grilling accident like my innocent neighbors did that fateful afternoon, I doubt Señor Smith’s neighbors would be lucky enough to escape with an intact garage. Hence, give your kids some space to play, and God shall reward you with a garage free of charcoal (except charcoal that you may have purchased for a barbecue that is to take place outside of the garage).
But, the suffocated houses were only an afterthought. What I was really fixated on were the trees. Oh, the quantity and quality was breath…giving. And since we’re in spring, the trees are in full bloom. Spectacular. But why was I so surprised and excited to see trees of all things?
Well, up until today I hadn’t realized the sparseness of foliage around San Lorenzo. There are trees, but very few; and the ones there are haven’t started to bloom yet—most likely because they aren’t watered often enough. So when I feasted my eyes upon the cornucopia of greenery along the boulevard, I was reintroduced to what I had been so accustomed to all my life.
I won’t say I ever took for granted the arboretum at Saint John’s University, and I know I was always aware of Stillwater’s proximity to wide open countryside, but spending twelve hours a day in a cement complex with no prominent display of greenery weighs on the psyche and makes one nostalgic for some shrubbery. Who knows, at the end of my time in San Lorenzo I might just ask for some herring and start yelling “Ni!”
Joking aside, yesterday I witnessed the manifest antithesis of blooming tree land. I didn’t notice it at the time, but it all became clear driving through the neighborhood today.
I was playing tennis with a student named Francisco after school yesterday and he hit the ball up on one of the roofs and it fell into the gutter. We found a janitor and got him to lend us a ladder to recover the ball. Francisco was eager to use the ladder that is normally prohibited to the kids, so I let him climb up. He reached the top and alerted me that the ball was a few feet out of his reach, but suggested that I grab a stick for him to use. I searched the ground and the surrounding area, but I couldn’t find any loose sticks.
“Andrew, just take one off that tree. Look, there’s a long one right up there.”
“No Francisco, I don’t want to break a branch off the tree.”
“Well, you could just take one from that bush–there are plenty of long ones.”
Once again, I didn’t want to take a living branch from the bush.
So I told him to come down and I would see if I could reach it with my longer arms. We moved the ladder over a bit and I climbed up. It was literally right under my nose. All we had to do was move the ladder over a bit and even Francisco could have reached it.
Combining my two recent encounters with trees in two very distinct settings, I realized how different my attitude toward nature is compared to Francisco. Whereas I was once teased for my alleged love affair with plants, Francisco didn’t even think twice about tearing a living branch from a tree—he would more readily chop off its limb than descend the ladder to move it over a couple feet. As crazy as I hope that sounds, that is his reality. And I’m now eager to change it.
It’s strange to think that this realization was borne out of a car ride through a rich suburb of Santiago, but in the end it was quite beneficial. Not only did it refresh my senses, but it also prompted me to think about some projects I could start in San Lorenzo related to tree planting and environmental awareness. You know what they say about keeping plants around the house for happiness and sanity!
¡Que estéis bien!
P.S. I suppose you’re all wondering what I’m actually doing at San Lorenzo… I should have that up and ready to read in the near future—probably on Monday or at the latest Tuesday. Take care!