I was walking down the road among groups of happy schoolchildren when a lone little boy sporting his khaki-brown and white school uniform caught up to me and started to talk. He was four years old and maybe three feet tall, but full of pep and certainly not shy. His name was Jose Miguel he’d said proudly and he was going home for lunch. He almost seemed to jump a little as he walked beside me talking enthusiastically about how much he liked his school and learning new things. He wondered where I was from and took a moment to take in the fact that I had originally come from Canada in a great big airplane. And then he was gone, turning off the road on a dirt path in the grass leading to his humble home.
I continued along following directions that originally seemed simple enough, but a left turn led me to a secluded one-room school in the middle of an open grassy valley. A welcoming schoolteacher and her students had seen me approaching and came out; surrounding me to find out what I was doing. They were surprised by what I was asking- directions to the waterfall. Then the schoolteacher asked me if I was affiliated with the military. My mind drifting back to a memory in which I’d asked my Mother how she thought I’d fair in the military. She’d responded: “You wouldn’t last a week!!” I’d always found that funny, but of course, I was just trying to find a waterfall.
She told me the waterfalls would take me a very long time to get to and that it would be very dangerous. I asked her why, to which she responded that “mal gente” could harm me. With that she selected one solemn boy to guide me to where I could get the appropriate directions. He walked only looking ahead until I asked where we were going? We were going to his Father’s pulperia and when we approached a group of elders standing in front of it, he turned around and headed back. His task was complete.
The directions were re-confirmed; I had turned left too soon. Supposedly, I would be at the waterfall in “media hora.” All I had to do was follow the road. It was a dusty gravel road that led into the forest whose entrance was lined with fair-sized homes whose resident’s stares were neither friendly or unfriendly, as I passed by.
I would carry on through steep ups and downs and later slowly incline up and around a mountain, where I encountered three little girls who called down to me from a rocky precipice instructing me to take a picture of them. With my thirty-five-millimetre camera, I obliged, but also disappointed them since I didn’t have an image to show them immediately. I was obviously not the first foreign traveller to cross their path. As I walked away, the girls yelled basic English expressions down to me at increasing levels of shreakiness.