Thursday, January 30, 2014

If A Tree Falls........

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Wikipedia calls this a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality.

At the first of the year for several months, there is a group of Gringos who go out to a rural elementary school to help the children learn a bit of English after their regular school day. The gringos have also opened a library with the help of a lot of donated books and assistance from a Rotary Club. A computer lab has been set up for the older children. It is a school where Feed the Hungry has a kitchen that prepares comida for the children every day.

The classes started about 9 or 10 years ago. It has turned into a major logistical operation with a lot of gringos participating. Sam is in charge of the logistics of getting everyone, about 35 or 40 people out to the school and back and she has to keep track of which volunteers are in town and who isn't. Not only does she have to find cars and drivers but some days not all the cars can cross the river because it is too high to drive through. When that happens the cars that can make it shuttle back and forth or we walk across a suspension foot bridge, through a field and up the hill.

Last week we had a new obstacle. After a couple of the cars had crossed the river and made it to the school, this big tree fell across the road. There was enough distance between our car convoy that no one saw the tree fall but there it was.

The Gringos are a determined lot and we knew the children would be waiting for us, so the men stripped some branches from the tree and we climbed over one trunk and under another as others held back thorny branches that were still attached to the tree. We walked up the hill and through the village to the school all the while wondering how we were going to get the cars that had already made it up to the school back out.

We shouldn't have worried. The Village sprang into action. They called Ecologia in San Miguel to come clear the road and in the meantime the men from the village and some of the women too, started stripping branches and cutting up the tree. A couple of hours later when we came back down the hill, we only had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes for them to finish clearing the road and rake it clean. Amazing! They did use a power saw but it was brute strength that lifted the pieces of the trunk and put them in pickup trucks.

I think that all of us have wondered what would have happened if the tree had fallen on one of the SUV's carrying five to seven people and we have all been very grateful that it didn't happen like that. I've said a few prayers of thanks.

But there is one more thing to think about. Did the tree make a sound when it fell? If we only knew then we could answer the age old question, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


  1. Around here, landslides are our greatest travel obstacle. But I have witnessed the same thing. No one waits for the government to fix the problem. Individuals pitch right in and get the job done.