San Antonio De Los Cobres
When we last left off, our hero (…aka Derek) sat at some random corner in Salta, Argentina. He sat at the corner he was supposed to sit, at the time he was supposed to be there, waiting for the cab that was supposed to pick him up. Unfortunately, the cab never showed up, and after an hour and a half, he realized it wasn’t going to. We’ll pick up at that very moment…
Everything had turned around nicely, what with my new friends and personal translators, new information (and inspiration) about the school and community of San Antonio De Los Cobres, and now a fully accommodated ride to the school and a place to stay. I was finally going to meet the kids I had trekked across Argentina to help… Except I was missing one very important piece, my ride!
In time, I saw someone I recognized who worked for Mr. Guzman. Of course he, too, didn’t speak English but he was all I had, so I chased him down and figured I’d try another round of cross-culture charades. I’m not sure if it was my pantomiming or the fact that I kept repeating the name of “Viveros Guzman”, but eventually the man called Mr. Guzman. Two minutes on the phone, he hangs up and nods for me to get in his truck. I do.
He drives across town and parks at a gas station, motions for me to stay, then runs off. Right about the time I start wondering just who my new friend had called and what was actually discussed another car pulls up. Then the man returns. He grabs my bag and carries it to the new car…who I am optimistically assuming is my “cab”. I get in, ask (in Spanish) if he speaks English-he smiles, nods and drives off. 15 minutes across town we stop again in an alley, again my driver gets out and runs off. He returns moments later with a mother, three children and bags. We load up and start to drive again.
I’m assuming my driver did not actually speak English based on the number of questions he answered only with that familiar smile and nod. “Como te almo?”, I ask his name. “Sergio…” he smiles back. Then he reaches between the two seats and pulls out a cd labeled “Folclore”. He puts slides it in.
For the next several hours a Spanish man and his guitar serenaded our drive across the desert mountains. The scenery was rugged. Jagged and naked, save the saguaro cacti that rose as fuzzy toothpicks against the barren land. Driven by his music, Sergio drove casually. His hand reached into a candy bag filled with leaves and stuffed his cheek until something like a golf ball bulged out. Explaining to me in Spanish, he says a word that sounds like “Cocoa” and pats his stomach to communicate this mysterious leaf was either medicinal or tasty. He offers. I take a few leaves, nestling them inside my lower lip.
On occasion Sergio points and explains something. I in turn look, nod, and on occasion repeat a key sound in Spanish as though I understand. I don’t, but Sergio is pleased.
4-5 hours later our car drives reaches small, desolate town: San Antonio De Los Cobres. The temperature has dropped considerably and the sun is on its way down. Sergio drops off the women and children, then drives through the dusty bleak streets until he reaches a weathered building. Another man comes out and shakes my hand. He seems to know who I am, and understands enough English for me to communicate I’ll need to return to Salta tomorrow, leaving me only that evening to visit the school. He tells Sergio one last thing, and shakes my hand again.
Sergio takes me to a small house, where a pleasant woman comes out to greet me. Sergio motions for me to wait, and drives off for the final time. I am escorted me through the house, over toys scattered across the small living room, to a separate room in the back where a bed is made with a towel and even soap laid out. The sun dropping lower, I walked back to the front of the house, where I watched my breath against the chilled air and waited for my final ride.