There is much to see in this simple picture. I like “reading” this kind of quiet photograph. If I were to title this simple scene I would consider Going to School or Paradise Found. But there is no running water or electricity here. No wooden floor covered with a Moroccan throw rug. The boy is not even wearing shoes. So what are we looking at?
In the foreground on the right lies what looks like a pile of dirt or garbage swept into a pile, however, it is a pile of dung collected for fuel to cook over. Behind it lies a stack of wood, not your basic split cord wood European style, cut into 18 inch lengths, but smaller branches, indicating there is not much wood around any more and that the people of this region are living with real scarcity.
There is, behind the palm frond roof of the traditional home, two native trees of significant size, remnants of what was once a magnificent forest. Their size shows what the land could support. That these two trees still remain, speaks to the nature of the people who live inside the house. I would bet they cherish, care for and respect that ancient tree.
Behind the boy are some pretty large coffee trees with a wooden platform structure that is probably used to pick the upper branches. Or it could be some sort of a well structure. What ever it is, it is something thought out and man made and an asset of some sort. And behind and in between the trees are the large broad shade trees of the banana plant that protect the delicate leaves of the coffee trees beneath and provide the fresh fruit for the family.
You can see the rolling hills in the background and by the way the landscape disappears downward behind the house, we can feel that this family chose to live at the top of their land, the spot with the view, a decision made very much like any family anywhere in the world would make when selecting a homesite.
However, with the land destabilized by the removal of the trees, this family might have opted for the ridge to be safe from mudslides during the rainy season.
There is more to this picture but to unlock more, a better-trained eye then mine is required. It is five years since I stood at this spot. I wonder if that young boy is still in school and what life holds in store for him.