Water

What are the symptoms of Zika? Is it like the common cold? Because I have a cold. And I am currently in mosquito territory.

Readers, please relax. I got sick before I left Buenos Aires, where there are no mosquitos.

It was good timing for a trip into warmer surroundings. The Misiones province extends like an arm northeast out of Argentina, sandwiched between Brazil and Paraguay. It’s roughly 18 hours by bus to Puerto Iguazu, a city nestled into the corner of the intersection between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The rivers Paraná and Iguazu mark the dividing lines between the nations.

That’s a nice geography lesson, but does not explain why I came here. The pleasant weather has been a welcome addition to my travels–85 and sunny every day–but is only a bonus.

If you’ve been here before, you know what’s coming next. If not, brace yourself. The Río Iguazu, flowing from Brazil, passes over a plateau along the Brazilian-Argentine border. That plateau ends abruptly in a drop of 270 feet. And all that water has but one place to go…

BEHOLD THE MIGHTY AND POWERFUL IGUAZU FALLS! TREMBLE ALL YE WHO GAZE UPON IT!

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Wait, that’s not it…

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There is a saying that it is best to be “like water.” Peaceful, calm. A disturbance to the surface of the water ripples outward, but has no lasting effect–water quickly returns to its serene state. Iguazu Falls is evidence that water also contains awesome and violent power.

From the moment I stepped off the train from the visitors’ center to Estación Cataratas (Waterfall Station), I could hear a roar. It started as a low rumbling; as I followed the trail toward the river, it got louder. The spray from the centerpiece of the falls, Garganta del Diablo–The Devil’s Throat–first looks like smoke rising over the forest.

It was a beautiful day. The sun cast rainbows all over the falls. I tried to take pictures of as many as I could. Each new rainbow seemed more colorful and vivid than the last.

It’s impossible to capture all of the falls in a photo from the ground without resorting to panoramic view–and, even then, there are some smaller falls that might be missed.

All of this takes place in a jungle setting filled with birds, insects, monkeys, anteaters, and allegedly jaguars, though fortunately (sadly?) I did not see any of the latter. All the animals seem domesticated. The monkeys and anteaters shared the trails. The birds were bold enough to hop onto tables a few feet from families enjoying lunch. Even the butterflies seemed unperturbed by the presence of these much larger things, often landing on an arm or a leg.

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Here’s the funny thing: I can’t make the obvious comparison, because I haven’t been to Niagara. Although now I have the desire to do so.

A person is weak. Compared to nature, I am small and insignificant. But, collectively, people can be strong. Our strength lies in our ability to work together as a society and harness these powers.

Water is implacable. It will not be denied on its journey. Put an obstacle in its path, and water will go over it, or around it. Build a dam, and water will store its energy, a trait that we have put to good use in building hydroelectric powerplants.

I think this is is what it means to be like water. Calm, yet unyielding. Adaptable, yet resolute. Capable of quiet reflection and, when called upon, an extreme display of power. Bringing life everywhere you go.

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