El Mundo Y Yo

Last weekend, River's preschool - El Mundo y Yo (The World and I) - celebrated its 9 year anniversary with a march. The following (amazing) progression occurred:

Joy, River, and I arrive on time. We are the first ones there. River proudly carries with her an "antorcha" which (appropriately) is a winged Barbie-ferry attached to a stick of bamboo.

The next family arrives, strolling up twenty minutes later. And now more families. And more antorchas. The more noteworthy adornments atop bamboo sticks include Spiderman, a pterydactyl (with moveable wings...very cool), a helicopter, a medieval castle, and (only) the head of a bunny rabbit. We are standing in Huaraz's Belen Plaza as the sun disappears behind the mountains. It is getting cold.

The preschool's co-owner drives up in his car. At some earlier time in the day, he has assembled a huge globe, 6 feet in diameter, with painted face, legs, and Mickey-Mouse-like gloves. Now the globe-face is attached to the luggage rack. He seems happy. Since our lead car has arrived, we are told to get ready to march. No, wait. The huge megaphone in between globe-face's legs is not working properly. The globe-mobile is not ready.

Joy snaps photos for the next thirty minutes, and River begins to recognize her classmates. "Hey, my whole school is here!" she declares. Suddenly, we hear children's music in Spanish. Painfully loud children's music. The megaphone is working. Time to march.

Some teachers begin to line students up in rows. Other teachers are unfolding a blue and gold banner at the front of the pack. The father of one the three-year olds raises his right hand and steps in front of traffic. The march is beginning. We hang a right onto the busiest street in Huaraz.

After twenty yards, I notice a teenager jump in front of our band of preschoolers. She is telling them to slow down. No, to stop. We have completely stopped after twenty seconds of marching. From the right, what looks like Barney's offspring - she has a dinosaur-like, yellow body and wears a red dress - hops to the front of our group. Teenager moves out of the way. We start walking again. Daughter of Barney is now leading the march.

After twenty yards, we slow. We are stopping again. From the left, Tyrone from the Backyardigans enters, adding himself to the front of the line. Now I realize that what I thought was Barney's offspring is actually Tasha, also from the Backyardigans. Awesome...a theme. We start walking again.

We pass another twenty yards and, not imagining for what we might pause again, I become hopeful that we have stopped for the last time. Wrong again. From behind, a Peruvian man walking on stilts and wearing silk pants, an orange and yellow wig, and a clown nose joins our group. He is blowing a whistle to the beat of the music coming from the globe-mobile. It's not even close to the same key, but for some reason it feels right. He is our leader. For the fourth time, we press on.

As we enter the Plaza de Armas, Huaraz's busiest intersections, I hear an inordinately loud explosion occur dangerously close to our heads. As it happens, one of the fathers of a two-year old has snuck to back of the line to ignite a Gandolf-like firecracker, using only his hands to launch the device. Of course, I think. Sure there are lots of kids and sure we're right in front of the police station, but low-flying pyrotechnics are the perfect way to celebrate this occasion. Why didn't I think of that? The father grins proudly as he lights a second.

For the next thirty minutes, more of the same transpires (except for the fireworks which were quelled quickly by the co-owner) as our little preschool group strides down main street Huaraz, waving to the crowds. Tourists are staring most remarkably. What is that little white girl doing in this parade?, I imagine them wondering. At this point, we have walked nearly one mile and River's feet are tired. Just as I put her on my shoulders, we hear more children's music.

From ahead, another preschool is approaching on the other side of the street. They seem like nice people, but they don't have stilts, a globe-mobile, pyrotechnics, or Backyardigans. Only a banner. And some music. I am suddenly proud of our entourage. Poor saps, I think. If only they were more organized.

Now we are turning a corner and heading back in the same direction from which we came. As we do, a teacher approaches me and asks me to take River off of my shoulders. She's too high, she protests. Embarrassed for defying the obvious, I lower River from the heights. For the rest of the march, we take turns holding her in our arms.

With the other parents and preschoolers, we are invited to conclude the evening over hot chocolate. The local restaurant is ready to accomodate us, but I notice that as of yet no food has been prepared. The time is now 8:00pm...2 and 1/2 hours since our solitary arrival to Belen Plaza. Joy and I are hungry, and River is mad tired. Would River rather have ice cream than hot chocolate, we are hoping. Yes. We creep furtively to Samuel's rotisserie chicken, thus ending our anniversary celebration.

No comments: