by Bob and Claire Rogers
It sounded like a parade, a particularly raucous parade. It seemed to be on the same alley as hospedaje Nana, in Huaraz. We love a parade. This parade, this band, was very special, from Jardin de Ninos No. 122.
As we neared a cross street, before us, goose stepping in languid unison, were squads of meter tall little people, each led by an adult woman. The children, thick black hair and angelic faces, wore the bright clothing preferred by Peruvians and painted the small street bright under a rain threatened black sky. Evenly spaced, except when one became distracted and rear ended another, they kept irregular time to the music coming from just around the corner.
And then we saw the band. Tiny like the others, they stood in two straight lines facing the marchers, fronted by an adult male who directed them with a serious professionalism far exceeding the abilities of his charges. Undaunted, he flung his baton about vigorously, pointing at the less than enthusiastic snare drummer, the distracted tambourine section, the cymbal player who missed his cue.
Both music and marching were so spirited they set off the loud alarm, and flashing headlights, of a parked SUV. It seemed not to detract, but complement the general enthusiasm of the occasion.
Rather than carry a melody, the dreamy-eyed xylophone section maintained a random din, chiming in when the mood hit them and testing the opposite end of their mallets otherwise. Enchanted by the marchers, they marched in place with more accuracy than their first order of business.
Once the tambourine section figured out that their instruments made great crowns, they were soon testing the style out on their neighbors. Though the drum section was dominant and carried the rhythm well, sooner or later, it seemed, someone was going to get poked with a stick.
Proud room mothers haphazardly tried to keep the marchers enthused, but after 30 minutes the parade was straggling. Just in time a few well placed rain drops signaled the end of the exercises. Traffic cones closing the street were removed and the assembly scattered back towards No. 122, mothers patrolling the main street, shooing errants back to the broken sidewalk.
We left reluctantly, smiles pasted to our faces, unfathomable warmth in our hearts in the gloaming rain. The best travel gifts are surprises, and free.