At 8 a.m. Friday morning, I saw the toddlers headed to school in a line following the house mothers like little baby ducks. I ran to catch up with them and walk the short distance to the entrance. Today was Karnaval and the little ones weren’t wearing their traditional watermelon patch uniforms. Instead they dressed in their street clothes with glitter and face paint covering their faces and arms. Jamesly started crying and I scooped him up on the walk to the school. The rest of the little ones sprinted to the entrance.
They walked in through the doors, I ushered Jamesly in behind them, and I walked back to the Quad. There were only a few more minutes of silence before the drums began in the church and and a small procession of drummers and dancers started making their way from the church building to the field. Children from all over the Espwa property, adorned in straw hats, feathers, facepaint, and costumes danced their way past the village to converge there.
From the preschoolers to the Philo graduates and Espwa employees, every generation was represented and pulsing with the beating drums. Once everyone arrived in the field the huge group crossed over a stream and off of Espwa property.
The oldest went first with a big truck blaring music and dancers poised in the truck bed. The older boys followed behind. The littlest ones were left for last and lifted one by one over the shallow river to the street. A couple of the older boys stayed behind to help pass them to safe ground.
It is just a short distance from the point where you cross the stream back to the entrance of Espwa, and our Childcare department had it perfectly orchestrated with house moms and teachers supervising, keeping the littlest ones a safe distance from the madness of the crowd of older students. In a country where many Karnaval celebrations involve darkness and excessive alcohol use, the family-friendly Espwa version was a big success.
I alternated carrying Sonice in my arms and walking hand-in-hand with her as we followed along at the back of the group with the rest of the preschoolers. It was a lot to take in for them. For some of them I’m sure it was their first Karnaval parade and they didn’t know what to do but shuffle forward eyes wide. By the time we re-entered the property and gathered by the school buildings all of the directors, employees and students were smiling and dancing.
In the midst of all the manifestations and protests of the past couple of months, it was refreshing to see people gathering to celebrate.