My memories are still vivid as if it were just a few days ago:
“Let us go, Sergio, come with Roberto too. Cesar and Kike are already there, and I am going with Lalo el gringo and Kunta Kinte”, said my cousin Martin as I saw him running away. My brother and I joined the gang just as quickly. We all enjoyed our day-off playing with the seesaw, slide, climbing frame, swing, and merry-go-round.
My recollections bring me back to the playground just in front of the bakery “El Chino” in my childhood neighborhood, Pueblo Libre, near two of the most renowned museums of Lima: the Antropología, Arqueología e Historia del Perú and the Larco Museums (I shall pay them a visit if I happen to be in Lima again).
Time changes and none of us live in Pueblo Libre anymore. Nonetheless, there are still reasons to feel as a kid again.
The sun shone brightly and drew the shadows of the trees over the Caminos del Inca avenue. In fact, this avenue was an inca trail which went south towards the sacred site of Pachacamac, and Qosqo too.
I crossed the street from my parents´ home on the 21st block in the district of Santiago de Surco. Like me, a few boys and girls, with their parents, passed the wrought steel gate of the Parque de la Amistad or Friendship Park. I couldn’t help feeling like dreaming.
My friends and I wouldn’t have run over the swing or seesaw if we’d seen the zip line. We’d have screamed as loudly as those children flying back and forth. All of us got much more excited while waiting our next turn.
Then, suddenly, Kunte Kinte cried “The train!”
His real name was Eduardo or Lalo, but as he was black, he got that nickname. The other Lalo was white so we used to call him el gringo. When we all looked up, the train was just crossing a red bridge. Beside the bridge there was a small hill. On top of it, there were more children with their parents and a few couples watching the train which was crowded with kids and adults. Most of them smiled as they waved to their relatives or friends.
The train just disappeared inside a tunnel. A sharp roar was heard as the pipe reappeared throwing a white steam. Near the tunnel, a tall Moorish arch raised majestically. It was a terrific lookout, but it was closed when I happened to visit the park. What a pity!
Everybody walked up and down the paths that surround the hills trimmed with a couple of dolphins and a bear made out of the very leaves.
But Cesar and his brother Kike were excited to go to the pond which was encircled by the railroad. As soon as they bought their tickets, they headed for the dock and came into a boat. At first, they couldn’t steer the boat properly, but eventually they managed to guide it where there were a few ducks that swam above a school of colorful fish. To have a better view, my brother Roberto and I climbed up to a pedestrian bridge just above the pond. From that point, I could pick out a waterfall splitting the hill that enclosed the small lake on one corner.
Going down the bridge, we found a path which led us to a replica of a colonial bunch of houses or quinta. Each house had a label with popular last names of that time when the first western settlers arrived at the ancient village of Sulco. Now the quinta housed handicrafts, souvenirs shops, and even a wine store.
All of us gathered at the rotunda just before the train station to play with Barney. The sun was sinking below the horizon when a few couples and even families came in the restaurant beside the train station. The lights were turned on and we took advantage to have a look of the building in front of a fountain. There was a display of silver masterpieces inside. As we walked under the red bridge in order to get the gateway, we again heard the train voice as if the train and even the whole park were giving us a so long.
When I left the park, I was no longer a child anymore, and my friends and acquaintances were all gone. However, I felt happy because I was aware that just in front of my parents´ house, I could find a place where it could help me feel as a child again.