"You really don't know where we're going?" DD16 asked, eyes wide, the look of terrified anguish on her young face. She's a worrier, one of those people who, when she hears galloping hooves, assumes that unicorns are headed her way.
"No idea," I said, "let's go!"
I had, at most, five pesos in my pocket. It was late on our second evening at our resort, and I had already had my fill of Cuba Libres, which flowed freely from the lobby bar, next to the theatre. My next intended stop, after the live show, was back to our so-called bungalow—which was three-stories tall, despite its name. One of about eight structures that housed the guest rooms.
The show was a dance interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, performed by a group of young dancers that we would see perform in two more shows before we would head back to Canada. The story was told through contemporary pop songs, some that made DD16 and DD14 look at one another, roll their eyes, and smile.
The choreography, they concurred, was mediocre, but most of the dancers were very good. This, coming from girls who had danced competitively until a few years ago.
The show over, we left the theatre, and DW and I contemplated one more drink before we turned in. It was after 10:30, but we were on vacation. We could sleep in, tomorrow.
While we sipped one more rum and cola, the sound of drums could be heard at the entrance to the resort. Men were singing. There seemed to be a group of guests moving toward the sound, so the four of us followed.
Just outside the front entrance, five men stood in a near circle: three slapping the skins of tall congas, a fourth using a softened mallet to get notes from a steel drum, and the remaining member clapped his hands and sang. We listened for a couple of minutes, as DW and I drained our final Cuba Libres of the evening, and prepared to turn in.
But things were just getting going.
As we set our empty glasses on an empty table, the members of the dance group, in matching, blue outfits, came out to the entrance. They started to dance along with the musicians as they pounded out complex rhythms. Out in the road, two tour buses pulled up.
We were ready to bid our entertainers good night when one of the young dancers asked me in heavily accented English, "Are you coming to the carnival?"
"I don't know," I answered her, turning to DW and shrugging my shoulders to say, what do you think? "How much does it cost?" I asked her, remembering that I didn't have much cash in my pockets.
"It's free!" she smiled. Already, resort guests were climbing aboard the first bus. The musicians followed and the driver pulled out. The second bus moved forward and opened its doors.
DW looked at me and, without a word, indicated, through body language, why not?
The dancers joined the second wave of guests, and we filed in behind them.
"Where are we going?" asked DD16.
"I don't know," I said, "but it looks like fun!"
She hesitated, ever the worrier. "How long do you think we'll be?"
"Beats me," I said, "but I doubt they'll have us out too late." I put my arm around her and led her onto the coach.
We sat but the dancers remained in the aisle. The young woman who asked me if we were coming along stood beside me. "You were really good, tonight," I told her. She smiled and thanked me.
The bus, once full, pulled out from the resort and onto the dark roadway beyond.
"You really don't know where we're going?" DD16 asked for the third time.
"Sometimes," I said, "you just have to go with the flow. It's times like these that you can have the best adventures." I had to assure her that the resort wouldn't sanction a late-night excursion if we weren't completely safe. Everything would be fine.
The journey took only about five minutes. We pulled into the parking lot of a plaza, it's buildings lit with neon. I spied a sign for a bowling avenue and a spa, and saw a statue of a couple of flamingos. Out of the bus, we were led to a plaza that had a stage and lights, with two giant TV screens that displayed the Cuban flag.
Already, people were dancing to recorded music. Other dancers who were not on our bus and were dressed for a festival were leading people from the first bus in rhythmic motion. The girls and DW moved in and to my surprise, started dancing.
I switched my D-SLR to video mode and began recording.
Shortly thereafter, the percussionists who were in our resort lobby arrived, with a new singer, and they marched in beat to a spot near the stage. The dancers from this evening's performance, with some of the other dancers, followed behind and they all moved onto the dance floor.
A new show started up.
Afterward, two shirtless men moved up for their performance, juggling machetes and chopping sugar canes, demonstrating how sharp the blades were. They then proceeded to run their tongues up and down the edges of the machetes, somehow displaying how their tongues were tougher than cane.
These showmen then produced flaming batons and began to dance with them, rolling them up and down their bodies as though they were impervious to fire. Which they were.
They put the flaming ends into their mouths. They threw the fire sticks into the air and caught them in their trousers. For the finale, they blew fireballs that lit the plaza and added heat to the already scorching night.
DD16 was enthralled. Smiling. Dancing.
"See?" I said to her, on the bus ride back to the resort. "Adventures happen when you least expect it, when you're willing to just give in to the unfolding events."