This past Sunday was the birthday of the niece of the woman whom I am renting my house from. I found out later this week that it was also her birthday as well but they only celebrate for the kids. And celebrate they do! Last week when I got home, tired as usual – I’m not sure when becoming accustomed to this climate will kick in – the little girl Neyelli had friends over but was quite excited to see me. She was following me to my door saying something about it’s her birthday and then talking really fast in Spanish so all I could do was wrinkle my nose (the national symbol here for I don’t understand, also known as my usual facial expression). Fortunately her mother was nearby to help fill me in: She was having a birthday party on Sunday and wanted to invite me. So sweet, and then to add to this I turn around to have her other aunt hand me a Strawberry Shortcake (Chica Fresa) invitation addressed to Srta. Kaylli – super cute and I’m actually a little honored by the double L and of course confused as that would make the pronunciation much different.
In order to prepare myself for this birthday I needed to find out what the custom is, so I turn to Tabby. She tells me what you do is show up with a present, in a paper gift bag, no card and stapled shut. This way whether you can afford something nice like a dress or can only afford soap you are covered and no one feels embarrassed. Or if you are a confused foreigner who goes into the everything shop not knowing the size of the little person you are shopping for and enlist help from the staff there your makeshift present will be hidden with all the rest…
Sunday morning rolls around and at 4:30 am it sounded as though someone decided to put on a concert in my bedroom. The loudest speaker you can imagine was blasting a Nicaraguan birthday set of 3 songs on repeat for an hour. It was the most hysterical thing you can imagine, and I don’t think the concept of noise bylaws would even work here. I got up late and trundled out to see if I could help them with anything. Turns out all I needed to do at the time was eat soup and the once the kids come “attender los ninos” – still working on my Spanish but I was thinking oh swell I will be in charge of many (by the looks of how many chairs were set out) little kids… eep. Later I was allowed to help Ashley (the aunt) with balloons and streamer decorations. Then told to change into a dress. Turns out that is how to stand out at such an event – be the only white person there, then be the only adult in a dress. Next up offer to pass around food and beverages and see how confused and curious those around you become.
Guests arrived and all the little kids were dressed in their absolutely best, something back home would likely be reserved for weddings or very formal events. They all sat in a circle around the present table and the piñata (of course there was a piñata) with their respective adult after handing over their present to the birthday girl with a kiss on the cheek. Drinks were served, food was passed around and then it was time to play. First up the piñata: Chica Fresa sitting on a giant strawberry. I may have forgotten to mention the sound system at this party. They set up in the afternoon. A full DJ table, and four speakers stacked in two’s that were the size you normally see at concert halls on the stage. Oh yes music is serious business here, you do not mess about. So with the backing of the giant speakers it was time to pull the first of several little kids from their chair, blindfold them, hand them the stick and put them to work. One catch: you have to dance, if you don’t the piñata gets pulled away further from you. Another note: the piñata is set on a bunch of dirt that had earlier in the day been watered so it was less dusty, this meant when candy started to fall there was a scramble of little kids in their Sunday best in a bunch of dirt which looked like a Peanuts drawing of Pigpen stumbling down a hill. After the piñata there was a dance contest. Four kids chosen for a dance off, and dance they did. They even won money. After that it was time for cake, most of which was taken to go. Then it was the adults turn for some fun. The sun had set, it was dark so out came more beer with the music still going and the adults on the dance floor. Even when the DJ had packed up and left it was still not over. Out came the family CD player and speakers to carry on the party until the last person had left.