"Don't let Cynthia come in! We're not ready yet!"
We were at the farm of our Cuencano friends again, this time for a whole weekend sleepover. Since our last visit three weeks ago the trucha (trout) had gotten noticeably bigger, the pregnant sheep now had a two day old lamb by her side and three black puppies had shown up from somewhere. Also at the house there were probably 15 relatives and neighbors--a relative term when in some cases the casa of said "neighbor" looked no bigger than a fingernail as you viewed it on the side of a mountain across the valley.
After a huge and delicious barbeque pork-a-thon lunch (pig served every way you can imagine) it was suggested that Cynthia and I join several of the attendees for a walk to see the sulfur pools at a nearby home. This turned out to be a bit of a disappointment unless you're a big fan of the smell of boiled egg flatulence, but as we soon learned this was merely a diversion in preparation for the main event.
Cynthia had a birthday earlier in the week and we appropriately recognized the occasion with a card I purchased before leaving the States (I'm thinking big brownie points since the ones here are---oh, yeah---in Spanish) roses, champagne, a massage, & a nice dinner. But how could such "by-the-numbers" celebratory gestures compare with what was on the other side of the door when we returned? The music began and Cynthia was beckoned inside to-------
A Hello Kitty birthday party!
Yep. Our friends had decorated the place with balloons, streamers, and a "Feliz Cumpleanos" (Happy Birthday) banner. The table was decorated with a cake and Hello Kitty trays filled with cookies and candies. Cynthia was given a Hello Kitty hat to wear. There was even a Hello Kitty pinata.
All the guests, most of whom we had only met hours earlier, sang "the birthday song" to her in Spanish. Everyone earnestly hugged and kissed her like we were all lifelong friends. Cynthia successfully blew out the candles (which were interestingly quite thin but 6 inches tall) in one blow to much cheering. She was instructed that the candles must be kept until the next birthday for her wish to come true. Our friends even had a lovely necklace wrapped as a gift.
The celebration ended with busting open the pinata, which thankfully didn't involve the put-on-the-blindfold-and-swing-wildly-with-a-stick drill with which we were accustomed. No, this was much more civilized and restrained. After the count-up?? of "uno--dos--tres!!!!," with the children all gathered underneath, Cynthia pulled a string on the bottom of the pinata to release the treats inside to more cheering.
Now the point of recounting all this is not to fill you in on "what we did this weekend" but to try to help you understand how damn nice folks are here. Think about it. Our hosts had most likely never attended an American birthday party in their lives. They've only known us for a few weeks. And yet-------------.
And yet they went to the trouble to plan a party for a new American friend with a theme that was as American as they knew how for the pleasure and benefit of their guest. Cynthia was understandably overwhelmed (as was I) with the gesture and every heartfelt hug she received. She later realized that this was probably her first true "birthday party" since she was maybe 6 years old.