We live on a property with three houses and a big, open lot. In one of the houses lives the guardian and her young son, Abdul. Tag hasn't gravitated much to Abdul since he speaks "here" (Tag's word for Spanish) and Tag doesn't. We're more likely to find Ela, Tag and Abdul playing since Ela is willing and eager to bridge the language gap. Abdul can often be found playing in our yard, sometimes with his cousin, or hanging out on our front porch peering in. We always invite him inside, and sometimes he will join us.
Abdul LOVES Ken. He loves chasing Ken around the property and wrestling and being silly.
He will also tell on Tag when he's been misbehaving. Not long ago, Tag was playing with Abdul and his cousin. Unfortunately Ela wasn't around. Tag grew frustrated with the language barrier and threw an avocado at Abdul's cousin. In super speedy Spanish, Abdul reported the incident to Ken. On Abdul's third attempt at an explanation, at a much slower speed, Ken understood.
Like all young children, Abdul talked about his birthday party for weeks. before it happened While Ken shared these snippets with me, we wondered what information had been exaggerated...There will be three pinatas at the party...There will be three cakes, and one will be chocolate...There will be a clown...You will be invited...There will be a hundred people there...
Much of this we didn't believe.
All of this we should have believed.
Three days before the party, we received our invitations. Abdul's mother, Estella, must have looked at our lease to determine the spelling for Ken's name. She spent a lot of time preparing the invitations - Diego and Dora were cut out of wrapping paper, glued onto foam paper and glue gunned onto popsicle sticks. She made a set of these for every family invited.
The invitation stated that the party started at 2:30. We'd been told that you never go to a Guatemalan Birthday party at the time it starts. Since the party took place on the open lot on the property, we watched the incoming guests and determined a good arrival time from the comfort of our home. At 2:30, two families had arrived and were sitting on stools set around the perimeter of the lot. A music system was set-up and kid birthday party music was blaring at top volume. At 3:00, a few more guests had arrived. At 3:30, there was a steady flow of tuk tuks and cars dropping off guests at the property's entrance. Many guests walked here as well.
At 3:45, we joined the party. We passed a clown meditating and getting ready to perform. The stools in the lot were 3/4 full. Guests were quietly sitting and waiting for the party to begin. The host and birthday boy were nowhere to be seen. Music was blaring. We were reminded of the scene from Footloose where the prom had started but no one was dancing. As tempted as we were to start dancing, we were the only gringos invited to the party, and we didn't feel the need to stand out more than we already did.
t 4:00, the clown began! He introduced the birthday boy who was pretty overwhelmed with all of the guests. Then, he entertained us for 1 1/2 hours with games, most of which required only boy or only girl participants. Even though I couldn't understand most of what he said, I was thoroughly entertained. Tag and Ela were laughing and smiling.
After the kid games, the clown introduced the "Family Dad" game. Apparently Abdul told the clown that he has two family dads. His real dad died two years ago. Uncle Renaldo and Ken were called up to the front. Yes, we were stunned. Estella was beaming as both "dads" approached the clown. Ken and Renaldo competed in a cup stacking game.
Following the "Family Mom" game, the pinatas were introduced. Before the party, they had erected a simple, yet elaborate set-up for the pinatas. Clearly we are pinata rookies. A long rope was strung between two trees. A padlock was placed around the rope. Additional ropes were attached to the padlock and the pinata. This allowed two men to pull the pinata up, down and along the rope as kids hit it.
The first pinata, Diego, was for the boys to hit. Tag had a lot of fun hitting this one. I'm still surprised no one got hurt in the process.
The second pinata, Dora, was for the girls. The third pinata was for the family. Kids, and some parents, dove for candy as each pinata burst.
As soon as the third pinata was opened, three cakes arrived. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" in English, even though the majority of them don't even speak English. This is another one of those odd Guatemalan traditions we've seen. The cakes were removed. Soon after the host and two family members started passing out plates to each guests. Each plate had a small tamale, a piece of cake and a cup of flan. Jamaica juice was also poured.
Once the last plate was delivered, boys were asked to form one line and girls another. Party bags, hand made from construction paper and decorated, were distributed. More candy. The clown said, "Gracias" to the crowd. The music was shut off and clean-up began. Literally, it was that fast. There was no time for mingling. About 15 minutes after this, all 130 guests were gone. Abdul left with piles of gifts to open. Ken and I helped with clean-up, and Estella dropped by 30 minutes later with more tamales and cake for us.
This was a big party! This family does not have a lot of money, and yet Estella threw a huge party for her son. She and her extended family spent hours cutting out Doras and Diegos for invitations and party bags, making flan and tamales, blowing up balloons, and preparing the empty lot. We are thrilled to have been invited and Ken felt honored to be included as a Family Dad. We loved seeing all the preparation that went into the party.
Happy Birthday, Abdul!