Today I went to my 7 year old cousin’s birthday party in Santa Rosa, a 1K walk from my house. As I walked to my aunt’s house with my grandma I tried making conversation by asking how old my cousin was turning. She thought 8 or 9 but honestly had no idea. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t know but birthday’s here are not nearly has significant as they are in the States.
When I got to my aunt’s house I was immediately put to work. I hung numerous balloons, swept the floor, organized the house and helped in the kitchen. For nearly a half an hour I cut cheese and sausage with my grandma and my aunt’s friend. We then poked toothpicks into the cubes and stuck them into a pineapple. I continued to do prep work like this throughout the party such as opening mini chip bags, rewashing plastic flatware and cups, serving Jello, strawberries, etc. At times I felt like I was the host of the party, which I actually didn’t mind because it gave me something to do.
Unlike children’s parties I’ve attended in the US this party was not structured with games, a clown or even a bounce house. Instead children just played. There is a large soccer field in front of the house. I noticed that there wasn’t a soccer ball so I took it upon myself to run, literally, back to my house and get my soccer ball to help occupy the time. After the kids played soccer it was time for cake. Everyone sang happy birthday as my cousin stared at the cake. Roughly 10 minutes later my uncle lit the candle and my cousin blew it out. Next was piñata time! I was super excited to hit the piñata but the only child that hit the piñata was my cousin. He swung at it once before my uncle ripped it open letting the candy fall out.
The night ended with presents which of course is usually a hectic time during a birthday party. However this particular aspect of the party made me realize how economically different my life and the lives of children I know back in States are from the kids here. My cousin was thrilled to receive small trinkets, pieces of fruit, and candy. From my American materialistic upbringing I felt bad for him for not receiving bigger and better gifts. Although I personally don’t view myself to fit the American materialistic stereotype I felt a sense of guilt realizing how much I had been given over the years.
Almost all the children left shortly after presents. My relatives and I sat and talked for roughly a half hour more until returning home in my dad’s taxi pick-up truck. My first Ecuadorian birthday was a success!