Last year I was finishing up with training and shared the same birth date as my host brother. This year, the plan was to spend the Friday (my actualy birthday) in my site, then on Saturday go to Huaraz with other volunteers.
Someone from my town remembered my birthday was the 22nd and he told everyone. I was trying to go under the radar because I didn’t want to drink with everyone here. Around 7:00, the president of my association called me and asked when we were going to celebrate, so I went down to the corner and drank beer, Peruvian style. Peruvian style is one glass for everyone who is there; you pour your glass, pass the bottle, drink the glass, and then pass the glass for the next person. Usually it’s a little glass and you only pour a little bit. It’s a communal glass and it’s gross, but that’s the culture.
Then, around 8:30 my students from English class all gathered in a different location and wanted me. They sang happy birthday in Spanish, then I led them in the English version. Then we drank coke and had crackers. The youth, between 15 – 25, most don’t have jobs and can’t afford more – so it was really nice and thoughtful that they all gathered to begin with – and I got two presents, which I certainly was not expecting. (other volunteers in Ancash)
Until midnight, which is when I called it a night, I had to switch back and forth between groups. I still don’t know why the students wouldn’t come to hang out with the older men, nor would the older men come to the room where my students were. I asked why, but they wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Primarily, they don’t get along.
On Saturday, most of the volunteers came into the city. There were a lot of August birthdays, so the ‘mom’ that we all have at one of the cafes in town put together an amazing feast for us. It was really, really nice of them and the food was amazing. People don’t have a lot of money here and anytime they go out of their way and spend their money, it’s special. (Luisa - the Peace Corps mom of Ancash, JuanCarlos - good friend and DJ at our favorite bar, Rafo - one of the best cooks in Huaraz)
We had a cake and candles, Frank, Ari, Ana luz, and myself all blew the candles out. I was so stuffed already that I only had a bite or two of the cake.
Then we went out and partied. I made it back home at 5:45am…Sunday was tough.