Successful Health Fair and “Surprise” Birthday Party

The day after I wrote to you last was the day of the big health fair for senior citizens. We had been working a lot for this day, and I was really hoping it would be successful. It was. Roughly 200 senior citizens showed up. We had hired a bus to pick up those in one of the further communities or others who could not afford transportation, and others came by themselves. There was plenty of stands for them to visit. We had collaborated with several non-profits to offer a range of services. There was a tent were they could get their blood pressure and BMI checked, a stand for tests for glucose levels and blood sugar, a stand for healthy eating giving away fruit salad and a nutrient enhanced soup base, somewhere to get their eyes checked, etc. I spent a good majority of the morning with the high school students, helping them give charlas on anemia. I think everyone was pretty pleased with the turnout and how well it went. After it was over and we were almost done cleaning up, the doctor that we work with brought out a birthday cake for me, which was really sweet.

Friday was the usual… I didn’t do much except have the reading hour and English class with the kids.

Saturday in the morning, I went to a big meeting between several communities in the area to present myself. When I got back, I ate lunch and read for a bit. When I got out of the shower at like 3:30, a family friend, Senora Betty, was at the house. She suddenly was anxious to have me see her house, because I hadn’t seen it yet… she lives in Sucre. I asked her if we could go a little later because my cousin Carolina was going to paint my nails. Carolina volunteered to go with us. After about 2 hours- Carolina painted my nails AND toenails in an intricate design- someone called Betty and she announced it was time to go home. We got home, I opened the door and…. “SURPRISE PARTY”!

I use “surprise” because even I, who could probably be classified as gullible, had a few clues as to what was going on. First, they kept making comments about how we weren’t having a party but we were going to celebrate at the dance that was happening across the river. Then, Thursday I saw my host my putting together little candy packets… a norm for parties. Friday night, my family killed a few chickens… another must for a birthday party. Saturday all of the women were cooking up a storm at the outside oven/fire pit thing. Then of course the fact that I was whisked away, and finally, we I got back from Betty’s, both the front door and sliding glass door were closed, which is almost never the case. They asked me at some point if I had really been surprised, and I said yes. Usually I am a terrible liar, but I was already blushing, giggling, and stuttering, which are my 3 main giveaways.

Now, back to the party. So I opened the front door, and as soon as I did, the lights came on, music started, and everyone began singing. It was better and worse than I expected. Better because they kept it to just family, so there were only around 35 people there. Worse because it was it was more embarrassing than I had anticipated. They had hired a mariachi singer, and he immediately placed his sombrero on my head. I also had to give a thank you speech, and of course dance with everyone. I can only recall a handful of times when I have been equally red from blushing, the most recent being the student life awards last year at Stonehill. After the speeches from people like my host dad and neighbor, there was some dancing. Then dinner, and more dancing… this time reggae tone. There was also a piñata. My host family had put flour in with the candy, which was hilarious because the kids who darted forward first got covered in flour. Then it was time for the cake. They sung what was probably the longest happy birthday of my life… first in Spanish, then to a different beat in Spanish, then in English, then faster in Spanish… again, very funny. After I blew out the candle, my host mom said I had to take a bite of the cake by leaning my face in… I had a feeling where this was going, but I did it anyway… of course they pushed my face into the cake. Everyone got a kick out of that, including me. Then there was more dancing, until 10:30 or so… then my host cousins still wanted me and my friend Erin (a volunteer who lives in Portoviejo who came down for the night) to go to the dance across the river! I didn’t have the energy, so I bowed out of that one. I had so much fun, and my family was so sweet about the whole thing. I feel like this somehow solidified my relationship with them… like that last little bit of still being treated like a guest finally disappeared. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday.

Sunday (yesterday) was a nice day too. In the morning I gave Erin a little tour of the area, and when we got back, my host mom, aunt, and sister, taught us how to make ceviche. It was fun, and made for a delicious lunch. I hung around, uploaded pictures from the night before, and napped a little, and then after dinner I went to mass with my family. It was the 14 anniversary of my when my host mom’s mom died, so they went to mass for her, and then came back to the house and said a rosary. A solid weekend in Ecuador overall, don’t you think?


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