This post is a bit late, but the day I celebrated birthday is still fresh on my memory. On Thursday, May 8 I had my 20th birthday here in Xela (shorter Mayan name for Quetzaltenango).
In the morning, we followed our regular routine and went to the school to help in different classes. In the afternoon, we assisted in various clubs (Dilani and Sara in Singing Club, Klaus in Chess Club and me (Madison) in Football (soccer) Club).
But after the clubs, the fun began! To celebrate Alena’s birthday (on May 13th) and my birthday that day, we had two piñatas! The first was the piñata I had selected, and the other was a giant clown! Out of view from the students, we filled them completely full of candy.
I got to swing at it first; but it was way more difficult than I thought. After being blindfolded, you must spin in circles according to your age. I had to spin 20 times! Forget hitting the piñata, it was a challenge just to remain standing. After I swung many times (unsuccessfully), the children got to swing starting from the youngest. As the children got older, or when any adults attempted to swing, other adults would pull on the piñata strings in different directions to make it dance and move towards and quickly away from the person madly swinging at it. When it was Manolo’s turn, they actually made the clown piñata stand on his head without him realizing it! When the piñatas broke, all of the children grabbed the candy rapidly but would kindly share their candy collections with the younger children who were not as fast to grab some.
After piñatas, I was brought out a clown birthday cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday in English and Spanish (Feliz cumpleaños a tí).
After I blew out the 20 candles, Alena told me to take off my eye glasses. I did not know of the tradition to “bite the cake”. The children count to my age from uno (1) to veinte (20) and then I have to use only my mouth to take a bite of the cake. Except, the “bite” ended being my face completely in the cake. Often somebody behind will push the face of birthday celebrator into the cake. For me, they waited until I was ready to “take the bite” before “assisting”. It wasn’t easy to wipe off (cake in my hair!) but very fun and everyone was very excited that I accepted and took part in the tradition.
Expecting this outcome, Alena and Jorge, the school director, had secretly bought a second cake that everyone got to eat.
Later that night we had even more desserts and pastries that the group surprised me with. (We had thought originally that we would lose weight in Guatemala…)
What a way to celebrate my 20th birthday! I will remember it forever!