I celebrated my birthday last week.
I decided to treat myself to a couple of days at the Las Lagunas Boutique Resort. (If you ever travel to the Flores, Guatemala area, I highly recommend them.) As much as I love my little hut, I was really looking forward to a couple of days of air conditioning – it’s been really hot here lately! Plus I didn’t expect to have much going on here in terms of birthday celebrations since I was so far from home.
But once again, my Guatemalan friends surprised me with their generosity and showed me how birthdays are done:
- One couple invited me to their home and surprised me with a birthday cake, complete with strawberries (one of my favorite fruits)
- A friend took me to two Mayan archeological sites and treated me to lunch at an outdoor restaurant that served frozen fruit juices – perfect on a hot day
- Another friend invited me for an early morning walk and then took me out for breakfast
- My landlord/friend showed up at 6 a.m. the morning before my birthday and lit firecrackers in front of the hut to commemorate my birthday a day early.
- Someone – and I have my suspicions who that someone is – notified the staff at Las Lagunas Boutique Resort that it was my birthday. There was a basket of fresh fruit and a birthday card in my bungalow, a surprise breakfast of cheesecake (I had ordered fruit and granola), and, most impressively, birthday greetings from every member of the staff that I saw
- And finally, about a dozen friends pulled up in a pickup truck in front of my hut after I returned from the resort. The truck was loaded with a table, chairs, a boom box, two cakes, food, beverages, balloons, firecrackers and candy. Within 10 minutes they had set up a surprise birthday party for me.
I’ve learned that firecrackers and birthdays are akin to peanut butter and jelly in the United States – they just go together, and it wouldn’t be a celebration without them. It also wouldn’t be a celebration without a couple other traditions.
The first one is that the person having the birthday has water poured over them by the guests while they sing to him or her. I’m not sure of the origin of this, but I will say that the cool water felt wonderful!
The second one is that before the cake is cut, the birthday person puts his or her face in the cake…not smashing the cake, but enough that you get frosting on your face. There’s more singing and laughter while you do that. I jokingly told my friends that they got the order wrong – it should be face in the cake first followed by the bath.
Finally, there has to be music, dancing and games. We played a fun game where two people dance together, each with a balloon tied to the side of their shoe. The first person to pop the other person’s balloon wins. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life!
And while I enjoyed every minute of each of these celebrations, more important to me than the actual celebration was the love and friendship I felt from my new friends. I have only been here for six weeks and I feel like a member of each of their families already. I am truly blessed.