Since coming to Lima, I have only been involved in a handful of social outings, with most of them not even being genuine Peruvian adventures, but rather just fun times with my roommate and friends from the States. The first weekend I was here however, I had the unique opportunity to watch Peru compete in their final qualifying match for the World Cup at a local bar. It was quite exciting—patrons drank themselves into boisterous oblivion, roaring angrily during game lows, then bursting into celebratory song at each anticipated high. When I arrived at the bar, I was introduced to a young, well-dressed woman sporting mute, yet chic, colors and her equally stylish boyfriend in a red track jacket, both of whom welcomed us to sit with them. The experience itself was something I won’t soon forget and concluded with my friends and I being invited to a birthday party, weeks away, for the girl we had sat with. My friends had known her for the last six months or so, and seemed to be sincerely close with her. The aforementioned party took place this past weekend and was truly one of my first authentic Peruvian experiences—being that, over the last couple of weeks, the party transitioned from being a supposed “banger” at a rowdy nightclub to a more subdued intimate celebration at her aunt’s apartment for family and close friends. Whichever way it was to go down, I was slightly nervous in regards to the event, thanks to my lack of fluency in the Spanish language, as well as the fact that I knew none of the people that were to attend. But, with my nerves flying at high altitude and a little apprehension, I nonetheless decided to venture into the social wild and attend the celebration.
Back home in the States, I would usually have a bunch of different outfit options, of which I did my best to bring here, however, my timing was unusually unfortunate and the party had found me at the cusp of a new laundry cycle. The only available articles of clean clothing in my closet were a gray flannel, a pair of maroon-ish jeans, and my black pullover. With my Frankensteined outfit assembled and a quick foray with the mirror—in an attempt at some sort of hairstyle; we sadly have no brush, I joined up with my two friends and begun the night. The party was taking place at an apartment only ten minutes or so from our own, so we took the opportunity to walk the streets of the Surquillo district and the beautiful Miraflores district. When we arrived at the apartment door belonging to the birthday girl’s aunt, we were welcomed in by her grandmother, who greeted us with a warm smile and a kiss on the cheek—the customary greeting for women down here. She was a hospitable woman, who exemplified the exact image and definition of “grandmother”, with her friendly conversation and charitable offerings of anything we might need. After entering the apartment, we walked down a short slender hallway, past an arched alcove on the left in which the kitchen was housed, and arrived at a wonderfully, and appropriately for the occasion, decorated room with two tan-skinned, raven-haired girls sitting on a beige loveseat. They greeted us with big grins and welcoming embraces as we sat down on the couch parallel to theirs. Both of my friends knew them, and after talking for a bit, I learned that they were the birthday girl’s two best friends. As one proceeded to apply eyeliner and foundation to the other, they broke down the itinerary of the night for us into karaoke, dancing, and other stuff, as well as supplying us with the notion that they wanted the party to be a surprise. We continued to talk about various things until the birthday girl arrived, in which time another friend, as well as the parents and the aunt joined us.
Upon notification of her arrival, my friends and I, in addition to the two girls and the newly arrived friend, hid in different spots around the living room, with me placing myself behind a table. Laughing to myself, I found joyous amusement in the fact that I hadn’t been part of a surprise party in many, many years, yet I reveled in the youthful sentiment that seeped from the idea itself. As we sprung up, yelling surprise in two different languages, the birthday girl’s mouth gaped open with shock and appreciation like I haven’t seen in a long time. Down here, family events such as birthday parties, reunions, and even simple dinners are treated with a sense of respect and gratitude—something that we, including myself, have trampled all over. As we all sat down, her parents produced a silver tray lined with glasses of fresh peach puree and rum, sending my taste buds into their own ecstasy that was to be followed by karaoke. Karaoke and I were never friends, but I was so swept up by the contagious excitement flying around the room, that I decided to attempt “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado. After the karaoke had subsided, and about 4 more rounds of peach rum drinks had gone around, they presented the birthday girl with her cake. Adorned with what I assume to be twenty-four—since this was her newly achieved age, sparkling trick candles and an edible picture of the birthday girl holding her dog, she hurriedly tried to blow out each sparkler after the birthday song concluded. After successfully extinguishing each stubborn sparkler, a cylindrical tube was placed at the top of the cake, which, when lit, burst into a stream of sparks like a Fourth of July firework and served as the precursor to a piñata, which literally looked like a pink papier-mâché ball covered in glossy birthday hats. With quite a bit of superfluous effort, the piñata was eventually ripped open, spilling its insides of candy and knick-knacks all over the hardwood floor beneath it. After the mad-dash to retrieve the candy and disperse colored ribbons about the room, EDM and dancing ensued. I did my best non-dancing dance moves—stand around, bop my head like “Night at the Roxbury”, and make a mockery of dance culture while mingling awkwardly to the groove. The night soon concluded itself around one in the morning, and after a few good-byes and closing beers, we initiated our journey back home. I can honestly say that I fully enjoyed every moment of the party and wouldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday night. Meeting new friends, forging fresh connections, and feeling the warmth of family that so permeates the culture down here was an extraordinary experience and I’m incredibly thankful I was able to be a part of it.