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Celebrating My 18th Birthday

By Mirabel

I am here to tell you about how my 18th birthday was celebrated in Cuenca, Ecuador. I think the line that I wrote in my journal “the fact that I have cake crusted in my hair means that it was a good day” pretty much sums it all up.

mirabelSo the first full day with my host family happened to be my birthday. But it also happened to be the wedding day of one of the daughters. Long story short, there was a lot of wedding excitement so I wasn’t upset about not being in the US for my birthday. The evening was spent eating and drinking and talking and singing and dancing.

Our front door was propped open and families piled in one after the other. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many many children. My host grandpa spent the evening by the grill, plumes of smoke rising from chicken legs, sausages, and pork loins. The rest of the plate that was set in front of me consisted of yapingacho (essentially a patty of fried mashed potatoes), mote (large boiled corn), avocado, and rice.

Little kids scrambled and screamed around the house, tripping on the way back to their parents to tell on each other. One even stole my camera and filled the memory card with blurry photos of her cousins.

Out of the thirty family members (of which I was informed that only half of the entire family was present), about eight stood up in front of the rest and gave little speeches. The great-grandfather spoke about how in all his years of life, the most important living is important but family is more important. They also said that you need to live in the moment and appreciate your life.

They then played salsa and merengue music was played and my little host sister taught me how to salsa. That was definitely a highlight.

My family sat me down in front of a long cake and then all thirty voices sang me a feliz cumpleaños. I was grinning as I looked over at all the faces and blew out my candles and sparkler and then all of a sudden my face was inside the cake. My host sister (sitting next to me) smashed my head down into the cake. An aunt grabbed a handful and plastered it on her sister’s face. Then it exploded into chaos of everyone taking cake and wiping it on other people. This tradition is called la mordida, where the cumpleañero takes the first bite of their cake by force.