I'll start with parties, since they all happened after my last post. I had two weekends in a row of family parties and on average, starting at 6pm and going until 2am. Their family parties are very different than any family gathering I've ever been too- they felt more like high school parties. The first couple of parties I went to were OK, I was too tired and not able to talk with anyone, so they were kind of boring for me. Then came my brother's going away party, starting at 12 on a Sunday afternoon and going until 11 at night (I didn't have to go to school the next day!). My family is VERY big, and when I made my rounds greeting everyone, I felt overwhelmed, trying to remember everyone's name and how they were related to me.
I can easily say that there were at least 50 or 60 people during the climax of the party, which was at 5pm during "Hora Loca" (crazy hour) when a hired company came in with their jesters, balloons, confetti, music and masks. The point of crazy hour, is to have EVERYONE (whether you're 2 or 80 years old) dance for one straight hour, only pausing briefly to drink more or get another balloon. A difference that I have noticed between the two cultures, is not necessarily that Peruvians dance more often, it's more like, even if you're 80 with a cane, you still dance. In fact, there were many points in the evening where the grandparents were trying to get the teenagers to dance! I enjoyed myself immensely because I was finally able to dance, and because the whole family was very happy to have me there (they even gave me a toast!). Part of this might have been because most of them were drunk, but in truth it's because that's how families work here- everyone is part of your family. At one point, I was sitting around with all of my primos (cousins, & all in their 20's or 30's) and they helped me recount who was who and how they were related to me, including them, where they defiantly pointed to themselves and said, "Soy tu primo," (I am your cousin). Everyone owned their relation to me as if I had always been a part of their family, like I had just been gone for a long time and they were welcoming me back into their lives.
To end one of the best parties that I have ever attended, one of my cousins put on 'Footloose', and 'She's a Maniac' (a dramatic change from the salsa music they blasted for the majority of the night) exclaiming "I LOVE JOHN TRAVOLTA!". Of course, I started to laugh hysterically, since neither of these songs had anything to do with him. I started to dance, the way that you do with these two songs, cheesy 80's moves and running in place. They all quickly tried to do what I was doing and for the first time that evening, I was being looked at for advice, not the other way around.
The following Thursday, my host brother left for his year long exchange to New York. I had mixed feelings about it... the main concern being that he was the only one in the family that knew any english and I would be left in a more difficult situation. His whole departure was far too similar to mine, and it felt like I was reliving my last week in Colorado. The going away party, staying up until 3 in the morning the night before your flight, doing last minute packing then getting up two hours later to go to the airport, and of course, lots of crying. Being at the airport with my family, gave me the other perspective of having to say goodbye from the other side of the boarding gate.
Aside from the obvious sadness that comes from saying 'so long' and watching the "bird leave the nest", I imagined it was especially hard on his parents. The bird seems to take its time leaving here; there is no rush to flap your wings and create a new nest of your own. There isn't a magic number (18), a secret push from the parents (sometimes not always a secret), college, or even as far as marriage and a kid- in the case of my oldest brother at age 27. Over the next year, I look forward to understanding more about the different expectations of the children and the parenting styles, as I have quickly observed they are very different.
Cuy, Spanish for Guinea Pig, is a popular delicacy in Peru. I have finally had the opportunity to not just see the crispy fried body lying on a plate next to potatoes, but eat one of its legs. Mmm, mmm, tasty. My brother ordered one on a sunny Sunday afternoon (sunny is rare here, so I already declared it to be a good day) when my family went out to a restaurant. When the waitress brought it out, all eyes were on me because my family wanted to see my reaction- hoping for something like a squeamish gag reflex. I did not give them what they wanted, not entirely. It took all of my strength to keep my jaw clenched shut, except for when I nodded my head saying "Yup...". My family asked me if I liked it, and I said, "No se," (I don't know) because at the time, I had never tried it. If it was based off of first impressions, I would probably say, "Ummm I'll get back to you on that one..." but they wouldn't understand it, so I didn't bother. At the time, its face reminded me of a Thestrals's from Harry Potter, I guess from the crispy looking skin, and the missing eyeballs.
It took my brother a while to rip off one of its legs for me, because apparently, Guinea Pigs like to keep all limbs attached, even when they're dead. It sat on my plate, and I stared at it, observing the foot that had its nails clipped, but were still there, and I started to make sure I had everything ready for me to take my first bite. Was there a drink nearby in case I needed something to help get it down? Napkin in hand, check. Extra lettuce on my plate to hide the rest of the remains in case I don't like it? I decided that I was ready, I had all of my back up plans, and I knew where the bathroom was if worst came to worst. I took my bite, and to my surprise, it tasted similar to chicken, but like something I've never had before. It actually tasted fairly good. I had a difficult time getting the rest of the meat off of its leg (like I said, Guinea Pigs like to stay intact), but in conclusion, I would eat it again.