- A party is usually held in a large rented room, and benches are set up all around the walls. Being seriously socially awkward, we love the chance to sit and just talk to each other. There's no mingling or small talk with anyone not next to you. On the other hand, I can imagine that most other Americans would be bored stiff.
- When it's time to eat, the host walks around with drinks and trays of food and you take a little. It's a very long process. In Peru, food is always served to you. You don't just grab a cookie off the coffee table (if there were one). "Family style" dinner (or lunch) is non-existant. I think this also has to do with poverty to be honest. Food is limited and valuable. It is a special gift a host offers a guest, and there are probably not seconds. It's portion control for the wallet instead of the belly!
- Party decorations are a must. The rented rooms often have dirt floors and thatched roofs, so people pay their monthly wage ($150-200) to have someone come cover the place with fabric, poofy bows and what not. This is for quinceañeras and weddings. When it's a birthday party, they just stuff the room with balloons, ribbons, and signs.
- The louder the music is, the more fun we must be having. The regional music here is called cumbia. If I'm going to be honest, I have to tell you that I think it's horrible. If you're brave, check out this video of Tim's "favorite" cumbia song. The blank, bored expressions of the musicians are actually typical for cumbia videos. As is the dancer.
Last week we went to a classic birthday party. It was for a little boy turning 1, who had the pleasure of wearing something akin to a white marching band uniform for the occasion. There were probably 15 moms, 30 kids, and 3 men. The balloons on the wall were printed with the boy's name and other pertinent data. The decorations were very sharp actually. The table was a veritable feast of Peruvian snacks, but no one touched it of course. They waited patiently on their benches for the hostess to bring the trays around to them.
The real kicker was when they started handing out drinks. The drink, to begin with, was chicha morada, something like Koolaid but made by boiling purple corn. Not a favorite of mine but sometimes better than others. They handed out 10 plastic cups that were passed on from one person to the next. No washing of the cups in between. We looked at the toddlers with their saliva bubbles. We looked at each other.
There was no way out. If you're going to try to love people and be culturally sensitive, you just can't tell them that you're scared to drink after them. It kills the mood. I decided it wouldn't kill me and downed my chicha. Actually I only drank half of it, because Tim took over for me (bless his little heart). I was fully expecting to get a cold by the next day but am so far just fine. Thank goodness for the motto of cross-cultural ministry, which I kept repeating over and over in my head: "It's not right or wrong; it's just different."