Monday, January 18, 2010

We're gonna party like it's [my] birthday

Actual Birthday

My 28th birthday was on a Tuesday, but despite it being a work day I still fit some fun in. I made pancakes in a wok for breakfast since it was the best option available. (Would that make them wokcakes?) Amy has a stash of maple syrup, a true luxury here, and although they were a bit dense they were still highly enjoyable.

That night I went to dinner at my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Inka Si Señor. It’s a great name and the food is fabulous, the portions are huge and it’s cheap. Despite their relative proximity, Argentineans are not in the habit of eating Peruvian food as a general rule, so it was very adventuresome of my friends Fay and Nico to join Beth, Amy, and me at dinner. Here we are:

After we had eaten most of our food, all of a sudden a scratchy musical recording came on. It was a pre-recorded version of happy birthday, accompanied by one of Argentina’s delicious cakes (dulce de leche frosting AND filling, obviously) that Beth kindly picked up for me, plus the most amazing birthday candle I have ever seen. It was a firework on top of a cake! I was so in awe I forgot to blow it out. The recording was quite long, I think it played happy birthday three times in three different styles, but everyone in the restaurant – waiters and other customers the same – were singing and clapping along.

Turns out it was one of the waiter's birthdays as well. Apparently in Peru it’s customary to throw eggs at the birthday boy (not sure if girls are included in this custom) so there was a lot of hooplah in the back of the restaurant as he tried to escape. Yes, they were throwing raw eggs inside a restaurant. No, it did not surprise or offend us in the least. Then he got his own cake complete with firework candle and scratchy recording and we all sang and clapped along. I gave him a piece of my cake and he gave me a piece of his and we were all in a jolly mood. It was a great energy and totally fun and unexpected.


Saturday night we threw a party at our apartment. For the first time I got to experience what it was like to have a summer birthday: it was hot and half my friends were out of town. Luckily Amy invited her friends, and all of mine that were still in town invited some of their friends, so we had a pretty good turnout. Here's Amy with some of the boys she plays soccer with, rocking the hats that someone gave me at 8 am on New Year's Day as I walked home:

I really wanted to make French bread pizza but couldn’t find French bread, so we switched at the last minute to pre-made crusts which ended up being a very smart and delicious choice. I also made my now-famous bleu cheese dip (salad dressing is a scarce and expensive import here so I just crumble bleu cheese into cream and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice – voila!) with cut vegetables for dipping. This is the beginning of the party:
We had some drinks but it’s normal here for people to bring drinks to a party, and bring them they did. Everyone did their best to finish it all off but at the end of the party we had: two half bottles of gin, a half bottle of vodka, a half bottle of scotch, three bottles of red wine, two of white, and one of champagne. Suffice to say we are set for the foreseeable future.

Another key player of my party was the cake. My sister Anne is an incredible cook AND baker (a rare combination) and for the past few years has made me Malted Milk Ball cupcakes. She wasn’t here to make them for me but she did the next best thing: sent all the ingredients and the recipe in my Christmas box. Amy and I had a lot of fun making it, largely because we had to substitute a very literal translation of ‘hand mixer’ i.e. use our hands. Also because we ate more of the chocolate chips than we put into the batter, since hey, they don't exist down here and we couldn't resist.
We didn't have cupcake pans so we made it as a cake, and the frosting could have been fluffier since me beating it with a wooden spoon was not quite up to snuff with the whirring power of two beaters, but it was still INCREDIBLE. (For an amazing photo of Amy's hand-beater hands and other birthday photos, check out Picasa.) Here I am shortly after licking the bowl:
After we lit the candles and sang, I told everyone the story of the cake as it was being served and that they were in for a real American treat. It was a hit, of course. Then I hid the cake away and when someone asked me later if there was any left I said no. I hoarded it for about 5 days and even on the last day as Amy and I split the last two bites it was still delicious. See how excited I am to cut into this cake??

Side note: Did you know that in Argentina you get THREE birthday wishes, not just one? That is a custom I fully plan on bringing back with me. I spread them out over a few days and a few cakes.

Like I said, it was hot. A lot of people spent the majority of time on the balcony or directly under the fan.

I tried my best to get a dance party going but there were two warring factions of music taste, one of which was composed of one very aggressive dude who was convinced it was in everyone’s best interest to listen to hard-core techno music. Every time someone changed the music, he changed it back. It was pretty funny but slightly annoying so I wasn’t too bummed when he left to go dancing at – you guessed it – a techno club.

There was another individual who was very set on singing karaoke, so we you-tubed a variety of songs plus the word karaoke so the lyrics would show up. This went on for a good hour and there was an enthusiastic group of about 7 of us who belted out some standards like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Gloria Gayner’s “I Will Surive.” There is video but I'm not sure how it turned out.
The aforementioned gentleman serenaded us with a song from Rent called "Glory," I believe, which had some pretty high notes. We all very politely listened to with straight faces. However, I couldn’t help but crack a smile when he told me shortly after that once everyone left he would sing me “Bésame mucho.” I weaseled my way out of that one even though he was among the last to leave. Luckily one of Amy’s friends took pity on me and helped me shoo him out the door. Speaking of Amy, here we are toward the end of the night:
The last partiers left at around 6 am – sounds crazy to us U.S. folk but I assure you it’s quite standard here – and Amy and I decided we were hungry. We didn’t want to reheat the leftover pizza for some reason, so we made one last pizza with all the leftover toppings - we each did our own half - and I cleaned while it baked.

This was also when we finally found the cat who at some point went missing. We figured he was curled up in a safe, quiet place somewhere but there are only so many places to hide. So Amy went looking for him and found him at the top of the stairs 3 floors up, terrified in a dark corner and ready to pounce. The next day he developed an eye infection, probably due to stress, but at least he didn't fall off the balcony. He's also not all that interested in escaping any more, so it was a valuable lesson learned.
Cat rescued, pizza eaten, and house mostly cleaned, I slept from about 7:30 to 5 pm the next day, woke up, watched two movies, and went back to bed around 11.

All in all, it was a successful birthday. Except for the fact that all my friends here seem to be in the 20-24 range, so I am officially the "old" friend. Awesome.


Kimberly said...

Che - amazing. Sorry I missed it but I was there in spirit. Miss you!!!

Un beso

Renée said...

Dude! Sounds super fun. I'm totally bummed that I missed it, too! And I'm about to hit 29 in a few months so don't worry about being the old friend...

Daruma-san said...

How lovely! I hope you're taking notes on making that dulce de leche cake... ;)

Mr. Quick said...

I want your birthday experience to be mine this year.

AmberAnda said...

Sounds like an awesome way to ring in your 28th year. That photo of you and Amy on the couch is adorable. Feliz Cumple otra vez!

Sara said...

Sorry! Happy Belated B-day by like a week. Looks like you had a great time!