“I’ll go to your uncle’s party on one condition”, I began to tell Dani. “Don’t tell anyone that it’s my birthday. I don’t want to steal any of his thunder!”
I’ve always been modest when it comes to my birthday. I’m awkward with all the special attention. I let Dani and Maria know that it’s not a big deal and I’m just here to have a good time. However, Maria wasn’t having any of that. The morning before their uncle’s big birthday party, Maria and David came inside the house with a cake they bought for me.
“This family likes to celebrate everyones birthday!” she said.
I had a big grin on my face because I appreciated the extremely kind gesture. Also, I really, really love cake. All I could see was the swirly silky white frosting completely covering whatever deliciousness was inside. What was in there? Dani pulled out a candle and stuck it right in the center and lit it. The whole family came to the table and began to sing “Happy Birthday” but in Spanish.
Being sang to is always one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. How am I supposed to act? Where do I put my hands? Do I look at the cake or do I look at them? Whatever that case, I always look very awkward. Thankfully, I felt completely at home around this bounteous family so it wasn’t TOO awkward. The end is always the best because it means it’s time to cut the cake and reveal what flavor was inside. I learned that the Gutierrez’s had an unorthodox way of cutting the cake, specifically Vivi. She cut a circle out of the center, turning the cake into a ring shape. Then she cut the rest into smaller pieces.
“It’s a weird thing they do here with their cakes”, Mike chimed in. It made perfect sense though.
I can’t even tell you what the cake tasted like. The inside looked like layers of wafer crust with peanut butter spread between. It tasted nothing like peanut butter, but instead a mixture of nutella and I-don’t-know-what. Whatever it was, it was pretty damn good!
Never had anything like it.
When it comes to parties, the Gutierrez family are a smart bunch. They figured everyone would be drunk off their butts so opted to rent a personal shuttle to lift the entire crew there and back. That way we could all let loose without any worry! Plus, Dani’s uncle lived about an hour away and no one wanted to make that drive. We all packed in with a few Imperials for the road!
The drive wasn’t bad at all. We pulled up to the front of a reception-like area in front of a valley looking out to the towns and pueblos down below. I entered into a medley of tables filled with their family and friends all over the place. Dani and Maria introduced me to as many as they could.
“This is my friend Dan I met in South Africa”, they would tell everyone but in Spanish.
“Mucho gusto!” I would respond back. It got confusing after while when a few of them wondered why I didn’t have a South African accent. From then on, Dani just introduced me as her friend from the States. Less confusing that way. Then I met their uncle.
He paused, grabbed a microphone with me in his grasp and introduced me to the crowd as some guy named Patrick Pemberton. Who the heck is that? Maria later told me he’s a famous Costa Rican football player and that I resemble him. Let me look him up on google…
I don’t see it…
Dani warned me that her uncle was somewhat of a bully, but in a humorous way if that makes sense. He would make anyone new to the family, say a gringo who’s marrying in, say something to everyone in Spanish or he just might throw someone into the pool. I pleaded to them to be especially sure not to tell him that today was my birthday or else he might throw me in the pool too! I casually kept my distance just in case he wanted me to pretend I was Patrick Pemberton and make me give a speech or something.
The open bar was stocked with booze and beer galore. I started off the day with two tasty mojitos. I wanted to tip the sweaty bartender but the others practically ordered me not to. “You’ll be a real gringo if you do that!” they would say. So I listened. After the mojitos I switched over to Pilsens, the other beer of Costa Rica which tasted a little better in my opinion. All you had to do was go behind the bar, stick your hand in the giant tub of ice, and pull out a can. Happy Birthday freakin birthday to me and the Uncle!
Over the course of the day I met more of their family and friends and stuffed my belly with delicious food. I chowed down on M&M’s and peanuts that were sitting at my table, helped myself to crackers with an eggplant sauce and then to the main course later on. I was stuffed from dusk till dawn. I had seconds of course.
I joined a table of a bunch of people I just met, explaining to them that I’m not South African and asking them all sorts of questions about how everyone knows the next person. I’m still not sure the proper way to greet people here in Costa Rica, especially with women. I’m not used to the “air kiss” on the cheek thing. I asked Maria, “Do we actually kiss them on the cheek or do we just make the kissing noise next to their face?” She said just the kissing noise but actual contact is okay. Afterwards, she brought me another cacique shot. It’s a Costa shot thats made with salsa lizano, guaro (national liquor), tabasco, pepper, lemon and salt. It’s like a funked up bloody mary. The first cacique shot she gave me was the night prior when we met her and her husband for a drink.
It’s been a few hours and two mojitos and eight beers later, I was feeling it. They were playing latin music on the dance floor. I joined in on the floor and somehow ended up with wine, beer, and a mixed drink in my possession.
“Nooooo!!!” shouted Dani as she took the wine away, at least. “You’re going to thank me later.”
The night resulted in lots of dancing (I ONLY dance when I’m drunk), Butterfingers galore, and me dunking some random kids head in the pool who kept lobbing wet napkins at us. I don’t think the kids mother liked that her sons head and shirt was soaked but that little sucker was asking for it!
It was a great night!
We were wore out when the shuttle picked us up a little after 11pm. I passed out on the way back to the house but when I arrived, there was no more sleeping for me. I had to pack my bags because I had a bus scheduled to leave at 3am in the morning taking me out of Costa Rica. I kept kicking myself for booking a bus so early when I knew I’d be drinking quite a bit. Why did I do such a stupid thing?
I said my farewells to the Gutierrez family. All of them, every single one of them have been beyond incredible and displayed the best hospitality I could ever ask for, especially on relatively short notice. Thank you for everything. The entire time was great. My entire time in Costa Rica was great!
Poor Dani, who was visibly pooped, stayed up with me while we waited for a taxi to take me to the bus station. She said to me, “You will always have a home here in Costa Rica whenever you come back!”
That was the best birthday gift I received today.