Friday, December 17, 2010
The word is out. Although I escaped early (embarrassingly so, considering a couple years ago I was a wild college kid), the consensus at my uncle´s birthday party last weekend was that I danced well. Apparently, after I left (literally escaping, telling only my host-mom), there was drunken discussion of my abilities, which are considered impressive, given my not-from-here-ness. I´m surprisingly proud, and am doing my best not to take into account that I was one of the few completely sober people present, and that the steps to huayno are just sort of skipping in place.
Parties, partying, binge drinking: these are topics and challenges I imagined that I left behind when I graduated from college and joined the Peace Corps. However, life in Musho is full of celebrations, each with a strict set of traditions and quirks. Most families do not celebrate birthdays annually. At the most, they might make a special meal, but they might just sing and leave it there. However, when a family does decide to celebrate a kids (anyone still studying) there is a certain etiquette. First, the entire class is invited. There will be music and chairs around the edge of the house´s biggest room (sometimes about the size of a mini van; it can get cramped). Kids dance, encouraged and sometimes accompanied by the adults present, and, in between numbers, enjoy snacks. In all the parties I´ve been to, there is a very specific menu: popcorn, hard candies, jello and arroz con leche topped with mazamorra morada (a peruvian pudding that is made from corn. The taste is delicious but the texture makes me think it might come alive at any moment). These are carried around and offered to everyone from a tray, one by one. To refuse is bad manners, but to save all of it in a plastic bag for later is not. There is also, always, a toast, whether with soda at the kids parties or with beer (soda for grown-ups, as my host dad calls it).
Adult parties-- of any sort-- can stray from that menu of food, but always feature large quantities of food, served to you (no buffets here!), and, naturally, beer.
Here in Musho, I´m more or less a nun, aside from the deeper religious portion of the belief system. So, while the rest of the party is passing the glass, the Peruvian system of slowly drinking with friends, I slowly get bored and then uncomfortable as everyone around me gets drunk. Sometimes I think that I should just cave and start drinking, but I remind myself that I´m a role model (and that waking up to 5 am huayno hungover at altitude has to be murderous, judging by my sober reaction to the tunes and my host dad´s hangovers)
When I first came to Musho, this bored awkwardness and general discomfort caused me to hate parties. I would rather do almost anything than attend, and coordinated with my site mates so that they would call me at strategic moments so I could escape. However, it might be my moves (where else in the world am I considered a skilled dancer?), it might be that I feel close enough to people to laugh with them or openly at them, or it might just be that I love Musho, and when you love, you have to accept faults as well. Whatever the reason, these quirky parties-- both the awkward kid´s shindigs and the drunken adult routs-- always become a priority on my calendar these days. Celebration is a part of life, and, if it were only in Huaraz that I let loose, my life here would be pretty sad. So, there is a much-talked of vispera (the night before the party, party, which is really where the best action is at) on the 24th. I am washing my pollera, studying the huayno videos, and so ready to break it down with the rest of my family.
This is part of the pre-partying preparation: Yes, they are cutting those ribs with an ax.