Let’s Celebrate! An American’s experience of an Asian birthday party

Last night the couple who organized the camp had a birthday party to celebrate a 10 year old’s birthday since it occurred during the camp. The party was held in the students’ dining hall which had a stage at one end and the kitchen on the other. My roommate, Angel, and I walked down to the hall where we saw some of the other teachers and young adult camp helpers. Half the room was filled with the 30 students at the camp. One little boy was standing up on the small stage with the organizer who had a microphone he was passing around as s students would raise their hands, be chosen to go up on stage, given the mic, then speak a few words in their native language. After each one spoke the students clapped and then another one raised his hand to speak.

We found out today that the director had asked the children who would like to give a blessing to the birthday boy and that each one would bless him to “live a hundred years, live a long life,” and other niceties. Then one of the male native helpers came from the kitchen with a very large chopping knife which the director and the birthday boy used to cut his cake to serve everyone in attendance. The cake was made by a local bakery, was white with white icing and topped with various kinds of Asian fruit, all of which was delicious. Angel told me that one was called dragon fruit, her favorite, and can only be found in that country. Although the director had joked about having fruit at a birthday party, the children and adults seemed to enjoy it immensely. As the cake was cut and served to the students, the music teacher, a native, was asked to provide music with her guitar on the stage. She was later joined by two other teachers who sang kids’ songs and performed the hand motions to accompany the songs.

After everyone had their fill of cake, the lights were dimmed, the disco ball hung in the center of the room was lit, and the director played some dance songs. Some of the teachers and students started dancing. Angel joined the students on the floor to show them some country line dances and I showed G, one of the adolescent helpers, how to dance to disco music. Most of the students joined in and we danced to about 5 songs until we were tired and out of breath.

Then on came the overhead lights and the director brought a large white bag filled with fresh bananas. The children squealed with delight as they ran up to the table to get a banana. One student even brought 2 to Angel and me, the last teachers there. We hungrily consumed the bananas as did some of the students while others held them lovingly in their hands to take back to their rooms.

The party was over as the students lined up to return to their rooms in the “hotel” across from the pond and Angel and I climbed our way  back up the many steps to our cottage on the hill. It was truly an evening to savor.

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