In Spanish, when you are asked how old you are, it literally translates to “How many years do you have?” Meaning that the response literally translates to, “I have *insert age* years.” I had the privilege to celebrate my 22nd birthday here in Ecuador, so now I have 22 years.
I decided I wanted an “Ecuadorian style” birthday complete with all the normal traditions. I had a lot of fun, but must say I am glad there are some things I haven’t had to experience 22 times previously. For example, it is a normal tradition to tie the birthday boy/girl up to a pole and give them spankings with a belt for each year they were born. Each person in the family gets a chance to spank, without excluding children or grandparents. Apparently this is supposed to give you good luck in the year to come. This is a very normal tradition here, so yes, I got tied to a pole and got my respective spankings.
I also got something that actually isn’t all that out of the norm for me, but was a surprise all the same. It is a tradition to have the birthday boy/girl “smell” their cake before they eat it to make sure it is good. Then when they least expect it, their friends shove their head into the cake. I know what you’re thinking; “This is normal for you?” And I must admit that, since my first birthday in college, my friends have made it a tradition to somehow get cake all over my face.
Aside from all this fun, I got to be a birthday princess for the day, topped with a purple princess crown. I ate pizza, (not chicken and rice, so I suppose this isn’t all that Ecuadorian), went swimming in the river, and my favorite part of the day was when Joslyn got us on the radio! It was a perfect serendipitous moment as we passed by the radio station right as the man was ending a song. He allowed Joslyn to wish me a happy birthday and for me to tell him how old I was. Of course I responded, “Tengo 22 anos.” (I have 22 years.) After that we pranced around Tena exclaiming, “estamos famosas!” (We are famous!) We may not have been actually famous, but it was fun to think so.
It was a wonderful birthday and I’m glad I got the chance to experience it as an “Ecuadorian gringita.”