Nearly a month ago, one of the kids at the bridge started telling me that his birthday was on March 13. Like...daily! The other kids told me I needed to check that fact out, because I'm the paperwork person of the bridge right now and am constantly checking up on real names and birthdays. Also, occasionally someone will lie or fudge on their date to try to wheedle a gift out of me. But I felt he was right and he was. What was different than he thought was his age. He was actually turning 22, not 20. His younger brother was also a couple years older, and with a different birthday than they remembered. Both of their parents died in the 90s, and since then they've been between the street and children's homes/shelters. Now because of their age, without a miracle, street life is their future.
So on Friday night I began preparations by buying ingredients then making a big vanilla cake and a big chocolate cake. Saturday morning, I took the birthday boy and another guy, plus two kids from the Baby Home, to La Cancha (huge outdoor market where you can find just about anything!) to buy a new outfit. This cost all of $8.5 and he was thrilled.
Then, since he's a very "calm" street kid, I let him come with me to the Baby Home to leave the girls and watch me finish his cake. I made it Bolivian style, with fruit, whip cream, and dulce de leche (caramel) in between the layers, my first attempt! If I had had more time to assemble the cake, it would have come out better, but even so it was very delish! And it's not like the kids at the bridge are very exacting in their tastes. Food is food!
He also showered and changed into his new clothes, emerging grinning from ear to ear. Earlier I had asked him "How was your birthday last year?" and he said "Oh it was bad, not good at all. Every year since 1999 and being on the street, it's been bad." I asked what about the few years he lived in a boy's home. He said that there, birthdays are just celebrated regularly every 3 months, which meant he celebrated with about 9 other boys. So on HIS day, it was nothing special. That just reminded me afresh why we work so hard to make each birthday unique and individual here....even when we've already had 3 in a month!
I was impressed by how well the others responded when we started his little birthday celebration under the bridge. The numbers have swelled to about 15, but during the day they sometimes scatter and I was glad that there were at least 8 + the baby.
Smiles all around!
Singing Happy Birthday
Serving huge portions of cake from our makeshift table
The baby even got a little taste
There was even entertainment...
This guy is a newer member of the bridge group, as before he was in the north of the city. The others are as fascinated as me to watch him prepare his "torches", ask him questions, and watch him juggle at the intersection. Here the birthday boy (washing his clothes in the river) is watching the special private performance. I should have taken a picture of us lined up on their mattresses (if you can call them that!) watching him.
(Somehow I don't think anyone was being much help as he prepared for his night's work!)