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Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Tale of Two Birthday Parties

Yesterday I went up to the North Side for an old friend's 40th birthday. Eight of us gathered at a North African restaurant for crepes. They let us bring in our own wine, so we had a bottle of a nice California Pinot Noir. There was one baby in the group. We talked about politics, media and education. After dinner we went back to my friend's apartment for homemade chocolate cake, more wine (including my gift to her), and some Belgian beer. Her apartment is neat and painted in a faint shade of green she did herself. We had to move the small bowl of shells for fear the baby would break or eat them. I had a couple of conversations about academia and we made fun of people's former workplaces. We almost made it to the Green Mill to catch up with some other friends, but collectively pooped out around midnight.

Late this afternoon I went next door to Dawn's house for the joint birthday of her dad and Marisa's husband. Their place was covered in balloons, streamers and Happy Birthday signs. I would guess there were about 15-20 adults, maybe 10 kids between toddlers and tweens, and three babes in arms. Julian was wearing the shirt I brought back for him from Cuernavaca:

Cuida el agua
Toma cerveza

Save Water
Drink Beer)

Dawn's aunt was there with her new baby girl. She's a month old. There was a lot of Seven Up, Corona, and Budweiser with Clamato, Julian's favorite. He offered me some; I declined. We both grinned. I tried it before and it's OK but not my favorite--he likes to tease me about it. There was pork in mole, rice, beans and plenty of tortillas. There was also some kind of ceviche, but less of it, so I just had a little taste. There were two cakes--Julian's was chocolate, Marisa's husband's was carrot cake. I think this was Julian's 34th birthday, but his cake only had the four. Earlier we were kidding about the numbers for the other birthday boy--he's 26 but

This was one of the more fun Spanish-speaking parties I've been to because I knew enough of the people not to worry about my lack of language. Adriana gave me Angel to hold. He fell asleep and Dawn and I put him down in the bedroom. Then Dawn's aunt let me hold little Ashley while she ate. My old next-door neighbors--the family with six kids--came over and they wanted to see the little baby. Xochitl and Eddie and I chatted in English. Eddie is a big talker--he wanted to brag about his English compared to his big sister's. I suggested he stop talking and let her practice. She told me about watering the plants at the Chavez after school Garden Club.

I think Eddie was surprised to hear me speaking Spanish to Ashley. He came over at one point and said, "How do you learn two languages at once?

"That's what you're doing right now, right?"

"Yes. I'm learning Spanish and English."

"Well, how do you do that?" I asked him.

"I talk a lot," he said.

"That's what you do, Eddie, to learn any language. You talk a lot. Practice, practice practice." He smiled and went to play with a balloon.

I should take my own advice. I'm pretty shy at Spanish-language parties. Some friend of Dawn's from school was there with his dad. He clearly wasn't sure what language to speak to me--I came in and spoke Spanish but then missed some conversational cues, so he switched to his pretty weak English. I'd rather just hold the babies and talk to them than try to talk to people I don't know.

Dawn's aunt smiled when I told her daughter that Tia Maritza was going to teach her some English.

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