Last Saturday, July 23rd, was National Friendship Day here in Bolivia. I don’t why it’s on July 23rd particularly but it’s celebrated very similarly to Valentine’s Day in the US. The market stalls were overflowing with pink, white and red teddy bears and things saying ‘Love’ sell at a premium. It is also common to do a “Secret Friend” gift exchange. So amongst my youth group and amongst my co-workers at the Guarderia, I drew a secret friend’s name out of a hat. Not knowing exactly what was a customary gift, but trying to give something useful, I bought some eye shadow for the college student and put together a bowl of cooking supplies and a cookie recipe for Madre Inez (my secret friend from the Guarderia). She had complimented me previously on my oatmeal raisin cookies and in general Bolivians do not know how to make American cookies so I thought she might appreciate it.
On Saturday we had a party with all the youth groups from the center to eat, dance and exchange presents.
I gifted the eye shadow and received a white teddy bear that played a song that I didn’t recognize. In one of my classic cultural blunders, the college student who opened the eye shadow said, “oh I’ve never worn makeup, I don’t even know how to put it on.” Despite the fact that she wears nice clothes and always has on jewelry, I guess I hadn’t adequately taken into account what a luxury item makeup is and that most young people don’t have expendable income to that level. Oh well, I hope she enjoys learning how to use it.
Also some people gave out Valentines at the party.
The next day at the Hogar I passed my teddy bear along to our god-daughter, Carmen, along with a head band and some pictures I’d printed out for her. She had been worrying that she was invited to a birthday party that day and didn’t have a present to bring so I told her she should pick one thing from her present to re-gift. She decided to re-gift the head band. I was happy to have an opportunity to teach about sharing and generosity.
Despite what the picture would suggest, she was actually very excited about the bear. It’s kind of a cultural thing here to look serious in photos. I think she learned it from her mom, anyway that’s why she’s rarely smiling. (I think it’s because people have such bad teeth, just like in the US 100 years ago when no one would smile. They’re still in that practice here. With adults, it’s understandable since many have golden crowns or are missing teeth.)
In other events, I also got pooped on by a pigeon, which the Italian volunteer, Georgia, insisted was good luck.
And we handed out lollipops to all the girls for Friendship Day. This is Carmen and her older sister Ana Paola. We in general have a no-sweets policy for the Hogar girls since they have such bad teeth and we don’t want to be part of the problem, but I said, well just this once.
On Monday, we had a dinner with all the Guarderia staff and exchanged our secret presents, but we never got to find out who actually gave us the present which disappointed me. Anyway I think Madre Inez liked her present. I put in a few already-baked cookies as an example and the other workers joked that if her cookies didn’t turn out the same she should ‘return it.’ I received a fluffy pink ‘Love’ pillow which made me quite glad I had already passed along the teddy bear, otherwise our living room might be in cute overload. I guess what I learned from both gift exchanges is that Dia de Amistad is generally celebrated with fluffy, pink, useless gifts.