Saturday, December 10, 2011

padrinos & a party

This past Friday we got to attend the preschool promotion party of two of the KKp ladies' daughters (Carmen and Jacqui).  We got to attend because we were "padrinos" of the party.  The word "padrino" literally means "godparent," but it has also come to simply signify "sponsor."  There are many, many different kinds of padrinos in Peru.  There is the literal godparent role in a child's life and this comes with a mentorship and financial responsibility for the child.  There is also "padrino de corte de pelo" where you give the child his or her first haircut, "padrinos de médico" that help with emotional and financial support during medical crises, "padrinos de quinceañeras" that financially help with the huge celebration that accompanies turning 15 and I just recently heard of someone being asked to be a "padrino del baño" where you pay to build someone's bathroom in their new home (this was an unusual request though).

This party had numerous padrinos to sponsor different aspects of the party and we were specifically asked to provide a gift for each child in the class.  Blake and I went back and forth about a million times on whether we should do this or not.  We knew we were being asked because we are white and have money.  Do we want to reinforce the stereotype that white people are here to give money and gifts away?  But there was a part of us that also hoped we were being asked because we have shown that we love Carmen and Jacqui's daughters.  In the end, we decided to say yes for a number of reasons.  The commitment was minimal.  Just one party.  That's something we can commit to right now.  We also felt like, even though this was about providing financially, that this was a way for us to enter into Jacqui and Carmen's lives.  We want to be there for them outside of the normal workday at KKp.  And we just thought the party would be a fun cultural experience for our family.  Did we make the right decision?  I don't know.  Maybe there isn't a "right" decision.

On to the party.  The invitation stated the start time at 4:30.  We've learned enough to know not to come at that time (nothing starts on time here), so we came at 5:30.  Apparently we're still a little stupid because the party didn't actually start until 6:30.  

First the kids were introduced and sat in their seats.  Each of the families buys either a dress for their daughter or a dress shirt for their son in the chosen party color.  This may seem confusing to us North Americans.  Obviously these families are poor.  If you have seen Jacqui's video, you know that she shares a one room shack with her husband and daughter.  They don't have running water or a real roof.  But following customs trumps all.  Buying a beautiful dress for your daughter's preschool promotion is just what you do here.  You save, scrimp, and whatever else necessary to make this happen for your daughter.  Jacqui even rented a dress for herself in purple. 

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Then the girls and boys danced together.  This is Bianca, Jacqui's daughter.
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Then Tyler cried because we wouldn't let her drink champagne.
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After Tyler's little show, we got a real show.  There was a clown.
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And Barney.
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And dancing.
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There was also a basket stacking competition between the ladies and men.  Blake and I quickly became the only two people in the room tall enough to continue stacking and therefore competing.  I was so nervous.  I had the weight of a win for all of the ladies on my shoulders.  We had almost reached the ceiling when Blake fatefully misplaced his basket and the tower came crashing down.  ¡Las mujeres ganaron!

Following the fun, each of the kids got their promotion plaque (provided by a different padrino).  Blake and I were asked to hand out a few of the plaques.
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This is Carmen, her daughter Angela, and her son Marco.
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Tyler stole Brady's candy and then thought she could hide by closing her eyes.
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Finally, Santa Claus Blake handed out the gifts.
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It was a really fun experience and we had a good time hanging out with Carmen, Jacqui, and their families.  And to top it all off we got this amazing gift that is now prominently displayed on Blake's desk.
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