I’ll turn 78 tomorrow. Today I rode my bike 40 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes. I stopped for about 10 minutes at 33 miles to eat a bag of honey-roasted peanuts and drink a can of pear nectar. When I got home I took a walk to the park to stretch my legs and back muscles. Two hours later I feel fantastic.
I’ll have had six birthdays since moving to El Salvador and can’t remember receiving one gift. It’s been a while since I received an E-greeting from the only one of my seven natural or adopted kids I’ve been in touch with, so I won’t be surprised if I don’t get one tomorrow. My wife, Margarita, told me she was going to kill the fattest hen to make me something special for lunch, our “big” meal here. I’m sure that if I want a birthday cake I’ll have to take the microbus to Chalchuapa and buy one at the super market. I really don’t care for the cakes they bake here. The icing is too gooey and the cake is tasteless. I’ve been superbly avoiding fattening foods since I had my kidney stones in April and lost more than 20 lbs.
At my age one day is the same as the next. Margarita never wants anything for her birthday or our anniversaries. (Our civil marriage was May 7th and our church wedding was Nov. 14th.) The kids get new things all year ’round but I always buy cake for their birthdays…and Margarita’s. Christmas day is nothing special in El Salvador. Easter has no colored egg hunts. Halloween has almost no existence here. But we have so many fiestas so that makes up for the “real” holidays. Perhaps it’s because we’re such a poor country that gift-giving isn’t a big deal. Rather to have beans and tortillas on the table than to sweat a gift for each of your extended family members. I can live with that but it does seem different.
On January 23, my current Residency ID Card expires. I should have my naturalization documents and a National ID Card by then. I will consider citizenship as my birthday gift. Another gift will be Margarita’s decision to begin attending church with me in El Refugio rather than the church in Chalchuapa that we began attending when our original church here was corrupted, our pastor was fired by a congregation padded with extended family members of the coup d’eglise leaders. When a core of ex-members formed a new church I immediately joined them. The Chalchuapa church has a good program for our kids and we don’t, so I was OK with Margarita’s decision to stay there. But I continually prayed that she’d rejoin us here in El Refugio. God does answer prayers.
So how will I spend January 10th? About all I have on my agenda is to work on our son Luís’ flat tire. Maybe, just maybe, Margarita will find some way to get us to Chalchuapa to buy a cake. Or maybe not. No matter. In celebrating birthdays, like everything else, it’s different here.