Bundled up in our fleeces against the frigid air conditioning, we began our bus ride, which was thankfully fairly straight in nature, chatting with our fellow travelers. Anita is a retired accountant who enjoys frequent bus trips around the country with her fellow Mexican retirees, and Beti is an Argentine expat who arrived in Oaxaca nine years ago and never left: she and I formed a dynamic duo of foreigners for the weekend.
We stumbled in to Uncle Miguel's sprawling residence at ten to six the next morning, exhausted and sweating buckets in the 95 degree F, 85% humidity. Having barely slept a wink, Harold and I downed several cups of rich, dark local shade-grown coffee. There to greet us were Harold's dad, his uncle Miguel and his super- hospitable wife Liliana, his deceased grandfather's second wife, Irma, and of course, the birthday girl Luz Estrella, who promptly told me she loved my hair (it was quite curly and huge in that weather) and showed me around the estate and the neighborhood. A couple hours later, the property began to buzz with activity, as the workers arrived to construct bee boxes and other items to support the family's honey business, and the tables, decorations, and stereo equipment arrived for the next day's party.
The parrot that cried like a baby, giggled, and muttered swear words.
A red and gray squirrel that looks like a monkey!
Luz Estrella with her pet spotted deer.
A pet peacock!
Parrot house below, play house above.
Another pretty tropical flower....
The family's honey business, which exports its products to Germany, and distributes them around Mexico.
Harold helps rake the expansive lawn before the birthday party.
The pig has been slaughtered; now come the pork skin tacos and chicharrones (fried pork skins). Then come the barbacoa and manteca (lard) for use in tacos and tamales.
Laptop fest! Harold shows his uncle Victor photos of his exquisite carpentry, while Victor catches him up on photos of sis Montserrat's university graduation from seven years ago! Victor lives in the port of Veracruz and will be hosting us for several days sometime in the next couple weeks.
Aunt Liliana and Harold's dad package the huge quantity of meat gleaned from the pig slaughter.
Freshly fried pork skins, to be slathered in salsa verde.
A bizarre photo of me, Harold and Luz Estrella, for your viewing pleasure.
An amazingly well-posed photo of the four siblings present at the event; Victor, Lupita, Consuelo and Miguel.
A display honoring the late Raymundo Hernandez Juarez, Harold's grandfather and the original "bee-whisperer" of Jaltipan. Seen by the community as stark-raving mad, he was once called upon by the government to control a city-wide infestation of aggressive African bees.
The outdoor dining area fills with folks engaged in a range of conversations and activities.
A house on uncle Miguel's property, with a dipping pool out front.
We present Luz with her birthday gift, a roomy pink Jansport backpack.
Balloons! Let the fun begin. Anita and Beti concentrate on the tedious (and pointless?) formation of balloon chains.
The guy hired to coordinate the decor elected to form this balloon arrangement. Hmmm.
We attempt to affix a balloon arrangement to the bumpy post.
Whoops- it popped! After all our hard work, a lot of the balloons popped due to over-inflation in the heat. Darn it!
Harold's uncle holds a later sustaining his dad, who is attaching a tarp to the outdoor event area, while Harold rigs up one of the lovely balloon chains.
Victor blows up a balloon.
Siblings have fun with balloons and salsa music!
H and A fill the pinata with candy and get it ready to hoist.
I take a swing at it.
The party starts with a much-needed pina colada.
The brincolin! Highlight of the party for some kids.
Luz in front of the face painting station.
The bar; serving up pina coladas and ginebras, mixed beverages with fresh coconut water.
The three clowns. The audience concluded they were not very funny, but here they are.
A little boy who looked at this photo and concluded he looked "ugly" and proceeded to remove his face paint.
A little rabbit.
Harold has a dance-off with the winner of the kids' dance contest.
Children converge on the fallen pinata, which was eventually beaten down by a ten-year old boy.
Pastel and multi-colored gelatina. Jello, rather than ice cream, is commonly served with cake at parties in Mexico.
The vocal parrot takes a joyful bath in the cooling rain.