When Abigail turned one, we made a blueberry cake and blew up a few balloons. My parents came over. There were some presents. She took some first steps. It was an ideal party. I'd say it registered at about a one on a scale of size, magnitude, and expense.
Such was not our experience at the party for our neighbor's son who just turned one. Apparently here the one year-old birthday party is a really big deal. It was at a facility that was decorated at the level I'd expect for a prom or wedding reception (though thematically a little different). There were photographers, a clown, a juggler, a Mickey Mouse, a man on bouncy stilts, a dancer who also did face painting, a magician, two DJ's, an assistant, and a woman who did cotton candy and popcorn.
But the part that surprised me most of all was the volume of the music. It was such that I can't imagine the one year-old could bear to listen to it. I was of course considering the long-term hearing implications for my children. But they were into it. Jesse initially covered his ears, but once they started asking, "Quien quiere un premio?" ("Who wants a prize?") he was all in. They had to clap and jump as loudly and enthusiastically as possible to win. Abigail won one out of sheer cuteness. I mean it's hard to compete with a tiny thing jumping with all her might.
Anyway, it was wild. And I'd have to call it a culture shock moment for me. Less "culture stress" which I've read is just the fatigue that comes from having to work harder to do every day kind of tasks, and more all out "culture shock." My ears actually hurt. And I found the clown a little scary. But it was a true Dominican experience.
It was as if someone had seen my lame attempt at a one year-old party and said, "You call that a party? This is a party!"