Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Happy Birthday Hangover

Gringo v.s. Pinata. Gringo wins.
Slowly, I awoke, head throbbing and face burning. Sitting up, I found myself in bed in my new apartment in La Candelaria. After dragging myself to the bathroom, switching on the light, and looking in the mirror, I saw a tired person staring back who sported an ugly black and white shiner under his right eye.

I thought to myself, “¿Qué pasó ayer?” (What happened yesterday?)

Heading downstairs to the kitchen/common room, I saw the aftermath of the previous night’s abandon. Empty beer cans and bottles of aguardiente abounded. An explosion of colorful confetti covered the floor, which was as sticky as that of a roach motel. I spotted the looted carcass of a piñata and knelt down to examine it.

Then I remembered…

“You can come downstairs now!” One of my new roommates called from below. I descended the stairs and found myself in a happy birthday wonderland; the entire downstairs area was decked out with birthday decorations, food and drinks, populated by all of the friends I had made during my time in Colombia. On the table rested an improvised piñata made from taped cardboard and Ben 10 wrapping paper.

“What’s in the piñata?” I asked.

Party in the gringo pad!
“It’s a surprise,” one of my friends replied.

The party commenced, which I began with several Aguila cervezas, my Colombian go-to beer. The whole time, I pondered what fabulous prizes awaited within the makeshift piñata.

Finally, piñata time came and one of my friends blindfolded and spun me around 24 times. Now sufficiently discombobulated, I was ordered to chug a beer before being set loose on the piñata with the broomstick I now held. Like some kind of blinded arachnid, I thrust the broomstick in the piñata’s general direction, making a few lucky strikes, but mostly narrowly avoiding impaling the other party-goers. Eventually, I managed to knock my cardboard adversary to the floor and with one final thrust, put the piñata out of its misery, releasing a torrent of assorted cheap plastic toys.

All made in China, of course.

…leaving the piñata where it lay, I stood up to investigate the rest of the room. Sidestepping a pool of spilt red wine (at least I hoped it was wine) on the linoleum floor, I reached into the cabinet to find some Advil—to turn down the volume in my head, which beat like a boom box on full power. After popping two into my mouth, I spotted the crumbling remains of a birthday cake.

Of course! The birthday cake…

An hour or so after I vanquished the piñata, a slew of random European and Australian backpackers invaded our apartment. Since they seemed harmless at first, I thought ‘the more the merrier’ and proceeded to rage with my friends. After taking a birthday shot of Medellin rum with some Australians, someone turned the lights off and on to get everyone’s attention. My friend carried a birthday cake with an active Colombian firecracker towards me as everyone began to sing “Happy Birthday.” With the firecracker/candle sparkling before me, I instinctively tried to blow it out, but succeeded only in blowing sparks towards the partygoers.

Birthday Cake!
“No!” one of my Colombian friends cried. “Wait.”

It was noob gringo mistake on my part. My bad.

After the firecrackers died down to a point where it could be extinguished, I blew it out and the cake was served. 

As I stood eating a piece, two Australian backpackers came up to me and asked if they could use the bathroom. I told them sure and that it was upstairs, but then thought better and decided escort them. When we arrived at the bathroom, the two randoms loitered awkwardly then asked me where the best place to do a line would be.

I fought to contain my anger. I can’t stand coke-snorting gringo backpackers who treat Colombia like a drug-themed Disneyland.

“That’s not cool to do here,” I said, crossing my arms. 

They looked at me like I was joking, but when I stood my ground, one of them said, “No problem, bro. Gotta respect house rules.”

As I watched them go back downstairs, I remembered why gringos have such bad reputations in Colombia.

…I dug into a piece of cake with my finger and took a bite then went back upstairs to take a shower and wash away the previous night’s excesses. In the bathroom, I found my wallet, opened it, and found it empty save for my Colombian cedula (identification card), credit card, and a small ticket. Curious, I removed the ticket and inspected it for clues.

The cover ticket to Candelario…

After walking a few blocks from my apartment and ditching the douchebag backpackers, my posse and I arrived at Candelario, a popular club in La Candelaria. As I waited in line to enter, I felt something wet land on my shoulder.

“I think a bird just shat on you,” my friend said.

Surreptitiously, I looked at my shoulder.

“Crap,” I confirmed.  No pun intended. When we finally made it inside, I made a B-line towards the bathroom to clean it up.

Candelario with my birthday posse!
Candelario was lots of fun. We danced and drank and had a jolly good time. By this point I had had quite enough to drink, but I took it upon myself to ensure the inebriation of one of my friends and in so doing, damned myself. I decided that it would be a good idea to buy a bottle of rum to help get him on his way, going shot for shot. After that, my recollection of the night plunged into a muddled abyss.

…I felt refreshed after taking a long, hot shower. By then my roommates had woken up and I sat down with them to learn about the rest of my night’s misadventures. Specifically, how I had gotten a black eye and how exactly I had made it home.

But that’s for me to know and you to never find out.


  1. Mike, if you haven't already, you have to find yourself a Colombian girlfriend. They are the best women in the world!

  2. Hey Whitey. If you know any good ones, let me know and I would love to meet them!

  3. Haha ... sorry Mike, would love to help you out, but I don't know anyone in Bogota.

    My wife is barranquillera. Now, if you get yourself down to the coast for some hot weather, maybe she could set you up. ;-)

  4. How do you have a cedula?

  5. Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a great time!

    I couldn't agree more on the disdain for the cokehead backpackers - I had to read it twice because I didn't understand what they were asking you at first!

  6. Thought you had to be a citizen to have a cedula, or did you get issued one with a work visa? No worries, not DAS or anything weird

  7. I am here on a volunteer visa, so I have a foreigner cedula.