There was a party in the next town over for a relative who was visiting home (she is studying physics at a US university). This is the fun part about a homestay- it’s an opportunity that I never would have had if I had just been here as a “regular” tourist.
The party was a “turno” party. Everybody brought a small wrapped present, and participated in various games throughout the afternoon and evening. There was a ton of food, some music and dancing, but actually no alcohol at all. I’m not sure if that part is typical or just the preference of this family (which is what I suspect).
One important feature of any get-together is the tradition of greetings and good-byes here. In Costa Rica, when you arrive, you need to say hello to every person who is there. When you leave, you do the same thing in reverse. The hellos are also the time for introductions if somebody is new, and both greetings and goodbyes are usually accompanied by an “air kiss” on the right cheek. Occasionally men offer handshakes instead of the kiss.
This makes the beginning and ending of a party something of a production. As somebody who didn’t know anybody, though, it meant that I did get a chance to get introduced to everybody right off the bat, sometimes with enough information to break the ice. So that was really helpful.
One of the family members was really good at “calling” bingo and getting the games going. He kept everybody’s attention, and kept everyone smiling and laughing. And so what might have been a ho-hum sort of family affair, especially for somebody who didn’t know a single person outside of two members of my host family, instead had me and a lot of other people laughing and having a good time.
People had brought small wrapped presents which were handed out at the various games to the winners. Most were free games, but there was a “special” bingo card that you paid about $1 to play, and the winner (blackout) took home the pot. That was played simultaneously with the free bingo cards so that everybody could participate.
The bingo caller not only kept people going, but also knew all the traditional rhymes for the numbers as they came up. For example, I think 44 was “cuara-cua-cua” (probably because of the number “cuatro” sounding like what a frog says in Spanish), and 13 is “docena del diablo”. He kept things light hearted, for example, when I won, he made me say “Bingo” with a US accent. I ended up winning two kitchen towels, a bar or soap, and a Bible. There was even a prize for the person there with the most “típico” outfit.
In between games, there was some dancing, and a lot of food. My host mom had prepared a traditional dish for the party (I forget what it was called, but it was some sort of picadillo with a lot of garlic), and had made a small plate without the sausage in it so that I could try it. There was also arroz con leche and a couple of tasty salads (one featuring beets and the other plantains). And, of course, coffee! They finished the evening with a piñata and some cotton candy.
At the end of the party, of course, there was the big lineup so that everybody could say goodbye to everyone else. I find at these events that I’m always accidentally trying to say goodbye to the person I’m about to get in a car with and to get a ride home. Oops! But I do my best.
Overall, it was a great experience! Much more fun than a bingo party back home would have been.