Uriane was at a loss dealing with her new foreign son. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle was necessary for me, and to her dismay, I exercised. I burned calories I did not consume by regularly running the field and doing pandanus pull-ups.
“Don’t be too long, we will be going to the village for the party. When you return, Tienari will be here with the piñata.”
Piñatas were as foreign to Kiribati as I was to fish. That being the case, I found this a great opportunity to teach them about my Mexican background. With a punching balloon, old Newsweeks, and some extra time on my hands, I decided on piñata making.
A week before Mareteiti and I started making the piñata. We mixed flour, glue, and water to make the mix. After demonstrating how to apply the paper-mache, I left to find more Newsweeks.
Having constructed piñatas from a young age, I knew the right amount of paper-mache was crucial. Too little and the piñata would break with the first strike, too much, and it wouldn’t break at all. Finished layering the balloon, she placed it under the sun to dry, and we began decorating it the following day.
When I returned from my run, Tienari was sitting next to the piñata, waiting to carry it to the celebration with me. Thinking it was an American tradition, like Christmas trees and snowmen, its uniqueness added to the celebration.
Everyone, including the elders, tried to break the piñata, but it wouldn’t bust. Mariteiti applied so much paper-mache that it became indestructible. After all had a turn or two, Tienari and I stood to take our shots. Releasing it from the rope, we grabbed opposite ends of the piñata and pulled. Money, toys, and candy flew into the air. Playfully pushing each other out of the way, young and old alike dove for the fallen treasures. Laughing at the commotion below, a lollipop flew into Tienari’s overgrown hair. Smiling from ear to ear, he pulled it out and handed it to me, “Merry Christmas, Mike.”
After the mess was cleaned, food was blessed. Knowing most had come from the previous night, Biita’s wife reached into a white bucket and pulled out a giant cold orange.
“Merry Christmas, Mike.”
I didn’t know where the bucket came from, and honestly, I didn’t care. This may have been the only orange on the island, and it was given to me. I peeled the orange, thinking of the other place I called home. My other family, enjoying presents and snow. My baby nephew would be celebrating his second Christmas.
Mentally and physically, I was so far from that life. Tamana was now my home, and I loved it with all my heart.