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Chiva Raging in Ecuador

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

By Julie Harper

I just had perhaps the most bizarre, out of control, craziest birthday of my life! I did something so ridiculous, so outrageous, so out of character, and so out of my “age range” that I am still mentally recovering from it.

I RENTED A CHIVA, also known as a party bus.

Now I have to preface this a little bit. There’s a reason that something this ridiculous happened and I’m not going to take total blame. No way!

This is the sequence of events. You can make up your own mind. But I’m sure you’ll side with me in clearly seeing I wasn’t at fault.

Earlier in the month, I was at a birthday celebration with some Ecuadorian friends. We went out for breakfast to Casa Rosada in Manta. By 10 a.m. we were back at the birthday girl’s home, drinking Baileys Salted Caramel Liquor, and eating birthday cake with extremely thick, sugary aqua and purple colored icing. (Breakfast of champions, indeed.)

Anyway, I happened to mention my birthday was coming up and immediately I think I fell into some sort of sugar crazed outofmyhead syndrome. Without anyone noticing, I slipped out of normal ‘me’ and became ‘alternate me.’ Now folks, ‘alternate me’ isn’t very smart and she certainly isn’t a good decision maker, but she is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and makes really super fast decisions, albeit not well thought out.

I never celebrate my birthday. I don’t even acknowledge it. And people around me know that. As an adult, I think I have had one birthday party which my sister threw for me when I was in my 20s. Anyway, when my Ecuadorian friends heard I had a birthday coming up, they became giddy, gleeful (like crazy gleeful, certainly high on sugar icing and Bailey’s) at the thought of another reason to celebrate something, anything. They began pressuring me…..”You must have a party!” They wouldn’t let up! Finally, I mentioned that perhaps I would have a little cocktail party on my patio, but I just said that to shut them down. I had no intention at all of doing that. But these “chicas” got a hold of my birthday and flat out hijacked it.

Further and helplessly, I continued on the sugary icing, Bailey’s Sip, Slip and Slide…

Well, the next thing I know I’ve got phone numbers for these chivas (party buses) stuffed in my purse, and later, like a crazy woman, I’m actually contacting the chivas, making arrangements for them to bring the bus by so that I can ‘approve’ of it (like I’m some fancy person), and pay a deposit. It happened so quickly. And my Gringo friends weren’t helping at all. One of my friends even said, “It’s my birthday too and I want to do something special, I’ll go in half with you.” Now what was I going to do? I couldn’t disappoint Marcela. I watched in horror as my ‘so called’ good friends were cooperating in my demise, egging me on, even translating and reviewing contracts, and picking songs for the playlist!

Not a single one of them ever said,

“Julie, stop! You need to think about this. This is crazy. This is for young people!”

I was trapped! I felt myself losing all control. And in no time at all, I was posting the event on the local WhatsApp thread for Gringos and Amigos. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Everyone wanted in, like party animal addicts, none of them were looking out after my welfare! Again, ‘not helping here!’

If you have ever seen a chiva party bus, you can understand the immediate interest. The pull.

They are big, extremely colorful, and beautifully lit with dozens of tethered balloons and music blaring. It is a sight to behold. And knowing that you’re going to be getting on that bus and dancing and singing with up to 50 of your closest friends is intoxicating!

“I went on a chiva and hated it,” said NO ONE, EVER!

The night of the party was finally here. I was full of dread and excitement. I wondered aloud if I would be able to make it until 1:00 a.m. My friend and I made sure we had cab fare in case we had to bail and go home early, unable to hang. And like a good Girl Scout, I encouraged others to do the same. We all gathered and waited…..and then….there it was, in all its glory of party balloons and lights, as “I’ve Got a Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas, my all time favorite party song, played loudly. She was BEAUTIFUL! A feeling of excitement rushed over all of us as we screamed in delight! Everyone wanted to be us, we just knew it! And who wouldn’t? We were the ‘cool kids.’ We clambered on the chiva, other friends already boarded from a previous pickup point, and they already had the party going strong! Everyone immediately poured a drink into cups draped by a cord around our necks. I passed out whistles to everyone and we started down the road, slowly and loudly singing, dancing, blowing whistles and making complete idiots of ourselves! It was fabulous! We were fabulous!

Passengers in passing cars waved frantically and fist pumped our party cries. The bus snaked through town by busy restaurants, clubs, and the malecón. Cars followed us, blowing their horns, troops of teens on bicycles followed behind us, popping wheelies, flashing big smiles and laughing. We had ourselves a convoy! The DJ played our preselected music but always obliged when someone wanted to dedicate a song. The fog machine would send out its cloudy haze as revelers grabbed hold of the dance pole in the middle of the bus and shimmied down it, the pole sometimes accommodating as many as six dancers at a time. Partiers hung from the back of the bus and overhead straps, waving wildly at cheering onlookers. I shot glitter bombs off the back of the bus, in the bus, and one right in Jenny’s face while her mouth was agape. It was a total accident but OMG, you should have seen the horrified look on her face! Her face and tongue, completely coated!

There were benches along both sides of the bus but no one sat down. The DJ tried several times to get people to participate in Karaoke or games but everyone was caught up in the music, dancing, hugs and kisses, well wishing, and so many ‘I love yous ’ etc. The bus was full of so much merriment and pure fun! It was incredibly infectious.

In the morning when I woke up, I laid in bed, trying to coax myself out of my slumber. I felt something in my mouth….what is that?…..ah…glitter. Can’t imagine how Jenny felt!

My years of not celebrating or acknowledging my birthdays are over. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to party with my friends and be surrounded by their love. Every day of every year is special and everyone should have the pleasure and privilege of recognizing how special I am at least once a year! If you want to feel special, you have to treat yourself special. Happy birthday to me!


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