An odd thing has happened. Remember that birthday party I threw for Dan two or three weeks ago? Well, it's become the most exciting thing anyone's done for a long time. Everyone wants to have Earth-style birthdays; it's the new "in thing"!
I had written up a booklet for all the attendees, so everyone would know what to do and why during the party. I expected the booklets to become keepsakes, or just get thrown out afterwards, but instead it seems everyone in the area has read a copy, and every week someone has a birthday party. No one else has done ice cream, as it's too hard to make--they seem to be gravitating to pudding instead, and a lot of them are developing no-bake cakes, but the Ra'heli family--they're bee-keepers and candle-makers, mostly--are doing a brisk new business in birthday candles. Most people can't blow out a candle, so they use snuffers, so I hear. I don't think most of them are even waiting until their birthdays to have birthday parties--they just want to have the party.
This is incredible--and also a little scary. I was worried, at first, that I might have done something to damage these people's culture. I was thinking about the history of missionaries on our planet. Dan says not to worry; he expects contact with Earth to change his people's cultures in some way, but has pointed out I'm really not powerful enough to change anything the people don't want changed. After all, there is only one of me. Thanks for the ego-boost, Dan.
But really, for most of them, I think the birthday parties are less about adopting a cultural practice and more about experiencing Earth in some way. It's like how, when I was a kid, we had to dress up like Pilgrims and Indians in school before Thanksgiving--they can't see Earth, so they're trying to get a sense of it by pretending they belong to its culture. Just today, I've been asked to write more of these things, for other ceremonies--weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvah's, retirement parties--a major publisher is interested, and they've already agreed to start printing the birthday booklet.
I'm really excited about this. I'd been worrying a bit about my job--there isn't much mass-media here, so I can't do anything like a talk-show circuit, and I've been wondering how much of an impact I can really make--how I can represent my culture when I only really interact with a few hundred people on a semi-regular basis. This is how, I guess--I can write these celebration manuals. I'm psyched.
It's getting hot out. It's only a few hours past dawn, and already I'm sweating just sitting here. I guess the summers here are real scorchers. The La'helis don't care, much. Myrmeoids have three different body temperatures, and they can shift to whichever temperature is closest to the temperature of the air and stay pretty comfortable. I wish I could.