Years ago—before God rescued me—I ran with a circle of fun-loving Puerto Ricans. We were employed at the same company, and worked the same crazy-late hours. Over time, they kind of “adopted” me as their “little sister”. They taught me how to dance the salsa and the merengue, and introduced me to ceviche. Yummy fun!

My favorite (and, oddly, most disappointing) memory with them occurred during the one Christmas holiday we spent together. They invited me to go “a trullas” one evening after work.

For the uninitiated, “parrandas” or “trullas navideñas” is when a small group of friends gather together to “asaltar” or surprise another friend. I’ve heard it described as “the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling”.

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Basically, we arrived very late and very quietly at the front door of one of their good friends. The family had long gone to bed, as had most of their neighbors.

At a signal, everyone started singing and banging on the door; I was stunned! We totally surprised them, which I later learned, is part of the custom. I kept wondering if we were going to find ourselves flying face-first into the snow.

To my surprise and initial delight we received a warm and happy welcome! But, disappointment arrived in short order. See, they all spoke English really well. I guess I kind of expected that since they all knew I didn’t speak Spanish, they would speak English so that I could participate and be fully engaged in the festivities.

Unfortunately for me, my friend’s friends weren’t as hospitable as I’d hoped they would be.

For the first few sentences, everyone spoke English. But it only took one person to begin speaking Spanish.

That was it.

The party went on for more than an hour, everyone around me laughing, singing, and speaking Spanish, and no one translating or helping me to understand what was going on or what was being said.

Mostly, I sat there nibbling, feeling anxious and alienated, and wanting desperately to leave.

I was glad when we did. I never went back.

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