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If you are ever trying to win your way into my heart, plan a surprise. I don’t mean a big, horrible surprise party where they drag you against your will to a bar you hate to be confronted by a whole bunch of people you’d rather not have seen in what goes down in history as my second worst birthday (trust me, the story of the worst birthday has to be told in person, and with generous applications of back pats, and maybe wine, preferably red).

What I mean is cropping up with something unexpected. I don’t know if other people love it as much as I do, but I like to pack a little surprise and spring it on people when I get where I’m going. Not long ago, I surprised a friend with mate (and he is bien matero, or really likes to drink his mate) up at the top of the cerro. Another time I packed m and ms to make cookies at the beach after a long bike ride. (we don’t really get chocolate chips here). The truth is, the cookies were flat and overcrispy (Alton Brown would have been horrified), and I had to smash the chancaca (solid brown sugar) with a knife and many manners of other smashing implements to get it sort of granular, but the fact that I made this little extra gesture made me so happy. And from the looks of the crumb-dusted platter, it made my friends happy, too.

I’m a sucker for sweet, so things like taking my niece camping in her own yard, or planning a picnic in a park, or offering to take pictures of some friends of mine just for fun make me spinningly happy for pretty much no reason. But I think I’ve gotten into the habit of being the only one to spring surprises. I just don’t have very high expectations for other people’s forethought and ability to make me say awwww.

Which is why it was such a total mindwhat (being oblique here, you know the word I mean) when I found out from the aforementioned friends that I wasn’t just taking pictures of them for “a project” as it was previously spun, but for their wedding invitation, a professionally-recorded CD (on which they perform), with a spiffy outer jacket and beautiful photos and collages inside. Of course, I found this out very late into the photo session, got totally verklempt (me emocioné), and then stupidly smiley for them. Their families, including the woman’s family, who thought they were coming to Chile for Christmas are thrilled. It’s yet another gringa-chileno wedding, one of many I know about or have attended, but this one is a community effort. We will all be photographers, cooks, interpreters, wranglers, performers, provision-obtainers and witnesses.

It’s going to be a great time. And that will be no surprise at all.