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Published: January 18th 2009
So OK, maybe we are in the season to be jolly (OK, now we are actually well past it, but that is when I wrote most of this blog), but since time seems to get away from us here, thought I would post some “ancient history” to fill in what we have been doing. So for this blog, please travel back with us to October……. and pretend it is a time of harvest moons and pumpkins and trick-or-treatin’.
Never quite sure what my students know about our holidays in the states, I typically bring the subject up about a week before, and have been greeted with everything from looks of confusion and bewilderment to complete knowledge of the hows, whys, and wherefores. (Perhaps it has to do with whom their Foreign English teacher was last year.)
Holloween was no exception. My more advanced and “sophisticated” class was completely clueless, while the more cut-up class knew all about it. And…..wanted me to help host a party. Ahhh, sure, no problem, why not. Should be fun.
So went to lunch with a couple of students to offer some guidance as to how much stuff
to buy for about…… 7000 students!?! What???? Quickly relayed that that was out of the question less than a week before the big event. It must be scaled back. Came up with a plan that they must speak English to attend, which eliminates about 80% of the students on this campus who are after non-English related majors. Ok, this might work.
Secured a room in one of the teaching buildings, made a list of fun Holloween games, snagged a huge bag of left over wedding candy from a newly married couple, and biked to the market to find something to carve. The pumpkins here are like miniature versions of what we are used to back in Juneau, but there are some huge squash that would work just as well. So I let the students negotiate the prices as they were buying with student fee money, and brought them back to our apartment to receive a lesson in the fine art of pumpkin carving.
The afternoon was a real hoot, and I suspect this was the first time they ever tried anything like this. The results were great, and when we lit the candles and
turned out the lights total mayhem ensued as they inspected their creations.
Throughout Ya-Li inspired and showed through doing, and they doted on her like a little sister.
The night of the big party finally arrived and after cutting a few holes in some leftover white material purchased for privacy coverings on our windows, I was ready to impress the attendees with what a proper ghost looks like. A quick trip to Walmart produced the perfect costume for Ya-Li, and we were ready to make our grand entrance.
During the planning, preparation and decorating stage, some of the students leading the affair kept worrying if the party would be well attended, fun, interesting, or a total blow out. Not only did they not quite know what to do for their own costumes, they were even more worried the invited students would not wear any. I gave them some suggestions based on what I have observed in Juneau over the years, and they felt relieved they could come up with an acceptable idea without spending a ton of money. I also provided them with a stack of printed out and zeroxed holloween
images I downloaded and put together on my pc, which were hung around the room. They added a more ghoulish flavor to the traditional tinsel like streamers that are used to adorn most festivities here.
When we arrived tense giggles and major stress-out greeted us, but once we got our costumes on, and I assured them it would be nothing but fun, the host students started to relax and enjoy themselves. Unexpectedly I was asked to officially begin the party with a short speech, which typifies some of the culturally correct ways to conduct affairs.
Our carved “pumpkins” were lit and displayed, an apple bobbing center was set up as well as a number of other party stations. We had a ”guess the number of candies” jar at the entrance, which garnered 2 winners and even some local entertainment, as 2 young campus gents who practice rap dancing were invited to kick off the evening. (I notice these guys practicing every evening in the entrance way to my teaching building. These are the only locations available for extracurricular activites so it is not uncommon to see different groups of students practicing this way in
all the open area entrances to all the buildings on campus.)
Enough students attended to call it an event and those who did not wear costumes (but did wear their best clothes as possible alternative interpretaions of what wearing a costume meant) could have a small flower painted on their cheek. I however broke those rules when I painted bold stripes on one of my students face. He was both horrified and exhilirated at the gesture. It is moments like this that I realize how truly miniscule and difficult any “out of the box” thinking or actions is for most of my students. And I am using out- of-the-box very loosely here.
I lost track of Ya-Li for much of the evening as everyone wanted a picture taken with the ghost and to practice their English a bit. But I heard about all the games she had a chance to partake in, plus about all the candy there was to eat and was eaten. She had a great time and always had someone to talk to since she knew a lot of the students.
All in all, by the end, everyone
was happy and assured they had not lost face by providing the perfect Holloween event.
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