Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallow'd Eve

I don't know how October 31 managed to sneak up on me so stealthily this year, but all of the sudden, that great day for costumes, candy and mischief is upon us.

I don't have any big plans this year - except to provide back-up support at my parents' house which is always in the red zone of trick-or-treater onslaught, and I suspect particularly so this as Eagle River has canceled their Halloween party for community kids due to H1N1. So, I'm sure plenty of those children will be making their way to neighboring parties and communities for candy night.

But as I look back, I realize that I've been quite amiss in blogging about my Halloween experiences overseas, particularly in Vietnam and Thailand.

My first and only Halloween in Vietnam was in 2007. Vietnamese have a traditional mid-autumn festival on the full moon in September/October (though with temptures still well into the 90s, it hardly feels like autumn). This day is full of moon cakes and treats for the kids, folklore, and, apparently, even costumes, although I suspect that's more of a recent addition thanks to the exporting of western culture.

But of course, my team wanted to celebrate a "real" Halloween.

Ali, my predecessor, had already done a good job introducing the Cao Bang staff to the bare essentials of Halloween costumes and party games...except for carving pumpkins! I decided it was my task to remedy this, and so, I went to the market and bought four of their largest pumpkins.

When my staff, their families and a few friends arrived, I divided them up into teams. Each team got one pumpkin - and I showed them one that I had done as an example. Then I sent them off to far flung corners of the office to do what they would with whatever they could find.

Vietnamese are first, competitive, and second, creative. I patrolled the halls to keeps the spying to a minumum. And without our cultural baggage, they didn't dream of stopping at a hollowed-out, carved jack-o-lantern. Rather, they found paper and ribbons and streamers and boxes and soon had entire dioramas produced to house their creations.

There was no way I could choose a winner, so I distracted them by lighting candles and demonstrating how you make the jack-o-lantern faces glow in the dark.

Then it was time for the trick-or-treating. We hearded everybody to the bottom floor while I distributed the jack-o-lanterns on all four floors in front of closed office doors. Then off went all the lights - and the screaming hoards of candy-chasers came flying up the stairs! I'm sure I'd never get away with something like that in the US, but when they reached the top floor where I was barricaded behind the gate to the roof top, I was pretty glad for the protection!

Halloween 2007 could have been no more different than Halloween 2008. Last year on this date I was in Thailand. Our friend was determined to go as Captain Jack Sparrow, and we were determined to make him look as Johnny Depp-esque as possible.

So, we prepped by watching all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and hunting the markets for daubles and doodads (and a plastic sword) that would make the outfit. Then the sewing and stitching began - and finally, make-up:

Unfortunately the lighting was horrendous and so my photographic evidence of the work is a bit shoddy, but I it came off pretty well in the end...

Well, we tried, anyway.

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