Sunday, November 1, 2009

Give me candy!

First of all, happy November everyone. Second of all, I'm trying not to think about the fact that the Phillies are 1 and 2 in the series right now.

English education is very America-centric in Korea. The children learn American spellings, American vocabulary, American pronunciation. They also get a small smattering of American holidays, especially the ones that translate fairly easily into Korean culture (Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, for example, don't really have a place here). Friday my hagwon unofficially observed Halloween with management-sanctioned snack parties and completely irrelevant activities/arts and crafts. Me and the kids were bugged out on candy all day. Which worked out well for me because I then went to the 11.30 PM showing of Inlgourious Basterds and generally stayed out far too late.

We handed out candy as part of the festivities. Mina got the idea to send the smaller of our classes "trick-or-treating" on our floor. Which was cute with the smaller children, then quickly degenerated into madness, especially with the older ones (I had one of my best, brightest, and most well-behaved sixth grade students absolutely manhandle me for some extra candy, holy God!).

Halloween isn't particularly big here. I think some neighborhoods/apartment complexes do the trick-or-treating thing, but otherwise Halloween is a non-event. So students didn't really get the social nuances of "trick-or-treat." Like: You don't say "Give me candy!". Not even "Give me candy, please!". Like: you don't go trick-or-treating at your own house. Like: you don't go to a house (or classroom) more than once. Or like: you receive the candy as a gesture of some amount of kindness and goodwill on the part of the trick-or-treatee, and that no one is obligated to give you anything just because you said "trick-or-treat."

I don't really suffer from homesickness all that badly. But seeing absolutely no no decorations, no one in broke my heart, a little bit. And the same must have been true for other foreigners as well, because Breda (mayor of Uijeongbu!) put together a massive Halloween shindig. More foreigners than I would have ever expected in one place this far from Seoul, with balloons and candy and COSTUMES!

I love Halloween because of the costumes. I guess that makes me pretty Caucasian according Christian Lander but I don't care. Halloween costumes are fun. They're a chance to be creative and clever and cool and all sorts of other words that begin with "C." A brief history of some of my favorite Halloween costumes in recent years:

  • Blue Screen of Death
  • Silent Bob
  • Link
  • Velma
  • Harpo Marx
  • Janis Joplin

This year I was coked-out Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction (which ties into the Tarantino movie I saw Friday night: it all comes together!). I should have gotten a haircut to spruce up my bob a bit, but I give myself incredible clever points for my use of gochujang as fake blood.

And Maddie as Betty Draper from Mad Men.

There were some choice costumes at the party, since coming out of costume was out of the question. There was a coked-out Billy Mays, a Korean comedian, a "rock/scissors/paper" trio, the Unabomber (in poor taste? perhaps), as well as my fellow Minlak-dongers.

If only Halloween and costume parties had the same international selling power as McDonald's.


  1. no trick or treating at your own house??? me-thinks you 'oft treated at your own front door (which would have worked out nicely this year, we received about only a dozen visitors .... perhaps because it was pouring)

  2. We did a unit in my Korean class (yes, I've been taking Korean! woo!) recently on Korean holidays, which included 추석. There are actually a lot of parallels to Thanksgiving, though without actual visiting of ancestral tombs and the like.

    Did you ever worry that if your blog became successful enough, your jealous critics might call it "kobarrhea"? Just saying...

  3. Oh, what did you think of the Basterds? Glad it finally came out for you over there.

    I liked it. I felt more than with any other film I've seen that I was exploring the mind of the director as the story unfolded. I loved the tension of "Will he do it...or will he not?"

    Also, Tarantino's standards lead to strange expectations. People asked, "Was it violent?" I would say, "Yes, very violent. But, less than I expected."

  4. Oh, I loved Basterds. For me, no Tarantion movie will ever top Pulp Fiction (as cliche as it is to like that movie, but hey, it's cliche for a reason), but I think Tarantino still delivers. My only gripe is that I think I would have liked it more if he had just stuck with the Basterds part of it and left out the second story about Shoshana and the theater. One of my friends mulled that it could have easily been two movies, and I agree.

    Tarantino said that Hans Landa was the best character he's ever written, and I would agree. One of my university friends' big complaints about QT is that all of his characters are basically him, especially when it comes to dialog. (Reservoir Dogs is maybe the best example of this.) But Hans is such a total departure from that.

    And Brad Pitt was awesome. So awesome.

    (Aside: I kind of hate the comparison of Chuseok to Thanksgiving, I mean I guess on the outside it's similar (everyone goes home to be with family) but the origins are so different, and the original purpose is so different, that I think it's kind of a crap explanation.)

  5. Also, where are you taking Korean classes back home? My schedule and location (and my own massive inertia) make finding Korean classes here kind of tricky: usually they're in Seoul and usually they're in the middle of my work day. I'd love to actually speak the language beyond ordering food and drinks.

  6. Thought-provoking analysis of the Basterds. Pulp Fiction is a classic, but my favorite is actually Kill Bill for all of its East-West greatness.

    Landa was a masterpiece of a character, though I hated him so.

    My Korean class is at Penn. I took 4 semesters while a student there, and so they're letting me sit in on this course off the books. I'm very grateful. I know Temple has Korean classes that are accessible and relatively affordable (maybe $1500/semester as a PA resident?), if you ever find yourself around Philly.

    A Korean American friend who studied educational linguistics says that Korean isn't a language English speakers can just pick up, and that language classes make a big difference in attaining fluency. If you are considering significant chunks of time in Korea, it's definitely worth trying to overcome the obstacles.

    I hope things are going well in the land of EST+14!

  7. Oh yeah, he's a completely despicable person but also so much like a real person—more so than other QT characters.

    Also I thought the Nazi movie-in-the-movie was (or was supposed to be) a really cutting commentary on our own relationship to the "outside" movie (ie, the Nazis are getting a kick out of this movie that's nothing but Frederick gunning down Allied soldiers; we're getting a kick out of a movie that's nothing but the Allies mowing down Nazi forces). But apparently QT didn't intend anything half so intellectual as that, which is disappointing. Intention or not, though, it's a clever piece of juxtaposition.

    I like the Kill Bills more and more as time goes by, but something about dialogue in Pulp Fiction just warms my heart.

    I'll be sitting on a reasonably-sized pile of won after I'm done here; I'm trying to weigh how much I want to learn Korean versus what else I might need the cash for versus whether I'll be coming back in the foreseeable future. But yeah, I find that the best I can do from Rosetta stone and text books here is writing out a list of vocabulary. Classes would make a huge difference. =/