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 costumes...it 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
- 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.