A couple of weeks ago, Americans nationwide celebrated my second favorite holiday – Halloween. Children observed this holiday by dressing up in adorable costumes and binging on sugar, adults by dressing up in the sluttiest and/or most inappropriate costumes they could find and binging on alcohol. I usually enjoy participating in such festivities, but it was not in the cards this year. Halloween has only recently begun to gain popularity in South Korea. Mostly, the Americans living and working here pretend like we’re still stateside by dressing up and drinking copiously, while the locals stare at us like we’re idiots, thus perpetuating the stupid, self-absorbed American stereotype. However, the younger generations seem more willing to embrace the excuse to dress up and act a damn fool. At my school, we had a Halloween party all day. I was informed approximately 3 days prior that I was required to wear a costume, which didn’t bother me much because I was planning on dressing up anyway. I was completely oblivious of the quest that would soon begin. Because Halloween is not that popular, and Koreans hate fatties, trying to find a costume was like trying to find a job in California. Borderline impossible. I got excited when I learned that there was a party store near my house that had costumes, but my excitement was short lived. The selection resembled that of a drugstore (say, CVS or Walgreen’s); mostly cheap crap for kids. They had few adult costumes that were one size fits all, but in Korea, “one size fits all” really means “one size fits fun sized.” So I struck out on a journey both far and wide, on a quest for an appropriately fitting costume. I searched fervently online for a DIY costume (tragically, I am not clever without my sewing machine). I went to both Emart AND Homeplus. Such a costume was not to be found. I ended up with with a $4 pair of bat wings made for a child that came with…wait for it… bat horns. Which I totally rocked. At the Halloween party, only the kindergarteners dressed up, which I thought was kind of a bummer. Two little girls came dressed as Tinkerbell (which if you know me, you know totally thrilled me). I said to them, “How cute! I love Tinkerbell!” In return, I got a blank stare followed by, “Who is Tinkerbell?” A travesty. The Halloween party consisted of turning off the lights and scaring the shit out of the little kids until they cried. Seriously, many a child called out, “OMA!” (mommy). Two teachers were going out of their way to make this happen, but I just felt terrible watching those babies cry. I wouldn’t have minded making a couple of the junior high boys cry, though… After we calmed them down, they got to go to different teacher’s rooms to play games. They spend all year collecting stamps in class and get to trade them in for play money which they, in turn, spend on crappy food and lame toys like it’s the greatest shopping spree of their lives. In my room, we played “Pop Goes the Balloon,” in which the student is blindfolded, given a sharp object, and made to pop a balloon. The number inside the balloon is how many pieces of candy they get. This was seriously poor planning on my part. Not only did I grossly misjudge the amount of work this would entail, but I managed to forget the fact that I LOATHE the sound of balloons popping. So that was special. Other teachers did face painting, or had games like “Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin” or, my favorite, “Candy Pong.” I did go out with some friends Saturday night, but it wasn’t the same. I missed home. =(
I have decided to end every blog post with something I love about Korea and something I miss about the good ‘ol US of A. Right now I am loving the weather (still wearing jeans and a t-shirt most days) but missing the stars. There is so much smog here that I am lucky if I can spot one at all at night.