Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Halloween Korean Style!

Expats in Korea know all too well how difficult it can be to find a decent, affordable Halloween costume in this country. Even in the so called 'Western' district of Seoul (Itaewon), they are pretty hard to come by. This is consistent with the fact that Koreans don't celebrate Halloween. The students do know a little bit about it, mostly thanks to their native English teachers who talk about it every year. Still, 'trick-or-treating' is unknown to most of them, save for a few who spent some time living in a Western country.

Now my sixth graders will do absolutely anything for a candy. Even if it means risking being laughed at for being the only kid in the whole school wearing a Halloween costume. I knew that, so I threw them a challenge, hoping they would bite. The week before Halloween, I told them: 'If you wear a costume on Monday, you can come and see me in the Teacher's room and trick or treat'. They were skeptical. 'But, Teacha, will you dress up?' Of course I would. It was Halloween after all. 'But why?' Surprisingly, it took a considerable amount of effort to explain the logic of wearing a costume in exchange for candy. So I decided to keep it simple, and said: 'Costume = candy. No costume = no candy'. They got it.

Over the weekend I purchased a variety of little treats and prepared twelve trick-or-treat bags. Despite having over 200 6th graders, I was absolutely convinced that there was no way more than twelve of them would dress up. When I proudly finished my twelve bags, Jason made me question the small number: 'What if you have more than twelve?' 'I won't', I said. And I was right.

On Monday I was surprised to get ten kids in costumes! My co-teacher was very impressed as well, insisting that she had never seen a 6th Grade student dress up for Halloween. Even though the costumes were mega simple (a scream mask, a witch hat, bunny ears...), I was happy to have convinced them. They were ecstatic at the sight of their treat, and the other kids were jealous and trying to scramble up last minute costumes ('look, Teacha, I'm going as myself!') - which is precisely the effect I was hoping for. MUAHAHAHAHA!

I would attribute this wonderful success to my new found hobby: scaring my students. At the start of every class the previous week, I played a 15 second video about a pretend car commercial, tic-tac-toe game, find the differences picture, where's waldo, etc., which would end with a scary screaming pop up. You can find these rather easily on YouTube. The students' reaction was absolutely priceless and downright hilarious. My co-teacher almost peed in her pants a few times. I should have filmed them, but I think they would have known something was up. The funniest part is, I got them every single time! You would think that, after the 5th time of saying 'Ok, everybody, look at the screen, listen carefully!', they would expect it. But no! It was a brand new trick every day. Is it bad that this has been my favorite teaching moment to date?

I guess I should mention my costume. I kind of threw something together at the last minute, hoping at first that I could pull off Lady Gaga. Instead, I ended up looking like trailer-trash/coke head/80's gone bad. But it was all good, because my students thought I was a KPop star (hmm... makes you wonder about KPop stars' sense of fashion, doesn't it).

80's, Gaga, Trailer trash... Coke head?

This happened to be the same costume I had worn on the previous Saturday, on our booze cruise of the Han River, at our foreigner-style Halloween party.

That morning I still didn't have a complete costume, so I picked up a 80's style wide crew neck polyester sweatshirt with too-short sleeves, teal green in color, complete with a 'Wonder Woman!' inscription on the front for 6,000KW. It was perfect. My sequin skirt, large beads, flashing glasses, sparkly leggings, empty cans in my hair and bright red lipstick makeshift costume was actually very comfortable and warm enough for a night on the river.

Jason also made his own costume, with a little help from moi :)

What do you get when you glue black and silver cardstock and printed icons on a couple of old pizza boxes? An IPhone, of course!

We needed a few supplies to get this project underway. Since we eat pizza every week, that part was taken care of. Jason picked up large cardstock from our local stationary store, and proceeded to choose and print some pictures of apps. Our new color printer really came in handy! After a few hours of slaving over this project, which I gave up on midway through the night due partially to my lack of patience, and partially to the fact that I was accused of cutting like a five year old (it kind of did look like it - I rush through things...), the costume was ready.

Jason and Steve Jobs

We both received many great comments on our creativity, and in turn, saw numerous random crazy creations, such as: Steve Jobs (yes, Jason took a picture with him), a giant lighted robot head, and a chopsticks couples' costume. A few predictable angry birds and vampires, and, last but not least, a couple of controversial adjumma costumes, complete with construction vests and hiking boots. ('Adjummas' in Korea are older women who often wear large sun visors, and often work as street sweepers, or sell vegetables on the side of the road to supplement their tiny pensions).

We met up with some friends on Saturday afternoon at Jeongja station, where we would take the new express train to Gangnam station in Seoul for the first time! Normally it would take 40 minutes to get to Seoul, but with this new Shinbundang line, The time was cut in half. We took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of our costumes in front of the different colorful 'themed' stations.

New subway station on the Shinbundang line

Among our group we had one angry bird, one 'pixel-ated' person, one black-eyed pea, one suicidal barrista and, the most popular costume of the night by far, Arrested Development's Tobias.

Pixelate! Katie and I sporting our flashing glasses.

Turns out the character was unknown to Koreans too, but this didn't stop them nonetheless from snapping dozens of pictures of Daniel's blue head and short shorts. I guess it's not every day they see a half naked white man on the subway.

Daniel as Tobias

All our costumes proved to be popular among foreigners and Koreans alike, prompting many questions: 'What are you, exactly?', and stimulating conversation. The 70 minute cruise was a success, and after a few beers and Mexican grub back on shore, I had had enough and decided to trek back home on the Subway while others continued on to party in Hongdae, Seoul's art neighborhood.

Jason joined them enthusiastically but received quite the buzz kill a couple of hours later when I called him to tell him I didn't have the key to our apartment. To make matters worse, I had left my cell phone (I always do this, I never learn) inside, so I had to call him from a noisy street payphone. Argh! We were at least two hours apart and I had just ruined his fun.

He was a good sport as usual and, after calling the owner of the house to see if he could let me in (to no avail), he decided to try and find his way back with a cab. I should mention that taking a taxi in Korea is not easy, given that most drivers don't speak any English and reciting one's address in Korean is one of the hardest things to do. Add 12 beers to that challenge, and you've got a nearly impossible situation on your hands.

Needless to say, he got a bit lost, and, although I knew he would eventually find his way, I still knew I had about three more hours to kill before he returned to save the day. At this point it was past midnight, and I was walking up and down my street to try and keep warm and pass the time. Thankfully, our neighborhood is relatively quiet and extremely safe. If anything I felt like an idiot walking back and forth in a ridiculous costume. So I at least took the cans out of my hair, and had a few chicken fingers at the 24-hr Lotteria fast food place.

After trying my luck at unlocking our door with the bobby pins I had just pulled out of my hair (no, it doesn't work), I walked some more, found a brand new smart phone on the sidewalk (which I returned to the nearest store the next day), and decided to go sit in the hallway of our building to wait for Jason. I sat on my purse because the floor was cold, and opened up my umbrella to try and keep the heat close to me.

It worked, and I actually fell asleep for about half an hour, until Jason walked in, opened the door, and we both crashed, exhausted.

The next day, Jason told me a little bit about Hongdae - it sounded like a pretty happening place, though less foreigner-packed than Itaewon, still very lively with all sorts of nightlife. And he ended up meeting a Canadian couple who happen to live very close to us in Jukjeon. We will definitely return to Hongdae at some point for some weekend fun.

Halloween was a success! As for the key mishap, I have marked it down to a learning experience. I hope that never happens again, but let's be realistic - I tend to be a slow learner when it comes to these things.

1 comment:

  1. Wow sounds like quite the adventure Jen! I'm glad you were able to share some of our culture with them since you and Jason are already learning theirs!!