Spookiness in Schools: Halloween Part Dos

Welcome back to a visual record of me slowly coalescing a cohesive style from a variety of bad writing habits, let’s slow things down for a moment as I shoehorn in a stupid joke…. Scooby Doo reference, meddling kids, cue the laughs. Give me your adoration; my words of forced introspection surely deserve it.

I said last week that I wasn’t done obsessing about the holiday of Halloween, and guess what? I’m not done obsessing about the holiday. I believe it deserves a special mention that this Halloween was the first holiday that I spent away from my family in my entire life. I know, there’s a big family component to sexy demons handing out candy. There is a deeper meaning than just the holiday itself sans familial relations though; small milestones like holidays abroad serve to highlight the ways in which my life continues to change from what it once was. It denotes a sense of growth into a new person. We all live in a constant state of flux, but it is something to be noted when you can so encapsulate such moments of change. The second that never have becomes the first time provides a recognizable milestone to examine far into your personal future. It also makes great fodder for those with journalistic intentions like me.

I do have a little more to say about the lead up to the annual gathering of ghouls. We still held onto the desire to wear costumes for the season. However we did want to do so without returning to that strange fever dream of a costume shop that ejected us so abruptly. With the full scope of time and experience in me, I do recognize that there were other places where we could have conceivable gone to outright purchase a costume. The rough ejection gave me the impetus I needed to pursue that creative spark I had wanted to express through action. It was decided, we would create our costumes from disparate parts.

Beginning with the conceptualization, we each came up with a few moderately reasonable ideas to in turn ultimately choose from. Somewhat early on in the month she was able to decide on a direction for her costume. Her costume was to be a skeleton/undead pirate. Utilizing some clothing which she already possessed, she started with a poufy purple blouse, over the top of which she would wear a black corset. She purchased some black boots with flared tops to really accentuate the pirate angle. Lastly she found a wide brimmed purple felt hat which she pinned together into a convincing looking tricorner hat. This wardrobing was finished halfway through the month which allowed her nearly two weeks in which to plan out and then practice her makeup to fully complete her look. In the end she painted what looked like half of a skull across her face. The look was quite impressive and effective.

I on the other hand have a brain made of scattered marbles. Consequently I found it impossible to make up my mind on what I was going to do. I had many possibilities rolling around with the only constant being that I wanted to use paper mache. I knew that I wanted to put my creativity to use and involve a buildable aspect to my costume. The big reason, besides the readily available nature of the materials, was that I had always desired but never had the drive to experiment with it. There was one issue that arose though. I had never even attempted to build anything with paper mache before. For anyone who is of the arty or the crafty persuasion it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that problems arose from my lack of experience. So, as I was attempting to discover both the benefits and limitations of the material, I also was unable to fully decide on what I was making. I chose a mask in an attempt to keep the scope of the build somewhat under control. By the end of October I had built the prototypes of three separate models. There were two geometric skulls designs, one of which covered only from the nose up while the other was meant to be a whole head helmet design. What I eventually chose to finish was an angular vampire inspired masquerade half mask with two long fang like projections which flank the mouth. It is painted a dark blood red. I worked on these masks almost the entire month, and in the end I am quite happy with how they turned out. I finished the costume with a pair of black slacks a white button up shirt and a black vest. I think that the red worked well with the monochromatic nature of the rest of my costume.

I did do more with the entire month than just working on a costume. There was school work to be done as well. As usual I was getting better at the job by slow increments, becoming more comfortable with being in front of students every day. Because Halloween isn’t a big event in Hungary I decided that a fun way to give my lessons a sense of timeliness would be to talk about all things spooky. What this translated to in practice was me playing Monster Mash on repeat while I had the students draw ghosts and skeletons. Towards the end of the month I figured that I would step my efforts up a bit and give the students an injection of American culture by showing each of my classes the fourteen minute epic that is Michel Jackson’s Thriller. I’m not sure how much they learned from the whole experience, but what I learned was that musical tastes have changed dramatically from when I was a child, and what I think is great sounds horribly bland to fifth and sixth graders. It brought down my holiday cheer to see this campy masterpiece of pop culture glory that I love be barely tolerated by children who would otherwise be practicing grammar if not for me. I feel like this is something that I should have anticipated, but as I have tried to express in the past, I am highly disconnected with the youth of today and I feel fine about that.

Since the school I teach at is bilingual with a heavy emphasis placed on English culture, the school itself was going out of its way to get into the spirit too. The American teachers were told early on in the month that some kind of big Halloween event would be held the last day of class before fall break. Students and faculty were encouraged to get dressed and good fun would be had by all. Important of note was that me and my girlfriend, being the new teachers, would have an important role in the whole affair.

The festivities would be split into a few events. The first was that there would be a gathering of the whole school so that the new English teachers could come up to tell a few stories and get everyone into the spooky mood. Then there would be teacher led events in the classrooms of each grade. I’m a pretty talkative guy, and I’ve given a few public speaking speeches in the past. When I was approached with the opportunity to warm up the whole school with stories from America, I was confident that I would be able to carry the whole presentation myself. I was so confident that I informed the other English teachers that I had so much to say that they wouldn’t need to say anything. I was so confident that I didn’t prepare a single word for the talk I was to give.

The day of the event came round. A good number of the students were in costume the whole day through which provided a fun starting atmosphere for the classes. I and my girlfriend also wore our costumes to school to show our spirit. Because the mask I had made for my costume was limiting in its peripheral vision I decided that I would save it for the party. So when my students asked me what I was dressed up as or going to dress as I told them to just wait, I had something fun in store. Walking through the halls in between classes everyone had an immediate reaction to my girlfriend’s costume, deservedly so. It was a striking costume. The smaller children cowered in terror at her skeleton face, and the older students were in general awe of how cool it was.

For the first half of the day we had to teach classes, but they were shortened so that everyone could proceed to the party that much faster. The teaching managed to kill all of the holiday spirit that I had built up to that point, because truly the greatest terrors are children. With fall break just hours away, the students were jostling with unrest. There was great difficulty in getting them to perform even the most basic of tasks. Just as with the Thriller video, I attempted to share and explain the things that I love about Halloween. To the same result, the students were obviously disinterested.

The time of the gathering was upon us, and I had worked myself into a funk. Once all my classes were finished I donned my mask and strolled the halls with my girlfriend. Everyone was just love, love, loving the undead pirate look. Either screaming in terror of her or running up to her amazing countenance. My costume was met with what could be described as lukewarm indifference. Then we got called up on stage in front of the massed student body. We had one of the oldest students being a translator for us so that the little kids could understand. I was given the mike first because, if you remember, I had been telling everyone that this was going to be my show. It was going to be a tale of mystery and terror that I would spin, somehow, even though I had prepared not in the slightest.

Stage mounted and the attention of several hundred people focused squarely on me, the crowd was hushed in anticipation of my grand speech. My soured mood and lack of preparation came together with jolly cooperation to Voltron style combine into complete and total brain shutdown. Beads of sweat forming and a hushed expectant crowd before me I had to say something though. So I began to speak and I can only hope the things I said have been lost to the annals of history. I don’t remember exactly what I said because I am currently blocking every moment of that from memory as hard as I can. I can make a good guess though. It went something like this. “In the States you buy or make a costume. Younger kids go trick or treating, while older kids might go to parties. You can get candy, it’s pretty delicious. Alright I covered a lot of ground, don’t want to overwhelm you, any questions?” The response was glacial which is to say frigid and slow coming.

With the most silence I have ever heard in the school the students laid their glazed over gaze of indifference on me. I looked to my lifeless pirate love with pleading eyes for her to take the mark of shame away from me. Consummately professional, she took my place and addressed the whole crowd. With the aplomb of an actor assuming a role, she switched tenor into her best oratory voice.

Launching into the true stories of Halloween past, she told about the time several years ago in the states that me, her, and a bunch of friends went to a full contact haunted house. In the middle of the scares, one of our group was singled out by Mad Max reject psychos. The unlucky member of our party then got bodily lifted and placed into a refrigerator, from whence we never saw her again. Actually she was just taken out of a hidden panel in the back of the fridge and sent on the long path for the house. My bonny lass glossed over that last part though and spun a fun little tale. This story took up the rest of the speech time and won the adoration of the crowd. As we were stepping down from the platform, kids kept coming up to her and asking if the story was true, or how scared she was.

So, disappointed with myself, the English teachers all split off to take part in the Halloween events we were meant to do with our respective grades. My corsair cutie and the other teachers as it turned out, held little dance parties in their rooms. There was food and drink, and they were only required to stay for a few minutes before they were released from their responsibilities. Unfortunately for me, I had, in a continued stretch of misgiven self confidence, signed up to do a choose your own adventure card game to entertain my classroom. Then I guess I planned to entertain the students with how cool I was. Fittingly with the theme of the day, this did not go exactly to plan.

From the start, no one told me what I was to do or for how long to do it, or even when to do so. All that I did know was which room I was to go to. There was unfortunately no one in charge who was able to answer my simple questions like when I could leave. So I wandered towards my assigned room, and luckily for me all the students in attendance were my least cooperative pupils. I set about doing my part though and handed out the card game supplies. The game was a fun diversion, and it lasted five minutes. Then, again, I heard the familiar sound of silence. That vacuous absence of joy or entertainment, the room was however exuded an aura of discontent. It was me, sitting there next to a bunch of very bored students. I had finished the game, but I had no idea if I was done with them. Could I leave? Should I keep talking? None of the students were privy to that knowledge either. Through some misguided instinct to go on with the show, I put on some Halloween jams which I had already determined that the children would not enjoy. My bag of tricks had been expended hours ago, but a clown I still was to be. Minutes turned into a half hour turned into what I think was eventually an hour of rabid disappointment. My mind had essentially frozen. Whenever you are up in front of a crowd, there’s this sense that can be felt under your skin. A tingling sensation that tells you that your audience is just not feeling it and they were in no way feeling my lack of interesting things to do.

As a last ditch effort to do something, anything to make the mortification abate even slightly, I pulled up Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I began to read the stories in my best ghoulish accent. I hammed it up for those kids, and for a brief moment, I saw the faintest glimmer of interest drift across their dead beady lifeless fish eyes.

To rub final salt and lemon into my wounds like some kind of injury margarita, the door opened and all the other English teachers poked their heads in. With only the most pure and true cosmic hilarity, I was informed that I had not had to stay there so long and flounder so greatly. The other English teachers had gone to their rooms for ten or so minutes, given ghoulish greetings to their students and grabbed some snacks while walking away. Only once and not at all before the knowledge that I was a fool was imparted to me by my colleagues, a person in charge of the whole event came into the room to reiterate the point to me that I had far exceeded what was expected of me. Words do not describe my how incredibly, totally, and fully finished I was with Halloween.

Join me for the next installment when I was in actuality not finished with Halloween in the slightest. The week following the party was fall break, a week of freedom. We were slightly disappointed by the lack of holiday spirit present in Central Europe. Thus we decided that we should go somewhere more appropriately suited to the season. With that little teaser, I leave you for now. Good Day, good night, and good reading.

 

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