Friday, November 16, 2012

Halloween: Way After The Fact

At least I made a cool FB profile.
You know what I did? I completely forgot to do the Halloween post. I realized it the other day when I discovered a bunch of Halloween photos in my phone. Lame.

There have been a whole lot of Halloweens that have gone by since I've been here. Mostly they go by with an "Oh, shit, today's Halloween. Moving on."

But the fact is, I've always kind of missed Halloween. Halloween captures the unsettling autumnal goodness of fall way more than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is cool and all as a precursor to Christmas, but since it doesn't have a fixed day, there have been times I didn't even know it was Thanksgiving until my parents or Facebook told me.

But Halloween has a real, proper date. Also Halloween is Nevada Day. Growing up in Nevada, I always thought Halloween was a bank holiday and day-off-school day. It totally should be.

Also, speaking of Nevada, this week was the one year anniversary of when my cousin died.


We got to do Halloween one year in the States, when LE was a boy-toddler. He was a dragon. I can't find the pictures anywhere, which is making me worried they were in the stolen computer. But they could just be on some disc somewhere.

Otherwise, Halloween hasn't been much more than symbolic. But then LE got wind of the candy possibilities and costumes. I blame Calliou for that. I fucking hate Calliou and I'm so glad the boy is pretty much over him.

So last year I McGuyvered the kid up in a sort of cowboy costume and we went trick-or-treating up at the lojman of my school. It was fun for the kids and sucky for the grown-ups because most of the kids up there are spoiled shits and their grownups weren't with them and no one had bothered to teach them that Halloween isn't a screaming bum-rush for fists full of candy.

When I describe Halloween to Turkish people, most of them liken it to the Şeker Bayramı of the not-so-old days. But around the time I was working at Fatih University, it got decided that it's not Şeker Bayramı anymore. It's Ramazan Bayramı, and it's serious and no one gets to have candy from strangers. But in the not-so-old days, kids would go door-to-door wishing people happy Bayram and doing the hand-kiss thing and people would give them candy.

I know this is true because in my early years here, kids would come to my door and I didn't know why. Mostly I figured they were there to torment me somehow. And by the time the kids turned up, I already wasn't opening the door because of the creepy guys with drums who came round aggressively asking for money for banging their drums to wake people up for sahur. Often enough, I was just getting home at that time so the drums were just there to tell me I was getting home close to sunrise, which I knew anyway.

It used to be way cool.
An even older generation likens the "trick" part of trick-or-treat to the Hıdırellez of the way-old days before I got here. But that's been co-opted into another sort of we-don't-talk-about-that-so-much-anymore non-holiday, just as much of the candy-giving of Şeker Bayramı has been corralled into Bayram Parkı and Bayram Şenliği, where you often have to pay money just to get in. There are way more cops at the Hıdırellez "events."

Everything is fine now. Just look away. Nothing to see here.

But in the not-so-old days before the drums got banned most places in the city and Şeker Bayramı was Şeker Bayramı and booze wasn't taxed at 300%, people didn't pretend so much to respect religious shit that pissed them off. And now it's Ramazan Bayramı, just as it always has been, and soon enough we're to be at war with Eastasia, just as we always have been.

And here I was all worried about a silly old earthquake.

Son of a bitch.

Anyway, Halloween! Yay! It's fun and happy and one of those times when we yabancı get to band together and do our thing. This year, the woman that normally organizes the lojman Halloween thingy got fed up with the mean girls and shitty kids and the "Is this soap organic?" parents, so she didn't get things together this year, which I think was a wise move on her part.

So this year, we took the kids up to the yabancı-ridden sector of Zekeriyaköy. There are actually two parts to Zekeriyaköy-- the köy part with wandering fowl and skinny dogs and close-together houses with small yards interspersed with dusty bakkals. Then there's Zenginköy, the other part up on the hill with the expanding outdoor mall and the new villas with big yards and broad, smooth streets and servants' quarters. The street dogs are well-fed and vaccinated and neutered, there aren't any chickens, most everyone speaks English. That's where we go for our pork and smelly cheeses.

And they do Halloween up there. The businesses put out balloons to show they're giving candy. The site director has a map of houses doing the same. There are little kids in costumes and teenagers in costumes and grown-ups in costumes making the rounds. Merriment abounds. Many of the grownups are settled into places that sell wine and cheese, wondering where their kids have gotten to.

So it was different than Halloween like I'm used to, but also the same. Normal somehow, because sometimes if you want to find the "normal" in Istanbul, you have to find the money people. No matter. One day, I hope to be one of the people having wine and cheese, wondering where my kid has gotten to but knowing he's just fine. Even if the wine has a 1,000% tax on it. It'll totally be worth it.

Guess which one's mine?
Then after that, we went to a Halloween party. Turns out a lot of other people I know are into doing Halloween up right. The week before, a friend and I got all crafty and made decorations and a pinata. We also learned that the cool kırtasiye near my house not only has pirate copies of our textbooks before we even officially know the publishers have fucked up yet again, but also cool stuff like glitter and crepe paper and colored pipe cleaners.

The pinata rocked.
So that was cool. The party was kid-friendly, which meant it was exactly like our grown-up parties, but there was also a bowl of punch and games for the kids. The crafty friend had gotten even more crafty around her house, so there was also a super-cool ghost that lit up and cotton spider webs. I kind of refuse to do the costume thing because I'm a dick like that, but I did wear orange tights and a green skirt. I would never wear those in real life so it sort of counts. But most everyone else had cobbled together some sort of costume with the stuff they could find, or had lying around the house.

And LE got to party with the grown ups. He's good at parties. Plus he ate nothing but candy for hours on end-- so much I was afraid he would puke, but he didn't, which was good.

Brave enough to hold the pinata up while kids swung a stick at it.

Scrabbling for candy like 3rd world beggar kids.
Children start getting blurry when there's lots of sugar.

Likes sticking his face in water.
Halloween. It has to be done next year, too, and for however many years we end up here. It's one of those things that makes being a yabancı so much easier. And way more fun.


Bill said...

I wondered what had happened. Orange tights and a green skirt? Sounds like the Wizard of Oz to me.

Stranger said...

Hehe. It was more like an Oompa-Loompah receptionist...