Mike here, finally getting around to posting this much-delayed entry.
As the month of October wound down, both Miranda and I were uncertain whether Halloween would be celebrated on the island. Given that Yap has no costume stores, very little candy for sale, and is strongly influenced by many active and vocal churches, we thought that few locals would be dressing up and going trick-or-treating door to door. As it turned out, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
On the Friday before Halloween, Miranda had the honor of being selected as one of the teachers to judge the tenth grader’s costume contest during lunchtime. Before lunch many students in her class used some spare time to get ready. Before her eyes she watched her students transform into zombies, a hunchback, witches, and even Sponge Bob Square Pants- made out of cardboard boxes and banana leaves! They used water colors and markers in place of face paint. She cringed at the idea of them returning to school on Monday still covered in their permanent marker masks, but luckily this did not happen. Along with a fellow expat teacher, and a local teacher, they had the tough job of deciding who had the best store bought, and the best homemade costume. Sponge Bob won for homemade, as the effort and creativity that went into the costume could not go unnoticed. The store bought prize went to a student who used a sheet, a store bought mask and his backpack to become an old hunchback (as seen below). What did it was how well he played the part. He also used a bamboo pole as a staff, and hobbled and wobbled his way toward the judges.
Miranda thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to have some fun with her students, and always feels good when they include her in such activities.
Later that night we we went to a party at the Village View hotel, a quaint beachfront establishment in the northern part of the island. Considering the 45 minute drive, along a bumpy dirt road that is treacherous even under ideal conditions, we decided to play it safe, rent a room (shown here), and stay the night there.
As far as what costumes we could put together, at first we were at a total loss. Thankfully, I had brought along a T-shirt that looked like a Star Trek uniform, which I had ordered on a whim from the back of a cereal box back in Seattle, and had completely forgotten about. With a pair of black shorts, it made a passable, if not overtly geeky costume. Miranda researched various possible homemade Halloween costumes on the internet until she found the perfect one. Carrying plastic pom-poms and a home-made cardboard “foam” finger, and wearing a T-shirt carefully stenciled with the words “Go Ceiling!!!” on it, she transformed herself into a “Ceiling Fan”. After some explanation, the costume was a big hit.
We arrived at Village View late in the afternoon. Several of our friends were already there, lounging on the deck of one of the rented bungalows built right next to the beach. The sun was still shining, and a breeze blew off the ocean, keeping us both relatively cool and mosquito free. We chatted for a while, until out of nowhere, a large flatbed truck pulled up, carrying a very heavy-looking, solid wood ping-pong table.
After the table was unloaded, we were instructed in the rules of the game of “Beer Pong”. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Cups filled with the aforementioned beverage were set up like bowling pins on either end of the table. Each team of two would then try to toss a ping-pong ball into their opponents’ cups. Whenever the ball landed in a cup, that team would drink down that cup of beer, which continued until all of their cups were empty. The loser of any given round was also required to finish whatever cups remained in front of the winning team. I had actually played a similar game back in the dorm rooms of my college years, but learned quickly that in the decade since then, neither my dexterity nor drinking stamina had improved much. As you can imagine, after several rounds of this game, everyone was in quite the celebratory mood.
As the evening wore on, people started putting on their costumes. Of course, Miranda and I had not considered this option, and instead drove the entire way to the hotel in our Halloween gear! I’m sure we got some very amused, or confused, stares from the other motorists we passed along the way. As for our fellow American’s costumes, I was impressed at the creativity and ingenuity of them. The assortment included several basketball players, a pirate, a gypsy, a redneck, a gym coach, a Power Ranger, and Mahatma Gandhi!
The next morning, we woke up only a bit worse for wear. We sat for a while on the deck of our bungalow, watched the tide slowly come in, and chatted with some other early-morning risers. The view was incredible, as always. Probably the best part about the whole weekend was the pleasant surprise we received when we turned on the shower and discovered hot running water! After almost a year of bathing in often ice-cold water (or at least that’s the way it feels at 7:30 a.m.), this simple amenity seemed like such a luxury. After our decadently long showers, we went to the nearby Moon Rize Café, and had a delicious and much needed breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and scrambled eggs. As a side note, the eggs were indeed scrambled, but then fried crepe thin on a griddle like a pancake. While it’s unclear if this is a typical Japanese style of egg cooking (Village View primarily caters to Pacific Rim diving tourists), or something particular to that restaurant, it tasted great and had a not unpleasant texture. After our meal, we packed up and headed back home, having had a thoroughly enjoyable Halloween celebration.
On October 31st, we mainly spent the afternoon relaxing and recuperating from our weekend festivities. We debated for a long while whether there would actually be kids doing any trick-or-treating, and after much discussion on the subject, decided it would be rather unlikely. As dusk darkened into evening, there was no sign of costumed kids around, and we felt sure we were in the clear. We locked up the house, and retired into our evening clothes (read: pajamas) and settled in to watch a scary movie on our television. Occasionally, we would hear the sound of scurrying around in the front yard, and we’d nervously peek out the window only to see a random neighborhood dog nosing through leaves. After the sun went down and no kids had arrived, we joked about how silly we were to think that children here would dress up and go door to door with their candy bags in hand. We remarked it was a classic example of the American mentality of simply assuming that our customs and traditions would be adopted by the Yapese, who have their own valued and fiercely protected traditions.
That’s when the kids showed up. We actually heard them long before we saw them, as what sounded like an army of laughing and loudly talking kids (who each must have been calling one another, from the weird cacophony of cell phone ringtones) grew steadily closer. We stared out the window, and to our shock and amazement, it looked like our entire dirt road was filled with every kid on the island! Also, everyone was wearing a costume. There were many witches and zombies, little girls in princess dresses, teens in a variety of professional sports jerseys, and many more elaborately costumed kids. Since we were caught totally unprepared, with no candy to spare, we made the decision to take the cowardly curmudgeon route. We turned off our lights, closed and locked the door, and tried to stay as quiet as possible. This however did not discourage the mass of candy-seekers in the slightest. Small groups of kids would come into our pitch black yard, stand there for a moment pondering whether anyone was home, yell out “Trick or Treat!”, and after a while would then dejectedly walk to the next house. At one point, we were certain that there were kids walking around our house, and looking in our windows, which was especially creepy. Sometime later, we heard our screen door open, and then some extremely loud local pop music blared for a few seconds, followed by the sound of giggling and kids running away. Our theory was this was some of Miranda’s students playing a prank on her. Thankfully, the kids here hadn’t adopted the time-honored American schoolyard tradition of throwing rolls of toilet paper in their teachers’ trees! Then, again, with toilet paper being so expensive here, we’re not surprised.
All in all, our first Halloween on the island was a good one. We plan on buying some candy to give out to the kids next year though, just in case the price of toilet paper goes down.