“Halloween in Ho Chi Minh” (Saigon, Vietnam)

Halloween in Ho Chi Minh

Ho chi Minh City, Vietnam – November 13, 2018

I rocked a unibrow as Frida Kahlo the weekend before Halloween. No one else was really dressed up, so I got a few people asking me if it was real. A guy we went out with actually ended up scrubbing it off my face because he “couldn’t stop staring at it.” Since we had class on actual Halloween, I wanted to dress up for my kids, but I figured none of them would get the Frida reference. I found some glittery cat ears for $1 at my local market, and tested out some cat makeup the night before, but decided the dark makeup and purple lipstick was too sexy for my first graders, not to mention, my morning walk to work would turn me into a melting-sexy-cat.

Most of the girls in my class were some version of a princess. I had a “pumpkin princess,” a “spider princess,” a “rainbow unicorn princess…” you get the drift. The boys were pretty much all unrecognizable with full-body costumes, scary masks and morph-suits. Even their Vietnamese “form teacher” dressed up (the form teachers are known for being super-strict hard-asses that crack the whip in class—literally, they crack rulers on the desks when the kids are misbehaving, so I was surprised to see her dressed up. She was a corpse bride and was actually terrifying!! Fake blood and guts painted every square inch of exposed skin, and she even blinked her bloody eyelids over some super-scary clear blue contacts. I was even scared of getting close to her as I walked in. A boy sat in the back of the classroom, open-mouth sobbing, throwing his head back, tears streaming down the neck of his collared shirt. I asked why he was so sad and one of the moms in the classroom said, “he’s scared of his teacher,” as she scrubbed the gory makeup off her body and peeled the creepy contacts out of her eyes. Bless his soul.

Everyone took their costumes off before class, which I was pretty surprised about. I guess they did it so it wouldn’t be a distraction, but it seemed like a pretty huge production to only last the first hour of the school day. I played them a Halloween song (which by the way… songs/videos for early learning purposes are hugely under-represented… if you’re a videographer/weird person that wants to make children laugh and enrich the minds of our future leaders—this market is open for you!). I also practiced a magic trick, where I snipped notches into a flat piece of paper and once all eyes were on me, I unfurled it into a perfect spider-web right in front of their eyes. They went insane.

Energy levels were high as I’m sure lots of candy was consumed. Lolly-pop sticks hung out their sticky little mouths as they jittered about the daily classroom activities. I have a thing in my class where I say: “What’s the rule? No toys!” “What’s the rule? No candy!” My teaching assistant usually suggests that I get candy for kids as a reward, but I’m pretty anti-candy, especially considering most of their baby teeth are already a rotten-blue color… like get these kids a banana or something! But somehow, their little rotten smiles are endearing. Today was an exception on the candy rule though, but usually I say “If you play with toys and candy, what happens? I’m keeping them forever!! Muahahahaha!!” I ask them, “Do I like toys? Of course I do!” “Do I like candy? Yes I do!” Today when I said “Yes, I like candy,” hoards of kids came running to my desk with candy offerings for “teacher.”

We flipped through our weekly vocab, one word being “cat,” at which I watched their eyes light up as they made the connection to my sparkly ears and said, “teacher it’s youuuu!” As a teacher, you sometimes feel like the kids have no idea what you’re talking about in class, with blank stares and beady little eyes, but sometimes when you see them make a connection between your class and the outside world, it’s magical. It happens quite often as a teacher, especially with the younger kids, and it gives you this sparkly feeling inside; like, “I DID THAT!!!” Beautiful and spooky at the same time.

Happy Halloween, BOO!


Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato

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