11-5 Happy Halloween!

I was helping it to find its higher calling

I have been growing pumpkins in my yard for the last few months.  Mostly, I am happy to eat them.  I don’t get a lot of food these days so the pumpkins are great for both variety and bulk.  Occasionally, I do something fancy like make pumpkin bread or attempt pumpkin pie, but mostly I make pumpkin soup or just slather pieces in coconut milk and eat them.  There was one pumpkin in the patch that appeared exceptional.  It was bigger than the rest and turned a brighter orange.  I knew it had a higher calling in life. 

Halloween is not celebrated here.  I think there was an extra church service for All Saints Day, but I’m not quite sure.  I don’t get told about these things, which was fine by me, I didn’t really want to go to extra church.  On the other hand, I was unwilling to let Halloween pass unremarked.
I invited over the other volunteers and had a Halloween party, island style.  My giant pumpkin found its higher calling in the form of a smiling jack-o-lantern while we snacked on popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds and tea biscuits covered in frosting.  If we’d had hot cider it would have been perfect. 

We drew a crowed.  For once, I didn’t mind.

When the English volunteers from Melsisi showed up, we added four green popo (papayas) to the jack-o-lantern line.  They had a mask of Prince Phillip, which was passed around for the evening so we could all get dressed up.

I put the jack-o-lanterns out at dusk.  As I was lighting the first one (the pumpkin, of course), a few people took note.  By the time I had the last one lit, we had a crowd of close to fifteen people standing outside my house staring.  The crowd didn’t go away, either.  The women got bored first and wandered off after about 20 minutes.  The kids followed ten minutes after that but some of the youngfala men stayed and storied for over two hours.  I guess it was a good hang out, I don’t know, I had to go cook dinner.
Sarah and Melvin cleaning the pumpkin guts

The best part was how word spread through the villages.  Someone from Lalbateis must have been up in the nakamal when I lit them because all through the evening, men from Lalbateis were being led down by my neighbor, Mesisio, and shown the jack-o-lanterns.  The explanation in language seemed to consist of “they’ll chase away bad things, see?  It’s a face, a hat for a witch, a flying fox (giant bat), a spider and a pusscat.”  Then they’d stare for awhile and eventually go back up to the nakamal for another shell.

We had many visitors, they brought costumes.  Or at least costume.
To top off the evening, we had exactly one trick-or-treater.  During their English class, the Melsisi volunteers had talked about the tradition of trick-or-treating.  I guess they explained it as “You come and say trick-or-treat and we give you something nice,” except the give part got confused.  Our trick-or-treater brought us a ripe mango apiece.  I gave her a handful of candy, so I think we all felt like winners in that situation.
It’s supposed to be a cultural exchange, right?  Well, I think Vansemakul just got introduced to a bit of American culture.  Even better, I got to carve a pumpkin.
Higher. Calling.

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