Thursday, November 6, 2008

Calling a Spade a Spade.

We went to a 'Fall Festival last Friday at my daughter's school. My 4 yr old goes to the other international school as my son's school only starts at age 5. I call her school 'the American school', for that is what it seems to be. The principal told me with pride that all his staff were native Americans with only assistant teachers being local, oh and one Kosovan who had slipped through the net, (and happened to be one of the most popular lower school teachers).

I am slowly getting used to the enthusiasm and positive reinforcement of her American education. My 4 y-o came home from school on her first day sporting a name badge with "I'm a winner" printed boldly underneath it. Her work comes home with 'Good job' and 'awesome' stamped across it. She even high fives her friends when she meets them in the morning...... All this takes a bit of getting used to for a reserved Brit, used to a slightly more sober education system. My daughter has, of course, adapted seamlessly into the routine .

She has even learned the American art of euphemism. After only 8 wks there she asks me if she may 'go to the bathroom'. The 1st time she said this to me we were walking through the park off the main path, through bushes actually. Not a bathroom in sight. I pointed this out to her whereupon she said 'well a bush would do'.

So anyway, back to the 'Fall festival' It was with great excitement that my children set off for this occasion. Children were told they could dress up and that there would be lots of games. My son wanted to go as a pirate, my daughter, as a princess. Of course. To be fair we left the UK when 4 y-o was 21 mths old, and my son was 5. They had never been to any kind of Halloween party. Until recently it was never really celebrated in Britain. They had no idea, and nor, it turns out, did I.

The festival was an unmitigated disatser. We arrived, and the first thing my daughter did was scream, say she wanted to go home, and then spend the rest of the evening clinging to me, 'because of all the scary people'. She buried her face in my shoulder and clung on for dear life. Everyone was, of course dressed as a ghost, ghoul, witch or skeleton. Apart from a woman in pink with a trainer tied to her head. I never got to the bottom of that one..

I couldn't work out why so many adults were dressed up. The letters home had said children may come in fancy dress if they wish. Many parents had really gone to town. Was I missing something here? And boy had they found some ghoulish, creepy masks.

Even my son said 'Wow people have got some really scary costumes, why are they all dressed like that?' I was quite proud that living abroad had made my son so naive on this point. I mean whoever thought up the great 'role model' idea of 'trick or treat'? Bribe someone to give you sweets by threatening to do something nasty to them if they don't. Good one.

My husband got held up and arrived an hour late which also didn't help matters so I had to carry a petrified 4 yr old round on my hip whilst my 8 y-o played all the ghoulish games.

What niggled me most though was, why call it "Fall Festival"? What had it got to do with Fall, apart from that it is now Autumn? I mean it was a Halloween party, on 31st Oct, complete with pumpkins, each grade singing a Halloween themed song about, witches or skeletons rattling etc. Everyone knew that's what it would be (except my son & daughter who had no previous experience of Halloween). What are we trying to avoid by calling it 'Fall Festival' instead?

So when we get to Christmas, should I expect people to wish me Happy Holidays, or Happy Holiday Season? I mean Eid is Eid, Divali is the festival of lights, Christmas is a Christian festival celebrating Christ's birth. So why not call it what it is?

What's with these politically correct alternative labels?

Speaking of which, tomorrow night we're trying again, this time we're going to a 'bonfire party', to celebrate Guy Fawkes night. Needless to say it's a night for the British contingent here in Tirana. We'll be doing the usual burning of an effigy of the freedom fighter/terrorist GF, & having a bonfire (which is why we call it a 'bonfire party') Not very politcally correct really, so it's probably just as well it's Brits only. But at least we call a spade a spade.


parisgirl said...

Some years ago in Moscow friends of mine were horrified when their children came home from the International/American School singing: "Da, da America. Nyet, nyet Soviet".

Iota said...

Interesting. The school/preschool events here specify "non-scary" costumes - no blood, gore or weapons (of mass destruction or otherwise).

I am now puzzling over what trainer-head woman could have been. Do let us know if you find out.

Potty Mummy said...

I think you can expect to hear 'Happy Holidays' in December, at least in your daughter's school. We're surrounded by expat US citizens (assuming they haven't all gone home to escape the crunch), so I make a point of wishing them Happy Christmas in return. I mean, it is, for me. If for them it's Happy Hannukah (which is around the same time) or indeed anything else, I wouldn't be offended if that was how they greeted me...

Almost American said...

It does sound like an 'American' school whether it calls itself that or not. The politically correct 'Fall festival' is typical. However, if everyone was dressed in a scary costume (with that one exception) I would guess many of the parents are not American. Halloween here does NOT automatically mean a scary costume (as it seems to in the UK.) Most schools in fact would ban masks and gory costumes.

You will probably get wished "Happy Holidays" at Christmas time. I have enough Jewish friends that I buy some cards that say that, but I also buy Christmas cards for my other friends.

Pink lady with a sneaker on her head was perhaps stepped-on bubblegum.

Hope you had a fun bonfire night!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

ha! I worked in an American School once and at the beginning was clodhopping all over the place by calling Christmas, well, Christmas (durr), until it was pointed out to me that we mustn't offend Jews, Muslims, or well anyone else under the sun who had more than one cell. All very complicated. Can't fathom the fall festival label, presumably they don't want to offend the...Albanians??
Your life sounds hard by the way, thought I'd slip that in, just in case you were berating yourself for wishing you were back in Blighty. I'm sure you weren't, oh no, have i offended you??! You see, it's a PC minefield even in blogland!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

Isn't "Seasons Greetings" another of those bland I-don't-want-to-exclude-anyone-from-my-round-of- well-wishing-at-what-is-Christmas-time-for-me statements?
Guy Fawkes came and went here without a single word or reference. British friends took their daughter whose birthday is on 5.11 to Disneyland HK as that was the only place they knew would have fireworks, though nothing to do with GF of course. I felt strangely bereft!

nappy valley girl said...

There was a news story last week about a council here in the UK that has banned the word Christmas and is having a 'Winter Light Festival'. This seems pointless, as it is totally made-up and won't please anyone....

by the way have just read in Observer that Albania is next year's hot new beach destination! Is there any truth in this??

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Ok, Parisgirl, that's a much better (worse) story. I shd be thankful for small mercies!
Iota, yes I am still puzzling, but I think Almost American has the answer! Is this a common American costuemthen AA? A briliant suggestion, trodden on bubble gum!
PM, I'm glad there are other anti PC people out there. I mean WHAT is so offensive about saying Happy Christmas? Or Happy Hannukah for that matter!
Pig, no I'm not at all offended, takes a lot more than that, justglad you came to visit!
NVG Albania next hot beach destination?? Well 'hot' i s meteorologically accurate, gets up to 40' here in the summer, but no, Croatia is poor man's Tuscany, Monte Negro poor man's Croatia, except the entire country is being bought up by Russians so soon it will be more expensive than Monaco, so where does that leave Albania? Still with too much sea pollution, no water sports, no tourist infrastrucutre, a serious litter problem. Certainly some unspoilt parts, but literally nothing there, a few old style communist hotels perhaps, oh and the beaches are pebbly.. I must say I think that's hilarious. Little insider tip, don't book anything!

nappy valley girl said...

Hi - here is link to the beach article -!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Hi, Thanks NVG, this really is so funny. There's going to be a lot of v disappointed people next summer if they believe it. The rep was right when he said tourism is in its 'absolute infancy' here, barely born actually. There are miles of empty beaches, but v few sandy ones. And consequently no good hotels near by. Durres is cheek by jowl hotels. Albanians flock there in the summer. A friend came out of the water with itchy, red skin. The pollution really is that bad, tho much better further south. Ex-pats go to Macedonia or Monte Negro when they want to get away, not to an Albanian beach....
could this be what they call 'irresponsible journalism'??

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