costumes and candy

It’s Halloween again. I loved Halloween as a kid. One year, I dressed up as a book. Matilda, to be exact. No, not the character, the book itself. I still have that particular costume, even. My mom let me bring in to the Netherlands with us when we moved, and she’s now storing it for me. (I think that’s all the proof you need that a) my mom loves me, and b) I lived in my own little world as a kid, a world that didn’t have to make sense to anyone else.)

My sisters and I never really went in for regular costumes. Sure, one year I was some kind of fairy princess, and I was also Molly one year. (I had Molly, my sisters had Kirsten and Samantha. I think we all dressed up as our dolls one year.) But I also remember my little sister being a fly, and my big sister being a tree one year. (A tree in autumn, specifically.) My mom was always crazy enough to make us awesome costumes and we had a lot of fun trick-or-treating each year.

And then we moved to Europe, where they don’t do Halloween. Some parts of the Netherlands have this tradition called St. Maarten (in honor of St Martin of Tours), in which kids go door-to-door carrying paper lanterns and collect candy, but you don’t dress up, so it’s a little different and not nearly as involved.

a scene from Hanna’s parents’ party

I spent the fall semester at Berkeley. Which meant I also celebrated Halloween there. And I got caught up in the dilemma every college kid then faces: what to wear? I wasn’t about to give up my feminist principles and dress up as a sexy Indian princess or sexy nurse or sexy anything, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I don’t even really remember what I went as, but I do remember spending the evening at my roommate’s parents’ Halloween party. It was filled with all kinds of artsy people and there were a lot of awesome costumes (it was right before the 2008 elections, so her mom went as Barack Obama, and her dad went as Sarah Palin. My roommate went as a pregnant Bristol Palin. It sounds weird but it was awesome). It was low-key and perfect. And then we drove back to Berkeley to go to the various co-op parties, and I remember slipping out fairly soon. Loud, crowded parties are just not for me..but still, it was fun to see what Halloween looks like for grown-ups.

If I have kids some day, I’m going to have to make sure they’re in the States for a couple of Halloweens, so they can experience the fun of dressing up and going trick-or-treating with their friends. And eating themselves sick afterward. It’s all part of the deal, and I have many fond memories of doing exactly that.



I had my second and last final today, on Jewish history. It did not go terribly well, but it did not terribly bad either. I would say ‘damn those Jews’ except that they’re a theological error already so they don’t need any more damnation.

yes, yes, I know, very un-PC of me. That’s what Berkeley finals will do to you.

On a happier note, I am done for this semester and have a glorious amount of days off, as spring semester doesn’t start until February 2nd. And I’ll be using my time wisely: I’ll be traveling around the East Coast (Boston, New York, Montreal, Washington and Philadelphia). Is there a better way to end a study-abroad experience?

So if you read my blog often enough you should  know I’m spending this semester in Berkeley and living in the International House here. If you’re Dutch, you know the feast of Sint Nicholas, which we call Sinterklaas, just happened. If you put the two together, you get two Dutchies sneaking around all the floors putting poems under every Dutch person’s door, and including a selected few non-Dutchies as well. 


For those that are interested, here’s the   Dutch poem

Another exciting tidbit, live from Berkeley!

 One of the funny things about sharing a room is seeing how different people work best with different schedules. When on a deadline, my roommate likes to work until late and then get up around 9 or 10 AM, I don’t work past 11 or 12 PM but I then get up around 6 or 7 AM. In preparing for today’s midterm our different hours once again became apparent: she came in around 4:30 AM, and my alarm went off at 6. 

I think I got the better deal – when she comes in late I can drop back off to sleep, while she reports she wakes up when I leave and then feels guilty for still being in bed, so gets up anyway and goes through the day with major sleep deprivation. (although they say that when you enter Berkeley you don’t expect to sleep for 4 years, so I guess that isn’t anything out of the ordinary). 

Stars, moons, and Jewish policeman

 Today was a good day. It did not start out that way, since after my 9:30 Jewish history class we were invited to a guest lecture by a reknown historian, most of which went way over my head. The rest of the attendees were either grad students in the field of Jewish history, or were Jewish themselves, which tended to help their understanding. Then I had a 2:00 class on Mexican history from the 1920s onwards, which I spent frantically writing down (misspelled) names and dates and generally getting things muddled up. 

But, then the sun came out and the birds started singing and all was well with the world, metaphorically speaking at least. I had spotted a flyer advertising the Doe Library Story Hour (every month a writer comes to Berkeley to read from his or her work and field questions and sign books afterwards). Today’s writer happened to be Michael Chabon (of The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, among others). I went, stood in line for a long time (the line stretched halfway across the library), found a spot, and was enthralled for a little under an hour. See, I had started reading The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, but put it away because I had to do a lot of reading for my Jewish history class and all that Judaism was getting a bit heavy. But the way Chabon read his work aloud (he actually read from a different book, but whatever) and the nice and charming and engaging way he handled the questions afterwards really make me want to go back to it. And I probably will, as soon as I finish the book I’m reading now.

Also, if I ever make it as a published writer, and I get to go on a booktour or do readings somewhere, I hope I can do it with half as much grace and humor as Chabon did. It’s always such an inspiring experience to see *real, live* authors, and find out they’re real people. It reinforces the tiny, tiny idea (well, big idea, tiny bit of confidence) that I might be in that spot one day. 

Oh well, if that doesn’t work out, maybe I can be the one introducing the writer before he reads. Shoot for the moon, right? Even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.

To offset all the cynical posts I’ve been doing lately: today I went shopping and had the most marvelous luck. I went to Buffalo Exchange, a secondhand store someone recommended to me, and it was wonderful. They had so much selection and all really nice stuff – the one shirt I bought still had the extra button connected to it (which makes me wonder if it had ever been worn) – you couldn’t really tell it was all secondhand. Anyway, I got a pair of jeans, a longsleeved shirt and one pair of allstars (reddish pink) for under $50. Normally I can’t even find jeans for that price ­čÖé

I think I’ll go back often.

So Berkeley, while very exciting and fun and wonderful in so many ways, is not good for my overall view of humanity. Between my urban policy class, where I learn how poor people get screwed over every single time, by Democrats and Republicans alike; my Jewish history class, where I learn how Jewish people had their citizenship awarded, revoked, awarded, revoked, and were persecuted relentlessly (all by “Christian”┬átypes); my literature class, where I read a 19C writer talk about women, Jews, blacks and poor (everyone not white, male and upper class) in a very disparaging way; and my Southern border class, where I read about the U.S. overthrowing the democratically chosen Guatemalean government to further their own business interests (thank you, United Fruit Company), leading to decades of blood and war; I’m amazed I have any faith left in humanity at all. The conclusion right now is that people are bigots (and futhermore, just plain mean) and I’m right not to trust them.

But I’m sure that’ll pass once we get to the modern age in my classes. ‘Cause there’s no racial, ethnic or economic segregation or discrimination going on right now; the Jews have recovered from eras of discrimination and humiliation; misogynistic males are things of the past; and the U.S. would never go to war to further their business interests. Right?