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trick or treat!
give me some baklava to eat!
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)

Thanks to globalization, err, wait… no. Sorry. Thanks to Americanization, I just found out that American-style Halloween preparations are officially taking place in the Gulf countries of the Middle East. Kids are getting ready with costumes and their trick or treat bags, while trying to get through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The first time I heard of Halloween was during my sixth-grade year at South Lakewood Elementary School, right here in the US. I was ten and I had no idea what all the kids were talking about when they asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. I don't know how I finally figured out what Halloween was, and that it entailed dressing up as anything other than yourself, and begging for candy at people's doorsteps in sub-zero temperatures. I feel I should remind you that I live in Colorado, and no matter what the weather is doing, we always get snow and an arctic cold front just in time for Halloween.


When my family came to stay in America (spoken with a heavy, Godfather-like accent) we were like the aliens from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Watch the episode about how Dick Solomon and the gang learn about Thanksgiving and you will get a feel for how my life in the US started out.

My father, being the "commander" of the household, was Dick Solomon. Aside from being the "big head" honchos, trying to understand the new environment around them is the only thing these two characters share. My mother was Sally Solomon, as she was obviously the mother figure who fed us as traditional a Thanksgiving dinner as she could, and did everything a wonderful and nurturing mother figure does.

My brother was Mrs. Dubcek, the Solomons' landlord who would unknowingly give insight to aliens about human life and practice on earth. Though my brother was obviously a part of this alleged alien family, he was a little better off than the rest of us, in that he had spent several years living on his own in Pennsylvania for college.

It's hard to decide who my sister would be as a Solomon alien. She's nothing like Harry, the guy in a fur coat, squinty eyes and very few normal-functioning brain cells. But I can't exactly say she fits the bill as Tommy either, the kid of the group who is really an ancient and wise alien trapped in a teenage boy's body. Not that my sister is not a wise person, and seems to have an ancient soul that sometimes surpasses my mother's old-fashioned ways and thoughts... but I am looking at the situation from the angle of what role my sister played in gathering information on American culture. My sister had been attending college in Pennsylvania and living with my brother for about a year. I'd say she's a combination of Sally and Tommy, being the nurturing, yet tough type, but also very observant and analytical of her surroundings.

My observations were made much like Tommy's-- I was the youngest of the group, and was exposed to the most traditional American practices and lifestyles through the American public school system. I wasn't cool or brilliant like Tommy by any means, but I was still the one who helped the family figure out the details of American traditional staples we'd hear about on prime time sitcoms, and other TV sources.

My brother knew the basics of American life, but he could only provide so much insight to things like slumber parties and high school dances. As I said, his role as Mrs. Dubcek was limited, and that’s where my observations at school came in.

We were all clueless about American life, and had to learn the ropes the hard way. Many days I would come home from school crying, because kids were making fun of me for not knowing what a word like "butt" meant. I spoke good English when I came to the States, and we all did, but slang and bad words-- even when they were in the dictionary weren't taught to us in school back home. So, we struggled as a family to build our life in America, most of the time having to figure things out on our own, little by little.

Halloween was one of those things I had to figure out little by little. I will never forget making my family buy me a Halloween costume, complete with a red polka-dotted, cheap costume quality dress and red clown's wig and white tights with little hearts on them that I felt would look great with my red canvas shoes. I got so excited preparing for the next day at school, when I'd finally be doing something like everyone else. It was one of the very few times I felt myself fitting in. I loved it and looked forward to the next Halloween, because I knew that when kids would ask me what I will be, I would know what they meant. It was an educational and exhilarating experience to learn about Halloween, and it paved the way for more success in understanding American traditions.

Now, after having spent 66% of my life living and learning the American way and its traditions, I feel gypped. Today if a kid were living the same story as me, the journey would be only half of what mine was, and not even close to being as funny as living like clueless aliens from a different planet. I suspect this is how the Pioneers felt when people just came out and made a life for themselves out west after the unknown was known.

I guess I'm just a pioneer, who got to experience the new frontier as it should be experienced, and will never be experienced again with so much comedy.


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


fishing with floss
not as shiny as fishing line
by reem al-omari
topic: humor
published: 9.10.07

it's not the end of the world
and i feel fine
by reem al-omari
topic: humor
published: 5.30.07


robert melos
10.4.07 @ 3:40a

Wow! This really emphasizes that life is a continuing learning experience. I can't imagine being thrust into a foreign culture, yet in many ways I grew up in a world where I didn't feel as though I fit in. I'm still coming to terms with the world and the way things are, and learning how things can work. Sounds like you've done a fine job of learning who you are in this world.

reem al-omari
10.4.07 @ 7:18p

You know Robert... the more I write about these snippets of my life here in the US and essentially trying to fit in during those times, the more I realize that I still don't really fit in. The difference between now and then is that now I embrace the fact that I am different and like that I don't fit into one group. I'm not sure I fit in anywhere, and that is a blessing as well as a curse. I prefer to think of it as a blessing, though, because I see things from all angles and feel I bear the mark of an "educated mind" by "being able to entertain a thought without accepting it". (Hey, those are necessary quote marks!)

russ carr
10.15.07 @ 11:40p

I'm sorry, I can't get past the subtitle without salivating. And there are no late night drive-thru baklava stands in America.

alex b
10.16.07 @ 12:08a

Reem, honey, Halloween is still available for grown-ups. Year before last, I was a nurse. Last year, I was "Little" Red Riding Hood. This year, two of my girls and I are arguing over whether or not we want to be vampire brides, disco mommas, or Yankees girls. Find a Halloween party!

And Russ, there are late-night Greek-run diners with baklava in my 'hood, Astoria... also known as Athens II.

lisa r
10.16.07 @ 11:07a

That does it, I'm finally going to make that baklava I've been plannning to try for months!

russ carr
10.16.07 @ 12:53p

Alex...go as vampire Yankees girls. Because, as you well know, Yankees...suck.

alex b
10.16.07 @ 1:00p

Russ, holy crap... thank you for giving me the best laugh I've had all morning. The Yankees did suck, but unfortunately, I don't do no costume that'll make me look like a Tarantino-Rodriguez reject.

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