It’s cold here. My toes are freezing, but strangely it’s a feeling that I’m getting used to. It’s funny how much I don’t know about winter. For instance, I thought I had packed winter clothes. But no, I packed Texas winter clothes, clothes that are sufficient for getting me from one air conditioned home to the next. I am so thankful for all of those years of central heating for sure. But I was so unprepared for nights of being able to see my breath as I’m getting ready to get in the shower.
The other thing that Central Texas does not prepare you for is the drastic change in the Armenian diet come winter. Gone are apricots, cherries (gosh how I would love some cherries!!!), watermelons, green plums. In the States, our industrialized food systems don’t prepare you for seasonal vegetables (a term my mind previously relegated to special “green” efforts, an abstract idea that could ‘better the world’ like buying florescent light bulbs). The term “seasonal vegetables” actually means something to me now. The change of food goes along with the act of wearing sweaters 24 hours a day, or furiously knitting a new hat because I CANNOT BE WITHOUT ONE and I left mine on the bus. I am certainly now involved in a new sensation, this act so strange to me, this bearing down, gritting your teeth, bracing yourself for winter.
I made a verbal agreement on a house today. I’m trying to not get too excited about it, but my wayward imagination is taken with the place. It is a tiny cottage, spackled a plain grey on the outside with new, white trimmed windows. The building sits in the corner of a family’s garden and can be reached by a path that winds through a small forest of drying sunflower stalks and rows of newly planted potatoes. The whole thing looks new, and certainly the inside has been recently tiled and furnished sparsely with cabinets, beds, a table, an electric water heater. The landlord assured me that soon a gas line will be set up, that the water that only runs a few hours a day will be running 24 hours a day by January, and that a wardrobe will be brought in. Now I only need the thing to be approved by my PM, and I can move in. Cause for pause? Only one, that I’ll be moving in the dead of winter, and my first few days will be the coldest days of my life. So be it. I need a place of my own. And I think I’ve found it.
Things at work are going well. I had a fantastic Halloween party on Friday. I made cartoon versions of all my coworkers, had them draw numbers for the costumes that would be put on their cartoon selves. After they were dressed as an octopus, a dragon, a magician and others, the paper selves were handed out to their animate counterparts and hung around their necks by yarn. In the Armenian party tradition, each of my coworkers was also given a pre-written toast to correspond with their character, and so throughout the night my friends presented such speeches as “The Alien’s Toast” and “The Butterfly’s Toast”.
My desk mate, a wonderful sprig of a woman, who brought her husband’s nephew and neice to the party, had the bright idea to cut up some old posters and help all the kids decorate them into costumes. Kings and queens, butterflies and rabbits were all running underneath the strings of orange balloons and tissue ghosts that hung across the ceiling.
We had ordered a cake, a green one. My director actually did the ordering, but despite her saying that it needed to look like grass, it came with lots of beautiful swirls in many greens and creams and was finished with a large spackling of glitter. Much too pretty. However, it became a great deal uglier once we pressed the gummy worms into the icing and laid the gummy snake from corner to corner. Amongst the paper headstones and gnarled tree that were stabbed in a convincing arrangement, the whole thing gave my Armenian friends willies. Perfect. The cake also allowed me this cultural exchange: The security guard asked if this was the holiday on which American’s eat goose. I was able to reply, “No, this is the one where we eat cemeteries.”
We played three games. The dance competition and round of musical chairs were both very exciting. But the most well recieved was the Halloween Lottery. From money we had collected for the pary we had bought mostly food, but we also bought 18 prizes. We attached numbers to the prizes and put corresponding ones in the lottery. We also folded up written dares. So, if you wanted a prize you had to be willing to perform a dare should you draw one. Ah, risk. We then wrapped the pieces of paper in bits of plastic bag and stirred them into a pot of cold, soggy oatmeal. The pot was covered in a box with a hole in the top. So to play you had to be willing to stick your hand into a dark hole and dig around in a mucusy mess. The faces were priceless and the laughs went on for a long while.
The whole party was wrapped up in a video from a website my mom sent me which featured members of my NGO dancing to “Monster Mash” as a mad scientist, a vampire, a werewolf, and Frankenstein and his wife. I think they watched the video at least 8 times before we all went home.
A successful Halloween. Of course, now I’m getting asked the date of my next party. Perhaps I set a dangerous precedent. No… a terrifying, even scary precedent.