West Coast.

#9 Halloween, Friendsgiving and Christmas

Img: water, waterfront, pier, port, nature, outdoors, sea, person
Patrícia Mota
Patrícia Mota

I confess that I've never really enjoyed Carnival, Halloween or anything that involves dressing up.

Well, I've got a bunch of kids who love it all. And since August we've had pumpkins and bats everywhere, and it goes without saying that the preparations for October 31st in the afternoon, from the supermarket, to the decorations in each house, the nooks and crannies of the streets of Seal Beach, etc., promised a big party in every sense.

Maria came home one day saying, "The neighborhood in front of Cuca's school is Big Candy, my friends say it's famous," and by coincidence some of Jenny's friends invited us to dinner before the trick or treat, in one of the mansions in this "Big Candy" neighborhood.

We were all delighted at the prospect of joining a bunch of locals in this activity, which is a little more daring than the "bread for God" I've been indulging in over the last few years, with the community of dear neighbors we've always been lucky enough to have since we arrived in Parede. Kisses to you ;)

In college I realized that I was supposed to get into the spirit and, on the morning of October 31st, I carried some "just in case" flowers in my backpack. When I saw Jenny with a snail on her head, I immediately joined in.

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A 30-degree day in the shade, a driving test in the afternoon, and sugar everywhere.

At lunchtime I received a message from the mother of one of my Cuca's admirers asking if I could take her for an afternoon stroll with a group of friends from school for a trick or treat on Seal Beach's Main Street, and off she went, all happy.

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With regard to the driving test, which I had to take in order to make some of the logistics easier for myself, I have to confess that I didn't read a line of the preparation book (I didn't have time!), I failed the code the first time, and I passed the second time with flying colors (the metrics in feets alone were a complete shambles).

And I can tell you that I felt like I was 18 again, being examined in the car, under stress, during my driving test.

After a lot of shenanigans, I PASSED!!!

And I already have the most requested document for everything official, with a very cute bear saying it's from California.

We got home with the troupe, always telling them that dinner was scheduled for 5pm and we had to disguise ourselves and run to the "Big Candy" neighborhood.

We formed the Frida Cahlo family on Dia de los Muertos.

When I saw us all together, I thought that, for someone who doesn't like disguises, you can tell that we'd done our best.

Matias wore a dinosaur patusco, and while he saw us in make-up, he just kept repeating, "I don't like cream, ok mámi? I don't want to put any of that on my face, ok?" And so it went.

If it's already so challenging to slather the ninja with sunscreen, I didn't even try to give him Mexican tattoos on his face.

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We arrived on time, had dinner with our new friends, and began the most fun and impressive Trick or Treat I've ever experienced.

The atmosphere with the open and beautifully decorated mansions of the neighbourhood, music, people dressed up in street clothes, or hanging out around their barbecues, children running from door to door and receiving "Big Candy", our children recognizing their friends from school as if they were totally local, and running everywhere, a wonderful mess of adrenaline and laughter.

In one of the mansions decorated in the Little Mermaid style, children were given light-up toys as well as sweets.

Matias received a glowing sword from Tristan, and the next thing he knew he was attacking everything that was scary (and we were running after him so as not to hurt anyone!).

In one of the houses there were some very ugly clowns who scared the hell out of him, and then the beating they took from the youngest swordsman... it was epic.

And a lot of fun to watch! Soon there won't be a clown anywhere near us!

At one point during the afternoon, Jenny asked me if I had any idea what time it was, and although it seemed like early morning to me given the darkness, and the tiredness of the pilgrimage through the neighborhood, checking on more than 20 children, and carrying the kg of sweets they were receiving, it was only 7pm!

Although Halloween isn't my thing in terms of parties, seeing a community so involved in a supposedly spooky party, but which is actually prepared rigorously for children to have fun socializing around the house, was really nice.

We got home before 9pm, melted, but very happy!

I think we have sweets for the next 23 events.

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On November 1st, the children had no classes and Maria had an activity with the Girl Scouts about democracy.

It was with the father of one of her friends, who, as a judge, gave them the opportunity to talk to different entities within the court, explained the workings and responsibilities of each entity, and even managed to physically simulate a trial.

An experience she says she won't forget.

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In the meantime, Rodrigo had realized that there was a Beach Ultimate world championship, which is the same as beach Frisbee. And that Spain was playing that day in Huntington Beach.

We went to have a look, managed to get close to the players, and we were the only non-American supporters, but we were making a huge noise, even if we were hesitant about who would score, as we knew little or nothing about the game.

The boys beat Canada, we even enjoyed a nico on the beach, and we promised to come back on Sunday if they reached the final.

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On Sunday, the final was between Spain and the USA, and being far away generates a patriotism unknown even to other nationalities in the family!

We all waved the Spanish flag, sang and shouted with them, and cheered every point.

It was a hard-fought but very proud second place, and the world champions are also the ones who invented this game that we have come to love.

The rules are clear and the players are so noble that there's no need for a referee.

Maria, we realized later, plays on grass every week at school, since it's one of the national sports, and she was the only one of us who anticipated points with conviction.

At the end of the championship they thanked us for our support with autographs on the records we gave them and a real flag that we brought home.

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It was a Sunday full of emotion and vibrating, like nostalgic emigrants!

The weeks have been interesting and challenging. With the routine that we are getting to know better and better, and with the bridge that we are maintaining with our anchors in Portugal.

Sometimes during the day it's confusing to figure out which priorities are on the "to do" list, in terms of professional tasks, challenges, time zone, language and future projects.

When I go to sleep, I try not to think too much about this fluctuation of responsibilities, duties, rights and future ideas between Europe and the USA.

I can't organize myself calmly, and I've been trying to concentrate on enjoying the moment. But it's a mix.

My students here managed to thrill me with their presentation of the work we've been doing since I arrived. And I was really happy.

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On the bridge with Europe, I've also been involved these past few weeks in interesting projects and early morning meetings that promise beautiful things. And I've been really happy.

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Being really happy is good, but overthinking is bad.

Focusing on the here and now, and trying to make the most of the moment. I think we're succeeding, most of the time...

In the meantime, Matias's best friend's parents invited us to a "Friendsgiving" dinner in the beautiful mansions district, as usual, at 5 pm, and off we went on another hard-partying debut.

More than 50 people in the house, easy conversation, a relaxed atmosphere and the chance to really get into the life and culture here.

American culture has this very strong point: it's easy to feel welcome in the midst of 50 strangers,, introduced by the most wonderful hosts with a genuine curiosity about everything new, just like us. And we were almost the last to leave yet another great party.

That's my point of view at the moment. And we're genuinely impressed with this community.

Children with a Disney caricaturist portraying the moment, inflatables, games, and lots of things to be thankful for!

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Another feature of this incredible community bubble is the prices.

The prices are incredible! Everything, but in the expensive sense.

If the supermarket is scary for a family of slobs, I don't even want to try beauty salons.

So Matias, who had pin-y-pon hair, has been treated, and it looks like we're going to make a profit on the price of scissors for the time being.

Aunt Dina has already told me how proud she is, and Rodrigo has already requested my new services.

The before and after isn't even bad! Take a look...

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And after the live wheels on Fridays, it's movie night, wherever you are.

Even on the sofa it's a delight, and our favorite movie so far has been "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile".

Um Crocodilo em silêncio em grande plano, a aguentar as lágrimas conseguiu arrumar com todos nós e fazer-nos suspirar aos 5.

We still love Friday nights.

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The most recent event was the arrival of my parents.

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is truly special; we all miss it terribly.

The girls suspected that their grandparents were planning to come, if only for Christmas. But they had no idea they were coming in November.

We planned the surprise, and the girls purposely overheard Jenny telling me that she needed a ride back from San Francisco that day, and if I could pick her up at the airport. I said yes, and asked them both to come with me.

The grandparents thought that their granddaughters were swimming at the time and that Rodrigo would pick them up to surprise them when they got home.

As they arrived on Veterans' Day, a national holiday, we managed to surprise both parties.

The videos don't need subtitles. Just sound.

It's Christmas here and now. And I am really happy.

Kisses to all.

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