Halloween in Ecuador

Leila Merzenich - Ecuador


November 2, 2017

As you may know, Halloween isn't really a thing in Ecuador, which made me pretty nostalgic for the days when I would dress up in often a homemade costume and go trick or treating with my cousins, or even just watch scary movies with my friends. So I decided I would create a Halloween experience for myself here as best as I could. 

The first part of this started off purely accidental. When explaining Halloween to my two nieces, one eleven and one six, I got them extremely excited about it. Makeup and candy, what could be better? They decided that the weekend before Halloween we would have a party with their friends. And as great as hosting a party of two to twelve year olds sounds, I decided to steer their excitement in a different direction. The week leading up to Halloween, I brought out my fancy pens and some scissors and we made some fun spooky decorations. First, we drew some spooky monsters, and using a lighter burned the edges of the paper. This was not my idea, but clearly I was not gonna be able to stop them, so I helped them out so it would be safer. Then I cut out some paper spider webs. They wanted to help, but I only had left-handed scissors which they could not get the hang of. Then Daniela, the eleven year old, had the genius idea that we could make Jack-o-lanterns by drawing with sharpies on balloons. We had a pretty great time, and I truly love those girls.
The next step of having my Halloween Experience was also not fully my idea. I asked everyone in my cohort what they were doing Halloweekend, and it turns out that my friend Reina was going to a Halloween themed party at a Discoteca with her sisters, so me and another friend Ploy tagged along. We threw together some last minute costumes- they wore all black and witch hats, and I wore an orange shirt and a pumpkin hat. I was ready to feel extremely silly dressing up, but when I saw what Reina's sisters-as well as most of the other people at the club- were wearing, I was very clearly under-dressed. It was so awesome to see all of the great costumes, my favorites including Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pope. Ploy, Reina and I danced until three in the morning, having a great time. Being surrounded by strangers dresses like they were dead made me miss home a little less, as silly as that sounds.

For Monday at school, where I teach English to middle schoolers, I brought LOTS of candy in the typical Halloween fashion. Some of my student had heard of Halloween, which made it fun and easy to teach them about that part of my childhood. To them, the idea of going to a strangers house and asking them for candy seemed absurd, which made it even more entertaining. We listened to Thriller and Monster Mash and played different games to learn about Halloween vocabulary with the prizes being- of course- CANDY!! We had a really fun day and I'd like to think my students now very solidly know the word candy, and I now solidly know the word disfraz, or costume, which I had never before felt the need to say in Spanish.
On Halloween day, our cohort had a reconnect, so we all agreed to dress up to the best of our abilities, which was… not that great. We threw together what we could from the clothes we had. There was a nerd, a hippie, an athlete, Stacy's mom (my personal favorite), and the like. I was a tacky tourist, with a floral shirt and some socks and sandals. It was fun to see what people had come up with without actually buying anything. The rest of our day wasn't very Halloweeny, but it was still nice to be surrounded by people that were also missing home.
In all honesty, though, Halloween made me miss home a lot less than I was prepared to. Of course I would have loved to get dressed up and go trick or treating with my family or watch a scary movie while eating way too much candy, but I wouldn't trade the experience I am having here for the world. And sharing that part of my life with people who have had such different experiences, as well as learning so much about their experiences, has been so awesome. I am still learning new things everyday, speaking more Spanish, and most of all, becoming comfortable in a completely different environment. Sure, I still miss home, but I am now starting to see Ecuador, see Bella Union as home as well, and that's what is most exciting.

Leila Merzenich