Friday, October 31, 2008


Fame! Part One: (if you are in a hurry, skip Fame! Part One and go to Fame! Part Two. Fame! Part Two rules!)

Thursday night, T, K and I get to be on TV. Tarn’s professor’s friend’s friend’s friend (‘s friend?) works for HTV Saigon, and she gets us tickets to be a part of a live studio audience for a Vietnamese Opera Idol Show. Ten judges preside up front with scoring laptops and the subdued audience holds up huge photo placards of each contestant when they appear on stage.

The opening number is filled with beautiful women wearing the traditional Ao Dai (pronounced ow yai) (silk pants with a long silk flowery dress over them) and lots of lilly pads. Then, each pair of contestants, male/female, perform an opera. Each theme, from what we can gather, is “extreme sadness in relationships.” Each duet has two similar components: every woman cries and every man either carries a bottle of wine or is visibly stumbling drunk. One of the main judges is sitting right in front of us, so all three of us are on the screen quite a bit; however, the camera angle mostly captures K and T for long periods of time. We have to keep straight faces throughout the show. Despite the very sentimental and, um, somewhat “limited” genre, the voices are beautiful in a tonal, mournful way.

Friday morning, Halloween, K runs to Thuy’s fabric stand to buy some white material to make “Halloween Ghost Balls” for PE. When Thuy sees her, she lights up. “Katherine! Katherine! I see you and Tarn on TV!” Katherine high fives her and they have a good laugh, but here is the really funny line. Thuy says, “I didn’t know you like that kind of music!”

Fame! Part Two:
I wrote about my 6E homeroom class last week, how they decorated my room for the Halloween competition completely on their own initiative. Well, 22 classes enter the contest and every single one of them goes all out. The school designates Thursday afternoon as “decorating day” to replace clubs. Entire rooms are being transformed into mazes lined with foil, black plastic bags and red lighting. My sixth graders come to school depressed on Thursday; they put so much work into my room, but they know it is going to be far surpassed by the upper classmen.

So I make a suggestion. I tell them that everyone seems to have similar “haunted house let’s grab people” themes. Maybe if we do something completely different we will impress the judges. I show them the Thriller video and of course, Dancing Kim (6E has me for Ancient, so they have not been a part of horror story week). Here’s what we come up with:

A dark room, blackened with dark material, with flashing red lights, ghosts hanging from the ceiling and desks around the periphery. When each judge enters the classroom, Death (Terry) opens the door wearing a hood and holding a sickle and says, “Welcome to Hell.” Then, immediately, a werewolf (Jack, complete with full werewolf animal costume) hops up on a desk and howls, which is my cue to start the music (not the video) at exactly eight minutes and fifteen seconds into Thriller when the zombies are emerging from their graves. Every single member of 6E, most of them dressed as vampires or zombies, then begins to emerge from his/her own “graves” under the desks to the zombie mourning sounds and surrounds the surprised judge, who is by then in the middle of the room. After about ten seconds of emerging and circling the judge in a zombie walk, the dance music begins and they begin to dance Dancing Kim’s “Zombie Claws” around him/her for another ten seconds. When I stop the music (they make me hide under my desk so no one can see me and it’s tricky to work the controls), they all yell “Boo!” and “Happy Halloween!” and say things like, “You’re so handsome!” or “You’re so beautiful!” and then give the judge “Trick or Treats.” As each judge leaves the premises, they chant, “Vote for 6E!”

That’s the cute part.

The Not Cute Parts: When Jack calls Anna “fat.” Or when Jack calls Anna a “bad dancer.” Or when Jack calls Anna a “Bossy Cow.” (All of these things are later translated for me by Helen~ Anna is the one in the grey dress, Helen the translator for Nam and me is next to her~she is your friend's new pen pal Megan.) Or when Ms. Alice must bring her 7th graders upstairs and mediate between them and my 6th graders because they are going to “tear Rian up” for stealing their sickle (until they find theirs) or when for two days, my room is a complete disaster and I cannot hear anyone speaking even two inches from my face because 6E can break a sound barrier. Or when I bring some black material that I plan to have made into a dress to cover the blinds because I figure I can wash it if it gets dirty only to look up to see 25 Halloween holes cut into it. Or when an eighth grader punches Death (Terry) in the face when he opens the door because he is scared.

Another cute part: Remember Mr. Jung of the Black Market connections? The one who wears bright pink striped shirts and who should be clubbing instead of sitting at a desk? He dresses up as a woman for Halloween (yup, has been living for it) and when he walks by, I ask the kids if they want to practice our performance for him. Well, everyone loves Mr. Jung so they all cheer and set up the action. When Mr. Jung enters the classroom and is surrounded by zombies, he performs some delightfully terrifying screams, and when the music begins, he cannot contain himself. He starts jumping up and down, up and down, shaking it like The King of Pop, and he and 6E have a dance party.

Anyway, after the three judges see our performance separately (and we perform about twelve times for others as well), all of the kids want to go through some of the haunted rooms to wait for the verdict, to be made at 4:15. I am down on the third floor with five “scared” sixth grade girls clutching my arms waiting to go into a maze of clowns when the announcement is made.

“We have chosen a winner!” Mr. Eric says. “Room 408!”

It takes us a few seconds to process it: room 408 is our room! WE have won! It’s pandemonium. We run upstairs to congregate and we are all jumping up and down and cheering. It’s absolutely glorious.

We get the prize upstairs on the 6th floor: the worst pizza of my life (shrimp, eggs, onions on two of them). But it doesn’t matter. 6th graders have prevailed over the entire school, and I am more excited about it than they are.

Nam is waiting for me at 5:00 with some huge prawn crackers to try on my way home. I’m dying to tell my mom, “We won the Halloween competition! I teach sixth graders and we beat the entire school!" (I have someone tell him why I’m wearing a school uniform in the morning since he is quite confused when I emerge on to the street for my ride and he gets it quickly…Halloween is gaining momentum here--but they have never had candy corn, Amy, and they think that is SO very cool, and by the way, they love my student uniform). But of course I can’t explain any of it. On the way home, though, when we are at a stop light, he turns around and points to my eyes. “You are tired,” he says. Yes, mom, I am SO, SO tired.

But it's been the most fun Halloween I've had since the second grade when my dad made me the coolest Martian costume ever (complete with lighted antennae). It may be impossible to beat that~however, "FAME! 6E's going to live forever..."


SeattlePam said...

I see a movie script here! Marjie, you would be played by Maggie Gyllenhall, and Nam by Jackie Chan! I can't wait for the premier!!

Dad said...

Congratulations to 6E! I would like to have seen it. You must be ready for a long, long nap.

Michelle said...

Congratulations Marjie and 6E, hard work and ingenuity do pay off!

Amy T said...

Marj, to me right now, your life is a story I read before breakfast, so I had seen the forshadowing. You may think Thriller was an impromptu fixit, but according to the plot line, it all unfolded as it should.

Of course you won.

Angie said...

Yay Yay Yay! How could anyone beat 6th Graders dancing the Thriller zombie dance? That's awaesome!

kumma said...

That's my locker partner...

Brian Bowker said...

That's my sister!

Congratulations, Marjie and 6E! A Triumph!

I want to see the movie too! Although, I know how it will be received...

"How was the Marjie Movie?"

"It was good, but the blog was better."

The Norris Clan said...

Oh man... I would have loved to see that! The whole time I was reading that story, I was thinking "This sounds like something Brian would do." I LOVE that your 6th graders prevailed. And I love that you wore their uniform. You should wear it again...

Brian Bowker said...

ME?? What did I do to deserve such a compliment? On MArjie's blog none the less!

(She's not going to like that...)

(Thanks, Karyn!)