“I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of boundless space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”
Well that was Hamlet. I am not currently having bad dreams—in fact I’ve been sleeping great, when I can manage to find the time. Here are some snapshots of my life, spread out over several days because you don’t have time either. We’ll begin with…

I had the bright idea to take two families trick-or-treating for their first American Halloween. That is, to take the children of the two families. This involved finding costumes for everyone (and I have two very generous friends to thank for this—they got everyone set up), getting the costumes to everyone, getting everyone to my house, and other logistical nightmares.

Hasan, 8, is whining that he doesn’t want to go. He refuses to get dressed up. I make him come to my house (he can’t stay home by himself and his little sister is resplendent as Belle and his brother is ready to get candy) but tell him he can pass out candy to the other kids. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes of that, he is ready to go himself. He happens to be wearing camo pants and tshirt, so I figure that’s good enough—he’s a soldier, right? I think sometimes everything is just too new, too nonstop for these kids.

My neighbourhood is great for Halloween. I think they bus kids in for trick-or-treating, because although there are normally a lot of kids here, this was excessive. We bought massive amounts of candy (at 5 p.m. on Halloween because we are nothing if not hyper-organized) and still ran out. People go all out for decorations, enlisting family and friends to hide in the bushes and laugh creepily at small children, or dress as witches who cackle as they pass out candy. They drape cobwebs over bushes and hang cages of skeletons and ghosts from trees. There are fog machines, cauldrons filled with dry ice, elaborate costumes. My Iraqi friends love it. I take picture after picture of them posing with witches and mummies, adults admiring and children uncertain. (the pictures do not come out. I hate my camera) I mention to some people that these are my friends from Iraq, that this is their first American Halloween. Some people just smile and nod but a lot of people come through. “Welcome!” they smile. They give us extra candy. They pose happily with my friends.

It’s a bittersweet occasion. Aicha’s two children are the cutest Spiderman and Cinderella ever, but it’s her last night in Portland. She and family spend the night in our family room and we take them to the airport in the morning, where things are nightmarish. Maybe that’s where the bad dreams came in? (see intro quote) Although we have called twice and talked to two separate people to ascertain their luggage allowance, when we actually arrive everything has changed and no one can do anything about it. Two people on two different occasions said they could have 8 cases for 4 people, but the man at the counter, who can’t be bothered to even pretend he cares, informs us that it’s 4 cases only and $70 per case after that, and that we should have known that US Airways was going to use United and we should have called United, although that is nowhere on their tickets. But it’s obviously not United’s responsibility, right? He does his best to make us feel like idiots. I can only assume he is crashing from too much sugar the night before.  We have a fun few minutes frantically emptying cases and manage, by presenting 2 smaller cases as extra carry-ons and getting rid of some things they had planned to take with them, to avoid paying the airlines any extra money. The man eventually takes pity on us and comes to offer advice. It’s fine that each airline has their own standard, but if you are going to have the kind of relationship between companies where you switch tickets people have bought, you ought to honour the guidelines of the original airline. Don’t you think? Or am I just hopelessly old-fashioned?

Aicha and I cry. The children are oblivious. We wave them off, and later they call us to let us know they’ve arrived safely, which makes me feel even more like family.

We return home and I’m hopelessly late to ESL class but it’s okay, as all the women knew Aicha. I explain everything, several times. Maude, who has one of the higher levels in the class, takes it upon herself to explain to the others my story. It’s a long day and I return home in a haze of tiredness at about 7 p.m. (after lunch with one woman and homework tutoring with another) to make supper. We have an extra child for the week, one whose own mother usually feeds him at a normal American time, but he does well with our chaotic household, eating dinner at 9 p.m. with a good attitude. (Probably subdued through hunger, but he hid it well!)

No pictures, please!

Ilsa and her haul

a little unsure of the scary men…