[Pt. II] Ch. 43: “Are you actually going to talk to her?”
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Friday, September 25th [First day of the Festival of Nations], mid-afternoon
Our booth on the green

I wasn’t sure what to make of the start of the festival, but I was not a fan of wearing our full uniform again.  I hadn’t had to since the first day of school, and it had gotten hot again since the rain had ended. It also remained wickedly humid; the jacket and tie felt stifling inside even with air conditioning – outside running the booth, it was worse.

The opening ceremony had been interesting.  After some short statements by Dr. Mittari, the main speaker was a former senator and alumnus of the school.  He regaled us with the story of the founding of the Union of the Etciv in the wake of the Wizards’ War, and the festival's origins celebrating that.  Yet another thing to write up for Hull, I suppose

With the assembly over, Dr. Mittari dismissed us to tend to our booths and classrooms. 

Our booth looked a bit thrown together, with mismatched posters hung from the back – NASA poster of the earth from space, one “I❤️NY,” and “Visit America’s national parks.”  We had a table with an array of candy and souvenirs out at the front, with the model space shuttle as something of a centerpiece.  For simplicity, everything on the table was one ticket – 10 mil, or about a dollar, for students who bought them today, twice that for anyone who bought them tomorrow when the festival was open to the public. 

For the early part of the afternoon, I was on my own; Joel had gone to get some tickets for us, and then was going to check on the shift assignments in our classroom.  I was happy to pass on that, but he’d had the idea that he might be able to be on the same shift as Elise at some point in the weekend.

Our booth’s location was in the corner of the green between the arts center and the lower school building – out of the way for upper-school students, but in a way a good spot.  Our neighbors were clubs from the lower school.  It was quiet, and a little lonely.

Eventually, some lower school students wandered over from the large group at their literature club booth.  I was mentally prepared to repeat the conversation about coming through the Gate, but they surprised me.

“Hi,” said one of them, “we’re here to buy some candy.”

I smiled.  “Sure, what kind do you want?”

“I’m not sure.” she said looking at candies spread. “Are these imported?”

“They are, from America,” I said.

“And you can really sell them for one ticket?”

“They got donated.” I shrugged.  “We’re not really trying for a profit here, just to get American culture out there.”

“Nice!” she said, “I’ll take one of each, then.”

Each of her friends did the same except for one boy who only wanted one chocolate bar.  As they wandered away, I felt a little better.  There was a slow trickle of students – mostly from the lower school, given the uniforms – and I even sold a few souvenirs.

Around the time I started seeing some upper school students come by, I spotted Joel walking back over. When he got to the booth, he looked over at the pile of tickets I’ve collected and said, “I guess the candy was a hit?”

I nodded.  “Everybody likes chocolate.”

Joel chuckled, and then asked, “Want me to take care of the booth for a bit so you can look around?”

“Maybe in a couple minutes,” I said.  “How were things up in the classroom?”

“Going OK, I think.  I didn’t stay long enough to see if people were sticking around to watch the movie.”

“Did you sign up for a shift where Elise was working?”

He grinned.  “Sure did, on Sunday.”

“Are you actually going to talk to her?”

“Of course, I will!”

“Heh, we’ll see.”  I pointed to the grill.  “Can you help me figure out this thing?”

We spent a few minutes figuring out how to light the grill, and once it was warming up, I put up a sign advertising the hot dogs.  That attracted some attention, and we were busy enough selling hot dogs and candy that I did not get to look around until Jack came by to see if he could help.

When he did, I showed him how to run the grill, and asked Joel if he wanted to come along to check out the festival.

“Not yet,” he said. “I’ll hang with Jack for a bit, but I may come find you later.

“No problemo! I’ll probably be back before too long,” I said, and then waved as I headed off.

Our closest neighbors, the lower-school literature club was running a book sale, including a few novels I thought I might want to check out later.  Most of the other clubs nearby were lower-school athletic clubs, either just trying to recruit members or selling things as a fundraiser.

Wandering out of our corner, I noted that there were students assembling a stage in front of the arts center’s main entrance.  I had read that there would be some performances tomorrow, and I guessed that’s where those would be.  For now, it was still construction.

Moving past the stage there was a long row of booths starting at the corner between the arts center and the Upper School Building; all kinds of clubs had set up, with everything from food stalls to souvenirs. The largest was run by a group of sports teams working together, selling T-shirts and taking orders for customized school jerseys.  There were some generic Queen Sara Memorial Academy shirts not advertising a specific team, and I picked a two of them up – souvenirs for my brother and for Martin, when I got back to New York over winter break. 

The row turned along the open side of the green between the administration buildings and the upper school buildings, but I headed into the nearer of the two upper school buildings as I wanted to see what how our class was doing.  Most of the first floor was taken up by the cafeteria, which was open but not serving food.  It wasn’t crowded, but some students were sitting at the tables and eating.  The food must have been from the booths outside, and given the air conditioning, it seemed like a nice way to do it.  Without the full uniform requirement today, more of them would have been eating on the green instead.

I headed up to the second floor, where all the first-year classrooms were.  It was busy in the halls, and I didn’t stop to check out every classroom, but there was something different in each.  Not all of them were fundraising – one had diorama the class had built, showing our campus, plus the parks and a little of the neighborhood around it.  For a little less than a month since classes started, it had an incredible amount of detail.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t anyone in the room; had this been at home, I’d have worried about it someone trashing it just to be a dick. 

One other classroom caught my eye on the first-year floor, class 1-B, which was a portrait studio.  From the sample photos they had up, it seemed like they were mostly expecting couples to come in, but they were quiet right then and I was curious to see local camera gear.  The two bored-looking students tending to the room perked up when I came in, and one asked, “Would you like to see the photo packages?”

“I actually wanted to check out your camera gear, but my folks might like a picture of me, so sure let’s look.”

She brought over a folder, and inside was a price list.  They’d take 4 pictures and you could either get one print of each or they would pick the best.   At the basic price of 5 tickets – basically $5 for students and $10 for anyone else – you could get 4 snapshot sized prints, or for six tickets, one slightly bigger print and 4 wallet-sized one.  I went with the second.  They gave me a little assistance in posing – and 4 shots went quickly. 

“You can pick them up tomorrow after 5PM, or any time on Sunday,” the student told me.  Once that was done, I talked to them a little about the camera gear – it was local, so the brand was new to me, but otherwise it looked like a 35mm camera with manual focus from the prior generation back home.  When I asked more about it, the girl who’d been helping me said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know a lot about cameras.  This was all one of our classmate’s idea, and it’s his camera.  We borrowed the lights and backdrop from the arts center, and he showed us how to try to get a good portrait.”

“No problem,” I said.

As I started to go, the other student from the classroom said, “If you want to talk about camera stuff, Galen will probably be around later or tomorrow.”

It was a very uncommon name back home, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, “Is that Galen Alcorn?”

“Oh, yes,” said the girl. “Do you know him?”

“We’re in the same club for PE.  I had no idea he was into cameras. If you remember, please tell him Mark from fencing stopped by.”


I climbed the stairs to the floor with the second-year classrooms.  I went to our homeroom first and saw that the movie café was busy. Many of the seats were taken, and the movie they were watching was a local action movie.   Back home, I’d have said It looked like it someone’s D&D game.  There were four main characters, two of them in armor and dressed as a mage and a priest, and they were fighting their way through a dungeon full of undead.   The special effects were impressive, and after a minute I realized that the skeletons they were fighting could well have been animated magically rather than via film effects.  I wasn’t going to stick around for the credits, but it would have been very funny to see a line there for “necromancer.” Probably not?  At least, I hope those aren’t actual dead bodies they’re using.

Zaya was the only one tending to the snack bar, which was holding up well with drinks and popcorn. However, almost all the imported candy and local treats were sold out. Zaya thanked me for suggesting that we only put out a portion of the snacks for each day.

“It’s not quite 5 o’clock yet,” I said. “I thought it might be an issue for the imported stuff, but I guess a lot of people had a sweet tooth today.”

“Maybe,” Zaya agreed.

I looked down at the schedule.  It looked like Zaya was the only one watching the room until 7PM when we had to shut down for the night. 

“I can’t be up here too long, but do you want me to watch the table for half an hour or something so you can take a break?” I asked.

That got a big smile out of her.  “Yes, please! That would be fantastic.”

When she got back, I headed back to our booth – I wanted to see more of the festival, but worried that I was putting too much of a burden on my friends. I found both Joel and Jack were still there. 

“Everything go OK here?” I asked.

“So far so, so good,” said Jack. “Do you mind if I head out? I’ll be back for a while tomorrow.”

“Sure, of course.”

Joel decided to stick around, and I was glad for the company.  “You’ll never guess who stopped by,” he said.

“Since you’re asking, should I guess Elise?”

“No such luck.  It was Cory from our physics class,” said Joel, with a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“What did she want?”

“She’d seen one of the posters and was asking some questions about Hull coming to talk tomorrow.  Also, she asked if we were selling the space shuttle model.  I told her what I could remember about Hull, and that she’d have to ask you about the model.”

“Do you want to keep it for next year’s festival?” I asked.

“This whole American booth is kind of your thing and Hull’s. If you’re back home next year, I’ll probably just do something with my classroom or maybe the soccer team.”

“In that case, when we break down the booth, she’s welcome to it.” I made a mental note to make sure we didn’t pack it away or give it to someone else.

“Do I remember right that you said she and Gwen are pretty close?” Joel asked.

I nodded.  “Well, I think so.”

“Maybe you should try to get on her good side.  Friend of the girl you like and all that,” he said with a grin.

“Dude.  That is so not a thing except in your head,” I said.

“Well, think about it,” he said.

“What about you?  Zaya seems to talk to Elise a fair bit, did you think of doing the same thing?”

“Zaya and I get along fine,” said Joel.  “I don’t think they're that close, they just talk a lot lately because of festival committee business.  Everybody seems to know Elise, but I haven’t found anyone who is close friends with her.  Maybe some of the student council members?”

“I guess.  She’s good looking, but you hardly know her.  Why is she so interesting?”

"I don't think it's just about her looks," Joel said, shrugging. "Sure, she's my type, but when she was talking at the opening assembly there was this energy about her. I felt like she was talking directly to me rather than the whole audience.”

“Well, good luck with her on Sunday.”

We hung out chatting and occasionally selling some candy until at 7PM, the voice on the PA system announced that we’d be shutting down for the night.  By then, it was getting dark, and I took Joel up on catching a ride with him and Dormer.   I hadn’t been sure that the festival would be an enjoyable experience, but so far it had been, and I was looking forward to the next two days.