Monday, March 19, 2012

National Anthem

On Monday mornings we participate in the flag raising at the kindergarten. Each classroom of students comes down to the large open playground area and lines up, two lines per classroom, facing the flagpole. A song plays over the loud speaker and we all clap along to the beat as two students are selected to raise the flag. This is a proud moment for the two lucky chosen ones, and their faces can barely contain their smiles as one of them carefully holds the flag from touching the ground while the other pulls the rope through the ring at the top. The flag raises high, and all of the children watch as the clapping music comes to an end and the national anthem begins.

The People's Republic of China National Anthem plays over the loud speaker, and all of the children raise their little hands to their foreheads in salute as they look up at their flag. It's right here where I feel a little awkward. Do I salute simply as an example for my students? Do I stand there with my hands at my sides because this is not my home country? Should I care or be concerned with what the other teachers and school administrators think in either case? On one Monday morning I thought, ok, I'm here in their country, I will salute as an expression of both being an example to the students and as an appreciation and immersion into the culture. I saluted. Now, I've never been super patriotic. I love my country and feel very fortunate to have been born in the USA. Especially now more than ever before, now that I'm living abroad and experiencing how fortunate we are in America by comparison. And it was in that moment, as I stood there with my hand to my forehead, facing the PRC flag, that I felt a mixture of confusion, alienation, sadness, pride, nostalgia, and joy. And in my mind I was thinking, this is ok, as long as my hand is where it is, this is ok. I still don't even know what to make of such a mish-mash of feelings, but it was certainly a new experience, one that I'm not likely to forget.

Then I came home and just had to listen to my national anthem...

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