Tuesday, November 6, 2007

America We Need a National Costume!

Why you ask, does the United States need a national costume? Because those of us who spend our time overseas working for embassies, consulates, USAID and the like send our children to international schools and once a year they host a UN day. All the children are asked to come to school dressed in the national outfit of their various countries. Everyone looks so nice. There are the wonderful colors of Indian saris, the intricate patterns of Indonesian batiks, the vibrant silks of Asia shown off in the Korean hanbok, Japanese kimono and Chinese cheongsam. Europe was represented with the vibrant Scottish tartan, Spanish Flamenco dresses, and even German lederhosen. What do Americans wear? Well for the most part we look like a 4th of July parade gone astray, with a few cowboys and native Americans (mostly blond for some reason) and this year one lone Lady Liberty thrown in the bunch. To be completely fair the Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians have similar problems. The Australians mostly dress as sports fans showing their favorite teams colors many also sport the "Aussie hat" (David is often mistaken for an Aussie when wearing his hat), New Zealanders do likewise, while the Canadians plaster themselves head to toe with red maple leaves.

More importantly the children spend the week learning about the cultures of the other students. Jakarta International School (JIS) has children from over 50 different nations coming together to work, learn, and play together, just like kids everywhere. This year's UN day at Pattimura Elementary was held on Friday November 2nd. Parents came to school earlier this week to teach about different holidays, I did my turn presenting Thanksgiving while other 2nd grade parents taught about Divali and Idul Fitri. Parents also brought traditional foods to a food festival where kids could get their Pattimura passports stamped after sampling a dish from a country. Colin collected 13 stamps, and Alonzo collected 14 stamps, way to go guys. The week ended with a UN Day Concert followed by a parade of nations.

One of the big themes at JIS is creating responsible world citizens. Children are encouraged to recognize problems in the world around them and help work on solutions. Unlike schools in the states most of the fund raisers here at JIS support various charities such as Tolong Anak Anak, which helps homeless Indonesian children with a safe place to live and a chance at education. Even some of the songs selected for the UN Day concert reflect this goal. I found one song performed by the prep seniors (kinder), first, and second graders particularly moving.

Share Your Goodwill
By Teresa Jennings

When you have some food to eat,
When you have a coat to keep you warm,
And shoes upon your feet,
Remember there are people not as fortunate as you.
Remember they might need your help,
You know what you can do.
When you have a place to sleep at night,

You can share your good will.
Oh, share your good will,
Keep in mind humankind,
And share your goodwill.

When you have a school to teach you things,
When you have a chance to learn,
When you have a job, a livelihood,
A way for you to earn,
Remember there are people not as fortunate as you.
Remember they might need your help.
You know what you can do.

The concert lasted for about an hour. It involved children ranging from prep junior (pre-kinder ) all the way to 5th grade. All of the children behaved beautifully. Songs from a variety of countries were performed in many languages. We even had a surprise appearance by not 1 but 2 JIS Dragons, if you look close you can spot them dancing with 4th and 5th graders in one of the pictures above. Most of the concert was performed by a few grade levels at a time but for the final number all the children were brought back together for one last song We Can Make A Difference presented in the video below. Enjoy the bit of the concert in the videos above and below, UN Day is truly a moving, hopeful experience.


Bobbie said...

When we lived outside the US, I used to run into the same situation. When asked to "Wear your national costume" or "Bring your national dish" to an event we were stumped, too. Usually we'd end up in cowboy outfits -- feeling foolish, too -- and toting along an apple pie.

Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I always make something like sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, fried chicken, greens & potato salad, etc. get the picture.
We might dress up as a team from NY (Yankees, old Brooklyn Dodgers, Miss America, etc. T-shirts w/ Martin/Coretta king also worked.
no need to feel foolish