It has been a busy week in the life of this American gal living in South Asia. Just when I thought the well of cultural experiences had dried up, one came along last week that gave me plenty to reflect and comment on.
The education system here is a a complex thing. For children so much depends on going to the school that will give them the best opportunities in the future. Education is competitive and a reflection of the social standing of the parent. I am aware that there are circles in which this is also the case in my own homeland, but it was not my experience growing up and not my mindset now. As a parent and I am concerned about the education of my children, but I know so little of the reputations of schools, etc, that I have very little to contribute to the conversation when people here ask me “where do your kids go to school?” They almost always ask and are shocked that my 4 year old and 2.5 year old are not in school as well. But that’s another post for another day.
Being a dutiful parent I attended my first ever school program in which my eldest, who is 7, had a small speaking part. Little did I know I would have to endure the entire 2.5+ hour long program to hear him at the very end. The kids were all ages 3-7 and it was a long, cringe-filled program. The positive thing was that someone put in a bunch of time and energy into the program; the negatives, well, that’s what I’m about to tell you about.
It started late and the airless, packed auditorium was making us all a bit restless. Then it was time for it to begin with a little number involving small children and a power point background of angel illustrations taken from the internet. Then, the administration was up and they took about thirty minutes to introduce a guest of honor who was some sort of actress from way back when and to tell us, repeatedly how much they all loved our children. My favorite line: “They are not your children or my children, they are our children.” I thought, “Huh, really?” One lady in particularly waxed verbose on how much they love our little “darlings” so much as she gave a detailed account of every special day and outing over the past year. It was a bit bizarre and boring, but the best was still to come.
The show went on with various classes doing choreographed dances to random, upbeat pop songs. There were so many classes and so many songs, I started to forget what I was going to describe to the Hubs as the most interesting. Then, it happened. The strangest thing in the program by far. Little girls in white dresses and boys in tuxedo-looking garb came out. The MC was going on and on about how this program was all about love and this next group was going to demonstrate that for us by this next dance. The girls each had a partner and then the song came on. Think back to easy-listening in the eighties. Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack. The song, “Tonight, I celebrate my love for you” is about love in fact, but not the sort of love a 4 year old should be celebrating. I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way, but I was completely embarrassed. It was so inappropriate. I blushed and cringed for the kids who had no idea what they were dancing to.
After that, the rest is a blur except when I saw my son, with painted on red lips and cheeks, do his classes dance and then deliver his line thanking the parents for coming. He was nervous, bless his heart, but did a fine job. The administration then reprimanded parents who were trying to leave early, shame is a key motivator here. We sang the national anthem and then more music started and parents were invited on stage to do some dancing themselves. I wondered: Would this program ever end? Furthermore, would I be forced up there to do some Bollywood-like dancing? I was getting nervous.
Finally, we were released and I was able to take a wet wipe and clean up J’s Joker-looking make-up job then made a mental note to ask them not to do that to him again. So with the beginnings of a migraine and an empty stomach we gathered his things and left for home with a happy 7 year old and a tired and grumpy little Boo, along with me, who was equally as grumpy but trying to have a positive attitude.