Children’s Day in China: different strokes for different folks

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Last Friday, June 1, was “Children’s Day” in China, which means among other things that kids get to put on some kind of show for parents. The theme at my daughter’s school was an Olympic-y, one world, one dream kind of thing. (This is, as I’ve written before, a Chinese school, not an “international school” for ex pats.) Each classes from Pre-k through 2nd grade picked a country to represent and put on a skit of some sort meant to represent something of the culture of the chosen country. My daughter’s class—two and three year olds—had picked the United States and dressed up in– what else?–Disney character costumes and danced around a bit. Then she had to sing a song in English (not so ably assisted by her parents…).
Each class also put together a little exhibit on a bulletin board highlighting things they thought represented the United States. My favorite items in my daughter’s class: a couple of empty KFC french fry and chicken containers pinned to the bulletin board, and photos of American cars. So there you go: fast food, nearly bankrupt auto companies, and Disney–that’s America! (Actually, there was also a big paper mache Statue of Liberty standing next to the bulletin board– with her face cut out so that you could stick yours in and get your picture taken– which a lot of the audience members did.)
The other countries represented by the kids were (in no particular order) France, New Zealand, Korea, India, and, of course, China.
Random thoughts/observations:
1) What, no Japan??
2) Guess which Korea the kids represented? China’s great and fraternal ally–`as close as lips and teeth’—North Korea? Ummm….no. (I tried to imagine how five year olds might put on a skit representing the North– a dance number staged in a gulag as the kids pretend to starve themselves to death, while one kid wearing oversized glasses stands over in the corner trying to light a firecracker?)

Favorite moment of entire show came during the France presentation, when three adorable little boys came out in soccer uniforms, paying homage to the sporting excellence of Les Bleus. One of the little guys had a name written across the back of his Jersey. It read, in big dark letters:


Over the weekend we had dinner with a group of friends, which included a German couple who live in Pudong, and who also send their five year old son to a Chinese kindergarten. When I asked what his school had done for Children’s Day, the mom frowned and muttered that she wasn’t too happy with it. Turns out among the skits the kids put on was one in which they dressed in military fatigues and carried plastic rifles, at one point pointing them at some unseen enemy. (I repeat, these are five year olds). She took out her cell phone and showed us some photos she’d snapped of the production.
Wow. I said something to effect of, ` my god, we don’t even do that in America—and we like guns!’ I asked the couple if they knew or had any idea why in the world the school would put on that type of skit. They said no, not really, but added that several of the kids in the class are Taiwanese (there are tens of thousands of Taiwanese businessmen and their families who live and work in Shanghai.) Was this intended as a message to them?
Oh God. That’s a thought too depressing to even contemplate…