Thursday, January 29, 2009

En mi pais…

Today was the Family Feast at kindergarten. It was the culmination of a month of studying “What Makes a House a Home.” All the mommies and daddies who could take time from work, brought in a dish representing their heritage and we had a huge buffet lunch. A feast of filled dough from around the world: empanadas, tamales, samosas, Indonesian pastel! There was also spiced rice from Puerto Rico, India, and the Dominican Republic. The potato pancakes, German-style, were fantastic. I made kringle, a very simple Danish figure-8-shaped cookie, not too sweet, with a pinch of nutmeg.

After lunch, the children treated us to a song, “Que Bonita Bandera” (What a pretty flag). Each child got up and said a sentence in Spanish about her country. After, eveyrone sang, "Que bonita bandera (x2) / es la bandera _____ [Colombiana/Dominicana/de Gales/de India]" It was so sweet to hear what they chose as the special thing about their nation. Of all the many nations we are from, my daughter picked Wales because it has the most bonita bandera, with that great dragon on it. She asked me about Wales: what makes it famous. I was cooking dinner and gave it a quick try: um, the Prince of Wales, coal mines, and dragons.

Well, the dragons aren’t real, she noted. They probably just used to have really fierce dinosaurs there. And coal mines? No romance there. Tell me about the Prince of Wales, Mama.

So, there she was, kicking off the song, with her little sentence about how in her country (!) lives the Prince of Wales who is the son of Queen Elizabeth.

She was far from the only child to pick royalty and parties: Trinidad has Carnevale and India has lots of palaces. Food figured large among the 5- and 6-year olds too, with Guatemala growing lots of rice, and a couple other children mentioning crops and dishes (between their mumbles and my very rudimentary Spanish, I missed a lot).

All the children joined together at the end to announce that in their country, the United States, there are fifty states and everyone is happy.

One wants to say “isn’t it pretty to think so?” But I wonder. It was such a touching day, with parents awkwardly circling around each other and one child, it seems, in tears, at all times. We are all so different; we all anxiously watch over our beloved little ones. All these years of theorizing and thinking and talking about racism and culture and multiculturalism and here it is, in action. It’s very sweet, but is this the best way to do it? I am not skeptical—it seems like a winner event to me—but I do wonder.


Geoffrey Philp said...

Anne, sounds like a winner to me!

Anonymous said...

Just delurking (which feels a bit weird - I've been reading your blog for about a year) to say I liked reading about this - I've just moved from Australia to Abu Dhabi and it is giving me a lot to think about in terms of multiculturalism. I've also spent the last few years working on an organisational diversity project in an organisation that was super-committed.

Your kindergarten experience does seem a winner to me too and reading about it made me feel happy.

Unknown said...

Thank you both! And thanks for de-lurking.

On the one hand, I remember these lunches from my own elementary school--so I wondered if things had stagnated.

On the other, I stood at the table, grabbing a taste of mangu, with three of the teachers. Each of us a different race. I said "I remember this lunch from when I was a 4th grader." Mrs. M. said, "I was born in 1942; we NEVER did anything like this. Mrs. T., my girl's teacher said "I remember it, too." The 4th teacher, whom I don't know, said, "Me, too, I was born in the 40s and this was unimaginable then." That was lovely, too.