November 4, 2013

A Trip Around the World

I teach at a little school just outside town each Tuesday, and this weekend they invited us to their annual cultural festival.  Each of the elementary grades chose a different country to showcase, giving this community a small taste of several places around the world.  This school is operated as an extension of the local church, so the event was a great outreach to the family members of the students, as well as a time for the kids to shine!

The U.S. of A. was represented by the second-grade class, nine little folks dressed in blue jeans, plaid shirts, and cowboy hats.  They had decorated their stand in the red, white, and blue of our flag, and a few parents were selling hot dogs and hamburgers and the brownies Caroline made from scratch earlier in the day. If you look closely, you'll see foam cut-outs of the Statue of Liberty and the White House.  These were done by hand--such creative people!

Also included were the countries of Brazil, Spain, Colombia, and Paraguay, each with their own costumes, typical foods, decorations, and flags.

The evening began with each class coming one-by-one on stage to sing along with a recording of the respective national anthems, while a photo slide show played behind them.  Then they presented a dance, a song, and a skit for each country.

When it was time for USA to take the stage, the students were joined by a young man in a military uniform holding a flag.  The teacher took the microphone to explain that they weren't representing America as an aggressive nation, just that they wanted to honor our country for what the US had done to support freedom worldwide, and to honor the veterans and fallen soldiers.  Fireworks went off behind the stage as the anthem played.  The dance that followed was a country-music style song, with some knee slappin' and lassoing.  They sang, in English, "Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day".  We tried not to giggle when they said, "...and you'll grew, grew, grew."  Their skit told the story of 9/11 and was a moving portrayal of several families who lost loved ones that day.  I think the whole goal of Team USA (the 2nd grade class) was to have the audience in tears.

I had to laugh about the little kiosk ("stand") that was set up to represent our beloved home country.  While most stands were just set up to display the various souvenirs, the USA stand looked like a living room.  I think that the original intent was to have a slide show playing through the TV while the children were on hand to tell random facts to visitors, but the slide show never started and it ended up looking like a typical evening at home in the US, with everyone gathered around the television.  ;)

Another thing that stood out to me was the presentation of the skit for Spain.  As we discussed in our recent church visits, many young adults end up leaving Paraguay to work in other countries for financial reasons, a great number of them ending up in Spain.  The sons and daughters they leave behind pay the price for this situation, something that has troubled us since we first moved here.  It's one of my soapboxes, although I understand how desperation forces you to make hard decisions at times.  Well, it seems that several of the students have parents working in Spain, so their skit demonstrated the pain of having your family torn apart.  At the very end, they held up a banner that said, "Enough with traveling to Spain out of necessity.  Let's keep our families together."  Whoa.  I was speechless.

At the end, several of the teens from the local church acted out a skit based on a song called, "Come With Me". The lyrics include these powerful lines: "Come with me. Don't cry or be afraid because better days are coming. You no longer have to carry the guilt of your past because you've been forgiven.  Take your freedom."  Okay, so they don't rhyme in English, but you get the idea.  Good stuff.

Ken was asked to be a judge, something he wasn't sure he wanted to do at first, until the "countries" started bribing the judges during the break.  All of a sudden, he had little bowls of food all around him and souvenir packs from each stand.  The girls were slightly embarrassed because the teacher of the USA class asked all Americans in the crowd to stand (we were very few, of course), then dedicated their part of the presentation to us, "especially our teacher Christie."  Such precious folks.

We were joined by some new friends, an American man who married a South American woman, and they're making Paraguay their new home.  She's from one of the countries represented tonight, and when it was their time on program, she did a beautiful typical dance.  As comic relief, her husband joined her on stage and more or less hopped around behind her, trying to keep up.  The crowd loved it. Something about white men trying to dance always gets a laugh.  They were great sports and a fun time was had by all!  It was great to see the parents all pitching in to make the night unforgettable, and to see how many members of the community showed up to support the students.

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