Friday, October 30, 2009

United Nations Day Reunited!

I have felt for quite a while that my life here in chennai seems to be an endless round of committee meetings, event planning and execution and lunches and morning coffees.  Many a trailing spouse living here would probably feel the same!  I haven't written for a while for that very reason - my days were too 'boring' to be of interest to anyone else!  So I simply didn't write!  Today - I have much to talk about....

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of the United Nations at AISC.  This celebration started a long standing tradition in what used to be a small school with under 300 children.  A few parents thought it would be nice for the kids to taste the food of the various countries represented in the school.  So we used the PTA as the vehicle to transport our ideas into a stunning samples buffet.  The first year that I witnessed this - Nikh was in KG and the little babes were brought into the cafeteria and served their pizzas alongside a few bits and pieces.  This is usually after a fantastic UN Day Assembly with a Parade of Nations (kids come through carrying their the flag of their home country) and a guest speaker as well as performances from several groups in school.  The Choir and Band shine at this event - I am so proud of our kids and their teachers - so much effort, so much talent!!  We parents are also pretty excited to see our kids come through - maybe carrying the flag for our country.  The kids are chosen randomly and this is as it should be! 

The next year - this grew into a few countries showing off their talents  and their tastes!  the year I was PTA President - the school had 600+ kids and we asked each individual country (groups of parents) to provide enough food to feed 85 people - this was very manageable -but the kids complained!  They felt that they wanted to try a bit of everything - but once the food was finished in one section - they were lelft with few choices.  I agreed - I got to taste a tiny bit from most countries as I walked around checking on stuff and cheering people on - but most people were not as lucky as I!  I guess the kids wanted to try a little bit of everything ... as you do!

Last year was a break from this tradition - but this year we all decided to go back to a winning system.  Where parents and teachers club together into country or region groups and cook/serve enough food for the entire school.

AISC has 29 nationalities represented - bear in mind that some children may be listed as one nationality, but their mum or dad may be something else, and they are the ones doing the work!  This may mean that although there are a certain number of people listed for a country, the actual available man-power may be a lot less!  However, long story shorter - we decided to make sure that every child had the option to taste every thing.  AISC has over 700 kids, plus teachers, custodial, admin staff and the parents who also want to try some of this yummy grub!!  To cook for a thousand in relatively small groups was pretty daunting.  So - we became united nations - Britain joined hands with Australia and New Zealand.  France, Germany and Spain joined hands with Finland, Sweden and Denmark.  The South East Asian countries all became a united group.  How incredible is that?  

We had coordinators heading up the regions and the PTA President (Usha), Secretary (Radha), A French mum (Lena), an American mum (Jill) and myself headed up the whole event.  We planned, discussed, debated, passed resolutions, re-thought, changed the ideas and looked for the logistical pitfalls etc.  Upshot - we commandeered the school gymnasium and decorated the walls with facts, flags and banner and bunting!  We laid out table cloths, serving dishes and passed out disposable gloves!  Then the parade of the food of nations began - Kimbab made by the mountain, crepes, meatballs, cucumber sandwiches and cottage pie, chocolate truffle balls (roly poly balls)  and shortbread.  The Americans ran a cookie bar - deliberately situated at the end of the line!    Once the table and food were ready we flung open the doors and the entire school trooped through.  Children looked bemused, amazed, excited and hungry!  Talk aobut spoilt for choice!  WOW!!  The older children were sizing up the portions to see if there would be enough for a second helping!!  Some parents simply couldn't wait and jumped the line to eat even before the kids had got through.  Our Head of School and the Principals were incredible.  Even when coaxed to take a plate - knowing we had plenty of food, they declined and decided to wait until all the children and faculty had been through and as a result - I don't think they got a single bite to eat!

Kids also come to school dressed in their national dress, or in our case (Britain does not really have one!) in their home country colours.  Nikh has always had a bit of a split personality about UN Day - he wears half UK and half India colours to be a bit of both.  This year, though - he was pretty sure of himself!!  The school becomes this radiant colour spectrum which stuns and delights the senses.  Korean kids in their flowing brightly coloured clothes, Indians wearing simply beautiful outfits and children and adults moving around the school proudly showing who and what they are.  Clear on where they come from and revelling in the value placed on this by their friends.  Every child - no matter race, religion or nationality - BELONGS.  simply outstanding!  How often can every child (and adult) in a school with over 700 kids say that they were not left out?  No cliques, no clubs, no groups - just global citizens sharing themselves.  How often do we feel such a total sense of self worth?  I think that this alone should make the UN Day celebrations that exist at AISC a forever tradition.  If parents don't want to make the effort at some point in the future (though I REALLY cannot see that happening!!!) I think the School should take it on and run with it!! 

I can truly say that apart from the chronic fatigue, pain in my legs from having stood up and walked around for so many hours, tummy ache from too much Kimbab, meatballs, noodles and satay and the sugar headache from eating too many cookies and shortbread, it was a  really spectacular day. 
The best part is having kids and adults walk right up and tell me how wonderful the day was and how very very much they appreciated it!!  Roll on next year!!