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Once, when I sang at a National Day event

By Cristina Pastor | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-28 08:10

This happened two years ago but remains a vivid memory. I was with several expat spouses, maybe 10 of us, wearing red, and we sang My Motherland and Me before a huge stage in the diplomatic residence compound in Beijing's Liangmaqiao area.

Our audience was mostly local leaders and members of the Maizidian community and their families. The hall was festooned in red and gold with several tables overflowing with fruits, nuts, candies and cookies. It was such a joyous occasion and very celebratory. People were happy to see their friends, neighbors and community workers. It was my first time in a gathering attended by local officials, also my first time to taste tanghulu, skewered fruit dipped in caramel.

My Motherland and Me is a beautiful patriotic song which has a very hummable melody. I couldn't understand the words but I could hum the tune from memory. I was on a local bus when I first heard it. The bus had a screen that played an endless loop of a video showing smiling Chinese families, fluttering flags and military troops marching in cadence, as well as the stunning beauty of the country's parks and mountains. I didn't know that in a couple of weeks I would be singing it with my classmates in front of a local community.

When our Chinese language teacher announced that we were going to participate in the community's celebration of National Day at the DRC, the class swooned with excitement. She said the Maizidian community center, where I attended Chinese language and arts classes with other foreigners, was expected to participate as part of community engagement. When she said we were going to sing a Chinese song, we looked at one another thinking: It's probably going to be a simple children's song.

For several days, we didn't have lessons and we just practiced My Motherland and Me until the Chinese words rolled off the tongue and became familiar.

Wo he wo de zu guo/yi ke ye bu neng fen ge (Me and my motherland cannot be separated, even for one moment).

The day of the event we all wore red. The DRC hall was radiant. The curtains, tablecloths, gift bags and performers' costumes all wore the color of prosperity and blessings.

We were introduced and greeted with a round of applause. We took our positions onstage and sang, reading the lyrics on our phones and on pieces of paper. The microphone did not carry our voices across the room. Our performance would be followed by a group of children who sang Be Brave, a pop song by Sara Bareilles. Gosh, I love that song too. They had a dance number to go with it. Their act was livelier than ours.

After the program, all the performers were called back to the stage. The head of the local community gave each of us a certificate of appreciation. I went home with my certificate and more bags of fruits and candies than my two hands could carry. When my husband arrived home from work, I greeted him, "You're not gonna believe what happened to me today."

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