An Australian Malteser in Doha

The Little Travelers were all born in different countries.  I think a lot of people expect that if you were born in Malaysia or Malta you would automatically qualify for a passport. Unfortunately not, it’s quite the opposite. Sitting in my hospital bed, shortly after delivering our daughter in Kuala Lumpur I was brought a form to sign. When I asked what it was I was, I was told it was a guarantee G and I would never return and claim citizenship for the 2nd little traveler. I joked at the time, “was it something I said”? When a similar form arrived in Malta for the 3rd little traveler, it was explained it was merely a form of crowd control (they were trying to get in to the EU at the time). Our 4th little traveler got lucky, the Canadians are such nice people, they’ll take anyone.

If you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you the little travelers all think of themselves as solely Australian. Their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are Australian, and we have a house in Australia. We have always referred to Australia as “home”. They know the national anthem and sing Australian songs. On Australia day wherever we have been in the world, we’ve celebrated proudly with vegemite sandwiches and lamingtons. The little travellers still brag about taking the Australian flag tea-towel to see the Wiggles in Calgary; the excitement of Murray giving them the Wiggles thumbs up and saying “G’day you Aussies” is now family folklore.

This week is International week at our school. It’s a big deal. There are huge celebrations, concerts, buffet lunches and dress up days throughout the week. Yesterday I went along to the opening ceremony. There are 1,955 children at our school, add in the teachers, parents and guests and the school gymnasium was absolutely heaving. Only having primary/elementary aged children I stood in awe at the size of the high school children. I can’t remember boys having beards at school?

There are 76 countries represented, when we talk of diversity these guys truly live it each day. It’s not obvious on normal weeks when most of the kids wear the same “uniform” but during International week you see children bursting with pride with their hats, flags, and ceremonial outfits.

During the opening ceremony the youngest and eldest child from each nationality gets to carry the flag for the procession. My little travelers missed out as number 4 is still in preschool and therefore doesn’t qualify, the others are neither the youngest or eldest Australian.

Our third traveler is a pretty competitive little guy. He quickly worked out he had no hope of ever being the youngest, and a long wait to be the eldest Australian. Not liking his odds he decided the simplest thing was to just find a new nationality. From now on, he was going to be Maltese. He didn’t care that they wouldn’t give him a passport, he just wanted to carry a flag. He quickly made his way down the alphabet, ascertained there were no Maltese children, and that he was to become the first one. It was quite funny watching him make this claim whilst wearing his Aussie t-shirt and flag with his Auskick cap. He’s already asked if I think I could whip up a quick Maltese Knight costume by Thursday for the closing ceremony.

The procession started with Argentina, the crowd clapped and cheered. Australia was second. When the flag made its way into the room, I saw 3 of my travelers jump to their feet and cheer. I looked around the room and realized there were quite a few Australians there, we all grinned stupidly at each other, nodding and acknowledging our similarity.

As the names went by we made it to Canada, it was then that something clicked for me. I saw my three once again clap loudly and pat the other Canadians on the backs, I thought about them all on their very VERY first day of school. Pre kindergarten at the French Immersion Canadian school with the Rockies in the background. I could see them in their little blue uniforms with red apples on the front, learning their provinces and Prime Ministers, greeting with “bonjours” and giving me hugs “au revoir” as I dropped them to their classroom. I remember how clueless I was about the weather, how they needed special shoes for the snow and how they screamed sang “OH CANADA OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND” at full strength in the back of the car.

As the flags continued through the alphabet along came Malaysia and my 2nd little traveler gave them an extra loud clap and cheer as she looked at her fellow Malaysians, I’m not sure what they were thinking but they all happily smiled back. When we were nearly to the end and they called the United States once again all three of them acknowledged their time in Texas and cheered. We were there only a year ago.  I remember a different school uniform and how we all watched Obama’s inauguration and they kept their children’s time magazines with Obama on the front. “This is a moment in history” they told me. My 3rd little traveler (the Maltese one) spoke with a strong American accent, pledged allegiance to the flag and told me how Lincoln was born in 1809,  slept on a bed of straw, was the 16th President, and freed the slaves (all without drawing breath).

The final country was called and the room went absolutely crazy, as the young Qatari man who was incredibly striking and perfectly poised in his traditional thobe made his way down the red carpet the room erupted. I watched my little travelers giggling and screaming, two of them had to have their hands over their ears as the noise was deafening. Tears streamed down my face as I watched my little travelers  cheer for their new home, Qatar.  I couldn’t claim anymore that they were solely Australian. It appears  they have become as geographically schizophrenic as their parents. They want to be a bit of everything, passport or no passport. You’re stuck with us!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09198159357998731098 Louie

    How beautiful. What a spectacular day/week it is for you all. It is nice your school celebrates the diversity. I love international proceedings like that. Everyone is so proud.
    I laughed at your little travellers and how exciting it was for them to hear many of their countries. I can not imagine everything they must have learnt on their travels.
    As a teacher it is difficult to ask children where they come from these days – as many of them can not easily answer.
    Enjoy the rest of the week 🙂

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03858062898480604576 Zookeeper Jess

    And here I thought my life was busy,crazy, and interesting!

    Your life sounds so fun! 🙂

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02743336097657087832 JANE

    An unbelievable post, Kirsty! My pick of the week so far. What a gamut of emotions you went through! I’m most impressed. J x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07085980058769788877 HooliDooli

    A fabulous post, Kirsty. And certainly not a Shamozal! I’d say that you and your family are the trailblazers for how our world will soon become – global citizens – an understanding and affection for many countries and cultures can only benefit the world, surely.(And don’t call you Shirley…).
    I can see you being the matriarch of a family of future world diplomats – just think of all those beautiful embassies you’ll be able to visit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    This (beautifully written) post makes me miss you and them even more than yesterday xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10576986106653716208 Lizeylou

    I think I would have shed a tear or 7 … great post!!

  • Anonymous

    WOW, loved this one. So I am also a mum at the American School and never been to the parade. I wake at 4.30am to make the laminations, fairy bread and Vegemite sandwiches for the Australian table. I always just thought the parade was just a little too much for an Australian in me. After reading the moments that you captured watching the little travellers, I will certainly make the flag parade next year.. and…. Go Malta…..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15310018396992885773 SOL’s view

    This was a great post. I can readily envision all the pageantry and especially the noise. 🙂

    From back about 30mumble years ago, I remember two boys in the higher grades with facial hair. One with a mullet and big black moustache and one with a full beard.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02226653890127738115 GutsyWriter

    Just found your blog and can so relate to the international aspects having lived and raised kids in different parts of the world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09646026064261601469 Happy Homemaker UK | Laura

    This is a lovely post. We are at an International School too with 2000 students. We celebrated International Day yesterday which sounds a lot like yours. It was an incredible day! I think the simple question of ‘Where are you from?’ is quite a complex question for these kiddos.

    XO L

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08499944412217904302 vegemitevix

    What a wonderful post. Love it! I grew up in the goldmines in Fiji amongst so many nationalities that I knew words of eight different languages when I was five. There is something wonderful about seeing life in a different country – from the grass roots up – and not the tourist view. I think there’s also a very real understanding of what your nationality is when you’re the only one in the room or town, as we are here. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as staunchly Kiwi as I do here. Loved your post beautifully expressed and very touching.

  • Anonymous

    This was such fun to read and quite moving! Ex-pat life is a fun and special experience. Good job, fellow citizen of Earth!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14759336965970856540 littlemissairgap

    If only all the world was so accepting as children.

  • Anonymous

    WOW, loved this one. So I am also a mum at the American School and never been to the parade. I wake at 4.30am to make the laminations, fairy bread and Vegemite sandwiches for the Australian table. I always just thought the parade was just a little too much for an Australian in me. After reading the moments that you captured watching the little travellers, I will certainly make the flag parade next year.. and…. Go Malta…..