National Pride and the Excellent Slacks…
Sunday, July 11, 2010
It’s been quite a while since I have been able to write, and for that I apologize. Certain things about working in this area make life challenging at best! But, here we are…
When last I was preparing this post, the Olympics were on. (I did say it had been a while!)
There was a moment that made me think about the choices we make, the lessons we learn and the things that really matter.
Bob Costas made a comment on the opening day of the Vancouver Olympic Games that really made me smile. Looking at the photo above, you can see why… In the often conservative opening ceremony march of the athletes, we rarely find countries stepping right out, making such a sartorial statement. Ok, yes there is usually there is a quotient of cool, but what country was this, to be so bold?
As Bob Costas announced the delegations filing by in alphabetic country order, Azerbaijan being among the first, parlayed its position into 15 minutes of fame by wowing the audience with its team apparel. Bob Costas immortalized the Azerbaijan delegation noting the team was sporting “an excellent pair of slacks”.
I loved that moment, quite frankly.
For Azerbaijan this was the most wonderful compliment they could receive. What pride to hear broadcasters around the world announcing -anything actually- about your country, and for a small country in an Olympic venue dominated by Russia, China, the United States and of course in these Games, Canada, this was recognition that money could not buy.
More than the money or the fame though, for Azerbaijan it was a case of national pride. We often hear about wearing your heart on you sleeve, or flying by the seat of your pants, but in this case Azerbaijan had shown its national self in the traditional colors, shapes and symbols of its country with every step it took, every day of the Games.
Not many people would know the symbolism evident in those pants, with the three colors, red, blue and green being highly symbolic, colors of the flag, each having a meaning for the nation, and the shapes as well speak to the roots for the country. It was fun to know the inside story on the message being displayed with each step in the march. To feel the national pride from the smile of each athlete.
But it also reminded me of a summer in Baku when I was at my lowest point. The summer of 1999. Recently divorced, frustrated by the inability to move forward, unable to go back home- I felt stuck. I was writing a column for Azerbaijan International magazine and found it hard to write about “positive changes” when I just wasn’t seeing any.
I had been in Baku, teaching and working, for 4 years that summer. I wanted to see the results, to see changes in Baku, and I wanted to get on with life in a new way. Summertime meant that nearly 150 kids, many of whom were my students, were about to go to the USA for a school year as future leaders exchange students- both to learn about the US and, just as importantly, to teach others about Azerbaijan and its culture. I wanted them to be proud of their country but things that had happened that year made me doubtful that they would be.
That’s when the Life Lesson was given to me, by my students, naturally.
And this is the importance of the “excellent slacks”.
From the week I spent with these kids preparing them for their year long journey, I wrote an article about growing up and what they had taught me on that long dusty bus ride to the seaside Sanitorium (health “resort”- Soviet style, remember!).
During the hot bumpy bus ride- think open windows for air “conditioning”- these kids started singing their recently adopted national anthem… just let that sink in for a moment. Regardless of how big, how modern (or how not modern) their country may have been, it was theirs to love and support.
And here with the excellent slacks, was another moment just like that. I’m sure those hearts all swelled with pride as they saw their delegation being recognized, maybe not atop the medals podium, but on a world stage just the same. I was reminded anew what an awesome feeling appreciation can be.
As Memorial Day and Independence Day have come and gone, this little example of national pride makes me wish for an excellent pair of slacks, too.