From Russia with Love: #3 Learning about the world from the Red Square

I spent a week in Russia and I fell in love with the country and its people. They remind me of the misunderstood big kid in class and I want to take my time sharing about my experience traveling there solo. I will be posting up a few short write ups about specific incidences and my thoughts about them and my understanding of the culture and the people. Post #3: Learning about the world from the Red Square.

I attended the 8th International Military Tattoo held in the Red Square. It wasn’t that I was incredibly interested in fairly priced entertainment with guns and uniforms, it was that I really really really wanted to see the beautiful buildings lit up at night. And boy am I glad I did.

I arrived late and was greeted by the loud blast of a cannon followed by the crackling of fireworks. I walked past groups of uniformed people, some in the Russian army, others getting ready to march out to show off what they’ve got. I noticed the large presence of the police and the Russian army. Heck, the guy who checked my ticket was from the army. I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.But then again, it was a military event. Who knows.

I found my seat and was presently surprised at the turn out – the square was packed, especially the cheap seats! I loved the festivity that was in the air. the Russians were the first to perform and it was a whirlwind of dancers, the marching band, electric guitars and a lot more fireworks. If there’s one thing I learned about Russia, it is that less is not more, more is so much more. What I saw was definitely over the top and it dazzled me giddy.

I watched the troop from Pakistan spin with their swords to a traditional snake-charming-like tune within the structured frame of military-marching-band beats. I teared up when the Italians performed “Con Te Partiro”, so beautifully sung by this guy with lungs the size of a whale. The Chinese approached this whole thing with a clean and minimalist take, that really caught me off-guard. About half way through, the women began a jaw-dropping gun spinning routine only achieved by immaculate timing while the men sang in aca-freaking-pella. The Brits decided to send a bunch of kids, most of which would not be allowed in a PG13 movie, who wow-ed the audience with their adorable-ness. The cheeky touch at the end, with the two boys holding the flag and waving at the audience, really got the crowd going. The Scotts, on the other hand, had individuals from three generations at the front, marching to the same beat, something I found incredibly inspiring.

As I watched each country display their identities and celebrate them, I couldn’t help but wonder about Malaysia. Were we to be invited to perform, what would we show off the world? What would our identity be? Do we have a collective identity that we are all proud to call ours? I reflected on my days in school and whenever we had a “Malaysian” event, we would always watch three separate performances, never one coherent one that told one coherent story.

Sitting there in the Red Square, in the cold, in the bright spot light of another country, I couldn’t help but to feel very disappointed, and dare I say it, sad at how little my country has grown.