As Canadians living in China, we are known as expats or expatriates. Webster’s defines an expatriate as someone who “leaves one’s native country to live elsewhere.” That’s us. But there is another meaning of this word: “to renounce allegiance to one’s native country.” That is not us. In this way, there is nothing ex- about us. We are patriots.
Although Sprout, nine next summer, has now officially lived more of her life in China than in Canada, all of our children are still fiercely Canadian. For JavaMan and me, our hearts are in two places. While we love our adopted country, nothing will ever take the Canadian out of us.
Evidence of our patriotism is there, everyday, in small acts that assert our Canadian identity, like the time we struck up a conversation with a stranger in a restaurant because he strolled in wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey. Or when I picked a fellow Canadian–from Vancouver, as it turned out–out of a crowd for her accent. Or the time we infected some of our American friends’ kids with the occasional sentence-completing “eh?”
That Canadian identity rises up with more urgency when we are touched by news from “back home,” like the unspeakably tragic news we have learned this week: that Canadian soldiers–more than one–have been killed by acts of terror, in our own native land.
As our children set the breakfast table this morning, Sweetpea began mindlessly humming the Chinese national anthem. It’s natural. She hears it every day at school. She looked up suddenly and said, “I’m humming the Chinese national anthem, and I’m not even sure I remember how to sing, O Canada!” That’s natural too. She’s had far less opportunities to hear it than most Canadian children her age. Before breakfast, we played O Canada via YouTube–in English and in French (Sweetpea insisted).
I didn’t share with our children the news we’d learned about the soldiers. That kind of thing is hard enough to process when you’re back in Canada. I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it all. But I was glad to sing O Canada this morning.
I’ve never meant the words more. God keep our land glorious and free.
We stand with you. We mourn with you. We are far from “home,” but home has not left our hearts. We are patriots.