Friday, 23 June 2000, Middle School Year 3, Shijiazhuang, China

The days of Middle School Graduation Exams and High School Graduation Exams were always made quite a scene. The fact that more than 100,000 students and similar number of parents would participate in each of these was no big deal by itself as lots of events in China had that kind of scale. The entertainment was really provided by the superstitious clothing worn by the students and their parents on the day.

Amongst the students, Nike was by far the most popular dress choice on the day. Its clothes and accessories with the red Swoosh logo were highly desirable given its close resemblance of a correct check mark. In fact, from the young boys’ and girls’ dressing, you would think the day was for a basketball tournament rather than anything else. Even so, one boy I met still managed to outshine everyone else by wearing Nike T-shirt, shorts, socks, headband, wrist band and trainers on top of carrying Nike bag and water bottle all with big red Swoosh sign. Although I could not verity it, I had no doubt his underwear must be of the same style as well.

The parents, on the other hand, were much more diverse. A large proportion showed up in traditional Chinese dresses. It is believed the traditional ladies’ dress, “Qipao” meant “hitting the ground and immediately winning” while the traditional gent’s dress, “Magua” meant “winning instant success”. Some others put more emphasis on the colour rather than the type of their clothes: they would accompany their children to the place in red, switching to green later in the day and wrapping up in grey and yellow. These colours supposedly mean: good start, green light all the way and finishing in glory. Of course, there were always the odd few who would show up in various costumes ranging from ancient examination champion to modern day Superman.

I was glad my parents believed in none of these, otherwise it would be too embarrassing. My dad simply passed me the pen that always brought the good fortune to the family, told me that would be more than enough and waved me off from home.