As I watched this year's National Day parade on TV, scenes of the parade I joined 10 years ago flashed through my mind. I was in junior middle school - one the closest to Zhongnanhai.
In fact, we shared a wall with the nation's leaders. Whenever we accidentally kicked a ball too hard, it'd be thrown back in no time by the guards.
We were anxiously waiting for the final exams that summer when news came that we would be joining the National Day parade.
To be exact, we were to be molecules in the huge mass of people facing the Tian'anmen Rostrum, forming the background for the parade. As we waved flowers in different colors, we would be making sentences such as, "Long Live Our Great Motherland".
The rehearsals turned out to be one long holiday. All exams were canceled, as were the classes. Every day at 9 am, we lined up to turn the flowers.
Our PE teacher stood on a platform, looking like he was controlling traffic lights, to signal which flower would be moved. Everyone envied the teacher, as we never knew what characters we were making. Our teacher just smiled, as if guarding a top secret.
Ten days before Oct 1, we joined the first formal rehearsal at Tian'anmen Square. At 10 pm, the whole school set out for the square, just 1 km away. We found the whole place had turned into a "sea of people", as students from afar had come in much earlier. We didn't need any guidance to find our spot and get ready.
The rehearsal started on time. Accompanied by military music, tanks and cannons filed past us. The ground was trembling and I couldn't help thinking that none of our nation's leaders would get a moment's sleep that night.
I found the units of the Army, Navy and Air Force the most exciting. Even from where I stood, I could see how straight a line their hands in white gloves were making at every move. Their hoarse shouting sounded even more exciting than the noise made by the big machines. I pictured these brave soldiers marching straight to the frontline and for a moment, felt a rush of patriotism.
However, like most of my friends, I wanted to relieve myself, and this led to a big revelation. How could I have never noticed? The pedestrian walkway surrounding the square was full of rectangular metal covers. I had thought they were there to drain the rainwater quickly during a summer storm.
But now I found them covered in striped plastic sheets - the metal covers were gone. They had been converted into temporary toilets to help one of the world's biggest gathering of human beings to go smoothly, and be litter free.
Finally, the big day arrived. The nation's leaders all appeared on the Tian'anmen Rostrum. Tanks and cannons once again filed past us, but this time I thought less of the trembling ground and paid more attention to them. When the fighter jets thundered above us, the colorful trail they left behind got us all very exited.
Thanks to months of practice, the flower turning went off perfectly, and everyone was already talking of the next grand jubilee in 10 years' time.
I struggled home and fell ill that day, missing the parade's replays on TV. When I asked mom what characters we had formed, she thought hard: "There were so many people In general, you must have been half of a wave of the words."
No wonder our PE teacher always smiled so mysteriously. He didn't have a clue as to what we were making, either.
The article first appeared on Southern People Weekly