When I got home my head was about to explode and so that called for desperate measures: calling H after midnight. And hoping that is was not just going to be her answering machine. After calling four times the wrong number. I am sorry if I woke somebody up in Japan or any other nation but I was so tired I couldn't remember the correct phonenumber anymore.
-'Hey, Caroline! Good to hear! You sound tired!'
-'Uhm! I am tired! Just one of these days! Can't sleep!'
bla, bla, bla, bla, bla.
By the time two of us had exchanged our latest adventures I was feeling already a bit better. Sometimes then H is called back to reality. This time it seemed like she had a bit more time. We had a very long chat about something H was bugging. H now realises that she might have not picked up some important vibes about her own nation. After reading one book and some thinking she wondered if her awesome country not has made major mistakes! She now reads 'The Economist' in the hope that she will be able to get a better grip on the world. It seemed like her eyes had opened up.
She asked my questions that not many Americans asked me when I was over there as an exchange student. It were very profound questions and to her it seemed to matter what my opinion was. It seemed like this American Girl who really pursued her happiness suddenly became aware of how broad the horizon is. H wanted to know if the prejudice many have about her nation is not partly their own fault!
By now, I had gotten out of bed and went back to the living room because I knew this was not just a five minute chat to ease her mind. Subjects we touched on: books,values, national pride, Belgian chocolate, college education, travelling, media, the army, fat people, globalization, cultural heritage, the European Community, Afghanistan, creativity,organisations, getting older, nationalism, the world after 9/11, responsibility, Bora Bora (H her Honeymoon!!!), Belgium 'a damn good country', salads with dressing or without, dealing with freedom, the financial crises, missed opportunities, father Damian and Tremelo and last but not least President Obama.
It seemed a bit like she was asking me for absolution. Like she wanted me to understand that all the prejudice we have about Americans are rather true and that she now found out that there is so much more to the world. 'Hey, you are doing already a lot better since your last president!', I told her. Touchy subject, H is a republican! 'You think so?' 'Yes, you do!'
For me this is the ultimate cherry on the cake after a long day at work. H suddenly facing the facts of life in the fullest dimension. She admitted to me that she had now come to the conclusion that becoming a world citizen takes a bit more effort that just travelling around with dollars and feeling proud of your nation. It is hard work and that all the things, impressions, buildings, monuments, dishes, views, opinions you encounter on that road do matter! That they are invitations to make something out of your life!
She now regrets that when she was sipping a beer at the Irish pub in Leuven with some of my friends discussing American politics and life in general that she must have sounded so cliché! It was rather funny to hear that she still remembered that evening. 'You see, you are never too old to learn!', was one of my replies. I am sure that H is learning her lesson well! This is not something I can say about all my pupils because in the end you end up learning most of the things the hard way!
P.S.: To the people of Tremelo: I can now already let you know that H not makes fun of you for inviting her president. When I told her that you had asked him to be present when this most valuable citizen of Hawaii and Belgium will be canonized, H said:'You know what, I think he might come. Obama is that kind of guy!' Eat that, all those that turned the people of Tremelo into the laughing stock of our nation!