On Wednesday afternoon my sister left North Carolina headed for Germany, and on Thursday I read about the cloud of volcanic ash that a certain volcano in the land of Ice is spewing out, wreaking havoc on air travel in Europe. As it turns out, my sister is now stranded in London, but is taking the train to Brussels tomorrow and then another 2 after that in order to make her way to Germany.
Telling Omar and Josefina about this over dinner, Omar remarked, “Wow! She’s going to travel underneath the ocean then!” Oh, uh, yeah I guess so. I hadn’t thought about that whole English Channel thing.
“How!” exclaimed a disbelieving Josefina.
“Well London is in England and Brussels is in Belgium which is in mainland Europe. So they go through a subterranean tunnel beneath the English Channel, it’s like 80 kilometers!”
I then kicked in with an explanation of how they drilled from both sides with huge machines, one starting in France and the other in England. (I learned this watching Ocean’s something. 12? 13?) But even as I made whirring sounds and wild hand gestures to convey the process since I didn’t know the word for mammoth drilling machine, I wondered how on earth Omar knew so much about the geography and transportation systems of Europe. I sheepishly admit that I couldn’t have thrown out the length of the train crossing the English Channel (ignoring the fact that I forgot you even had to make your way across that rather large puddle), nor did I know right off the top of my head that Brussels was in Belgium (but maybe if you had given me a minute…) I went off to my room for the night still in awe.
A few seconds after settling down to read, I received a call on my cell phone and was surprised to see Omar’s name on the caller id.
“La-oorah, it says here that they began drilling in 1994 and it’s actually 50 kilometers long. So now we know more about the English Channel. And Iceland is next to Norway, it’s an island. I thought it was where Finland was. That’s all. Night!”
The encyclopedia! The original Google!
Josefina says, “The way you talk, one would think you’d traveled the world.”
How true. In fact I’m actually a little bit enraged that there are X Americans who can’t locate Afghanistan on a map although we’ve been in conflict with them since I was in middle school, and who have so much opportunity to go to school, make choices about their lifestyle, even travel, while Omar works so hard every day and will never be able to see the world that he clearly has such interest in. And I know that he would appreciate every step he took, because he is that kind of person. Kind and sentimental, responsible and graceful in bearing all kinds of burdens. The person who looks up and remembers that the tunnel crossing the English Channel is 50 kilometers long. I am just amazed and have so much respect for him and I wish there were more of him and I wish that I could take him to ride on the train underneath the English Channel and go to Brussels, which is in Belgium.