May 7th, 2003


My students (14)

My first lesson in every class was obviously meant to get to know the class. I asked them for a claim to fame. This is not a very familiar concept for the Dutch, but I got something out of most of them, after giving them a handful examples. Most of them had asked an autograph from some celebrity at some point or were in the newspaper with their school class. She stood out. She had been on national TV in one of those shows that reunites you with your holiday love.

She was one of the nicer students to work with. Never in trouble, never grey either. Not brilliant, but no problems passing exams either. Always a smile, sometimes even giggling with her best mate. Fun to have in a class.

She managed to make me giggle in Barcelona. During our visit to Montserrat we had to stand in the queue to see the black Madonna. Legend has it that whoever touches the statue will be pregnant within a year. For many religious people Montserrat is on par with Lourdes, Santiago de Compostela and Jerusalem. Just beyond the point where silence was mandatory, she stood behind me, there were 3 or 4 of us in total. During the 5 minutes it took us to get passed the statues, she made at least 3 extremely funny remarks (“If I do not give a donation, does that mean I won’t get pregnant?”), making it really difficult for us to keep straight faces.

She had to do her traineeship in Spain. There was no way anybody could talk her out of it. Even though nobody joined her and we as school were hesitant to send an 18 year old on her own to Spain, she went. It was complicated to get all the paperwork sorted before she left, we managed. She had been to the town several times with her parents, but a girl that young on her own in a country where she hardly speaks the lingo, for us it was still a risk. Yet as a new school of tourism, you just need some trainee places abroad, she helped us creating one.

She did brilliant. I visited her last summer and spoke to several managers who were all impressed. I saw her present a show in several languages. She was a huge hit. A blonde beauty in Spain attracts a lot of attention, but she showed that she has more skills than appearance.

Her second training had to be back in Spain, but the rules wouldn’t let her. Reluctantly she accepted that she had to do it back home in the Netherlands. And again they were very happy with her. In a time of economic depression, cutbacks and sackings they offered her a contract. She refused. She is going back to Spain. They offered her a job there as well. Her new boyfriend had nothing to do with that, she assured us. Next month she’s due to get her diploma, but she won’t be there to pick it up. This week she’s left the country. I wish her well.