It was nine in the morning and I was sitting outside, talking to my Egyptian friend Shadi. I felt somewhat guilty to be drinking a cappuccino and eating a cheese cake while my Muslim friend was fasting, even though he insisted I ate something for breakfast. Not that there was much breakfast at the pâtisserie we were staying at, since virtually no one eats or drinks before sunset. An old lady had taken place close to us and suddenly asked me where I was from. This started a conversation that most definitely made an imprint on me and left me with an urge to write about it, lest I forget. The lady was Egyptian, born in Cairo and had to be around eighty years old. She wore a chess-patterned colourful dress that was held closed by subtle jewellery. I was very much intrigued when she started talking about her globe-trotting experiences. Along with her husband, she had visited an incredible amount of countries, of which Belgium as well. Her eyes lit up as she told me how she had marvelled at the beautiful nature of the Ardennes, had loved quant little Bruges and colourful Ghent, had admired the impressive Atomium in Brussels and had seen the diamond that was Antwerp. I was nearly moved to tears as I saw how purely and sincerely she admired the country which I often described as a good country to live in, but otherwise boring and grey. Why did I need a foreigner to open my eyes on the beauty of the place I live in?
But it did not end there. She continued talking about Australia, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, South Africa. I was incredibly impressed by how well she still remembered everywhere she had been and what her impressions were of the place. When I foolishly asked her what place she would consider best to live in, she told me one cannot compare between countries, as every country and even every city has its own charms. Ah! It seemed so obvious, yet it came as a true revelation to me. I immediately felt she was right and smiled widely, realizing she had put her finger in the wound of my youth. Here was a person whose personality was so intriguing I wanted to talk to her for much longer than I did. When leaving, I politely shook her fragile hand and asked for her name. Rose, a name that somehow suited her perfectly.


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