Last week Kate (almost 17) and I were hanging around the kitchen after school and work, in that easy going kind of time before getting started on dinner or homework. She was relaxing in a padded chair as I cruised the cabinets in the vain hunt for undiscovered baked goods or chocolate.
“Hey, Mom, have I mentioned that…” This was the phrase that was usually followed by something like, “I ran into Janey the other day. Haven’t seen her in 4 years,” or “ I’m going to a party tomorrow night,” or even “I didn’t get this assessment in on time.” So I was unprepared for “ I might go toBhutanfor my senior project.”
What? What? WHAT? I started stuttering and sputtering like a parrot gone wild after nailing its first word. WHAT? And thenBhutan?BHUTAN???? WHAT???? (Back to the simpler word.) I had been in “Sunday afternoon drive” mode and she had yanked the wheel, stomped on the gas, and taken us off road into a potholed passage somewhere in theBadlands.
“Where ISBhutan?” I finally managed.
“In betweenIndiaandChina,” Kate replied calmly. Of course. Duh, who doesn’t know that?
“What? How in the world did that come up?”
“Well, when the seniors presented their project ideas to the faculty and staff, several people asked me if I had looked intoBhutan.” Kate is doing her senior project on the question “What is happiness?” from philosophical, religious and scientific standpoints. A teeny weeny topic with barely anything written about it by anyone across the ages. She wasn’t finished. “AndNancyknows the King of Bhutan. In fact she’s going to his wedding next weekend, and said she’d put in a word for me. She knows it’ll be kind of busy there, but she hoped to speak with her friend, the King.”
I was still reeling, and now this was really rich. “Nancyknows the KING on a first name basis?!”
“Yeah, he calls her his American mom,” Kate responded reasonably. Sure he does. I was still not getting it.
“So what doesBhutanhave to do with your project?”
“Well it turns out that they measure the success of the country by how happy the people are.”
Now she had my attention. “Really? I wonder how they actually measure happiness?” In some ways it really didn’t matter. The fact that they were using ANY kind of happiness, no matter how it was defined was fascinating enough.”
“They don’t really encourage tourism, but if I went there, they would make time for me, and show me around.”
I had to admit, I was torn between packing my own bags, and completely disallowing any kind of foray by my teenage child to this place soooo far away. We had some time to digest this whole concept, asNancywould be out of the country for the next couple of weeks, and therefore no more concrete plans would be brought up before then.
I do understand the notion of this kind of travel. I wanted to go toGreecewith my friends when I was 16. Didn’t get there until I was 26, and as a solo venture was quite the challenge, but my wanderlust was firmly in place at her age. I turned 15 inFrancewith my friend and her parents while they chaperoned a college trip.
On this side of the equation it’s a bit more unsettling, but if there are solid arrangements in place, I would be hard pressed to prevent it. I love the fact that she can think this big, and is curious and willing to take on the challenge of going so far afield. She is used to being away from home; that part doesn’t worry me, but she has not spent so much time traveling alone.
I will wait and see what kind of definitive plans arise from the vagueness of possibility. I realized that regardless of what comes of it, I am proud that she has the confidence to consider this kind of risk, and pursue her interest and dreams out in the vast and varied world. And the next time she asks whether “she has mentioned that…” I will fasten my seatbelt and prepare for the ride. Ye ha!