It's not that common informally.
The explanation for 'hailed' is simple. He's speaking in the past tense. He could have said "... because I was American" a bit later.
"The Indians are angry because I am American."
"The Indians were angry because I was American." (An example - doesn't really relate to the story)
He is speaking here, so he hasn't planned his use of tenses ahead of time. If he had been writing this, he would probably not have written, "Which was also kind of odd, "
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