Hi all, (note: I wrote this post almost one year ago, when I was in Chile)
this is a short story about a friend I’ve met in Valparaiso. I’m writing this just as it flows from the heart after a delighting lunch and subsequent afternoon in a nearby ice cream shop with Pato.
Born here in Valpo, he left his home country at the age of 24 to pursue a career as theatre actor in Europe, starting with Switzerland. He’s then lived in many places in the continent, mainly in France. In 1978 he moved to Réunion, a French Overseas Department in the Indian Ocean, which has been his residence for the past 30 years, There, he works at his theater and gives acting courses. However, he hasn’t stopped yet. He only spends few months a year on the island; the rest of his time is spent in Chile, Brazil or Europe, visiting friends or making new ones.
He’s one of those people that I uttermost admire for their spirit, still so young and in love with life despite the age, just like my friend Nannie in Amsterdam. What I always say is that I would like to get to their age and still have even only half of their incredible enthusiasm and force! Pato is full of jokes, loves the good life and is and incredible party person: just as an example, his New Years’ Eve was spent partying in the street till 7 am, then going to a friend’s place and dancing salsa till 3 in the afternoon, at which point he felt like he needed a nap. He went home and slept till 6 pm, when he got up again and joined another party till late at night! He has lots of younger friends – his take on most people of his age being that they are so boring: “Always showing me pictures of their grandchildren or themselves standing still next to some monument!”
Today is the last day of the Arts Festival in Valparaiso. A very important French theatre company, Generik Vapeur, is here for a play, and Pato knows them very well. While descending from Cerro Alegre, we stubmled upon a few of them acting in the street. Many of the kids took a break and came over to say hallo and hug him.
Pato and I speak a mixture of Spanish and French, the official language of the island where he lives. He’s full of stories and life wisdom. I asked many a questions about Pinochet’s dictatorship, which he witnessed from the outside but knew from the inside: I learned from Pato that Pinochet was born in Valparaiso (!!!), and that from here came most of his ministers: one of them, Carlos Cáceres, sat in Pato’s same class during high school. Needless to say, Pato’s opinion about the dictatorship is as negative as it can. I wondered if knowing the responsible ones makes it even worse.
I had to write this post straight as I got home because of the emotional impact such meetings have on myself. I deeply respect older folks; when I meet one that still has such an cheerful attitude towards life, I am totally captured. Maybe because I fear that my enthusiasm won’t last that long? Or maybe I seek paternal advice? I’m not sure. How often do you happen to meet such inspiring people?