I had hardly slept that night either. For a while I tried to go back to sleep. Without success. I lit the light and got my cell phone. Alejandro was already online. He probably couldn't sleep because he had given me his bedroom. For a while we liked each other on Instagram and Facebook. What a weird world we live in, I thought. We were in the same house and neither of us could sleep. But we both stared at our cell phones instead of getting up, going to the kitchen, making a coffee, and talking.
I waited until 8 a.m. before going into the living area. I didn't want to be the first. But the family was already watching TV when I came in. Alejandro's aunt got up immediately and went to the stove. Soon she made very fine tortillas with cinnamon for us. There was also coffee with milk and fine cookies. I felt like I was back in the years when my grandmother was still alive and I was visiting her. Basically, Mexicans are just as hospitable as ex-Yugoslavs. The aunt cooked for us and the father talked to me about God and the world. Not about Corona. Although the virus was constantly reported on television, no one listened to it. The Patinos lived in their own world.
Juan Patino is an exceptional person. Happy, funny, intelligent and still spirited at 85. He used to travel a lot, so he was open and interested in new things. He knew a lot to tell. He was also the first person I met abroad who did not associate Switzerland with chocolate or banks. He connected Switzerland with the cows. He knew exactly what a Swiss cow should look like. He would like to see Switzerland and Holland at some point.
Senor Patino loves music. He passionately sings karaoke. After breakfast, he switched on a huge music system and brought a box with several microphones. He meticulously chose the right one and set up the television so that he could see the text there. From the bottom of his soul he sang melancholy Mexican songs about love, loneliness and death. I listened to him spellbound and wished I had such a father once. I envied Alejandro for him - not just for him, but also for the whole family. What cohesion! I thought it was a shame that I had to leave soon.
I forgot to say that the morning I was unable to sleep, I had already booked a return flight to Switzerland for the next Tuesday, March 17th. I actually wanted to stay until the 28th. I had to book a flight via London because Swiss was no longer allowed to fly to the USA. England and Ireland did not rate President Trump as dangerous as the rest of Europe. I wasn't worried at this point. I was just sad that my long-awaited vacation had fallen into the water.
Papa Juan made burritos for us for lunch. These were my first real burritos. I loved them immediately. A little later, Alejandro's sister came with her husband. Very personable people. We talked in a fluent mix of Spanish and English. Alejandro told me that the people who were supposed to drive me back to LA after the party had canceled because of the flu. It looked like I should stay at the Patinos for another night. I didn't mind. On the contrary. I was looking forward to it.
After lunchtime, we all dressed up and walked across the street together. Alejandro's sisters and nieces did a great job! Everything was decorated in a Hollywood style, with a lot of shine and glamor. There was a red carpet where you could take pictures with Alejandro and a walk of fame with the most important films in which he had played.
The rain stopped for the party. The guests could take a walk through the beautiful, large garden and the children could play in the playground. We were barely a quarter of an hour away when I heard Papa Juan already singing karaoke. The guests came little by little. An illustrious group of Americans with Latin roots. Most spoke in English, although a few Spanish words kept coming up. The party really started towards evening. At least for the women. We stood in a circle and danced, each individually. But again and again one had to go in the middle and perform a solo number, cheered on by the others. Papa Juan soon joined us. He looked stunning in his impeccable dark suit and elegant hat. He danced slowly but in rhythm, cheered on by women of all ages. You could see how much he loved to dance. His whole body danced with it. I danced all the time. The advantage of dancing was that you didn't freeze. It was getting cool outside now.
And what did my Social Distancing project mean? Impossible! At the beginning I tried not to shake hands with the people I had met, of course always relying on Corona. Most, like Alejandro, thought everything was panic-making. They kissed and hugged without hesitation. Not even 85-year-old Juan Patino was spared. At some point I gave up too. It was impossible to distance yourself without making a fool of yourself. I banished Corona from my thoughts and enjoyed the party to the fullest. And it was fine like that.
To be continued…