Our lunch, a new beginning
I caught the ferry that was almost empty, in that afternoon half hot and half autumnal, and I started internalizing the lunch I had with my friends. The sea was that sea when the horizon is dark for a far away storm, but the nearby colours are lighted by the sun. The green of the water showed a strange contrast, maybe ambivalent, you know, but so vivid and brilliant.
At noon, before the arrival of the others, I met George M. Halpern, Professor of Medicinal Sciences, Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. I had heard a lot about him, but it was the first our encounter. He is a wonderful ragazzo, which means for me a mature man with the spirit, the curiosity and the joy of a young man, a feature that characterizes a great person. He lived in France, in California, and in Asia. He told me he has neither French nor American roots. Actually he feels rootless, comfortable in the world, where there is something to do, to learn. Life is so short that is not useful to be linked or limited by chains, constraints, or prejudices.
And immediately I was in tune with him. Yes, I didn’t want binding roots; they are so painful and heavy sometimes. “Imagine there’s no heaven…” We tend to overestimate our roots. Often our origin, whatever “origin” means, it is a gate towards distorted ideologies, or a good key to manipulate or to be manipulated. I was born so many times, I thought, and “rootless” was the right password of the next lunch. Thank you, Georges.
Then imagine a table at the Domani restaurant, a nice view, the best room temperature, and good people from the world, jut happy to stay together. Imagine there is not necessity to confirm our ancestors if not for social habits, for the pleasure to discuss and to share.
Of Betty Wei, I already spoke in a previous blog. Wei Peh T’i (she often published under the name Betty Peh-Ti Wei) received an AB from Bryn Mawr College, an MA from New York University, and a PhD from the University of Hong Kong. She is an Honorary Institute Fellow for the Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong and an Honorary Professor in the Institute of Qing Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. She is a high personality—we didn’t discuss her roots, what a pity—but, for me, she remains the minute and elegant Hong Kong lady who gave me a lovely French book I loved so much. I like her smart sensibility, her ability to be at ease in every cultural occurrence, and in a convivial event like our lunch too. She is a splendid creature (I’m starting reading her pieces) with a shining aura.
Alessandra Cocchi is really a Muse. She is a born inspirer, a bright person able to make things happen, to arouse energy and positive feelings. She lived in Italy, in South Africa, and arrived in Hong Kong twenty years ago. She is the managing director at EastMax Fashion. In a rainy day, during a strange event somewhere in the HK Island, an event called “Il Focolare,” the fireplace—I still remember the mud under my shoes—I fell in love with her laugh, her immediate simpatia, and spirit. Her crystalline voice warmed the humid Focolare and my skittish mood. By the way, I fell in love with her husband too, Doctor Gavin, Gavino in Sardinian language, with whom we are planning to breed Sardinian mouflon to obtain rare Mediterranean cashmere; and with her wonderful family. Sorry for the greedy digression, but if you want to invest in this “Sardinian-Cashmere-Venture,” we, Gavino and I are open to consider your generous funds.
Alessandra was the inspirer of this lunch too, as usual, and the marvellous host.
Juan José Morales is a Spanish lawyer and management consultant who writes for the Spanish magazine Compromiso Empresarial. A former President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, he has a Master of International and Public Affairs from Hong Kong University and has also studied international relations at Peking University (Beida).
Now I have to abjure, to renounce my faith in the former concept of “rootlessness,” because speaking about Juan I feel all the strength of my Mediterranean roots. Oh, Juan—please, don’t pronounce his name in Catalan language! Joan… How can you do this to him! He is Juan, the most common Spanish – Castellano – name. The Spanish ‘J’ is like the English ‘H.’ So you have to pronounce Huan, please—I was saying that Juan is really a Mediterranean soul, and we have the same enzymes, the same sunny melancholy and sensibility, the same humour and vision of life. I woke up during the night, sometimes, remembering some jokes by Juan, and laughing in the dark. His articles are always musical, and evocative. I prefer when Juan writes about the magical Spain—and I hear his nice accent too—but in any case his pieces are “mine.” I’m proud Juan is our “Ronaldo.”
Last but not least, my brother Angelo Paratico. He is a manager, an attentive journalist, a historian—a great historian indeed—and an impressive writer. I owe him everything, my happy landing in a far Hong Kong, my best contacts, my best readings and discussions, the discovery of Asia after sixteen years of ignorance, mine, of Asia. He is my Asian mentor. In these days I’m enjoying his “Italy goes to South China”, from the book “500 years of Italians in Hong Kong & Macau,” learning a lot. I love his knowledge of this huge world in which we live, his perspectives, especially the depth of history he is able to disclosure. Angelo is thirty years in HK, and you understand how much he is integrated here. At the same time, he is Italian, a good patriot, so the power and right figure of an expat. He is a good and serious man first, and I’m honoured to be his friend.
“An enjoyable multifaceted lunch” Georges defined our meeting, and in the ferry, returning home, I thought of my friends with gratitude, also appreciating the greatness of Hong Kong. It is not surprising that, in this wonderful city, it is possible to have such a friendly lunch with so great personalities, enjoying every word, every passage, in full relax. Life is made of these simple but precious moments, and I want to fix this one together with the colour of that afternoon, that milk-like-green, and the panorama of the bay toward the storm.
So I think I have to thank Alessandra first, for our lunch, my friends, and Hong Kong too. I’m in exile, I know, but I feel I have been privileged to stay here.