Don Julio

Since arriving at my Airbnb in Cusco, I have started a new morning routine. Every morning I open my curtains to see if my neighbour is outside. Later, while I go through my morning routine (yoga and writing), I rest my eyes on him and his peaceful being. My neighbour Don Julio (Don is a way of showing him respect) is 85 years old. To me, he is the perfect example of being Zen. I often smile inside while watching him. While I practice mindfulness in my actions, Don Julio is Zen without even trying. (From what I see.) Of course, I am aware of our age difference and how our way of perceiving life changes through different life stages, which plays an essential role here. I admire how Don Julio is fully present. He reminds me so much of my own beloved grandfather. He also used to sit outside his house, watching and being, but in another part of the world (In the city of Isfahan, Iran.)

Anyhow, Don Julio is usually up early in the morning, before everyone else, sitting in front of his house, kissing the sun, observing life in the street while listening to the radio. Some days, he is busy reading the newspaper; others he cuts vegetables. Occasionally, I see him dozing off in the sun. Honestly, it is hard to say if he is dozing off or just relaxing. If I could speak Spanish, I would ask him:

“Where was he born?”
“How has his life been?”
“How does he regard life?”
“How does he look at life today compared to his youth?”
“How does he perceive days and minutes, now that he is 85?”

Since I do not speak Spanish, I let myself enjoy his genuine smile and his open face in silence
and from a distance. When I pass him every day I greet him by saying:
“Hola, Senor.”
“Hola, Senorita, Cómo estás?”
He responds loudly back with the most open face. I can hear his long life in his voice. (By the way, have you ever noticed how our voices change during life? From childhood to seniorhood?)

Yesterday I followed through on a question that had been brewing in my mind; I walked up to him and showed him what I had written in Spanish using Google translator.

“Can I please take some photos of you?”He read it in silence and allowed me to photograph him without words, only with a big smile on his face. When he had enough, he stood up and called his dog, marking that our photo session was over.


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