Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Unforgettable Fire

When you live abroad, you develop this weird feeling that there, back home, everything and everybody is changing very rapidly. Consequently, even if you were only gone for one month, you can't help asking, to everyone you meet, "what's new?"

This was precisely what happened to me, this early morning, when I arrived to Portugal... I met one friend, and I immediately asked: "so, what's new?" And he thought a bit, almost hesitating, and started to mention sports' trivialities...

Of course this wasn't the kinds of news I was asking for! I wanted him to tell me about the deep changes that certainly took place during my absence! The big ones, not these ridiculous things I can check on internet!

As he obviously was missing the point, I decided to insist! And gave some examples: "I mean, what's new, for instance, with people we both know..." Then, he got it; and answered very quickly and very straightly: "I don't know... I haven't seen them much..."


I felt first tempted to start insulting him: "how come you haven't seen none of them?! what kind of friend are you?!", this style of things... But, then, suddenly, I realized how stupid my question was... and, in order to change subject, asked: "and what about Portugal?"

Then, I finally got an immediate and genuine answer: "apart from what you see, everything else burned..."

There was some kind of bitterness badly disguised by the obviously exaggerated way he had decided to put things... But we all knew the sad reality he was referring to... and what seemed to be a long silence followed his statement.

While driving from Lisbon to the north, I was able to confirm with my own eyes what he meant... Now, I actually have the feeling that the only thing that really happened in this country during my absence was an enormous, evil and disastrous bush-fire...

I know many people spend hours and hours discussing this problem, trying to find solutions or, at least, someone to blame. I don't have the time nor the knowledge to do it, but I do wonder if this shouldn't be something to keep in mind...

Camões, the Portuguese great poet, once wrote: "amor é fogo que arde sem se ver" (love is a fire that burns invisibly). This may be a good reason for some people to forget so quickly their previous loves... But this fire that hurts my country every single summer, is a very visible one and its effects remain for years. Wouldn't this be a enough good reason for us to be sure that it becomes unforgettable?...


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