Basque Appetizer

Everyone I meet here in Bilbao seems to be an artist of some sort, either living from their art or accommodating their bread-wining to be able to spend as much time as possible following their artistic life and dream.

It´s a perfect place to come at a moment in my life like this…I´m surrounded by arabic drumming teachers, bio-dance teachers,singers, and of course, Krisia whose art flows through everything she does, and every moment of her life, through her finger tips, a flow she cannot stop. In her cooking, in her excitement, in her music. In her laugh.

Bilbao is laid out like an artistic dream as well, the opposite of most cities that lay out parks in their midst, it is laid out in the middle of greenery, nested at the center of hundreds of hills all around, similar to Kampala in their size and number. Another city of seven hundred hills.

As Krisia says, “any street you look down in this city has a hill or some greenery at the end of it”. It´s true.

I think anticipating a trip of some sort to a destination for so many years (as I have with the Basque country) can have two effects on aperson: disappointment in the over-expectation or delight in every stone. For me, my attraction to Basque country is such and so unexplainable and so reverent that I never expected anything than what it would give me. And like the people, very guarded upon first encounter, it is already calling me for another visit, when I can hike through its hills and perhaps even fish in its rivers.

I love this first approach to Basque country and Bilbao. Testing me with bad weather to see if I am a fairweather friend, cold rain and freezing wind, grey skies where the underneath hills look grey as well, but my heart rises to the occasion and loves their rounded shapes, sees them for their real green and sees the potential. I have the heart for the country to let me come again, walk it in morefriendly weather, perhaps in a few months. This is how I expected the country, actually, like it´s people, difficult to reach but then friends for life. Like Israelis who call themselves (is it “sabres” or “sabros”? The way you call the cactus fruit?) Prickly on the outside but soft on the inside…

It´s complicated and intriguing being in a heartland of an ongoing guerrilla. Separatist grafitti paints some walls in Euskerra (Basque language in Basque) and you hear shreds of people´s lives having to do with Basque identity and living together. You sort of piece the complicated puzzle together, finding out about the history, people´s daily lives, jobs, studies, requirements, and see that creating an environment whereeveryone´s heritage is respected is a conscious effort that affects everyone. It´s such a…rare situation, that struggle to keep a language and a culture alive, almost, like putting it on respirator, stalling the disappearance that overcomes so many other languages every decade that are not fought for.

Like the death of Manx Gaelic which disappeared on 24 December 1974 with the death of Edward (`Ned’) Maddrellhte its last native speaker. Languages dying with people.

I wonder what is on Ned´s tombstone. “Here lies the Manx language” I’m sure some cynics would put something like “welcome to globalization” but we´re just more aware of it now than before. Languages have always disappeared. It doesn’t mean we have to let it happen…

Outside my window the city breathes, lovely pink apartment buildings stretching towards a grey hill in the distance, cobblestone streets beckoning hungry footsteps, into the old part of town, where unseen things lie in wait.

Like squid cooked in its ink.


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