A new year is here and well installed. Today there are 334 days left to this year.
new year, new resolutions?
Back at work a month ago, a colleague asked me whether I ‘had resolved anything for the new year?’
I replied that I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions in the traditional sense, believing that I can and will make changes at any time of the year, not only January 1st.
It reminded me though that in January 2014 I made a commitment to brush-up my Spanish, and my efforts have been a bit hit or miss. It had been 8 years since I left Mexico and while there are occasional opportunities to use Spanish in London, it’s mostly conversational and social. I don’t read or write very often in Spanish, and nearly never use it in situations like facilitating workshops or tense, delicate meetings with so-called authority or anyone.
And lucky me. Early in January 2014 I was invited to go Ecuador to run a training, and in preparing the proposal I realised just how rusty my Spanish had become. As anyone who speaks a language in addition to your mother tongue knows, the old adage ‘use it or lose it’ is very true. At least all this has been useful as a wake-up call.
The Ecuador training fall through though. After two months of back forth, the intermediary setting up the job told me that budget battles between bureaucrats had created pressure to hire someone local. All very fair enough, I understood yet was disappointed.
knock, knock, opportunity’s here!
But never mind, soon after, another opportunity arose. This time an invitation to collaborate with a Basque network who support Western Sahara’s right to self-determination. This was a good combination of my interests, experience and skills. I prepared for the trip, but yet again, it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. You can read about what happened here in my post Nonviolence and Boots.
There was then hardly a moment or a need to consider what next because then I spent most of July in Mexico, visiting old friends, and making a few new ones. Back home, I use Spanish semi-regularly though with my London Mexico Solidarity Group compas, and I just spent some time in Spain doing research. So that’s something. Ever ambitious though, from Mexico this summer, I brought back a stack of books, which honestly, I haven’t cracked the cover of most of them. ‘Children of the Days’ Los hijos de los días by Eduardo Galeano in the one exception.
translation for fun and sharing
‘Children of the Days’ is a book with 366 short essays, one for each day of the year. The brevity of the essays make them easy to read and I enjoy Galeano’s view of the world. To give you a flavour:
‘And the days began to walk. And they, the days, made us. And that’s how we were born, the children of the days, life’s questioners and seekers.’
So here I am again, a new year (if you organise your world view that way), and I’m renewing my commitment to using Spanish more regularly and for more complex lingustic exercises than simply speaking.
As language practice and for readers’ delight, I will occasionally translate (Spanish to English) an essay from Galeano’s book and share it here. The pieces are literay and poetic, which will be a challenge for me. The translations I’ve done in the past have tended to NGO reports, newspapers or political analysis.
Here is the essay for January 1st
‘Today is not the first day of the year for Mayan, Jewish, Arab or Chinese people and many other inhabitents of this world. The date was invented by Rome, Imperial Rome and blessed by the Vactican. So it is really an exaggeration to say that all of humanity celebrates today as the crossing of one year to the next. But yes, it’s necessary to recognise it. Time is very kind to us fleeting passengers and this allows us to believe that today really is the first day of the year and to be as bright and happy as the colours of a market stall.
Want to know more?
more translations soon
Meanwhile, I’ve found on-line the actual translations by Mark Fried of these two pieces. His of course is better, it should be. He’s a professional and has completely differently experience from mine. One of the reasons I’m doing this exercise is to flex my language muscles both in Spanish and my mother tongue. It’s about learning, it’s fun. It’s not a competition, It’s pleasureable. Read on and see how Mark’s has more/different poetic flow and style.
And they, the days, made us.
And thus we were born,
the children of the days,
— GENESIS, according to the Mayas
Today is not the first day of the year for the Mayas, the Jews, the Arabs, the Chinese or many other inhabitants of this world.The date was chosen by Rome, imperial Rome, and blessed by Vatican Rome, and it would be an overstatement to say that all humanity celebrates today as the crossing from one year to the next.That said, today we ought to acknowledge that time treats us rather kindly. Time allows us, its fleeting passengers, to believe that this day could be the very first day, and it gives us leave to want today to be as bright and joyous as the colors of an outdoor market.