new cultures and challenges

Another week, another translation from Galeano’s book ‘Children of the days’.

I chose the entry from 2 February because that is the day my partner, hound and I finally arrived in Valencia from London after a year of planning and preparing for the move.


my mission now:  adapt and integrate

I also chose it because I didn’t know anything about the goddesses and gods the vignette describes, and before doing the translation, I read a bit about them, which was both research  … and procrastination, I reckon.

I am also attracted to the syncretism of the story, as that is essentially my mission now. Adapt and integrate myself into life in Valencia in such a way that I am still me, but with a new layer of cultural and linguistic colour from the Iberian peninsula. My time in Spanish speaking countries, until now, has been in Latin America: Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. While there are regional variations in accents and vocabulary in the Americas, the linguistic differences are not as great as between Latin American and Iberian Spanish.

my linguistic margin 

Let’s take ‘vosotros’ for example, which is how the informal, collective ‘you’ is expressed in Spain. However, all across Latin America ustedes‘, the formal collective ‘you’ is also used for informal collective ‘you’. The one exception may be at Catholic Mass, as God speaks to his flock in vosotros, but it depends on the priest and congregation. I understand ‘vosotros’ when I hear it, but using it myself puts me in my panic zone. I cannot get my head and tongue around its verb conjugation and how to pronounce it. And, well, I haven’t yet put any effort into studying it either, but I will. It’s on my to do list.


resisting the linguistic margins

There’s also different vocabulary and word choice. While I am understood, some of my choices can make people giggle, cringe or confused. The other day I wrote to a Galician friend I haven’t seen in two years. In my email , I told him we were finally here and invited him to visit. I wanted to say ‘we miss you’ but at first glance he took this to read ‘we weird you out’. This turned out be an unintentional double entendre on my part and it was funny and appropriate. I was deliberately playing with ‘mexicanismos’  (vocabulary and turns of phrase typical of Mexican Spanish) but not all my mistakes are so lucky. To improve my vocabulary and learn to make appropriate word choices, another item on my to do list is to read more books in Spanish by Spanish authors. I bought my first one yesterday, but so far I’ve only read a review of the book and the back cover.

The last 10 years in Britain, as a native speaker of US American English, I was also on a linguistic margin, which I sense people sometimes found amusing, or annoying or uncomfortable. So I’d like to do what I can to minimise that situation here. Typically what happens now after I open my mouth to speak, people say ‘so, where are you from?’. Translation of the sub-text:  you speak Spanish like a Latin American, but not quite like a native speaker, nor do you look typically Latin American, ‘so, where are you from?’

moving from slobbing out to getting started

Today, at 10pm, will mark three weeks since we arrived in Valencia. The first few days or week at least, I was simply exhausted – both physically and emotionally, and I did nothing on my to do list. I


slobbing out versus projects

could accept that. I slept lots, worked my way through piles of ‘light reading’ (in English) and walked the dog. The next week my body fought off notions of doing much of anything by giving me with a cold. I could accept that. Last week was taken up with hunting for a flat, which (hurrah!) we found on the third viewing. We can’t move into for another three weeks, and so with the urgent life stuff (finding a place to live) and the stuff of mind and body-matter (rest and recuperation) having been dealt with, now it’s time to begin with my work and projects routine.

 It’s day two of my new regime, but I notice that I am ignoring the higher priority items on my to do list: organise my Spanish-language workshop materials, take care of some urgent action points on new projects, and all the above mentioned language tasks.


1, 2, 3, re-focus

I’m blogging. Why am I doing that? And I am also digressing from the topic, sharing the 2 February vignette from Galeano’s book ‘Children of the days’.

 So, let me take a deep breath and re-focus. I’ll end this post, as I promised in the beginning, and then get back to my to do list.

¡ Hasta pronto!


2 february: the goddess celebrates

     Today on the shores of the Americas people pay homage to Iemanyá.

     On this night, the mother goddess of fish, who centuries ago came from Africa on board the slave ships, rises from the foamy waves and opens her arms wide. The sea brings her hair combs, brushes, perfumes, cakes, trinkets and other offerings from sailors dying for her love and from fear of her.

    Iemanyá‘s relatives and friends from the African Mount Olympus usually join the party:

     Xango, her son, the keeper of rain from heaven;

     Oxumaré, the rainbow guardian of fire;

     Ogún, blacksmith and warrior, thug and womaniser;

     Oshún, the lover who sleeps in the rivers and never erases what she has written,

     and Exu, who is both Satan in hell and Jesus of Nazareth.


2 febrero: la diosa está de fiesta

     Hoy en las costas de las Américas rinden homenaje a Iemanyá.

     Esta noche, la diosa madre de los peces, que hace siglos vino del África en los barcos de escalvos, se alza en la espuma y abre los brazos. La mar le lleva peines, cepillos, perfumes, tortas, golosinas y otras ofrendas de los marineros que por ella mueren de amor y miedo.

     Parientes y amigos de Iemanyá suelen acudir a la fiesta desde el Olimpo africano:

     Xango, su hijo, que destaca las lluvias del cielo;

    Oxumaré, el arcoiris, guardián del fuego;

     Ogún, herrero y guerrero, peleon y mujeriego;

     Oshún, la amante que duerme en los ríos y jamás borra lo que escribe,

     y Exu, que es Stantás de los infiernos y también es Jesús de Nazaret.



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