If you have followed my blog you probably would recognised the man in the picture. He is the accordionist who plays every day at the Castle’s square in Pamplona, my city, to collect some spare coins from the passersby and the customers of a busy café. He’s a good street musician. Plays nice melodies. He’s an immigrant, old, and jobless. Barely speaks our language. He told me with broken words and signs that he’s homeless, and he needs 10 euros a day to pay a shelter to sleep . Today was a pretty good day for him. The weather was mild and by noon he had collected already more than 9 euros. But as ever, his gaze was distant, tired and sad. Life is difficult for the street people like him.
I took this picture last year July 6th shortly after noon in Pamplona, Spain. The San Fermin Fiesta had Just began. This young man with the traditional white clothes and the red bandana, comes from the city hall square, jubilant after the proclamation of the beginning of the celebrations that will continue for a week in the city.
I hate crowds. I need to see space around me ,and if not, a clear way to go out. This is why I usually don’t go to the Chupinazo that marks the beginning of San Fermin in Pamplona. But I miss it. I would like to be there to in the city hall square every July 6th at noon when they launch the rocket and everybody shouts Viva San Fermin!
Till that moment, everybody, clothed in white, wait holding up the red bandanas they will wear around their necks as soon as the pyrotechnic rocket explodes as a sign that they are taking part of the fiesta. All the square is white and red. Is really something worth to see.
I used to go with my friends when I was young until one year I felt my breath was failing me because of the crowd squeezed me. So I retreated to the street of Mercaderes and went to the Castillo’s square.
But now is an event for very young people. There is too much people and there is no way to enter the square. Besides now the youngsters have fun throwing each other wine and even flour and eggs, so the place is a mess, and the traditional white clothes with red bandanas finish awfully dirty, all pink from the wine and yellow from the eggs. You can always watch the spectacle comfortably from a balcony, if you’re lucky. Or from home thru TV.
I don’t like that. I prefer the memory of my young days when there was fewer people and it was possible to participate. I made a sketch of that previous moment when everybody is holding their bandana up waiting for the chupinazo chanting: San Fermin! San Fermin!
Here, in Pamplona, the Giants are a very important part of our renowned fiesta of San Fermin. (Not everything goes around the bulls and the famous run). Every morning the Giants go out to dance in the streets. They are enormous hollow figures with a wooden structure. Inside, covered by the costume of the figure, there is a man who walks and dances. It’s difficult to do so because the giants are tall and heavy and is tricky to keep the balance. They represent the queens and kings of the continents and were made in the XIX century. When they go out, thousands of kids and grown ups enjoy the parade and the music, and the dance in the streets.
There is a tradition, and it is that the little kids that are trying to quit their pacifiers, promise to do so by giving their pacifier to one of the giants during the fiesta. So every day you can see parents talking to their kids and how every giant finally collects a lot of pacifiers, like the one of the picture.
I chose these pictures I took last summer because I think the costume of the Giant and some of the pacifiers have today’s color.
Three towers from medieval churches at the old city of Pamplona, Spain.
This is a detail of the Pamplona’s city hall facade at noon. Every year the sixth of July, this clock at this hour, marks the beginning of the worldwide known Fiesta of San Fermín.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ornate.”
If you could pick one person to be commemorated on a day dedicated to him/her alone, who would you choose?
All the people who share their time to make others happy.
This is a man who dances inside the “giant” standing behind him during the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain. While others are having fun, he is going around dancing inside the giant to amuse kids. Today he and his companions went to a nursing home to perform a special dance for the elderly. They had a great time. Smiles and laughs everywhere. It was worth to see it. Good people.
We are celebrating our fiesta of san Fermin in Pamplona, Spain. here are some folk musicians playing in my street. We have music and joy all day and night.
Yesterday I posted some pictures about the Fiesta of San Fermin, with people bathed in wine after the launch of the rocket that marks the beginning of the celebration. Today I will show another face of the Fiesta, the one properly dedicated to San Fermín, the patron saint of Pamplona, Spain.
Hundreds of thousands came this morning to my neighbourhood to see the procession of the image of the saint thru the streets and sing to him typical songs known as “jotas” in a great show of popular devotion. This time everybody was clean and most of the people were families with kids. with the procession goes out the so-called “comparsa” of giants and big-heads to entertain the kids. In one of the pictures you can see one of the giants dancing. A man inside the wooden structure of the giant performs the dance, which is pretty difficult.
My city has burst today in its Fiesta of San Fermín. Exactly at noon, a fireworks rocket launched from the balcony of the City Hall in front of a square packed with people literally bathed in wine, marked the beginning of eight days and nights of festivities, street music and many more amusements. During this week everybody will be dressed in white with red bandanas. The first Run of the Bulls will happen tomorrow 8:00 AM. It seems that the population (usually of 250,000 people) will reach more than a million these days with all the tourists.
This is a group of people going towards the city hall square before the launching of the rocket or “Chupinazo” who signals the beginning go the Fiesta. (Notice how clean and calm they are)
…And this is a group in the same street coming back from the city hall square after the fiesta has begun.
What subject keeps you coming back? This week, show us your muse. I love taking pictures of my neighbourhood and its people.
My city is one of the main stages of the Way of St. James or Camino de Santiago. Through our streets, we see everyday dozens of pilgrims with their backpacks, walking towards the next stage. Some of them wear the shell, symbol of the pilgrimage. From our city (Pamplona) they have to walk 700.5 kilometres (about 435 miles) to reach Santiago. Three or four weeks walking through paths and roads with stops in special hostels prepared for them all along the way. They come from all around the world. Here are pictures of some of the ones I met this morning.
This week I’ll show you my parish. It’s a beautiful XIII Century gothic church in Pamplona, Spain named San Cernin.
It has beautiful arches
And colorful rosettes
Attached to the main Church there is a big baroque chapel ( XVIII Century) . This is the dome from inside:
And this is its main door (closed) from the outside. The street is pretty narrow so is no way to take a wide perspective of the facade.
Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item — an object, a symbol, a place — in each part.
A man was reading the newspaper while waiting at the door of the district attorney. I noticed he was reading my piece about a corruption scandal I was investigating. I was there hoping to find more information. I knew that the man with the newspaper was the police officer in charge of the investigation, but he didn’t know me. So I asked him casually: Is it true what it says the newspaper?. He said: Absolutely true. Everything. I wonder how they knew all this. I knew my sources were good. I’d checked and re checked every bit of data before publishing. I liked his reply. Then I introduced myself. That morning I got another valuable source.
The little office was cold and humid. I had a desk and a panel with a chart of the parking they were building right in the opposite side of the street. My job was to sell parking places. I was 19. I had found that job through a friend because I needed the money to live. I wanted to work for a newspaper and I was an intern in a newsroom in Bilbao, but they didn’t pay me enough. So I spent the mornings selling parking places to live and the evenings doing journalism. What I didn’t know was that the parking business would become pretty dangerous. I learned too late that my boss was involved in something suspicious. One day when I was alone at the office with the door open, two thugs came in looking for him. They threatened me and made me promise not to tell him they were around if he showed up. I was so scared I closed and locked the door as soon as they left. I didn’t care about what the customers would think. I didn’t dare to venture out with those two characters around either. The boss came, I told him about the thugs and I quit right away. Well, as soon as I gathered enough courage to leave that awful place alone to go home.
As a reporter for everything in Pamplona, Spain, I had to write a lot about the San Fermin Festival. During eight consecutive years, my boss gave me the assignment of write about the wounded on the Running of the Bulls. So, when everybody was going towards the old city to watch the run, I drove in the opposite direction towards the hospital, to wait at the entrance of the ER the arrival of the ambulances with the wounded. Many traditional runners run with a rolled newspaper in their hand. With it, they measure the distance between them and the bull, and if it is too close, they can move it in front of the face of the bull to distract its attention and save precious seconds to escape. It was usual that when a wounded arrived in an ambulance, he still had his hand tightening hard the rolled newspaper.
Write a piece about a typically “local” experience from where you come from as though it’s an entry in a travel guide.
If you come to my city the 6th of July you’ll witness the explosion of the fiesta that Hemingway described in his novel . Exactly at noon, from the balcony of the city hall, the mayor or one of the councilors fires a rocket after saying “Viva San Fermín!” and at the sound of the rocket, thousands of people, dressed in white, holding red bandanas, who were waiting in the square and the streets, put their bandanas around their necks, and start to dance and sing… and drink. The fiesta officially has begun and will last till the 14th of July at midnight. Everybody goes around in white and red during the fiesta in honour of the saint patron of the city.
The Fiesta is internationally known by its encierros or the Running of the Bulls. Each morning from the 7th of July to the 14th, at 8:00 am it begins the running with the release of six bulls with six oxen at the pen of Santo Domingo to run after thousand of runners through delimited streets till the bullring situated 826 meters apart.
In its origins the run was the way they had to guide the bulls from the pen to the bullring. Now thousands of runners from all the world take part of the run.
But they have to be carefull because the run is dangerous and take in consideration some rules:
– Don’t run under the influx of alcohol or drugs. Is very dangerous and you’ll get fined.
– Don’t run in the opposite direction or behind the bulls.
– Don’t stop along the run or do anything that can harm other runners.
– Don’t block the fences.
– Don’t take pictures or videos while running (this is very important to stress nowadays).
– Don’t do anything to get the attention of the bull. Don’t touch it or hit it.
– Don’t carry objects improper for the run
– Wear an appropriate footwear.
– Don’t even try running if you’re not fit.
It’s impossible to do the whole distance. The bulls run at an average of 24 km per hour. Usually a runner only can do a small part of the distance. The runners usually choose the section of the street they want to run. Specially critical are the beginning and the end.
OK, Enough with bulls. I understand is the main attraction of my city, but despite I have lived here for a long, long time, I don’t like it. As a reporter I’ve written for years about the wounded on the run. I have seen what the bulls can do to a runner and is not pretty. Plus, I don’t like what they do to the bulls afterwards in the bullring.
There is an event the 7th of July, the day of San Fermin followed by thousands of people, that is worth it to see: The procession with the saint through the streets of the old quarter with the Mayor and all the councilors, the bishop and the cathedral chapter, the music band and the so-called “comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos” or group of giants and big-heads. There is music and joy and the giants dance now and then. The giants are very tall puppets ( about 4 meters) representing kings and queens of different races made in the XIX century. They have a wooden structure where a hidden man makes them walk and dance.
During the procession, choirs and particulars sing traditional “jotas” to the saint. There is joy and colour everywhere.
Here there are some old pictures of the big bridges of San Francisco and a new one of a tiny bridge in my city.
The interior of the music kiosk in the castle’s square in Pamplona, Spain
I live in Pamplona, Spain, the city of the running of the bulls in the fiesta of San Fermín. We have a monument that has become quite popular in the city. Here’s a view of the monument and a detail. Today it was a rainy day, so the light is a bit gloomy.
A stranger knocks on your door, asking for directions from your home to the closest gas station (or café, or library. Your pick!). Instead of the fastest and shortest route, give him/her the one involving the most fun detours.
Impossible. I live in the middle of the Old City of Pamplona in a square called San Francisco, where everything is at sight. We have a school, a library, several café with tables and chairs on the street, a restaurant, a grocery and several shops. My square communicates with a smaller square where there are an ancient fountain and a nice hotel. It’s difficult to misdirect someone.
Besides, all the fun is around here. Right now I’m hearing the sound of the bells of the nearby gothic church, whose tower I can see from my balcony, mixed with street music and the screams of the kids playing in the little park. We have music and street performers every weekend. The streets around us have a lot of night life.
So if a stranger comes asking for directions for a gas station (the only facility we don’t have nearby) I think that the most fun detour would be to invite him to forget the gas station and stay with us in our square instead.
Humanity is also about people enjoying a feast like this group of parents and children watching the dancing “giants” during the “Fiesta” of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain
Tell us about a time you made a false assumption about a person or a place — how did they prove you wrong?
I was afraid of the old neighbourhood of my city because it was conflicting. Almost all the demonstrations, some of them violent, about which I had to report, had taken place in their streets. I had been sent there many times as a reporter and I had found myself in scary and tense situations. Every time I was sent there it was because some violent event had happened, usually at the evening or at night. So I had associated those streets to bad and negative experiences and to darkness.
That was it until I found a convenient and affordable apartment right in the middle of the maze of streets of that neighbourhood and I decided to move. (In the picture you can see the square next to my home: the St. Francis Square).
I began to experience the real life of the neighbourhood, not only the occasional conflicts. I discovered a place full of life and light, with friendly people always ready to help, plenty of lovely little stores, bars and restaurants, offices, schools, …All you can need at hand, at walking distance.
Besides its beautiful with interesting ancient buildings like some Gothic churches and old palaces with their coats of arms in their facades.
It has also a good cultural offer, with music concerts at the cathedral and museums
And when the city is in its fiesta, my neighbourhood is the center of all the fun. You don’t need to go anywhere. The fiesta comes to you.
Now the conflicts have lowered significantly, so the place is peaceful and nice.
When I moved to the old city, my vision of it changed radically. Now I no longer associate it to darkness or fear but to light, confidence and home.
We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.
How can I tell the story of a person I don’t know? I’m a Journalist I’m used to stick to the facts. I can’t invent a story over real life persons. I would need to talk to them, to interview them to know about their stories before write about them. The contrary would go against my principles.
I only can deduce what I can see in my picture. A young couple with their first-born baby having a nice walk taking advantage of one of the firsts sunny days of this summer. They are passing by a big park in my city. Maybe they are already tired and are heading home. Who knows? The fact is that they are walking towards the old city of Pamplona where you can find a lot of little stores and boutiques and animation. The streets are narrow and shadowy, and the temperature fresher than here in the park’s gates.
They will pass by the Church of St. Laurent, where the image of St. Fermin, the city saint patron, is kept and venerated, one of the most typical spots of the city.
They will probably met several pilgrims walking in the opposite sense. This is one of the routes of the St. James Way or Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims coming from the France route who walked all the way from Roncesvaux to Pamplona and were visiting the gothic cathedral and the other gothic churches in the old city or who have stayed in one of the shelters, start their stage in this point from Pamplona to Puente la Reina to continue their march towards the distant Santiago.
I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of a pilgrim or a group of pilgrims.
They are an important piece of our city landscape. It’s frequent to see them on the streets no matter if is summer or winter, with their peculiar attires, trying to speak Spanish to ask for directions when they get lost, always good-humoured.
Thousands pass every year. Spaniards and foreigners it’s really impressive.
When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?
You mean besides watching the news every day lately? Are not the images coming from Ukraine and Gaza these days terrible enough? I can’t watch them without shuddering. I’m a journalist. I have seen a lot of shocking images of conflicts, violence and wars and I’ve never got used to them. I see through them the suffering of real people, no matter how far away from me they may be.
I think the work of my colleagues the Photojournalists and Cameras is very important to tell the world what’s happening and raise public awareness about conflicts and situations that without images would pass unnoticed or would’ve forgotten.
Besides these images, another one very different made me cover my eyes recently. I was watching the TV transmission of the running of the bulls that every year takes place in my city, Pamplona, Spain during the Fiesta of San Fermín. I never go to see the event live for fun because I’m scared to death of what can happen. I know what I’m talking about. When I was working as a reporter I covered many years for my newspaper the run. My assignment was precisely to report about the injured by the bulls. I’ve seen too many wounds. I know how dangerous and bloody it is. I’ve interviewed many wounded and some of them decided to run again once recovered.
Anyway, this year, the last day of the fiesta I was watching the run in TV when an Australian guy got gored and the bull began to go after him. The bull gored him repeatedly while the youngster was trying to escape. It was terrible. He was seriously wounded. I covered my eyes and asked myself what was I doing watching TV at that moment. Two other runners got gored. I covered my eyes also next day when the newspaper arrived at home because the pictures were impressive.
I’ve lived almost all my life in this city but I still don’t understand some of their traditions. Above all the ones with bulls involved.
If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?
At least you have a picture of me. And you keep that old Ecce Homo painting it has been in our family for generations. What about the Barony? Lost? Since when? And the house? And the property? What are we doing in only a few rooms in this strange building? Why are you talking with such a strange accent? Why can’t I understand your children? Where are we? Why can’t I see the sea from the walls of the city?
Two World Wars and long years of emigration later, my great-grandfather would feel completely lost. His picture, the Ecce Homo and a room full of books would be the only familiar things he would find at our home. The barony is history. After decades of communist regime there is no trace of the house and the property. We no longer live in his beloved Kotor (now in Montenegro) but in a little apartment in Pamplona, Spain. The younger generations are Spanish. We would need to translate constantly to maintain a conversation, but we are already used to it.
I guess he would be surprised to learn I’m a journalist and all the women of the family are working out of home. Each one, except my older sister and me, in different cities. And also to see the men helping with the house chores at the end of the dinner.
About my younger nephew appareance (he wears dreadlocks) I guess he would think that young people never change. They always are looking for something different. Even when he was alive.
I suppose he would be very interested in the wonders of modern life, above all in our machines and gadgets, as almost all in my family are. It must be in our genes.
A shocking and interesting visit.
If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?
Probably Zagreb (Croatia) and San Francisco (US). Both cities bring good memories to me. Zagreb is the city where my parents met, get married and started our family. Its a beautiful little central european capital in which everything in the historical center is so familiar and lovely to me. I enjoy wandering in its streets and quarters. I love the place and its people. Besides it’s a great HQ to take trips to visit the other cities of Croatia and its magnificent coast.
San Francisco was the city where I felt more free and happy . I had a great time living and working there. I loved the city its surroundings, the nature, the people, everything.
But necessity has tied me up to Pamplona, Spain, which is also a beautiful but small city. Being realistic my tale is of one city, the city of the running of the bulls, but also an important city in the Way of st. James or Camino de Santiago, with a lot of history on it. A little conflictive but nice.
A close view of the monument to The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life.
links to great street photos o the next page:
What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?
My job was hurting my health seriously. My doctor recommended to change and put some distance between me and my old job. So I packed my things and caught a plane in Madrid to New York. There I went with my limited English knowledge to improve the language and work as a stringer and a correspondent. I left my secure job In a solvent company, said goodby to my friends and my family and went alone to the adventure of an insecure job In a new country across the ocean, by myself, and suffering a depression. I focused my first months in New York in improving my English, helping my boss in a report and enjoying the city. I learned to be in a New York state of mind. At the beginning it was not easy. Being depressed in Manhattan it’s not the best way to enjoy the city. You are alone in the middle of the multitude. Feeling that nobody cares about you. But the city has its suppressive caresses. I found unexpected help in the streets, in the metro. I found great friends. Even today I used to sing with nostalgia and good humor the song of the old musical “Anything Goes”:
The more I travel, Across the gravel,
The more I sail the sea.
The more I feel convinced to the fact,
New York’s the town for me.
That crazy skyline
Is right in my line,
And when I’m far away,
I’m able to bear it for several hours
Then I brake down and say.
Take me back to Manhattan,
Take me back to New York.
I’m just longing to see once more
My little home on the hundredth floor!
Can you wonder I’m gloomy?
Can you smile when i frown?
I miss the east side, the west side ,
the north side, and the south side.
So take me back to Manhattan,
That dear old dirty town!
But I couldn’t find a job in New York and I have to move to San Francisco, CA, where I had better possibilities. I immediately fell in love with the city by the bay . With the my work as a stringer for a news agency from Spain a correspondent for a Spanish magazine and others I found I ended earning more than what was earning in my old job in Spain. And I was working from my home office, organizing my schedule, without the old stresses. One of my bosses was in Washington DC and other in Spain. I was free to do whatever I wanted as soon as they had my reports on schedule. I discovered the wonders of working by myself without the constant pressure of the bosses In the newsroom. The city had a lot of possibilities to have fun and rest. Again I found wonderful people. Great friends. My health was improving . I was having a great time.
My big step fleeing from Pamplona to look for my particular American Dream was successful but brief. Two years after I took another big step and crossed the Ocean again, this time to come back to my family because they needed me. I recovered my old job and continued working until a year ago when I left definitively. And here I am happy with my loved ones.
Links to big steps posts by other bloggers on the next page:
Describe the one decision in your life where you wish you could get a “do-over.” Tell us about the decision, and why you’d choose to take a different path this time around.
I have no regrets about what I did for love. I had the opportunity to stay in the US working in San Francisco where I was happy, having a great time, but my family needed me in Spain so I left the foggy city by the bay to fly thousands of miles away across the Ocean towards the old Europe. And here I am now with the people I love.
I loved San Francisco. I was planning to move permanently. I believed I had finally found my perfect place to live. Beautiful city. Wonderful nature. The Bay and the Ocean beach at hand for me to enjoy the sea breeze every day. Good people. An interesting job. My health was improving also.
But then my father got sick and my family called me. I decided to leave my job and fly to his bedside to help my mom and I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t change a second with my father for all the time you’ll give me in San Francisco. I treasure the time I spent with him. I learned a lot from him. I received a lot of love from him until his last day. I resumed my work in my old newspaper in Pamplona. Since then I’m living here, with my loved ones which is the most important thing. Many years have passed since my San Francisco adventure. Now my family is here. I’m where my family is as I always wished. Besides, now I can take care of my mom now that she needs me, and that’s important to me.
As the old song says
Love is never gone.
As we travel on,
Love’s what we’ll remember.
Kiss today goodbye,
And point me t’ward tomorrow.
We did what we had to do.
Won’t forget, can’t regret
What I did for
Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way.
Posts by other bloggers on the next page:
If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?
I would like to wake up and be fluent in the languages I speak. I can understand at least five languages without problems but I’m not fluent in all of them because of lack of practice. Ah! Fluency. What a difficult goal.
Just to answer the prompt: A language I currently don’t speak? I would probably choose German and use it to enjoy vocal classic music. Operas, operettas, oratorios and lieder. I love them. And I hate to depend on the translation. It distracts me from the music. I would like to experience the feeling that is hidden in understanding the meaning of the words along with the music. Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss…
I can follow Italian opera, English music, Spanish music, French music, But I cannot follow German music the same way because of the language.
Because I live in Pamplona, Navarre, close to the Basque land, as a second choice I would choose the basque language as a cultural interest. It’s a strange language, of an unknown origin, spoken by a minority in my community. I tried to learn it years ago without success, because those years I decided to focus in my English and I quitted. I remember that the time I spent learning basque was very interesting. My goal was to understand and be understood. Now I only remember some basic sentences.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll try again. I like to learn languages. It’s like discovering new worlds. But right now I guess it would be better to revisit my old known languages to improve my skills before trying new ones.
Write about whatever you’d like, but write using regional slang, your dialect, or in your accent.
What a difficult one! To write in my regional slang I must use Spanish, and I don’t know how to put in writing my English accent. How do you write the English of a Spanish mixed with a little Croatian speaking person? To write about whatever I’d like would be not easy because I’m blocked lately. I was hopping for a more inspiring prompt. At least I’m looking forward to read todays posts by my fellow bloggers. I’m sure it will be one of these days you learn a lot reading you.
Because today’s prompt is about local, the only thing I can think about is telling you about the place I live in. Pamplona. A city in the North of Spain, capital of the ancient kingdom of Navarre. Although is internationally known because of the running of the bulls during the San Fermin Festival every year in July, it has other interesting features. The city has its name after the roman general Pompey considered its founder back in the first century BC. We have in our local museum Roman art, mosaics and other remains of those years. It was also important city in the Middle Ages with a rich history. You can see it by the gothic cathedral and churches. Even today is a main stage in the Way of St. James or Camino de Santiago receiving every year thousands of pilgrims. It’s a University town with a very good health care system. People are friendly and nice (a little stubborn when they want, they say) and they love to cook delicious food. So Pamplona is much more than San Fermin and the Fiesta Hemingway portrayed so vividly in his novel that put our city in the international map.
Daily Prompt: Non-Regional Diction.
More dialectal posts by other bloggers on the next page:
Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
If I remember properly, we already wrote about this topic recently. I remember writing about my travel from Pamplona, Spain to San Francisco, California where I worked as a foreign correspondent for two years. So this time I’ll write about a trip I made several years before, in 1993, to Kirkwood, Missouri, near St. Louis, to learn English.
It was the first time I crossed the Ocean, my first trip to the US. People thought I was crazy going to a small town lost in the Mid-West instead to visit New York or other touristic places. I only saw the Statue of Liberty from the airport!. But my budget was short and I had a family friend precisely in Kirkwood, Missouri waiting for me.
It was summer very hot and the Mississippi flooded big areas so the humidity was over 80 percent. I didn’t expect that weather. The day after my arrival, when I was still struggling with the jet lag I decided to fix my hair and was trying to do something with the hair dryer when my friend Maureen came, unplugged the dryer and told me with no ceremonies to go to the basement immediately. We had a tornado alarm! I have never seen a tornado in my life, so I got a little scared. I found the rest of the family in the basement listening to the radio. I asked with my broken English if we could do something and they told me: wait an pray. Fortunately the Tornado didn’t touch our neighbourhood and when the alarm was cleared we ran to the TV to watch the report: there were seven tornadoes advancing toward us, but thanks God they touched down in non populated areas. First day, first adventure.
To celebrate my first tornado experience we rented “The Wizard of Oz”. (I love the movie). We had a great time. Maureen come from Kansas so when something went wrong in the house or with my English classes we used to say “I think we are not in Kansas anymore,” and ended laughing.
I also tried to read Mark Twain’s books so close to the floods of the Mississippi. It was not easy, but with my eyes full of these images and my mind learning the new words it was like reading all this known stories for the first time. Unforgettable.
Of course we visited St. Louis, and tasted the delicious ice creams. But I remember specially the Kirkwood local Green Tree festival with its parade, its marching high school brass band, old automobiles, horses, carriages, local representatives shaking hands, people watching… And then the fair in the park with music bands, tents with foods from different places of the world, arts, plays for kids, picnics… They explained to me that they used to plant new trees every year in the park. I enjoyed it a lot.
Short after the festival my three months stay finished and I had to go home. No time and no money to stop in New York. But I was glad I had known Kirkwood and its people. It was a good trip.
I consider myself a world’s citizen. Being an immigrants daughter I’m not too attached to any place. But because I live in Pamplona Spain, I guess my farthest travel from home was the one I made from here to San Francisco California, to work as a foreign correspondent in the late nineties. But San Francisco was my home for several years, so I can say that my travel back to Pamplona was also the farthest.
The first one was to the unknown, the second to the already known. In the first one I had to deal with a new language, a new way of life, a new way of work outside the newsroom, by myself, in my home office, not knowing the local uses. All was new an exciting. The second one was to come back to the old and very known routines.
I had six months of training in New York (so exciting city) before packing my bags and flying to the West Coast. I couldn’t believe my boss when he said to me that they needed people in the West Coast because other correspondents thought it was too far away from home. There was a correspondent in LA and that was it. I was going to report about the Bay Area (including Silicon Valley). A very interesting stuff in the nineties.
I remember two feelings: one was a sense of space to breathe and a gorgeous nature I could enjoy everyday without leaving the city (I loved to take a walk in the evening to the Ocean Beach and watch the pelicans flight). The other was a sense of freedom. Nobody cared why my surname was “different” as it happened often in my city, because I was in the land of immigrants and their names come from different places of the world. I felt accepted from the beginning. So, no problem with my name, a lot of freedom, a gorgeous place, a lovely city with so many things to discover every day, the whole Bay Area to search for news and my nearest boss in Washington DC, East Coast. What more could I ask for?
I remember my first day in the city, vice president Al Gore came and had a press conference and I had to go. It was my first experience with a first-class nation personality and I was impressed how effective and quick were security controlling journalists. I thought they would not allow me enter the place being a newcomer despite my credentials, but they did!. Something unthinkable for me coming from Spain where this kind of things were going back then so tediously and slowly. After that I attended at least two events with president Clinton. Very interesting city for a foreign journalist in those days.
PS: I also saw negative things but this is not the place and the moment to tell about them I think. I tried to help working in a non-profit initiative with some American friends. A drop of water in the desert maybe, but a drop of water at least.
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The Fiesta in Pamplona is not only the running of the bulls, we have entertainment in the streets day and night for kids too. Kids love the “giants” This is one of them, the Queen of Europe, dancing for them in my street. A man specially trained is inside the wooden structure of the “giant” and makes her dance. There are eight of them representing the kings and queens of Europe Asia, Africa and America, and they are very old (They were made more than 150 years ago). They even have some ancient choreographed dances they perform in squares big enough to them. I like them.
Another Giant Queen dancing.
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This is a picture my friend Pachi Calleja captured this morning after the running of the bulls in Pamplona. When the run finished a young man who entered the Arena with the bulls turned and….. This only can happen in Pamplona.
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My city, Pamplona, is deep in its Fiesta. All day and night music and noise in the streets. No way to rest. A music band can pass under your window at 3 am as if it was 6 pm and you have to learn to live with the Fiesta and your everyday duties and activities at the same time.
I have to take care of my mother seriously ill and I’m struggling with depression. I’m sad and tired. It’s a harsh contrast with what you see on the streets. Everybody happy, apparently without worries, having fun, and I unable and not willing to take part in that frenzy joy. Hurrying from one side to another to have everything done, and then pretending to participate somehow in the festival, because you can’t ignore it if you are in the street.
To calm myself a little, I use to listen at a CD called Having fun with Bing and Louis that have some records of old Bing Crosby radio programs with Louis Armstrong as a guest, really funny, but peaceful. Here is one of my favorite songs they perform hilariously saying what I would like to do today 🙂
Lazybones, sleeping in the sun
How you ‘spect to get your day’s work done?
Never get your day’s work done
Sleeping in the new day’s sun
Lazybones, sleeping in the shade
How you ‘spect to get your cornmeal made?
You’ll never get your cornmeal made
Just sleeping in the evening shade
When ‘taters need spraying I bet you keep praying
The bugs fall off the vine
And when you go fishing, I bet you keep wishing
The fish won’t grab your line
Lazybones, loafing through the day
How you ‘spect to get a dime that way?
Never make a dime that way
Never heard a word I say
PS. I realize I have been negative about my city’s Fiesta. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to think it’s a bad idea to come to know it. Is something really worth to see. The problem is I’m not in a mood and I don’t like noise and big concentrations of people. I prefer solitude and silence and normal, everyday life.
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It have been raining. The floor was slippery and that was dangerous. The street, packed with people watching the running of the bulls. It was Sunday.
Javier was a young man but a veteran runner. He didn’t like to run on Sundays because of the amount of people who make the run more difficult. Is almost impossible to find a place near the bulls to run and is dangerous because is easy to stumble and fall.
But that year he had no other chance because he had a job in Madrid and couldn’t come to Pamplona any other day. So he decided to run.
And there he was in Estafeta Street like always, waiting for the bulls, adrenalin boiling in his body as the beasts approached. And he jumped into the center of the street to situate himself in front of the horns.
When he decided it was enough to retire, he counted and realized one bull was missing so he tried to jump behind the barricades to avoid another run. But there were so many people that they didn’t make room for him.
The theory says that if you lay still like a sand bag, the bull will ignore you. So Javier, rejected by the people, unable to reach the safety of the barricade, decided to lay on the floor glued to the wall of stone of one of the houses and wait to the bull to pass, but with the bad luck that the bull slipped and fell looking at him. He felt the breathing of the bull and thought: Javier, you are history.
The bull charged against him, lifted him and throw him once. Javier, trapped between the bull and the wall, acted as a sand bag and fell like a dead weight. the bull charged another time, and another, and another, and Javier acted according to the theory…until the eight time. Then the theory was enough for him and he began to fight kicking the nose of the bull until the beast moved its huge head and Javier saw a little space to escape running.
Everybody in the Hospital emergency room was waiting for him thinking in the worst possibilities.
– Leave me alone! I want to go home!, was the only thing he was saying at the arrival at the hospital. He looked surprisingly well.
His friend Francisco, From Madrid, with Javier’s sneakers on his hands, in the waiting room was the one who looked really sick. He was so impressed by what happened he needed assistance.
Half an hour after he enter the hospital Javier was able to go home. He was OK! Only some bruises by the sides of the horns and the blows against the wall and the floor, nothing more.
He went home in bad shape. His white shirt torn up, his clothes dirty and walking with the help of his friend Francisco. He rang the door’s bell. And when his mother opened the door and saw him said:
– And the loaf of bread? Didn’t I tell you to buy the loaf of bread before you come back home? You always having fun out there and the only thing I ask you to do for me, you forget.
– But Mom…
– And where have you been? How are you so dirty? surly drinking with your friends. Who knows what….
– Mom, you didn’t watch the running of the bulls at TV this morning did you?
PS. This story is real. It happened many years ago. I Asked Javier if he would run again and he answered that being charged by a bull eight times and not wounded by the horns is a miracle, a miracle by San Fermín. He said miracles don’t happen often so he probably wouldn’t. Javier’s mom wouldn’t watch the video so impressed she was when they told her the story of his son and the bull charging against him eight times without wounding him.