I have been recently in Seville, for the first time in my life, promoting my book. My eyes are plenty of its light, colours and joy.
These are the three flags fluttering in the balcony of the Government of Navarre Palace: The red one is the Navarre flag, the red and yellow one is the Spanish flag, and the blue with the tiny yellow stars one is the European flag.
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.
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.
Write about something that happened over the weekend as though it’s the top story on your local paper
I’m a journalist. I’ve worked in a newspaper almost all my career and don’t like publish old news. Come on! today is Thursday! and you are asking me that I write headlines about something that happened four or five days ago! That’s against my principles. Besides, nothing eventful happened during the weekend other than me putting away all the Christmas decorations in my mother’s house. (Here we have all the decorations on place till the Sunday after Epiphany).
More interesting is what’s happening today in Madrid and Barcelona. In Barcelona, the new Catalonian Government took over with a program designed to reach the independence with the Catalonian society highly divided on the issue. Nevertheless, they announced a plan to “unplug” Catalonia of the rest of Spain. Madrid has said that will not allow such a thing. But meanwhile, in Madrid, after the recent elections, there are great difficulties to establish a strong Central Government, because there is no clear parliamentary majority, or chance of stable coalitions. So, we will have weeks or months of political instability in the horizon.
What is your favorite sweet thing to eat? Bread pudding? Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? A smooth and creamy piece of cheesecake? Tell us all about the anticipation and delight of eating your favorite dessert. Not into sweets? Tell us all about your weakness for that certain salty snack.
My friend Teresa came today to dinner with a Typical cake from Castilla, Spain called Ponche Segoviano or Segovia Punch, she had baked. Delicious. Basically made with egg yolks, sugar and almonds. It consists in a thin sponge cake covered by a coat of a delicious marzipan cream. I found in the Internet a recipe in English for those interested.
What I don’t understand is why it’s called “punch”, because obviously it’s not a drink and in Spanish the word “ponche” has no other meaning. Among the ingredients of the cake there is not even a drop of an alcoholic drink. Mysteries of old traditions.
Anyway, we had a delicious dessert and a great time together with our friends, which is the main thing.
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.
From a famous writer or celebrity, to a WordPress.com blogger or someone close to you — who would you like to be your biographer?
I was about to write a new post about this theme when I searched in my archives and I saw that I was going to answer exactly the same than a year and a half ago when this prompt was published for the first time: I don’t want to bother anyone with my biography. I’m sure that no serious writer would be interested in my little adventures as an immigrant child in Spain and later as a Journalist with a no so happy end. To don’t talk about the little interest my story would have for the big audience.
There is nothing special about me. I can write my memories by myself. Or share them little by little through this blog. Remain in the memory of the people I don’t know is not in my dreams.
The only interesting thing about my life is the historical facts I have witnessed first hand: the establishment of the democracy in Spain after decades of dictatorship, the hard years of terrorism, the rupture of Yugoslavia and the Balkans War, and the current political crisis in countries of the European Union, among other happenings. But everything about those years and their facts is already written in books and press reports.
My little story in the middle of all that, has no interest at all. I’ve met many people during my career whose lives deserve a book and they have not an author.
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.
Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?
When I was a teenager, living in Spain, then under the rule of the dictatorship of Franco, it was mandatory for all the girls, to do what was called the “social service”. They could choose to go to a camp or to do some social or manual works, all organized by the women of the “Female Section” of the ultra right Falange.
Without the social service finished, a girl couldn’t get a passport or a University title.
Franco was very old when my time to do my social service came, and I was against the dictatorship. For instance, we had also mandatory in our curricula a course titled “formation of the national spirit”. I remember my dad, a convinced democrat, told me he expected from me good grades except in that course. So when we had exams, I used to answer some questions wrong on purpose. It was funny. I managed to pass always, but with the minimum grade to do it.
About my social service, I decided not to do it. I didn’t want anything to do with the Female Section of the Falange. My classmates were trying to convince me because of the passport and the title. I had no money to travel and the title was five years away.
I thought that the time of Franco was ending, so despite the calls I received I didn’t answer.
I was right. Franco died, Democracy arrived peacefully, and the social service disappeared before I finished my studies at the University.
Write down the first words that comes to mind when we say . . .
. . . home.
. . . soil.
. . . rain.
Use those words in the title of your post.
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”, sang a duo joyfully Eliza Doolittle and her professor Higgins in My Fair Lady when she discovered she was able to pronounce beautifully the language of Shakespeare. But that’s not completely true. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the mountainous North where my home is. I realize that mountain doesn’t rhyme so well with rain like plain, and all is an innocent pun. Besides, I love the musical, I have the DVD of the film with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn playing the main characters and I know by heart some of the songs even the ones practically recited by Mr. Harrison.
“Damn, damn, damn, damn! I’ve grown accustomed to her face”, he sings at the end of the musical, and then explodes: “Marry Freddy! What an infantile idea. What a heartless, wicked, brainless thing to do. But she’ll regret it, she’ll regret it.” To finally recognize again “I’ve grown accustomed to the trace of something in the air, accustomed to her face.” I love the movie.
Back to the rain that doesn’t stay in the plain in Spain. As I said I live in the North humid and mountainous where we have frequent rain and even snow in winter. The price is the bad weather and hard winter we have to endure, but the reward is a fertile soil and a beautiful ever green landscape, with plenty of mountains and forests we enjoy.
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” goes the famous song about New York City. Is there a place — a city, a school, a company — about which you think (or thought) the same? Tell us why, and if you ever tried to prove that claim.
“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!”
When I’m down, I use to sing this song from the musical “Anything goes”. It reminds me when I left everything here in Spain, and went to New York, to the unknown, and I survived against all odds.
I stayed six months in the Big Apple before going to San Francisco to work there as a stringer for a news agency.
I rented an apartment and found a temporal job. I learned some English. I met wonderful people who helped me a lot. When I was depressed, I could always get lost where nobody knew me. I laughed, cried…, never got bored. I felt free. I was glad to live the city life, not as a tourist, but as a newcomer citizen.
Since then I’m longing to come back. But I’m afraid to ruin the magic of those six months with a tourist visit.
When was the last time you took a risk (big or small), and pushed your own boundaries — socially, professionally, or otherwise? Were you satisfied with the outcome?
When the former Yugoslavia was falling apart, I was working in a local newspaper in Spain as a pretty seasoned journalist writing about courts. (Yes, I am so old). I decided to offer my services to a news agency and a magazine, and leave my safe place in Spain to go as a special envoy to a country, first on the edge of the war, and after immersed in war.
I could speak one of the languages and I had a knowledge of the history and the complex political situation of those territories, so I felt I was ready to do the job. It was a great professional experience though personally was tough. It’s not easy to witness so much suffering and write with a cold mind. But what I found baffling was to come back home and find out that most people didn’t care. People were more worried about tiny local problems. I thought on if all that effort had been worth it.
Despite my travels were quick, each time I come back home, for me it was hard to get used again to the uneventful, normal life. I felt guilty. Having seen how my new friends and my relatives were living their day a day in the uncertainty of the war, I perceived my security as an undeserved luxury.
Some years later, my doctor advised me to put some distance between my job and me. Too much stress was taking a high toll in my health. So I left everything and took a plane to the US where I spent two years working as a stringer for a news agency from Spain in San Francisco. Two wonderful years. My nearest boss was in Washington DC. I was as free as a bird. I even earned enough money to pay my rent and live. I enjoyed the city a lot.
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.
We’re less than a week away from Halloween! If you had to design a costume that channeled your true, innermost self, what would that costume look like? Would you dare to wear it?
When I was in San Francisco, I wore for Halloween a firefighter costume. I admire them. I like to help people in trouble. I hope it didn’t mean I was putting out fires at the time. I certainly was trying to face my problems positively and effectively. It was just for fun. Now because of my mood I would design a costume of a glass half empty. This would be great because people could see the glass half full depending of their point of view so it can result encouraging for others. Would I dare wearing it? If I were in the right environment, I would have no problem, but here in Spain we don’t celebrate Halloween so much and going out in costume alone would be a little odd.
Although I don’t wear a masks in my life. I even don’t wear make up except for feasts and special occasions. I try to behave the most authentic I can in my daily life. so the best costume would be no costume.
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
I chose the streets topic
for this week’s challenge, bring together two of your photos into dialogue. What do they say to each other?
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.
My contrast is between close and far away
The sound of an old Croatian song my father used to sing to my mother brings tears to my eyes even today. It’s a love song with a delicate melody and poetic words I can’t translate titled Good Evening, Marvelous. My dad had a fine tenor voice and loved to sing softly those beautiful melodies he learned in his youth. Songs written to be sung while looking at the sun sinking into the quiet Adriatic Sea in a gorgeous symphony of colors.
Oh how wonderful would be hear again that lovely voice and enjoy those joyful evenings with him singing and chatting. Those days are for ever gone. But the memories are so vivid!
No need to leave the sea to remind a second song significant to me. Is called Mediterranean, by a singer called Joan Manuel Serrat. It’s a poem about how people from the Mediterranean are. I learned to play guitar with this song. It reminds me my youth, the time spent with my friends, singing and playing, those happy days without worries.
A jump to the Ocean to find my third song very different to the previous. Take me Back To Manhattan from the musical Anything Goes. I had a lot of fun singing and dancing this song with my friends when I lived in San Francisco. We had a great time. It brings me memories of joy and laughter.
I use to sing it or humming it now and then, maybe with because I would like that the wish of the song comes true.
I know the lyrics by memory. It 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!
Traditional twists dancing in Jaca, Northern Spain
A close view of the monument to The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
Tell us about a time when you fought authority and took a stand against “the man.” Did you win?
I was a girl living in Spain in times of Franco. We had to do some strange things like study in school a subject named National Spirit that was basically an indoctrination on the “marvels” of the dictatorship or doing a social service which was the mild female version of the military service. You could go to a camp or do some works at the orders of the franquist “Female Section”. Without your social service you could not apply for a passport or enroll in a University.
From the beginning my father told me he would be pleased if I obtained just the sufficient grade in “National Spirit” to pass. Nothing more. So I used to answer wrong in purpose some of the questions to don’t have good grades.
Later I decided not to do the social service with de “Female Section”. When they called me I just didn’t go. Eventually Franco died and despite they still called me for a while, they also disappeared and I got free.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life.
links to great street photos o 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:
Tell us about a time things came this close to working out… but didn’t. What happened next? Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out?
When I was little I was a soccer fan. My dad taught me the rules and we followed the matches by TV together. We had no money so my dad played sometimes to what they call in Spain “Quiniela”. A very popular game. A kind of lottery but not by choosing numbers but by guessing the results of the matches of the week in the First League. You had to try to predict the results of the weekend, fill in a coupon, pay a modest sum (then was less than a dollar) and if you get 13 or 14 results right, you can win a lot of money. The equivalent to thousands of dollars.
Once I took a coupon and made my prediction. I filled in the results and went to the store. But once there I found out that I didn’t have enough money to send my “Quiniela”. So I returned home with my worthless coupon. When the weekend was over I discovered I have guessed 13 results! So if I had had a few more cents to place my bid I had won thousands of dollars. I was so close. Only a few cents away.
What happened next? I didn’t know if it would be a good idea to say something to dad or not. Finally I decided to tell him as I always did with everything. I wasn’t sure of his reaction, but he laughed and told me to ask him for money next time I wanted to do a “Quiniela”. Or better, help him with his “Quiniela” from that moment on. So we had fun making predictions together.
We never won a “Quiniela” nor a lottery. Now is impossible I win a “Quiniela”, because we quit playing long, long ago.
Daily Prompt: But No Cigar.
posts by other bloggers on this topic on the next page:
Interview someone — a friend, another blogger, your mother, the mailman — and write a post based on their responses.
I’m alone with mom today and she’s not feeling OK. One of this silent and busy days. Not a chance for an interview. I would like to, because I love interviews. I interviewed all kind of people during my life: Politicians, bishops, professionals, scientists, celebrities, ordinary people, even a king.
But today, I don’t know why I remember an interview I made long time ago with a man in his 100th birthday. He lived in a small village in Navarre, Spain and had a little orchard. He never had left his village and his orchard and continued working every day, taking care of his old trees and his vegetables with the help of his 80 years old son. The son told me he got tired following his father rhythm but there was no way to convince him to stay at home.
The old man told me that he had been perfectly happy spending his 100 years of life going from his home to his orchard and back. And he show me proudly how was capable to work, with difficulty, but working (to his son’s desperation).
His other five children had left the village, get married, some of them went to America and invited him to visit them, but he never left even for a day the village. He had his home and his orchard. What more would he ever need?. He told me he only missed his wife of 70 years. She died when she was 92 years old. “Too soon”, he said.
Daily Prompt: FAQ.
Interview posts by other bloggers on the next page:
Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.
I was 18 and my boss decided to send me to report about a meeting at the City Hall. I’m pretty old so the democracy in Spain was pretty young. The meeting was at night. It started at eight PM. I was excited because it was my first day, it was a big assignment and I wanted to impress my boss with a good story.
Too much excitement. When I arrived at the City Hall I already had a beginning of a migraine. The meeting was highly polemic. Violent demonstration in front of the building. The police charging against the demonstrators. Inside heated discussions. People insulting the King. The Mayor suspending the session. A lot of things to report about. We all trapped in the building because of the violence outside. And my migraine going worse and worse.
Finally I decided to go out alone no matter the violence, because the meeting was over and I couldn’t resist any more the pain. It was raining. A storm. The streets empty but for groups of demonstrators screaming here and there and the police going after them. I began to walk weakly as a zombie passing by slowly while people and police where running around me. I don’t know how I arrived to the newsroom my clothes completely wet, water dripping from my hair. Only to say to my boss I had a good story but I was unable to write a word about all what happened because I was dying in pain from my migraine. I had no strength left in me. I almost fainted. A complete disaster. I certainly impressed him but not the way I wanted.
Daily Prompt: First!.
More first posts on the next page:
Not an easy question. I don’t know to which country I belong. Because I was born in Spain and I live in Spain that doesn’t mean I feel I’m Spanish. I was born in a Croatian family, my first language was Croatian, I learned Spanish in school and I don’t know why, I feel more Croatian than Spanish. So, related to Spain I guess I’m not patriotic. This said, you have to know I would defend Spain if someone from outside criticizes without knowledge and unjustly the country. So, I guess, some sense of love and belonging exists.
I consider Croatia my homeland. And because I have been for so long far away I idealized it in my mind and my feelings. I love Croatia with a kind of love I don’t feel for Spain. Am I patriotic? I don’t know. I’m not sure about the adjective because of the political implications. Politically I cannot be patriotic. Because although I have the citizenship I don’t live permanently in the country, so I don’t feel entitled to decide in political matters. Besides, I’m afraid of bad political patriots, the ones that for love of their country despise others. That doesn’t fit in my system of values.
I only know I love Croatia with all my heart and every second I’m far away I’m longing to se once more its shores, its islands, its cities, to listen at the familiar voices signing the songs and talking the beautiful (and difficult) language my parents taught me. I understand and I like when people talk about their countries with the same kind of love. I can listen to them talking about their places with so much interest! You can learn so much about the world!
I guess what happens to me with Spain and Croatia is the drama of many first-generation immigrants in Europe. You don’t feel you belong completely to the country you live and you don’t belong completely to the country you love. I think it’s different in the US. When I spent there two years as a journalist I felt immediately at home. I even thought seriously in staying. But family matters brought me back to Spain in no time and my little “American Dream” finished.
So here I am, a citizen of the world. Better that way, I dare to say.
More posts about patriotism in the next page:
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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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.
- Bougainvillea in late afternoon light |
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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.
When Mom hit 87 she began to say: I don’t want to die without seeing home once more. We didn’t have the money to travel to Croatia from Spain then, but we wanted to fulfill her will. Then suddenly something never happened to me before (never after) arrived as a gift from heaven. I won a price in a Christmas lottery consistent in a two people trip to Cuba. I asked if I could change the destination and they said yes!
So we went to Croatia that year in an unorganized trip. I hate organized trips. We just wanted to get lost. Mom wanted to see home. She is from Senj, a little town North near the port of Rijeka, close to the Croatian biggest Island, Krk. The town was leveled in WWII and most of its ancient buildings have disappeared except the castle of Nehaj. But the town is still known because of its history and its strong winds: the “senjska bura” that sweeps the sea between the Island and the mainland and in winter use to form ice in the coast. In summer the water is clean, transparent, and beautiful.
We went to Krk to the town of Punat to visit a little island inside a bay of the big Island, Kosljun. This little Island has only a franciscan monastery in it and we went there to visit a friar who was my mom’s friend from youth. Father Mavro. We went to Kosljun in a little boat named St Anton. We spent several days there. It was the most peaceful site I remember. An island only for the franciscans and their guests in a beautiful scenario. Silence, nature, the monastery and nothing more.
Krk has a lot to historic and natural places to see and enjoy. It was great.
Then we headed south to Dubrovnik, a very known medieval city because we wanted to go to Kotor, in Montenegro, were my father was born. Again, Dubrovnik is a popular touristic destination, but is great being there with time to get lost when is not the hot season and you can walk freely through the main street stradun, sit down at the Onofrio’s fountain, go to some little restaurant in one of the narrow side streets, visit the ancient pharmacy of the franciscans or the ducal palace or if you can (we couldn’t because of the age of my mom) take the steps and go up to the walls of the city that fall down to the sea and give you astonishing views. We took a boat and surrounded the walls. It was great. Then back at the hotel a “Klapa” or group of men signing folk songs sang for us in an open air dinner close to the sea. In Dubrovnik the sea was also clean and transparent and beautiful.
Finally we cross the border with Montenegro and went to Kotor another medieval city with Croatian population where my father was born, which is at the end of a beautiful bay of the same name. We were able to visit my aunt and uncle and my cousins and we went with them again to get lost in the city and enjoy the bay surrounded by high mountains, the water calm, with its little islands inside.
Finally we went back to Dubrovnik and then the last day the “klapa” sang to my mom a song dedicated to her. Her name is Anna and the Lyrics goes “Anna, my little Ana, may soul, my heart”. With That song in our hearts we went back to Spain and that was her las visit home.
I would like to come back to get lost in the Croatian Adriatic coast again by myself, visit more cities and places we were dreaming to see, and remember those days with mom.
The Wall. It was April 1968. I was nine years old. The Wall was seven. I just arrived to Berlin with my parents. I was deeply impressed with what I saw. Houses with doors and windows walled in, telling the story of families that lived there and they had to fly suddenly or stay and get trapped in the communist part of the city. High concrete walls dark and sad and in some point a few flowers marking the place where somebody trying to escape had died. It was raining.
It was before the wall covered the whole border, because I remember the Brandemburg gate without it, but plenty of “Achtung” “Danger” and “Stop” signs, iron and barbed wire made fences and a lot of soldiers. It was also before the graffiti that later covered the Wall.
The “L” of Liberty. I was thirty when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989. Already a journalist I followed the news from my city in Spain. All was hope then. The people toppled the ominous Wall. Two years after that, from Berlin came to my city a gift. A piece of the Wall with graffiti and all, shaped as an “L”. The L of Liberty. What was a symbol of oppression became a symbol of liberty that now is in a park.
Bethlehem. It is 2013 I’m already 53 years old and I didn’t fulfill one of my dreams, visit Bethlehem, the town when Jesus my Lord was born. I hope I’ll do it soon. Now on the road to Bethlehem there is another Wall. Again concrete, barbed wire and graffiti. They told me that near the city there is a graffiti stating ”Ich bin ein Berliner” the words president Kennedy said when he visited Berlin. This time the Wall is not to prevent the people from the other side to fly from the communists to the occidental side, but to prevent the Palestinians to go from the West Bank to Israel or areas controlled by Israelis without being checked many times. Anyway, another Wall as many others we humans build up between us to separate us from each other.
I would like to see in my life time this Wall falling down as the one in Berlin. That would mean peace in the Middle East, something so far away, so complicated and so much-needed now.