A Basque in Boise

Dinning as a family, the way to insightful conversations

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Cherry TomatoI try my best to have dinner as a family with the kids every night, given that breakfast and lunch are are out of the question during the week. Most days dinner involves my daughter eating like she’s trying to win the gold medal at the 100-meter dash, while simultaneously fighting with her brother about, jeez, pick anything. Chances are they’ve argued about it. Once in a while we manage to act like normal people and carry out meaningful conversations or simply fill each other on the events of the day.

Occasionally, though, when I think I’ve finally caught up with them and have a pretty good grasp of the things they know, these kids manage to shock me again. During these times, I usually end up with nothing to say because

a) I don’t want to fuel the conversation by asking them how the hell they know
b) I don’t want them to realize there is actually something to know
c) I am tired
c) All of the above

Last night’s meal seemed to be going pretty well until Maitane picked up a cherry tomato from her salad bowl and announced to the rest of the table that, in her opinion, this tomato looked like a penis. “It’s kind of small,” I thought, but hey, it happens. Then, she proceeded to bite into it.

Andoni said to her sister, “Yuck! That’s looks kind of dirty.”

My ears immediately perked up, sensing the danger.

“Well, it’s ok I guess,” he continued. “You are too young for that”

What the hell? Did my 10-year old just say that? I obviously chose Option a) and kept working on my chicken.

Maitane, without missing a beat, looked at both of us and responded, “Right, like I would ever eat a penis.”

Option b), option b), OPTION B)!!

The River

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(Photo from euskomedia.org)

I remember the first time I heard Bruce Springsteen’s The River and what impact it had on me. It was time again for my uncle to get a haircut, so as always, my aunt ringed my mom and scheduled a time to get together at their home in Gallarta, which is only a 10-minute bus ride from Ortuella. I decided to go along because as closed as we lived, I didn’t spend that much time hanging out with my younger cousin, and I really enjoyed her.

We were around thirteen or fourteen, and she LOVED Bruce. I knew who he was, of course, but I hadn’t’ taken the time to delve into his music. Luckily, my cousin was so excited to share, I soon became an expert too. We listened to a few songs before she played The River. For years to come, I would cry every time I heard the song because it is such a sad story. I found out later in life that, more often than not, couples are unable to keep the river from drying after a number of years. I don’t cry anymore when I hear it though; it lost its punch after the thousandth time.

I think I was about to hit puberty when I learned that my aunt, my uncle, all my cousins in Gallarta were not related to me by blood. All those years thinking that my mom and my uncle were brother and sister when they weren’t. They even looked so alike with that long nose they both sported! My mom looks more like him than she does her real brother. Not to mention I think I’ve seen my “real” uncle about ten times in my life. The shocked lasted about a minute and then they went back to being my family just like they always were.

The River came up on my iPhone as I was driving home from work the other day and I started thinking about my kids and how they now have another set of family members thanks to their step-mom. I must confess that, initially, it was not easy for me to get used the idea and I felt my insides rebel a bit when the kids talked about their new cousins. “What a hypocrite I have been,” I thought as I hummed the words along, like I always do. It is the same thing for them now as it was for me then. It is that simple. I was really excited because I realized that little by little all the pieces in my life are not only falling in place, but they’re falling in place correctly, without rubbing each other anymore.

The great thing about loving people is that, no matter how many individuals come into your life, one never runs out of love. You don’t need to stop loving an old family member or a long-time friend to take a new one in. How cool is that?

Las atroces consecuencias del tabaquismo

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Y yo que tuve que dejar de fumar así, de golpe y porrazo, sin ninguna ayuda. ¡Qué fácil que hubiera sido con estas advertencias!

Happy Friday!

Basque<>Spanish/English translator now available online and for mobile devices

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r59-itzultzaileaIn 2012, the Basque Government launched an online translator to help the general public bridge the communication gap from Spanish to Basque. This year, the next phase was implemented and the Spanish/English to Basque translator was unveiled in Bilbao at the beginning of the April.

The tool -developed over a period of two years by a team of linguists- will handle short texts (up to 1,500 characters), as well as websites. According to the original article published in Spanish by Diario Vasco, this new tool is 70% better than Google Translate, although there is still room for improvement. The tool will never replace a human being or a professional translator, but it will aid users significantly in everyday life.

The online translator is available at www.itzultzailea.euskadi.net.

Not only that, but the translator will be also accessible from iOS or Android devices. Android users can download the application from Google Play, while the iOS version is expected at the Apple Store in the next few weeks. One of the advantages of using the app is the ability to dictate directly into the phone, instead of typing.

For more resources on learning Basque, check out my previous post Writing in Basque: Tools to get you there. There is plenty of information there to help you learn or improve your Basque language skills.


Kern County Basque Club will host the 2014 NABO Pilota Finals

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This year, the 2014 NABO Pilota Finals will be hosted by the Kern County Basque Club.

The championship will be held on Memorial Day weekend – Friday, May 23rd and Saturday, May 24th in conjunction with the NABO Convention. The semi-finals (if needed) will be played Friday afternoon/evening (time has not yet been determined) and the finals will be played on Saturday from 7:30am until 4pm. The finals must be completed no later than 4pm.

The schedule will be posted as soon as confirmation from all participating clubs is received.

If there is enough interest and time allows it, the Gazteak (youth) finals in Eskuz or Paleta Goma could be held on Friday evening.

The following categories will be offered:


Class A Paleta Goma
Class B Paleta Goma
Veterans Paleta Goma
Class A Eskuz Singles
Class A Eskuz Doubles
Class B Eskuz Doubles
Paleta Cuero


Paleta Goma

Great turnout at the New England Basque Club Aberri Eguna celebration

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The New England Basque Club celebrated Aberri Eguna last Saturday, March 29, at the Middletown Knights of Columbus.

Despite the rain and cold, the 115 attendees who gathered to celebrate the Aberri Eguna in Middletown, Rhode Island were treated to a rural sport demonstration by aizkolaris Riki Lasa, Patxi Gandiaga, and Juan Mari Aramendi. Riki Lasa dethroned Aramendi, who previously finished first. In this latest challenge, Lasa did not take any chances and won the round leaving the mystery of supremacy for May 10, when the three aizkolaris will be measured at the yearly New England Basque Club Txitxiburduntzi Party, organized by Riki Lasa in Connecticut.

After the rural sport demonstration, Chef Ismael Biurrun- with the help of Mark Massa, Sergio Lopez and Jesus Meabebasterretxea- delighted the Basque Center members with a succulent dinner of mixed salad, fish soup, and a main course of chicken with vegetables and potatoes. With coffee and dessert came the last event of the evening.

The young Basque-American musician Mikel Arambarri serenaded attendees with mythical songs from Mikel Laboa and Itoiz among others.

For additional photos and videos of the event, click here.

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I can’t be bothered

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No me da ganas. Eso dice mi hijo cuando le pido que recoja su habitación en mitad de una partida de fútbol FIFA 13 y así traduzco yo ese “can’t be bothered” que siempre decías y que a mí todavía me encanta, aunque sé que está mal. Sin embargo, no me da ganas de buscarlo en el diccionario, así como no me da ganas de escribir esta entrada en inglés, la primera vez en muchos meses.

Tiene su chiste, por cierto, porque es para mi amiga Susie, escocesa donde las haya y sin mucha idea de castellano, aparte de esas famosas frases de supervivencia como “¿Dónde está el baño?” o “Una cerveza, por favor”.

Creo que el idioma del mensaje es lo de menos porque Susie se murió de cáncer de pulmón hace unos años, así que dudo mucho de que lo vaya a leer. No tengo ni idea de qué pasa con las personas cuando nos dejan: ¿Nos siguen viendo? ¿Existen idiomas en el más allá o caen las barreras de la comunicación? De todos modos, algún traductor habrá que pueda echar una mano en caso de ser necesario.

Susie solo tenía 33 años. Da qué pensar, ¿no? No voy a decir que fuera una santa, pero que no he conocido muchas personas de su calibre también es verdad. Todavía no he llorado su muerte. Ni siquiera desde el púlpito, cuando subí para hablar de cómo nos conocimos y cuántos años tardamos en entender los mensajes de voz que nos dejábamos en el teléfono. No había problema al hablar en persona, pero sus mensajes grabados en la máquina con ese acento escocés eran incomprensibles.

Tampoco escribí en su muro de Facebook después del funeral, ni por su cumpleaños o cualquier otro evento señalado. Aún hay gente que se comunica así con ella porque nunca desactivaron su cuenta. Yo comprendo que es una manera más de honrar su memoria, sobre todo para quienes viven fuera de Escocia y no pueden visitar su tumba, pero a mi me da cosa escribir ahí. Quizá yo esté haciendo algo parecido al publicar esto, pero el espacio es mío y todavía sigo en este mundo.

Hace unas semanas me topé con tu mejor amiga mientras daba una vuelta por las afueras de Hewlett-Packard. Ha bajado tanto de peso que si no me llega a insultar (siempre nos saludamos con un cariñoso “Hey, bitch!”), no la hubiera reconocido. Es imposible verla y no acordarme inmediatamente de ti. Lo pasó súper mal cuando te fuiste y no sé hasta qué punto se ha recuperado por dentro, pero por fuera está estupenda y ya sabes lo que dicen, mente sana in corpore sano. Intenté acercarme a ella varias veces, quedar para salir, quedar con los niños, pero no funcionó. De vez en cuando la veía en Barnes & Noble, sentada en vuestra mesa de Starbucks, leyendo un libro.

Hoy salgo con Erin a tomar algo. No me acuerdo exactamente de cómo volvimos a conectar, pero hace años que nos vemos esporádicamente, primero por los niños, luego ya porque nos caemos bien y nunca nos faltan temas de conversación. Últimamente quedamos algo más seguido. Ha habido muchos cambios en la vidas de tu grupo de amigas de Boise, ¿sabías? Echo de menos hablar contigo. Creo que fliparías con algunas de las historias que tengo guardadas para cuando nos volvamos a ver.

PS.- Hoy me pongo el abrigo blanco que me diste. Sí, todavía lo tengo. No veas cómo lo cuido.

Boiseko Ikastola reaches out to the Basque Country to ask for donations of children’s Basque outfits

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A couple of days ago Maria, this year’s Basque language teacher at Boiseko Ikastola, shared this article by Iban Gorriti about a new initiative by the preschool to get people in the Basque Country to donate Basque costumes so the students can use them during the various Basque celebrations held in Boise throughout the year. I thought it was a wonderful idea and I wanted to get the word out. Many of us have families and friends back in Euskadi that would certainly help if they knew about the project. The original article by Iban was published two days ago, in Spanish: La ikastola americana de Boise pide cooperación para donarles ropa de baserritarra infantil.

Ander Cimas Bagoaz Bidaiak IBAN GORRITI Mugalari

Ander Cimas owns Bagoaz Bidaiak travel agency where the donated clothes should be dropped off. || FOTO | Iban Gorriti

The Basque preschool, thanks to an initiative by this year’s teacher – from Abadiño, Bizkaia – is asking people to drop off Basque outfits they no longer need at Bagoaz Bidaiak de Traña-Matiena agency, owned by Ander Cimas


The only Basque preschool outside the Basque Country, Boiseko Ikastola (United States), is asking people from all Basque provinces to donate Basque traditional outfits for children to use in the various celebrations held in Boise, such as Santa Ageda, Danborrada (a festival in Donostia), inauteriak (carnival), or Olentzero (Basque Santa Claus). This year’s Ikastola teacher is from Abadiño. She got in touch with another Abadiño resident, Ander Cimas, known in their town as being the owner of Bagoaz Bidaiak travel agency.

Joining forces and believing that it is easier to achieve your goals by working together, both the teacher and the expert on custom travel experiences ask that people collaborate by donating boy and girl clothes they no longer use and which will be very welcome in Boise. The Ikastola will take care of the shipping charges. “Those people who decide to donate clothes can do so here, in the Bagoaz Bidaiak travel agency during work hours,” offers Ander. The business has moved and its new location is at Txinurrisolo, 6, lower floor, in the Traña-Matiena, neighborhood in Abadiño.

Sstudents and two teachers from Boiseko Ikastola in Idaho. || PHOTO | Mara Davis (Boiseko Ikastola)

Sstudents and two teachers from Boiseko Ikastola in Idaho. || PHOTO | Mara Davis (Boiseko Ikastola)

Boiseko Ikastola is looking to receive 30 outfits. “Unfortunately, we cannot afford to buy them and bring them here, that’s why I thought of asking you for them,” said Maria, the teacher, to Ander a few days ago. “Back in the Basque Country almost every household has Basque traditional outfits, many times put away in closets where nobody uses them. I’m hoping that people will donate those unused outfits to Boiseko Ikastola,” adds Maria, who assures the costumes would be used for generations to come.”

In her request, she thanks those who decide to donate the outfits. “I hope that with your help I will be able to achieve my goal wait for Olentzero’s arrival this year using your clothes,” she says.

Boiseko Ikastola student || PHOTO | Blogseitb.us/basqueboise

Maitane Hollenbeck Chico, Boiseko ikastola student

Boiseko Ikastola was founded in Boise, Idaho’s capital, in October 1988. Today, it has children between 2 and 5 years of age, “more girls than boys, actually” that only speak Basque during school hours.

Ander Cimas got in touch with the Ikastola through some clients who used his travel agency Bagoaz Bidaiak to book a trip to Boise. Basque presence in Idaho is one of the biggest and most active in the diaspora. Cimas says: “I was very excited when I was offered to collaborate. We talk a lot about the ties with Boise, but when it’s all said and done, initiatives such as this one are hard to accomplish. We hope we can make it happen this time”.

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Emak Bakia!, a Basque documentary at the TreeFort Film Fest on Saturday

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Emak Bakia!Emak Bakia (“Leave me alone” in Basque), a film by Man Ray, will be playing at The Flicks on Saturday, March 22nd, as part of Boise’s Treefort Music Fest.

This festival, conceived as an extension of the current momentum in the Boise music scene and art scene at large, aims to provide the opportunity for Boise to play host to the national and regional music scenes while showcasing the local up-and-coming talent.

According to Philippe Acheritogaray, director of the Basque Education Organization (BEO), the film was a huge hit at the last San Francisco International Film Festival. He says that over 80 people showed up at the center to watch it, and many saw it again from the festival.


Saturday, March 22 • 2:30pm – 4:10pm
The Flicks – 646 W Fulton St, Boise, ID 83702


An avant-garde film by Man Ray called Emak Bakia (“Leave me alone” in Basque) inspires this story of a quest. The house near Biarritz where Man Ray’s film was shot in 1926 bore that peculiar name and the creator of this new film decided to undertake a search on foot to find it. Only three views of that mansion exist: the image of its front door, two columns of a window, and a section of nearby coast. A search based on these old images would not be easy. There was nothing listed in the archives and no one today remembers the house. Therefore, he would ask for help and assistance from other informers, such as chance and the wind.


Info on the director:

Oskar Alegria (Irunea, Nafarroa, 1973)

Trained as a journalist, he began working as a reporter in Madrid on news programs for Canal Plus and CNN+. He has been an editor of cultural programs and the coordinator of shows dedicated to literature for the television channels Telemadrid (Los Cinco Sentidos-”The Five Senses”) and Euskal Telebista (Sautrela). In the area of gastronomic documentary, he has written and co-directed the series “Masters of Basque Cooking” for ETB-telebista with the chefs Arzak, Subijana, Aduriz, Berasategui and Arbelaitz.

Since 2002, he writes travel reports for the supplement to El País, El Viajero, and is the author of a photographic artistic project called “Las ciudades visibles” (“The Visible Cities”), endorsed by the author Enrique Vila-Matas. Since 2009, he is a professor of documentary scripts in the Masters of Audiovisual Scripts from the University of Navarra and he has led a Workshop in Abstract Photography for children in the Chillida-Leku Museum.

Basque rock band Berri Txarrak ready for their West Coast Tour 2014

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Last month Berri Txarrak, the Basque alternative rock band from Lekunberri, Navarre, announced their USA TOUR 2014 for the month of April.

Berri TxarrakBerri Txarrak was founded in 1994 by Gorka Urbizu (vocals/guitar) and Aitor Goikoetxea (drums). In 1997 they began to focus fully on the band, adding two new members: Mikel López (bass) and Aitor Oreja (guitar).

Berri Txarrak is no strange to the US music scene. Along with Betagarri (another Basque group from Gasteiz) the band participated in the Basque Rock Live 2005 event put together by the Basque Educational Organization. At that time, Berri Txarrak made appearances in Reno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boise.

For the 2014 tour, the band will hit cities like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Portland, among others. This West Coast tour will finish with a special gig in Brooklyn, playing along  The Naked Heroes from NYC.

Here are the tour dates:

4.08 SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
4.09 MERCED, CA @ Tigers & Daggers Records
4.10 CHICO, CA @ 1078 Gallery
4.11 EUGENE, OR @ Tiny Tavern
4.12 SEATTLE, WA @ Victory Lounge
4.13 PORTLAND, OR @ The Know
4.15 NEW YORK, NY @ Death By Audio