A Basque in Boise

The end of summer

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Coming back from the Basque Country this summer was mostly anticlimactic. Compared with how I usually feel the month after my arrival, I can’t say I’m disappointed; I’ll take apathy over four weeks of moping and despair any day of the week. Part of it was leaving my kids behind with my folks for a few days, which somehow made my return seem incomplete, like I was physically in Boise but thanks to my family’s dexterity at Facebook and WhatsApp, still back home otherwise. The other part was hanging out with my Boise friends, who are simply awesome. So I was able to get back into the groove of daily life in America with a chunk (well, two chunks) of me still away. I went back to work only eight hours after landing in Boise, but I felt like the vacation wasn’t quite over yet. The kids finally returned a few days ago, and as ready as I was to squeeze them, I felt bad for my parents and sister, who must now wait another year until it’s their turn again.

For the last two weeks I have been waiting for melancholy to take over, preparing myself to overcome those feelings of sadness that assault me every year before the fall. So far, nothing. Did I, after 18 years, finally make peace with the dichotomy of my life and didn’t even notice? Maybe the weekly psychology sessions turned out to be more fruitful than I thought, giving me the push I needed to accept my situation, to live each of my worlds as separate entities, two bubbles to be enjoyed within their own limits, knowing that blending will only happen on vacation when we fly over or my family comes here to visit.

I must admit, however, that I have been working really hard at changing my outlook on a lot of things: work, responsibilities, kids, relationships, the interaction with friends and family, even the interaction with people I really don’t give a shit about. So maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that my general attitude eventually caught on with my efforts. It is a work in progress, no doubt about it, but I no longer drag my feet (as long) when I feel something is wrong and it is up to me to make a change. And when it’s not, I deal with those issues in the best possible way. Let’s take my kids and their relationship with my family, for example. We can’t change being apart for eleven months out of the year, but we have the Internet, smartphones, iPads and… Skype! Today, my dad became the proud owner of a sparkling new account on his mobile phone, following in the steps of his wife and daughter. Now, all of them can be individually connected to my kids at pretty much any time.

Other times, however, there is no alternative but to take the ‘Fuck it’ (or its variation, ‘Fuck you’) approach to certain situations. It takes time to reach that point and it is sad when you realize you’re there, but man… is it liberating or what? Negativity lifts and it’s time to put all that energy to work in a more productive way.

So, bring on the ski season!! Kidding, haha. I haven’t changed that much. It’s still me here, you know? An imperfect human being trying her best who, nonetheless, reserves the right to get pissed and blow up if the situation warrants it in the future.

You can now sign up for Basque language classes at the Basque Museum

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Basque language classes are just around the corner at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, beginning on September 4. The teachers are all enthusiastic and ready to go, and with the upcoming Jaialdi celebrations, brushing up on one’s Euskara may be just the ticket.  Classes cost $65 per semester for members ($80 for non-members).  If you have any questions, let Annie Gavica know by email at AnnieG@basquemuseum.com or by calling the Basque Museum at (208) 343-2671.  They would love to have you!

Feel free to pass this note along to any others that may be interested.  Beginner’s Basque will be taught by Megan (Ottoman) Vondemkamp on Mondays 6-8 pm, Intermediate by Itxaso Cayero on Thursdays 6:30-8:30pm, and Advanced by Oihana Andion on Mondays 6:30-8:30pm.

Sign up by clicking here!

How would you celebrate Boise’s fronton 100th year anniversary?

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Courtesy of boisebasquetour.wordpress.com

Courtesy of boisebasquetour.wordpress.com

Did you know that the 100th year anniversary of the Anduiza Fronton Building is fast approaching?

A century might sound like nothing special for most Europeans (for example my hometown, Bilbao, is over 700 years old), but it is quite rare here in the West. Located in the middle of downtown Boise’s Basque Block, this building holds a special meaning for the city’s Basque community because it houses Boise’s only fronton, a three-walled court used as playing area for pelota and pala. The Anduiza Building was built as a boarding house for sheepherders by the Anduiza family in 1914, and the first pelota game was played a couple of years later.

Recently, our fronton’s milestone sparked some interest for the Boise Weekly, where you can find reporter Jessica Murri’s wonderful article: A Beautiful Room: 100 years of pala at the Anduiza fronton. Before that, the Idaho Statesman ran an article titled Anduiza Fronton, a Boise icon. Boise’s Mark Bieter also wrote a very nice and personal piece about the fronton in 2012, entitled My Favorite Room.

We think that a milestone such as this one deserves some attention and a big celebration, and we wanted to gather your input as to which would be the best way to do so. Please, take a second to choose one of the options below and let us know!

Eskerrik asko!

This september, professor Egiluz will teach a one credit weekend workshop about Basque music

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Are you interested in learning about Basque music? If so, you are in luck. This September, renowned conductor José Luis Egiluz will be teaching a one credit weekend workshop at Boise State University.

Workshop: Basque Music: An Overview
When: September 20-21, 2014
Where: Boise State University, EDUC112
Instructor:  José Luis Egiluz 

For more information about the workshop or how to register, contact Nere Lete at nlete@boisestate.edu.

About the Conductor

Jose Luis EguiluzJOSÉ LUIS EGILUZ, a native of Bilbao, Bizkaia, in Spain, began his musical training at the age of eight in Bilbao’s Superior Conservatory of Music, undertaking a comprehensive program of solfège, theory and history of music, harmony, counterpoint, fugue, acoustics, and trumpet and piano performance.

As a young adult he focused his musical training toward conducting in Vienna, Austria, with Karl Ernst Hoffman and Swedish choral master, Eric Ericson. He went on to establish his identity as an orchestral conductor through an extended 6-year orchestral conducting apprenticeship under the guidance of Maestro Alberto Blancafort.

Maestro Egiluz currently conducts a wide range of opera, as well as orchestral and Zarzuela (Spanish musical theater combining dance, operatic and popular songs) works in the Basque Country and abroad, and has won numerous Zarzuela awards throughout Spain. His most recent concert was with the Ukrainian State Orchestra of Kiev, and he makes frequent guest appearances with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Barroca Simón de Huarte of Bilbao, Sotto Voce Orchestra of San Sebastian, the Orquesta Lírica de Bilbao, the Orquesta Sinfónica Donostiarra of San Sebastian, and Bilbao’s Municipal Band. He has also collaborated with many choirs throughout Spain and conducts in the leading concert halls of the country such as the Auditorio Nacional of Madrid, Bilbao’s Palacio Euzkalduna, the Kursaal in San Sebastian and Baluarte of Pamplona.

With his extensive background in Basque folk music, Maestro Egiluz has frequently been commissioned to arrange and compose Basque music for historical projects and for dance accompaniment. He began his contact with Idaho in 1988 when the Government of the Basque Autonomous Region sent him to advise Boise’s Biotzetik Basque Choir during its formative years. His contact with the Boise Basque Community has remained constant and he frequently works on projects with his Boise friends. In addition to music, Maestro Egiluz maintains a dual career and dedicates the rest of his time to teaching Classical Languages at the High School level. He serves on several European education commissions and is currently on sabbatical from his job as High School teacher.

8 Basque mobile apps to check out

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Inspired by Spanish Affair’s (Ocho Apellidos vascos) successful year at the movie theaters, software guide magazine Softonic has made a list of the top 8 Basque mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, leb by Fronton, the first official game pelota simulator.

Fronton: Basque handball game

If you had to choose the quintessential sport in the Basque Country, there is only one. Now, thanks to Pulsar Concept SL, handball and its idols Martínez de Irujo, Olaizola or Xala have their own videogame. It’s called Fronton and it is available for Android and iOS.

Fronton, by Pulsar Concept SK

Download Fronton for Android
Download Fronton for iPhone

EITB: the TV for Basques

Basque Country’s public radio and television has its own app. You can watch the news, listen to Euskadi Irratia along with other stations , read the news or laugh out loud with programs like Euskadi Movie.

Download EITB for Android
Download EITB for iPhone

Learn Basque with Euskara ikasiz

One of Euskadi’s treasures is its language. The Basque language is considered difficult to learn and has no resemblance to any other laguage out there. If you want to check it out, you can try learning with Euskara Ikasiz, a series of apps designed for those who want to became officially certified in Basque.

Download Euskara Ikasiz (Android)

Txotx: the magic word

If there is something typical during the winter months in the Basque Country, especially in Gipuzkoa, is the cider bars. Just say Txotx! and let the cider flow. If you are thinking about visiting Hernani or Astigarraga and would like to make a good cider bar choice, there is nothing better than Txotx.


Download Txotx for Android
Download Txotx for iPhone

Travel guides? Minube Euskadi

Lost places in the Aralar Mountains, the charming Gipuzkoan coast, a generous portion of turbot in Getaria… Minube Euskadi has reviews and photos of the main touristic attractions in the Basque Country. Inspiration, feedback and a wonderful way to plan your visit to the land of Chillida and the pintxos.

Minube Euskadi

Download Minube Euskadi for Android
Download Minube Euskadi for iPhone

Sleeping with the sheep and Nekatur

One of the best ways to enjoy the Basque Country is learning about its nature. What a better way to do it than staying in a farmhouse near Aia or Berastegi? Nekatur lists a wide selection of farmhouses and rural tourism to enjoy your vacation in Basque lands.


Download Nekatur for Android
Download Nekatur for iPhone

Breaking news about cities and provinces in news apps

It is not easy to choose just one newspaper to represent a place. However, it is obvious that Diario Vasco and El Correo are two classics in the coffee shops of Bilbao and Donosti. You can find information about all the provinces and the newspapers usual sections in their apps for Android and iOS, except for the obituaries.

El Diario Vasco

Download Diario Vasco for Android
Download Diario Vasco for iPhone
Download El Correo de Bizkaia for Android
Download El Correo de Bizkaia for iPhone
Download El Correo de Álava for Android
Download El Correo de Álava for iPhone

Cocina vasca Lite: cooking like Arzak

Basque cuisine is one of the most renowned in the world. Arzak, Subijana, Berasategui… are some of the most notable chefs in the Basque Country. Apps like Cocina Vasca will teach you to cook some of the most famous dishes from the Basque Country. Unfortunately, the free app is quite limited in functionality.

Cocina Vasca

Download Cocina Vasca Lite for Android

Original article in Spanish here: 8 apellidos… 8 aplicaciones vascas

Learning Basque? Use these free online flashcards for extra practice

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If you are one of those daring souls who made up their mind to learn Basque: Congratulations! It’s going to be a hard but totally rewarding journey.

In addition to all the resources compiled in the 2012 post Writing in Basque: Tools to get you there, you can now find online – and free of charge – all of the flashcards from the first book of Euskera Munduan. Even if you haven’t had Basque classes before, you are welcome to use the flashcards, take tests online, review, play games, etc.

These are the steps to find all the sets:

1) go to www.quizlet.com
2) in the search type in NABO
3) Always follow this model to find the corresponding set to the lesson you are doing: NABO Euskera Munduan #. of unit #. session

For example (click on the image):

ScreenHunter_30 Aug. 04 16.21

For more information, get in touch with the Euskara coordinators in North America, Itxaso Cayero or Aitor Inarra at Euskara@nabasque.org.

The “change”?

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Oh, well... Looks like menopause won't differ that much from having the period.

Looks like menopause won’t differ that much from having the period.

People sometimes ask me what the highlight of my trip was when I get back to Boise from visiting Bilbao. Usually, I think about that trip to the beach with the kids or the girls night out to Santurtzi that stretched out to breakfast the next day in Ortuella. This year, however, the answer is not what you would expect. Actually, it’s not what I expected either, nor would I call it “a highlight”, but it’s what I’ve had on my mind ever since I returned.

(Reader discretion advised, TMI coming right up).

All women know that periods don’t always arrive on schedule. Even those of us who enjoy a certain regularity can experience anomalies under stressful or difficult circumstances. That’s why I didn’t worry too much when I got mine a week earlier in July, blaming it on the trip and the excitement of the days before my departure. I did experience a six-month span without the joys of menstruation when I was 16 – before I ever knew about manly love – which made it even more enjoyable as there was nothing to worry about on that end. However, when my period reappeared only two weeks later this month, no matter how close to the plane ride back to Boise that was, I couldn’t help but feeling shocked and a little scared that “the change” is already coming.

Two periods in 20 days. Definitely a red flag (no pun intended) when you’re not 20 anymore. I can take the pain of dying my hair every three or four weeks, the wrinkles surrounding my eyes (just a few so far), the growing size of my clothes as the years go by, but the realization that soon I won’t be able to get pregnant if I wanted to, it’s depressing. Not that I was planning on it, please. Can you imagine? I already hurt everywhere when I get up in the mornings, so imagine adding an extra 30 pounds to this body of mine. Let’s not even talk about the size of my boobs for the following months!

Change is good, they say, and I don’t disagree with that statement. However, I’ve never been the best at dealing with it. Change and I have a love-hate relationship and, even though the results are invariably good after it’s all said and done, the journey, oh my god the journey to the other side has been exhausting every time. I know it’s coming, it’s around the corner, but I’m not ready yet to accept old age. I just recently came to terms with some issues I carried around for years so please, nature, give me a break!

Host family needed for Basque student during next school year

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Glenna Tooman is the local coordinator for ETC International Exchange Student Program, a private school exchange student program, looking to find a host family for a Basque Student. Bishop Kelly accepted a boy from Bilbao, Bizkaia, for the school year beginning August 18. Glenna has already contacted the Basque Museum, who emailed their contact list without success.

Study Abroad

She is hoping that someone you know may be interested in providing a home for the boy. This is a paid position. The monthly stipend should more than cover room and board. The host family adults will need to submit an application and have a background check. Ideally, the boy’s family would like him to live with a family with at least one teenager at home.

Glenna will be happy to provide more information and the boy’s profile to anyone who may be interested. She is up against a tight deadline to find an appropriate home, so any help or leads you can provide will be appreciated.

Find Glenna’s contact information below:

Glenna Tooman
ETC International Exchange Student Program
PSE Private School Exchange
Southwestern Idaho Coordinator

The bottle is totally empty, actually

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I’m watching House M.D., fourth episode in a row on a Saturday night, one day before I go home again. Home to Ortuella. My first home. The current episode is about to finish. There is a lock down in the hospital because a baby is missing and people got randomly trapped with a coworker or patient, being forced to talk in a way they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Some are playing truth or dare. Others took vicodine in order to feel what House felt before he got done with detox. A couple of doctors who got married a while ago are about to have sex right after they signed the divorce papers, because that happens all the time. And all the way I’m just drinking my wine and watching episode after episode to avoid thinking about my life because I can’t find my place because I can’t move. Even if I could, I don’t think I’d want to. I’m happy here, but I’m also not. I sometimes feel like I’m living a life from the outskirts, from the suburbs, close to downtown, but not quite. It’s easy, it’s got all we need. I get up, I go to work, I work after work, and for 20 days out of the year I get to go home and talk with my sister longer last those two-minute WhatsApp conversations. I go grocery shopping with my mom and have wines with my dad. For 11 months out of the year I am the sole representantive of the Chico-Jiménez family in soccer games and Girl Scouts meetings but hey, there are four weeks for my son to enjoy walks to La Arboleda with his aitite, and for my daughter to go shopping with her aunt in Bilbao and delight in their common liking for makeup and cute dresses. And I’ll get to laugh with everybody about things people here don’t get. I’ll enjoy those 25-minute trips to Bilbao in the train, where merely sitting and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations just about makes the ride worth it. I love the sound of Spanish surrounding me everywhere. Then, my three weeks will be over and I’ll come back to Boise, a town I love, and I’ll turn the TV back on so I can finally learn what the fuck happens with House in the season finale.

A Beautiful Room: 100 years of pala at the Anduiza fronton, by Jessica Murri (Boise Weekly)

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By now, you all know how much I love Boise’s fronton, what a beautiful and special place it has been for me and for the hundreds of people who have played or enjoyed watching the games since it was built a century ago.

I’ve written before about the place and how it makes me feel, as have done others in the community, like Mark Bieter, who wrote a beautiful piece a few months ago entitled My Favorite Room.

Today, the Boise Weekly publised a very nice article to commemorate 100 years of pala at the Anduiza fronton. You can find the original article here, but I’ve reproduced it below for your convenience.

A Beautiful Room: 100 years of pala at the Anduiza fronton

by By Jessica Murri

Courtesy of the Boise Weekly

Courtesy of the Boise Weekly

Standing in the middle of the Basque Block, you’d never know it’s there. But within the walls of the historic Anduiza Hotel, there is a 3,400-square-foot room with a 50-foot-high ceiling. Windows run along the tops of the walls, filtering in natural light on old, exposed wood beams along the roof.

The enormous white walls are speckled with black skids from a rubbery ball–or 100 years worth of rubbery balls, smacked into the surface during the intense, high-energy game of pala, aka pelota, aka Basque racquetball.

It’s played with wooden paddles that look like overgrown, flattened spoons, and a ball not much larger than a golfball. Four people compete in pairs on the court, which is called a fronton. Boise’s fronton is the oldest still in use in the United States.

Despite the court being 100 years old this year, “it’s not just a historical thing for people to come look at,” said Henar Chico, who has spent six years playing the game. “No, it gets used every single day.”

For Chico, pala is more than a sport; it’s a connection to her homeland, a tool to bond with her kids and a way to strengthen herself as a person. She moved from the Basque Country in her early 20s when she married an American who lived in Boise. She moved having no idea of the Basque community here.

“When I lived in the Basque Country, I didn’t speak Basque, I didn’t dance, I didn’t play any sports,” Chico said.

It wasn’t until her kids were born that she started thinking about what it means to be Basque. She learned the language and studied the culture. Then, a year after her marriage ended, she found pala.

“The dancing, I didn’t get it,” she said. “But with pala I said, ‘You know, what the hell, I’m going to do it.’”

She used it as an opportunity to meet other Basque women and get herself back out there after her divorce. Then, she got her son on the court, who’s 10 now. They started playing as partners in the Women’s B League and recently made it all the way to the finals.

“We lost by one point and he cried,” Chico said. “Every time he loses, he cries out of frustration. It’s easy to go, you know, ‘It’s just a game,’ but now that I play pala, and I can feel [that defeat] inside, I can tell him that I know. I know what it feels like.”

Chico calls the fronton court a “beautiful room.”

“I mean, yeah, I like going and beating the ball and hearing the sound it makes, but it’s way more than that,” Chico said. “I’m doing something thousands of miles away, that despite living in my country, the Basque Country, I would have never done.”

Among the 25 or 30 Basque women who give up one night of their week in fall and spring to play pala, there’s the pale-skinned, very blonde Sarah Ober.

Once she played in a tournament against a visiting team and, “I was quite clearly the only non-Basque to play, and some guy was sitting in the audience and he was Basque and he was speaking to somebody in Basque, going through everybody’s last names and he gets to mine and he goes, ‘Ober? Aleman!’ And I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ And they said, ‘That’s Spanish for German.’”

Ober, who just finished a bachelor’s degree in German, who spent some time living in Germany, who doesn’t have a drop of Basque blood in her, loves pala. She was the first non-Basque player to join the women’s league when it started in 2007.

“I was a little hesitant about it because the Basque community is very tight-knit, so to come in from the outside was intimidating, but everybody was super welcoming,” she said.

Now there’s a handful of non-Basques who play every week and compete in tournaments.

She grew up in Boise, took a field trip to the Basque Center in elementary school like every other kid in the Boise School District, “but I didn’t know anything about it. It’s just here and if you’re not engaged in it, you don’t have any idea.”

Now, she tours the fronton court every Wednesday of the fall and spring, spending 45 minutes playing her game, and the rest of the evening sipping beer and eating croquetas from Bar Gernika, chatting with the other women.

And like Chico, she’s learned a little more about Basque culture through pala.

“I can say ‘hello’ in Basque, I think. And I can count to eight,” Ober said, laughing. “I understand what some of the festivals are, what the customs and traditions are. Like, the festival of San Inazio isn’t just an excuse to come down and drink kalimotxos until you can’t see straight.”

But pala is hard. Ober has never come in first place, despite playing for the past seven years, tearing a couple of ligaments in her knee and spending at least $700 on member dues to use the court. The closest she has come is second, three years ago.

“We were playing this one girl in the finals who is super good. I kind of quiver every time I have to play against her. We only lost by like three points and we got a bottle of wine at the end of it and I still have that bottle of wine. I refuse to open it,” Ober said. “Unless I get first place, then I will drink that second-place bottle of wine, and it will taste like victory.”

An entire chapter of the recent book, Becoming Basque: Ethnic Heritage on Boise’s Grove Street, is devoted to the fronton court and history of the game in Boise. To commemorate it, the Basque Museum also set up an exhibit on the court.

Basque Museum and Culture Center Director Patty Miller said an anonymous donation will help keep the fronton around for another century. The money will go to repainting the court, restoring its windows and installing more lighting.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s brother, Mark, blogged about the fronton in 2012, in an article called “My Favorite Room.” In it, he said people use the fronton almost every day. In fact, it’s probably used more now than when it was first built in 1914.

“It’s a treasure, and I hope it stands for another hundred years,” Bieter wrote.

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