ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


4 Comments

dos textos… ¡publicados!

post – español

post – english

cuentos/stories

águila, creo. (un poquito borroso, eché la foto por la ventana del Parador de La Lastrilla, Segovia)

05/02/2013

Por fin, mi primer ‘bilingüe’ post!

Si estás siguiendo mi blog en inglés, te habrás dado cuenta de que voy con un poquito de retraso. Todavía me quedan algunos reportajes de mis viajes navideños, e incluso tengo que subir un montón de fotos. Si no me lees porque el inglés no es tu ‘punto fuerte’, lo siento, es que llevo aún más retraso con el blog español. Hubo un momento en el que tenía pensado escribir cada post en los dos idiomas…ahora me queda claro que no va a ser posible. Con mis clases del instituto, clases particulares, clases de español, y lecciones de cultura (viajar, salir, pasear, y ‘sestear’), ni siquiera me queda tiempo para mantener el blog en inglés.

Pero ¡basta de excusas!, ¿Qué quieres decir, Jean?

Pues, por hacer algo diferente (y para fastidiar a los angloparlantes), he decidido subir un par de artículos que escribí en español. Los dos están recién publicados, aunque en publicaciones muy humildes. Así que mis textos españoles ya tienen más éxito que los de mi lengua materna. No sé por qué, pero esto me hace mucha gracia. Quizá me toque cambiar el chip permanentemente…  o darme por vencida y dejar de escribir en general.

El primer cuento es muy breve. Lo escribí para un concurso de microrrelatos* organizado por Antares, una librería segoviana. El tema,  Rincones de Segovia, me parecía tentador y retador a la vez. No obstante, al final el reto verdadero no fue el tema ni el idioma, sino la concisión exigida por el límite de palabras: un máximo de 150. ¡Maldito sea el español, por tener tantos artículos, tantas partículas, tantas pequeñas palabras superfluas!

Por supuesto no gané el concurso, pero la tarea fue interesante y divertida… como hacer un ‘Cubo de Rubik’ con palabras. Y, para mi deleite, la librería acaba de  publicar una colección de (supongo que todos) los cuentos entregados. Me alegra ver mi nombre impreso, aunque esto me traiga recuerdos de los premios de ‘consolación’ que recibía cuando participaba en competiciones deportivas escolares.

El otro artículo lo publicó una revista australiana que se llama Voces Españolas, que trata de lengua y cultura hispánicas.

Fue hace casi un año, cuando  una representante del Ministerio de Educación de España en Australia me pidió que escribiera una reflexión sobre mi experiencia como ‘auxiliar de conversación’ en un pueblo aislado de Andalucía. El encargo era bastante vago; podía escribir en inglés o español, y el ‘límite’ se situaba entre mil y tres mil palabras.

Como soy masoquista y poco profesional, al final lo escribí en español, y lo terminé con cuatro mil palabras. Gracias a mi amiga y colega Marie Carmen Monje (por su paciencia al corregirme la gramática, ya que  fue una tarea enorme) y wordreference.com (mi sitio favorito en toda la red), lo entregué a tiempo…pensando que lo acortarían y lo reducirían a  la mitad. ¡Cuál fue mi sorpresa, cuando, a finales de diciembre, imprimieron el artículo entero!

Releer el artículo fue curioso. Me di cuenta (de nuevo) de la importancia de la experiencia de vivir en Hinojosa del Duque, el  ‘culo del mundo’. Es difícil explicar lo que siento por mi ex-pueblito. Aunque no sea mi casa, y me encuentro más cómoda (y vivo mejor) aquí en Segovia, siempre guardaré una especia de añoranza por mi querida Hinojosa. Echo mucho de menos mi colegio, a los niños, a las abuelitas por la calle, la vista desde el Santo Cristo, las copas a tres euros…  y sobre todo,  a las amistades que hice allí. Puede que me toque otro viaje al sur. Ya se verá.

Entonces, arriba está el enlace para los dos cuentos. Os tengo que recordar que son muy ‘amateur’, así  que vuestros comentarios o consejos serán muy bienvenidos. Espero que os gusten, o al menos, os hagan un poquito de gracia.

*Definición: El microrrelato es como un golpe seco, una bofetada maternal que te pilla de improviso. Un beso fugaz, el que nunca esperaste. Una mirada que sólo dura un par de segundos, pero que vale como una historia de amor eterna. Porque te impacta, te conmociona. A veces para dejarte aterrado. Otras, para quedarte con la más deliciosa de las sensaciones.
– Paula Corroto (citación inscrita en el interior de la tapa del volumen de microrrelatos).

volver a arriba (para enlaces)

05/02/2013

Ok. So I’m well behind schedule with this blog. And work, and study, and writing, and, like, every area of my life in general.

There’re a couple more posts on Christmas travels still to come, plus a stack of (rather nice) photos to upload, which I will get to in the near future, promise. (Though given the rate at which time is passing, the ‘near’ future could be a pretty generous deadline. Can you believe it’s already February?)

In the meantime, just for something different, I thought I’d upload some of my writing in Spanish. These two pieces have recently been published, albeit in very modest publications.

The first is a 150 word short story, written for a competition organised by the Antares bookshop, not far from where I live. The prompt was ‘Corners of Segovia’, which was an inviting, though nonetheless challenging theme to write about. Then again, the real challenge was constructing a ‘story’ within such a restrictive word limit, so I guess I would have struggled with just about any prompt. Concision has never been my strong point, and I particularly struggle with word limits in Spanish – due to its excessive use of articles/particles/two letter words that have no meaning!!!

So my story didn’t win (nor did I expect it to), but it was fun to write… kind of like doing a Rubik’s cube with words. And to my delight, the bookshop has just published a compilation of (probably all) the entries from the competition. It’s nice to see my name in print, even though it does remind me of all those ‘participation’ ribbons I won in school athletics.

I haven’t translated it  into English because it wouldn’t work. The text hinges on word play between ‘pigeon’ and ‘popcorn’… So there you go. I’ve just given away the punch line… it really doesn’t work in English. But if you’re curious to read the real thing, check out the link at the top of this post.

The second piece is a whopping, four thousand word article, written for Voces Españolas, a language and culture journal in Australia (funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education). About a year ago they asked me to write a reflection on my experience as a language assistant living in a remote town of Spain. The brief was pretty vague: I could write in English or Spanish, and the only ‘limit’ was that it could be anywhere from one to three thousand words.

Make that four. I am so unprofessional.

And of course, being a glutton for punishment, I opted to tackle the beast in my non-mother tongue. Thanks to the editing skills (and infinite patience) of my friend and colleague Marie Carmen Monje, and wordreference.com (my favourite site in all the web), eventually, we did it.

The deadline was the end of May. So by the time the journal was published in late December, my life in the village felt like a distant dream. Re-reading the article awoke a lot of memories. It’s hard to describe the longing I feel for a place that isn’t my real home, and where I wasn’t nearly as comfortable or well off as I am now. But there I passed a fascinating, challenging eight months, and met people and made friends I will never forget. Sometimes I really miss my beloved Hinojosa ‘**** end of the world’ Duque. Perhaps I’m overdue for a trip in Andalusia direction…

We’ll see.

back to top

Advertisements


4 Comments

please do touch

“If the fat one touches us, we might have to close the school…”

“Oh, how I want him to touch me!”

“What will you do when the fat one touches you?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if he touched us together… our lives would never be the same…”

Gordo-de-navidad-telamThat’s right. It’s Christmas lottery time… and all of Spain is waiting with baited breath to find out who El Gordo, the fat one, is going to touch.

With a total prize pool of 2,520 million euros (this year), La Lotería de Navidad is the biggest grossing lottery the world. It consists of an extremely complex system (for the numerologically confused, such as me), in which prizes are drawn from two giant gold spherical vessels containing thousands of ancient wooden lottery balls. First category, El Gordo, is worth 4 million euros, so there’s a fair bit left over for sub categories…the love is nicely spread about the country. One ticket costs a hefty €200, but is usually split into decimos of €20 each. The lottery is drawn every year on the 22nd of December, in an elaborate 3 hour ceremony in the National Lottery Hall of Madrid. Traditionally (since 1812), pupils of the San Ildefonso school (formerly reserved for orphans of public servants) draw the numbers and corresponding prizes, and sing the results aloud for the audience (who is usually decked out in lottery-themed fancy dress). And of course the event is broadcast on national television, inconveniently clashing with school concerts and masses across Spain.

Children singing the lottery drawAs the tickets are so pricey, it’s customary for groups of friends and colleagues to all buy decimos of the same ticket, so that everyone can (potentially) win together. Like any form of gambling, there are a tonne of superstitions and statistics floating around regarding the luck of certain number combinations, regions, and vending outlets. You can even search your preferred number online to find out exactly which vendor will have it in stock. Enlarged colour photocopies of the ornately decorated tickets are displayed in shopfronts, dashboards, and noticeboards all over Spain. Publicising your lottery number is almost as important as buying the ticket in the first place.

I don’t have a shopfront or a dash board, and I’m not even important enough to get my own desk. My pigeon hole is in the dingy, bottommost corner of the pigeon hole bank thingy, where it’s frequently obstructed by wet umbrellas, and far too low a place to post my future fortune bringer.

So my only real display space is here. You will therefore all be thrilled and delighted to know that this Christmas, this little blogger is playing (half of a tenth) of ticket number:

billete

I must say, have a lucky feeling… I can’t help it. Someone’s got to win, and I’ve actually met someone who has in the past. Plus I’ve been lucky in (much smaller) competitions before, you never know, it might just happen again. Luck is luck, and mathematically, it’s impossible to use up, I think. Also, the colleague with whom I’m splitting the ticket lost it shortly after she bought it. It took her two weeks to find (in a very logical place: wedged between the pages of one of the umpteen textbooks she uses and leaves lying about the office and random classrooms on a daily basis). She did tell me that if she couldn’t locate it, I should find another partner. But Murphy’s Law would suggest that once lost, the ticket was sure to win, so I’ve developed a certain attachment to it. Of course now we’re back to the original odds, but least it was a lucky ticket for a little while.

I know this is all very flawed logic, but that’s not the point. As they say, the lottery gives you ‘the chance to dream’. Not that I personally need an excuse to dream, but ‘in these uncertain times’, many other people do… so good luck to them. May the fat one touch* us all.

In the meantime, real life continues, semi chaotically. The end of the year always seems to speed up, and now more so than ever. Perhaps we really are hurtling towards a precipice…. if so, having to give up my millions due to the fall of capitalism or the end of the world is going to be a hard pill to swallow.

Anyway, work-wise, I’m on the home straight. With just under two weeks of class to go, the real world has become a steadily fading foreground. Pretty soon I’ll up up up and away… a little further north, to some destinations both known and unknown. It’s going to be my second Christmas away from home (already), let’s hope that this time it’s a proper white one!

I’ll endeavour to keep in touch whilst on the road… but what with the end of the world, the touch of the fat one, the birth of Christ, the beginning of the New Year, and my first taste of real German pretzels… there’s gonna be so much happening, you’ll have to forgive me for any lapses in communication. Plus travelling hand-luggage-only in winter doesn’t allow much space for dinosaur laptops…so I’ll be leaving this cranky old stegosaurus** at home.

That’s all for now. Except that I should probably mention (without getting too mushy) that I’m thinking more than ever of my faraway family and friends, and missing you a little bit more than usual… As is only natural at this time of year, I suppose. Anyway, I hope you’re all well, and staying warm, or keeping cool, and making the most of the silly season

love and cyber hugs

xox jean
 
 
*I should probably explain the nature of the Spanish verb tocar, to touch. It’s used a little differently to English, and can mean anything from playing an instrument to ‘being chosen’ (think little green Toy Story aliens).
Anyway, the innuendos never cease to amuse my simple mind:

  • My housemate touches the trumpet. She touches really well.
  • I prefer playing Scrabble with just two people. That way you get touched more often.
  • Marie Carmen’s elderly mother touches her every fortnight. (Every fortnight it’s Marie Carmen’s job to look after her elderly mother).
  • It touches me to clean the bathroom. (It’s my turn to clean the bathroom).
  • Gotta go! The bell is touching!
  • Give me a touch when you get there. (Give me a prank call when you get there)

 

** Perhaps my first fat purchase will be a skinny tablet computer.


2 Comments

Old habits, new hobbies, and Tosca!

This Monday I went ‘back to school’, as a student that is. I’m doing an intensive Spanish course, cos it was cheap, and it’s my idea of fun. Not surprisingly, it’s turned out to be quite the undertaking; four nights a week, with an energetic, challenging teacher, and a pretty intimidating syllabus. Plus there are (currently) only three of us in the class, so I’ve got nowhere to hide when I haven’t done my homework.
 
So far my main impression is that it’s really nice to be the student for a change. You get to sit there passively while the teacher is responsible for running the show and being organised and professional and knowledgeable… all those things I feel pressure about when it’s the other way round. The first class was exceptionally fun, I learnt stuff, and left feeling super motivated to give the course everything I’ve got. I swore to myself that I’d do it all properly this time around.
 
But old habits die hard; and it appears my study ethic hasn’t magically improved since I was a uni student. If we were to be marked on attendance, at this rate I’d already be failing, with one late arrival and two no-shows in the first week of school.
 
It’s not my fault, of course. I’m in the horribly unfortunate position of having a housemate who works at the Conservatory of Music. One of the perks of her job is regular access to free concert tickets, and I’ve been saddled with the onerous duty of accompanying her to various gigs about town. It’s tough, but I’m rising to the challenge. On Wednesday I cut class to go a piano concert, and on Thursday, the Opera. So I guess my motivations for truancy have altered slightly.
 
I know little about classical music, except that I like it, and I like hearing it live, which is something I haven’t really done since the days my brothers played in orchestras when they were younger. Maybe the music genes and the height genes are located on the same chromosome, because my brothers are really tall and musically talented, but I missed out on both accounts. But what I lack in pitch and rhythm and coordination, I definitely make up for with enthusiasm…
 
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s concert was a total disaster. The pianist was a young Dutch girl who’d won several awards, and who was no doubt very competent. But the piano was out of tune, and the acoustics of the hall were absolutely terrible. You could hear every cough and splutter in the audience, so we were all too scared to breathe or shuffle in our seats. But the worst thing was that I was sitting next to the two most horrible little old ladies I’ve ever encountered in my life. They were wrinkly and scrunched up and dripping with expensive jewellery, and they bitched the whole way through the performance. One of them kept noisily fidgeting with a plastic bag she had on her lap. Who brings an empty plastic bag to a concert?! Then they loudly grunted their disapproval at the opening of each movement, sighed ‘finally’ at every closure, and at one point they actually commented ‘how boring’ in the middle of a piece. Luckily the pianist didn’t understand Spanish, as she was already visibly unhappy with her performance. The concert didn’t wrap up until eleven-ish, and I (stupidly) hadn’t eaten dinner beforehand, so the whole night was a bit of an exercise in endurance.
 
The ‘opera’ on Thursday was another story. Forewarned and forearmed, I made sure to be well fed and caffeinated on arrival. Sadly the opera itself hadn’t come to Segovia, what I saw was live broadcast of Tosca from the Royal Opera House in London. It was held at a brand new cinema complex, which had an enormous screen and state-of-the-art sound technology. I know that in real life it’s probably incomparably better, but I was nonetheless impressed with the set up, and definitely happy to count this as my first ever opera experience. Tosca is a love story, set in Rome, which predictably ends in tragedy. He was an artist, Italian, with a sense of humour, and honour, who heroically gave his life for a friend, and had beautiful dark eyes, olive skin, and wavy brown hair. She…the diva, was all-right, I suppose. Actually, she was pretty damn impressive. They all were. It was a brilliant, unabashedly melodramatic performance, loaded with emotion from start to finish. It appears there’s nothing subtle about opera. At the start I thought it might be a bit over the top, but then I got carried away, and of course I ended up crying at the end. I think I might just be a convert. The cinema will be showing a number of live broadcasts of opera, ballet and theatre over the next few months, so if the task should fall upon me to relieve my flatmate of any more spare tickets, then I’ll just have to do the right thing by her.
 
Anyway, after last weekend’s Hay festival, this week’s music intake, and my first lot of homework in years, I feel like my poor little head is about to explode. Too much new information, sounds, and experiences. Hyperactive brain activity. Makes sleep tricky. So over the weekend I did my best to reverse the damage. I went shopping in Madrid, read some trashy magazines, and went tapas/wine/bar tasting about town. Just to make sure those neurons don’t start getting ahead of themselves. 


1 Comment

goodbye Hinojosa

To: People on the old mailing list
Subject: goodbye Hinojosa
From: jean

So I started the last email with Spring has sprung in sunny southern Spain. What a boastful, cocky little phrase. I think I liked the alliteration and just couldn’t help myself. Needless to say, the skies have punished me and the weather has been unusually inclement for this time of year. As one of my students taught me (I really should be paying them), Cuando marzo mayea, mayo marzea. When March becomes like May (May-e-fies?), May becomes like March (March-i-fies?). Really does sound much nicer in Spanish.

Anyway it rained heavily on the majority of the Spring festivities in Andalucia. Which is super unfair, as Spain is already passing a mala racha (bad gust of wind/going through a bad time) what with the stupid abstract economy nonsense ruining people’s lives and all…the least they deserve is a bit of sun for the following fiestas and ferias (I’m still not sure what the difference is)…

continue reading…


Leave a comment

ENGLAND and ANDALUCIA

To: People on the old mailing list
Subject: England, Christmas & New Years, and more travels around the south of Spain
From: jean

Dear all;

I have one thing I really want to say, and that is:

SPRING HAS SPRUNG IN SUNNY SOUTHERN SPAIN!!

‘scuse the alliteration, couldn’t help myself… I’m just a wee bit excited because I’VE SURVIVED MY FIRST EUROPEAN WINTER!
I may have cheated a little by living in Andalucia, where there was no rain and no snow and winter didn’t actually kick off until December. But it was cold, by my reptilian standards. Hinojosa is on some kind of tableland and so the weather drops to sub zeros, but apparently this was never factored in when the houses were being built. The bulk of my daily energy was spent keeping warm – rotating heaters, opening and shutting blinds, washing my hair in a bucket, ironing clothes dry, and moaning about the weather and the cost of electricity (couldn’t help it, it’s all anyone every talked about). But, the worst has passed and I know I’ve certainly got off light. It’s only Feb and the days are already beautiful – sunny enough to eat al fresco and get a bit of colour in the face… while the rest of Europe is still knee deep in snow!

So I’m absolutely bonkers to have applied for another year in the north of Spain, where does get really cold and there are mountains and wilds and goodness knows how I’ll survive – except I’m hoping the houses will be better equipped – and it would sorta be nice to hear rain on the roof every once in a while…

Enough about the weather.

What’s been happening?

continue reading…