Friday, June 11, 2010
28. Visit the Basque Block
Last Tuesday I flew to Tacoma, Washington in order to take my sister Katrinka up on her invitation to join her, my brother in law Brian, and my 2 year old niece Tigist, on a road trip to our hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho, to crash her twenty-five year high school reunion. Katrinka went to college at Boise State, and so right now we're in Boise, visiting her close college friends, Sarah (and Sarah's 16 year-old daughter Oakley, who took me on a short but great hike) and Danny.
Along the way, two near-tragedies have been averted. First, my camera broke, but luckily, Brian agreed to give me pictures from his, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get the camera fixed during my short window back in Burlington before I head out on June 19 for my Middle East and East Africa adventure. Second, the New Thing I planned to try in Tacoma, glass blowing, got sidelined because we could only do it on the weekend we'd be in Boise and Twin Falls. But happily, on hearing my plight Sarah pointed out a very fine glass art studio right here in Boise and so yesterday Brian and I took a two-hour lesson in front of a 2000 (not a typo, that's TWO THOUSAND) degree furnace. Our works of art (we each made a paperweight and a vase) are sitting in a kiln right now, and when we see how they turned out, I'll post a separate New Thing entry on lessons in glassblowing (which looks easy when a pro like our teacher Phil does it, but is actually very challenging).
So, in addition to getting to do the glassblowing after all, I've been able to do an unexpected New Thing that I though was blogworthy, and that was learning about the ethnic culture and history of the Basque (largely through eating, which I think is a fine medium of instruction).
For those who don't know it, the Basque are an ethnic group who live in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. After 9/11 they got a bit more famous because of the Basque separatist organization, ETA, that was originally blamed by the Spanish government for an Al-Queda subway bomb (the "3/11 attack") in Madrid. But in Idaho, the Basque came here mainly as shepherds in the early 1900s, and there is a surprisingly large population of them that is centered, though I never knew it till now, in Boise, Idaho.
In fact, there is a super-cool enclave right in downtown Boise, known as the Basque Block. In the last two days, I've visited the Basque Block twice, and in the process, visited or passed by: the Basque Culture Center; a restored boarding house where Basque shepherds used to stay when not in the mountains; the Bsque Museum (where I got a language lesson in Euskara and bought the requisite Basque national flag (attention political science students: the Basque are an example of a nation without a state) and refrigerator magnet); and two Basque restaurants, Gernika and Leku Ona, where I bent my usual-vegetarian rules enough to try paella and chorizo, but conveniently not enough to try the tongue dishes that are well-known Basque specialties.
52 Ways to Say I Love You
...in Euskara (the language of the Basque people). There are fewer than a million people who speak it, so it is considered an endangered language, and interestingly, it is not related to French, Spanish or any other known European language. The people at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center (the only Basque Museum in the country) were very helpful in getting me these translations. You can check them out on line at www.basquemuseum.com, or the next time you're in Boise, visit it, and the whole Basque Block.
Hello Kaixo (informal) (pronounced like kesho, which is the Swahili word for tomorrow)
Good bye Agur (this is also the formal greeting for hello)
I love you Maite Zaitut (sounds like my-tie sigh-toot)
May I have two beers, please? Bi garagardoak, mesedez? (Sounds like Bee gara gar dowak, messa days?)
I'm going to do another post today or tomorrow on glass-blowing, and in that one I'm putting my travel schedule for the rest of the summer, plus plans to do other New Things during the times I'll be home in Vermont. I really hope people will take a look at it and see when and where they'd like to plug in on some of the activities, and post or shoot me an email to let me know.