Sunday, June 05, 2016

The giants of Pamplona's Basque culture

Giants are a part of the festival of San Fermin, which takes place July 6-14.


The community center where I swim had a couple of 13-foot giants on display last week, and a sign said they would be "dancing" as part of a neighborhood Basque culture festival. Cindy and I decided to go check it out (50-second video below).




Pamplona is politically outside the Basque Autonomous Region (we're in Navarra), but the northern part of the city is culturally very Basque. We live in Etxacaboiz (etch-a-ka-BOYTZ), on the border with Barañáin, a couple of good Basque place names. 


In local schools they teach some courses in Euskera, the Basque language, which has no relation to French, Italian, or any other Western European language. Its origins are unknown. The big local debate has been about the new leftist government's decision to decrease the number of bilingual schools that teach in English in order to increase the number of bilingual schools that teach in Euskera. 

Some of my colleagues speak Euskera, and when they are with friends will often use words that they then need to explain to other listeners. 

Translation -- a neglected art

On another language note, some of my colleagues here have had their books translated into English by publishing houses that are supposedly reputable. The result is an English that does credit to no one. It's embarrassing, really. It looks like a Spanish native with a graduate degree in English and a thorough immersion in Hollywood movies worked from a dictionary and Google Translate. Every paragraph, almost every sentence, has some abomination of the language. 

Translation is such hard work and is so poorly paid that none of this should be a surprise. Computer translations can be helpful if you want to know some simple information or instructions. But they produce a language that is laughable, ridiculous. If you want to translate Spanish into English that sounds like a human being wrote it, it is damn hard work. 

The reason I have been thinking about this is I just spent about seven hours yesterday translating one of my own blog posts -- about four times longer than usual, at 3,000 words -- into Spanish. The English version has been popular, so I needed to dedicate the time. I am a really lousy translator, in both directions. Being bilingual does not mean you can be a translator. That is a fine art. 

Wrapping up the semester

On Wednesday I give a kind of extra final exam to those who flunked the May final or otherwise didn't complete the project parts of the course. Then I am basically done, except for several research papers I am working on with various colleagues.

Here I am with some of my best students. The two on either end and the one next to me in the blue sweater just graduated. They judged the final projects by my Media Economics class. 65 students produced 17 projects. The other students with me -- two from Croatia, one from U.S., one Italian and one from Chile -- did one of the best projects. They created a kind of social network where students seeking international internships could connect with employers seeking students. Kind of like LinkedIn but taking advantage of existing student networks. 
That class was pretty satisfying. Lots of innovation.

With some colleagues from University of Navarra on our cruise around Manhattan during an academic conference in May. We all presented papers. The guy in the middle, Robert Picard, is from Oxford and has organized the conference every year. They pulled me into the picture while I had a mouthful of dessert.


This is inside the Aljaferia palace in Zaragoza. Cindy captured the grace of the Mudejar doors and arches. 

When Patrick and Jamie were here, we took them to nearby Zaragoza, which is one of our favorite places. One place we couldn't get into was the Aljaferia Palace, built by the Moors in the 11th Century and later taken over by the Catholic kings.

On that day, there was some government function taking place and lots of big shots were pulling up in their fancy vehicles and military uniforms. Plenty of cops were around preventing people from parking in the public spaces so that the big shots could take the spots.

Related:

A Roman holiday in western Spain
How to spend nine weeks in Europe without losing your shirt
Columbus Day story: How he brought me to Spain
20,000-year-old cave art and the north coast of Spain
Barcelona's art and architecture make it a favorite
Cordoba's main attraction: mix of Jewish, Moorish, Christian cultures 

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