A road trip in pictures

Last September I went on a trip around some countries in Europe with my family. It’s been a while but I wanted to share some of the photos I took.

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“Peace” — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
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Friendship — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Reflections — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Reflections pt II — Zaanse Schans, NL
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Mystery — Giethoorn, NL
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Green — Giethoorn, NL
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Giethoorn, NL
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Volendam, NL
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Volendam, NL
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Red — Volendam, NL
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Brugge, Belgium
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Brugge, Belgium
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Brussels, Belgium
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Books — Brussels, Belgium
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Chambord, France
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Rooftops — Amboise, France
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River Loire, France
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Blois, France
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French cool — Blois, France
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Love ornate doors — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Soft — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Caryatids — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Château de Chenonceau, France
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Rush — Château de Chenonceau, France
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Chilling in the shade — San Sebastián, Spain
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I’d love to live here — San Sebastián, Spain
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Early morning light — Dombellas, Spain
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Warmth — Dombellas, Spain
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Dombellas, Spain
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Cosy — Dombellas, Spain
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Los Sestiles, Dombellas, Spain
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Celtas — Ruinas de Numancia, Spain
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The road home — Dombellas, Spain
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Madrid, Spain
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Always miss these colourful walls — Madrid, Spain
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Callejeando — Madrid, Spain

 

The Good Immigrant: some thoughts on language and national identity.

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This is not a review. Just some thoughts on what struck me when reading this book. It brought up many memories of my own story and some thoughts that I would like to share.

First things first, if you don’t know about this book, go and check out their website at Unbound.

The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays by British black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists. In this book, edited by Nikesh Shukla, they share some of their experiences of growing up in the UK, what it was like for them, the difficulties and joys they encountered and how they live now as British people with an immigrant background.

I found some of the stories very moving , like Kieran Yates’ On Going Home; stories of arrivals and departures always strike a cord with me. She also writes about language:

I know language can be painful, and so too do a generation of immigrants who have arrived here through different pathways. For them, language is the great battle to fight, and for many it’s a war you always feel like you’re losing. Even when you get the language, unless you shed your accent, you’re continually reminded of your difference.

Reading this brings up thoughts about my parents and the time we spent in the Netherlands when I was younger. I did not understand that it was harder for them to grasp the language than it was for my brother and I. I took to it with delight, I was excited to be able to communicate with people from so many different countries. My 11-year-old self thought Amsterdam was the best thing that had happened to me. Nowadays, I see how my parents suffered and I know that at least some of that was connected to language. Being able to communicate is essential when you’re an immigrant, especially when you’re an immigrant from the Global South in the Northern hemisphere.

For me, learning Dutch and English was the gateway to exploring ideas and ways of being in the world that my family perhaps did not understand or approved of. Above all, I saw language as a way of being accepted by the country where I thought I’d live indefinitely. Little did I know that we would all move to Spain, where my Latin American accent would stand out and where I’d be confronted with a people much more extroverted than I was comfortable with.

Being Latin American in Spain is an interesting thing, especially as an Ecuadorian. There are just so many of us! You’d think that’s a good thing but I hated my first few years in Spain. I hated that opening my mouth meant people would know I wasn’t from there. The few Latin American kids in my school disliked me and I must admit that it was my fault — I was judgemental and a bit of a snob. But language…language is still uncomfortable, painful sometimes. Spanish is uncomfortable even though it is my native language. I am not sure where it comes from but I always panic slightly when someone unexpectedly speaks Spanish to me. I have to mentally prepare myself for interactions when I’m on a plane on my way to Madrid. I have felt overwhelmed by emotion when listening to songs in Spanish, something that doesn’t happen at all when listening to music in any other language. Living life in English, including in my head, feels easier and safer somehow. Spanish feels like an earthquake.


There are other essays in The Good Immigrant that touch on the subject of language. In Namaste, Nikesh Shukla writes about his different voices. Reading his essay, I felt like he writes with a kind of assurance that I haven’t yet grasped. In fact, that is the feeling I got when reading many of the essays. I wonder if it is because many of the authors were born or grew up mostly in one country, whilst I lived in a few. Maybe it’s just my personality. In any case, I admire these writers’ honesty when sharing their stories. I admire their boldness. I sometimes wish that I could claim some kind of national identity — I was asked by one of my friends once whether I considered myself Spanish and I didn’t know what to say. All I could think is, what does that mean? The writers in this book mostly identify as British and even though it is an abstract, hard to define concept, I wish I could say it and for it to mean something to me.

I will leave you with some of the other essays that stood out to me:

A Guide to Being Black by Varaidzo
Kendo Nagasaki and Me by Daniel York Loh
Flags by Coco Khan
Shade by Salena Godden
The Ungrateful Country by Musa Okwonga

 

 

On the EU Referendum result

This would’ve been an essay but there is an abundance of political commentary out there. So I deleted my 1000+ word piece and wrote the following:

There is too much noise
for a small voice to be heard;
too much anger and bitterness
and gloating.
Too much division
for feelings of empathy

What do you do
when you are caught in a crossfire of accusations
and suffer the consequences
of a decision you weren’t allowed to make?

I am choosing to heed
words of wisdom
Be calm. Be still. Move on.

Often emotions don’t follow
and things fall apart
and it all seems pointless.

In the past few days,
I have felt anger
disillusionment
fear
and above all
uncertainty

It may not be for everyone
But even with emotions rattled
foundations shaken
and the crushing uncertainty…
Instead of casting blame,
I am choosing to look for wisdom.

 

Today I lost a poem

Today I lost a poem –
it might have gone down the drain in the shower
or alongside the dirty washing up water
Come to think of it, maybe it got thrown out
of my pocket along with old receipts…

There were some lines about longing
and England and the trees
and wondering where life is going
and whether calling myself a writer is suitable
or pretentious
or simply untrue
Because I don’t do it as often as I used to,
because the things I think about nowadays are hidden,
embarrassing even!
Because writing happened the most when I was unwell
and now that I’m better, is there anything left to say?

The poem might have escaped when I was busy at work
or maybe it just got tired of waiting.

No job title to my name.

these days
life moves in cycles
of positivity– wonder,
a certain hope
apathy
(jealousy, sometimes)
something close
to desperation
and unassuming happiness

I write answers
to testing questions
wonder if it’s all for nothing
study my keyboard
listen to lectures
consider all the possibilities
arrive at meaningless conclusions
quietly dance with the darkness I used to know
only to come back because there’s nothing there.
Nothing.
How many others have felt like this?

I question the value
of my existence
without a job title
to my name.

Media//Questions

I stay home
whilst nature takes revenge outside
With the world
pouring out from my screen
incoherent
wild
compassionate
angry
senseless

Would it be better
to go out into the storm?

Would my mind find refuge
from the stream
of images
of war?

Is it worth knowing
what happens,
if only for those
few
stories of hope?