On the Road to Chino

Chinooooooooooooo, I’m coming for you!

This weekend is literally one of my favorite weekends of the year. I am celebrating my 10th consecutive Chino picnic. Where does the time go?

Chino picnic is my all-time favorite Basque American picnic, and Chino people are my all-time favorite Basques. I’m even writing a novel about it. Could you already tell I love Chino?

I am beyond excited for this weekend, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low. Yes, there will be downtime. It will probably be too hot for this San Franciscan to bear. I will probably experience boredom throughout the day tomorrow. But those things are all manageable, since Chino picnic is consistently awesome.

I realize I haven’t really explained yet why Chino’s Labor Day picnic is amazing. So if you’re wondering why I love it so much, here are a few reasons:

  • So many young people come out for Chino picnic! The dancers have been nothing but nice to me over the years, even when I was that random girl from San Francisco who didn’t know anyone. I’ve made a lot of good friends in Chino, merely by showing up to the picnic every year.
  • I usually only get to see my amazing SoCal cousins once a year at Chino picnic.
  • The dance is usually really lively, since Chino has such large dance groups and the picnic attracts many people who love to dance.
  • People bring their American friends for the dance. I always meet new people at Chino picnic, and the new faces keep things fresh and fun.
  • I LOVE CENTRO BASCO. Love their dinner, and I die for their breakfast on Monday morning. I also love when they keep the bar open after the dance. Perfect for afterparties!
  • There’s a skate park across the street from the Chino Fairgrounds. I try to get away from the picnic in quieter moments (after lunch or after the dance performances) to watch the skaters. It’s a cool way to break up the traditional picnic day, and it gives me a minute to recharge before the long day and night ahead.
  • Handball games at the Aphessetche trinquet. Although they’re not hosting games this year and showing Domingo Ibarburu at the fairgrounds instead, the handball games are usually a highlight for me. Aita and I would go together–him for the games, me to sip on a Coke and see who’s around. It’s a chill way to lead into the weekend.

Basically, everyone should go to Chino picnic at least once. It’s amazing.

The parents and I are getting an early start this morning, as Chino, California is about a 7 hour drive from the Bay Area. I won’t post tomorrow or Monday, but look out for the Chino recap on Tuesday.

Also, like and follow the Hella Basque Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates throughout the weekend.

If you’re going to the fairgrounds tomorrow, I’ll be handing out the last of my Hella Basque stickers. Get yours before they’re all gone! If you don’t know me, look out for my Jaime scarf out on the dance floor tomorrow night. Say hi!


Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 2

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

A large man with two small children in tow, resplendent in the delight inspired by their Happy Meal toys, walked in front of the truck. Looking over, he noticed the two teenagers in the front seat and eyed them suspiciously. He gathered his children and quickened his pace.

Brigitte smiled at the man’s uneasiness. A warm glow spread over her as she imagined he probably thought they were a couple, hanging out in Patrick’s car because they would soon be making out. Her eyes darted to Patrick’s soft lips and passed over his distracted eyes the color of a deep lake covered in a layer of early morning fog. She wondered what it would feel like to kiss him, as a wave of arousal passed over her. As quickly as the thought entered her mind, she tried to forcefully push it out. Those thoughts were good for nothing more than making her nervous, and she needed to act like a cool and, more importantly, normal human being so as not to embarrass herself.

“I don’t think you ever told me… What are your plans for next year?”

Patrick’s eye twitched slightly at the question, and he fixed his gaze on a spot outside the front windshield. “I don’t know. Probably just go to Chaffey. I don’t really know what I want to do, so I don’t see the point to spending a bunch of money on a four year school.”

“Sure. Makes sense.”

Brigitte started ripping up the spare napkins, amassing a little collection of confetti in the sandwich wrapper in front of her, while Patrick changed the subject. It was a mindless job that subconsciously helped her focus on the present moment, redirecting her attention to the situation at hand. She needed the distraction, as she had the tendency to let her thoughts get the better of her—fantasizing and imagining what should be happening or what she wished Patrick would say, panicking over what she should say next to keep the conversation going, or falling into despair, thinking that he was only being nice to her because she was probably the only one free to hang out that afternoon.

“Would you stop that!” Patrick cried in frustration, stopping abruptly midway through the story of his homecoming dance sophomore year. He lunged at her and ripped the napkin out of her hands.

“Hey!” Brigitte cried in protest, stunned at his outburst. “What gives?”

“I’m cutting you off. It’s really annoying to watch you do that.”

Brigitte smirked and picked up one of the bits of paper in front of her. She pinched it with both thumbs and forefingers, threatening to rip it.

“Don’t you dare,” Patrick warned sternly.

She raised her eyebrows and ripped the piece in half, keeping her gaze steady on his face. He threw his head back and groaned, as if it were tortuous to be in such tight quarters with her. At this reaction, Brigitte laughed with glee.

“That’s what you get!” she gloated. Continue reading

Ski Lodge: If Summer and Winter Had a Baby, It Would Sound Like This

During Jaialdi 2010, I met a cool Basque American kid from Portland named John Barinaga at Leku Ona‘s bar. I don’t remember much from that night, but these are the things I remember:

  • I thought he was cute.
  • He didn’t know many young people.
  • He was getting drunk at the bar with his dad.
  • His dad kept telling him to dump his girlfriend because I was a lot nicer.
  • I introduced him to my friends because he didn’t know many young people.
  • And because I thought he was cute.

Fast forward three years later, John lives in Brooklyn and plays guitar in an up-and-coming band called Ski Lodge.


I don’t want to sound like a groupie here, but this band is actually really good. Ski Lodge is like The Smiths meets dancy surf rock. At first I wasn’t too sure how that combination sat with me, but it quickly grew on me.

When I listen to Ski Lodge, I imagine Morrissey sitting on a beach in an ironically worn Hawaiian shirt, sipping on a Mai Tai trying to have a good time, but ever compelled to sing about his sorrows like a pre-teen girl’s diary entry. Because he just can’t help it.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? Give them a listen.

You can keep up with Ski Lodge through their websiteFacebook, and Twitter, or download their debut album Big Heart on iTunes now.

Favorite Quotes from Domingo Ibarburu

Instead of picking a Basque proverb this Wednesday, I want to share with you my favorite quotes from the Elgarrekin theater troupe’s performance on Sunday. They presented the play, Domingo Ibarburu, written by Pantxo Hirigaray.

One of the funniest characters spouted off advice quotes from his amatxi and aitatxi. These sayings started profound and got more ridiculous as the play went on. And they’re hella Basque in that they all involve food.

Here are the ones I took down:

“If you give flour to someone who’s not used to eating cake, he’ll make bread.”

“If there’s not a chance of having cake, you don’t care for cake. But if there’s a chance of having cake, you become a cake lover.”

“He who lacks cakes dreams of pies.”

“A bad baker can ruin the flavor of the best cake.”

“The bigger the cake, the more people there are that love the cake.”

“A cake that stays too long in the oven isn’t worth much.”

“If you put three cakes on top of a table, it’s difficult to decide which one to eat.”

Which line is your favorite?

Recovering from a Weekend at the Basque Cultural Center

A few days ago, the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco, California hosted its Jaialdia weekend. Here is the recap of events through my experience:


I arrived around 6:00 PM, in time to catch the last ten points of the handball game with the players from the Basque Country. First of all, there was no cover charge. I was pleasantly surprised by that! In the past few years the Center’s had us pay to watch handball, so thanks for the freebie.

The funny thing about the handball game was hearing my dad’s complaints. Usually Aita rags on “those Spanish Bascos,” but Saturday night he had nothing but criticism for the French handball players. He called them lazy, finding the game a little slower than he would have liked. According to Aita, pilotaris from Hegoalde hustle more.

My friends more in the know about the issue pointed out that these players were more accustomed to playing in smaller trinquets back home. So I told Aita to calm himself.

After handball, we headed for the bar. The Basque Cultural Center phased out the drink ticket system a while ago, but I always forget until I get there. I was a mooch all night, bumming Cokes off people nice enough to offer, because I was too stubborn to break my $20 bill for a soft drink.

Visiting band Baigura played on stage in the banquet room, but I refused to dance. The only people bold enough to dance in front of the large audience at the bar were mostly little kids and a handful of women. I hung back to chat with other people in the crowd, not wanting to join the fishbowl of the dance floor.

My friends and I eventually got in line for dinner. We jumped in the shorter line down the long hallway leading to the back serving line. In years past, the two lines used to be fairly equal, but it seems people forgot about the second serving line on Saturday night. We breezed right to the front.

serving line

When we got through the line, we were obliged to sit across from my parents, as they were on the end of the open table to which we were ushered. My parents even did that annoying thing where they sat side by side, so my friends and I had to sit in front of them, rather than across from each other.

Oh, the drama of family style seating! I actually had to sit with my family in the end. What a drag.

I kid, of course. My parents are wonderful people, but that adolescent attitude still takes over. You know the one where you don’t want your parents listening in on your conversations with your friends. Maybe they’ll hear something inappropriate. Oh goodness!

Continue reading

Living at the Basque Cultural Center

Twice a year, South San Francisco’s Basque Cultural Center hosts a weekend of Basque festivities, once in February and once in August. Augustfest is upon us starting today! Finally, a party that doesn’t require a road trip!

Click here to see the flyer.


3:30 – Junior Pala featuring local players

4:00 – Pala game: Bakersfield vs. San Francisco

5:00 – Euskal Herria Handball Players: Christophe Arbeletche, Michel Etcheverry, Peio Indart, Xabi Urruty

6:00 – Apero with Baigura

7:00 – BBQ Steak Dinner (advance reservation and payment required) followed by dance with Baigura


10:00 – Basque mass with Aita Lastiri, San Francisco Klika, Elgarrekin Choir, and Zazpiak Bat dance group
followed by performances by the Zazpiak Bat dance group

12:00 – Apero with Baigura

12:30 – BBQ Rack of Lamb Lunch (advance reservation and payment required)

3:30 – theater performance in Basque with English translation by Elgarrekin from Armendaritz, Benafarroa – Domingo Ibarburu by Pantzo Hirigaray

Tonight I’ll be passing out Hella Basque stickers. Same drill as Running of the Bars: snap a picture, upload it to social media with #hellabasque, get a sticker. Simple, right? Come find me. I’ll be wearing my Jaime scarf, as usual.

Jaime scarf

Follow the @hellabasque Twitter account for our first live tweet session! I will be live tweeting the events Saturday night from 7 to 10 PST and Sunday from noon to 1:30 PST. Tweet me your questions and comments @hellabasque with #hellabasque.

I’ll take tomorrow and Monday off from posting on the blog, so check back on Tuesday for the Hella Basque recap.

Hope everyone has fun this weekend!

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 1

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

On her drive home from dance practice one day, Brigitte got a text from Patrick: “Meet me at McDonald’s.” Her heart skipped a beat, she replied “K” in agreement, and she made a U-Turn immediately, without question. Her imagination worked on overdrive, overwhelmed with anticipation on the short drive to McDonald’s.

Pulling up into the parking lot with sweaty palms and a queasy stomach, she found Patrick leaning against his dad’s white pick up, hands in his pockets and looking up at the sun. His tan was captivating to fair skinned Brigitte; it was truly the defining feature that completed his tall, dark, and handsome frame. To look at him, one would never guess he was half Irish.

Brigitte thought of him more as a rugged Spaniard, a ranchero from times past, in turquoise Converse.  His fashion sense left something to be desired, as his color blindness meant his outfits rarely matched. Patrick wore T-shirts in bold colors no one else would dare—yellows, oranges, reds, and aquas. Today, it was a vibrant shade of kelly green. Brigitte did not mind the shirts, for she was more focused on the toned body underneath. In her eyes, he was perfect.

Patrick drew his attention away from the sky only once Brigitte parked and approached.

“What’s up?” Brigitte greeted him. She tried to act cool, but that was rather difficult with images of the two of them making out against his truck flashing to the forefront of her mind.

“Just dying for a Big Mac,” he replied, taking off from the truck and stepping to cross the parking lot. Brigitte followed.

“Why’d you tell me to meet you here?”

“So we could have lunch.” He walked through the door to the restaurant and turned slightly until she caught up.

“Yeah, I get that. But why me?”

“Why not you?” Patrick looked down at her and smiled. Dimples formed in his cheeks endearingly, and the charmingly boyish effect made Brigitte swoon. Continue reading