Category Archives: Travel

First days

Adjusting to the UK feels absolutely bizarre, but then I realise that I’m in England, a place where I’ve only ever lived for 3 years of uni in Liverpool.

Here are some weird things:

  1. How English everyone looks – 9 out of 10 people are blonde, with pale skin and rosie cheeks.
  2. Overweight people – there are a few obese people, but generally people are about two clothes sizes bigger than in Bilbao.
  3. The price of alcohol – I had remembered that a drinkable bottle of wine would cost about £7, but trying to find cheap wine for cooking is basically impossible, so I bought vermouth instead.
  4. The money has changed – buying my first pint in a pub, the barmaid handed me back a pound coin, saying the old ones are no longer in circulation. When did that change?
  5. People don’t make eye contact, but if they do, they give a little smile.
  6. When I move out of someone’s way, they say thank you.
  7. Driving on the left again.
  8. Food trucks being in fashion.
  9. Socks and flip flops being in fashion.
  10. High definition eyebrows.
  11. People are polite and friendly on the phone.



Güiris Go Home

Teach me English. / Enseñame inglés

Look how badly they speak Spanish. / Mira que mal hablan castellano

Don’t you know anyone who can teach my kids English? / No conoces a nadie que pueda enseñar a mis niños inglés?

They’re not integrated at all. / No están integradas para nada

All you güiris know each other. / Todos estos güiris se conocen

A friend from here? / Un amigo de aquí?


I was sick so I wasn’t at the jam. I think that was fate. I might have said something ugly.

Estuve enferma entonces no fui al jam. Era destino. Es probable que habría dicho algo feo.


He said at the end that the jam needed more basque musicians, “güiris go home”. 

Dijo al final que el jam necesitaba más músicos bascos, güiris go home.


“But you’re not a güiri!” He told me.

“Pero tu no eres un guiri!” me dijo.


I’m a güiri every day. 

Soy un güiri todos los días.


I’m a güiri when people give me dirty looks for ruining a bar with my stinking presence. 

Soy güiri cuando la gente me miran mal por arruinar un bar con mi presencia apestosa.


I’m a güiri when I make an appointment on the phone and people hang up when they hear a foreign accent. 

Soy güiri cuando hago una cita por telefono y cuelgan el telefono cuando escuchan un acento extranjero.


I’m a güiri when I work and pay rent, instead of living with my family or in one of their properties. 

Soy güiri cuando trabajo y pago alquiler, en vez de vivir con mi familia o en una de sus propiedades.


I’m a güiri when creepy dudes hear a foreign accent and they try to talk to me as I’m “easy”. 

Soy güiri cuando babosos escuchan un acento extranjero y me intentan hablar porque me perciben como “fácil”.


I’m a güiri when some old dude touches my arse in a crowd as I’ve forgotten to stop smiling so I look foreign. 

Soy güiri cuando un viejo me toca el culo porque se me había olvidado no sonreírme y es obvio que soy extranjera.


I’m a güiri when my friend tells me that a doctor has given her an unnecessary breast examination because he felt like feeling her up. 

Soy güiri cuando mi amiga me dice que el médico le ha dado una revisión de los pechos porque tenía ganas de tocar sus tetas.


I’m a güiri when a “friend” follows me to the bathroom to sexually harass me and all my friends are “neutral” because he’s from here and I’m not and a friend from here is worth 10 foreign friends. 

Soy güiri cuando un “amigo” me persigue hasta el baño para acosarme sexualmente y todos mis amigos son “neutros” porque el es de aquí y yo no soy y un amigo de aquí vale 10 amigos de fuera.


7 years I’ve lived abroad for. 7 years of this catch 22. I’m sick of fighting. I have 3 months left. 3 months to sell all my shit, give away as much as possible, do everything to close this chapter. 

7 años llevo fuera. 7 años de este circulo vicioso. Estoy harta de discutir. Me quedan 3 meses. 3 meses de vender mis posesiones, regalar lo más posible, hacer todo antes de cerrar este capítulo.


I’m not going to go back to the jam.

No voy a volver al jam.

Old (Basque) Men

Last night I was reading and an old dude came up and started talking to me about the music in the bar, the book I was reading. When he started to touch me (on the hand) I asked him not to and returned to my book. He then started shouting at me and stormed off angrily.
My friends arrived. I was outside with them. He shouted at me again briefly.
Last week I saw a similar thing happening to another woman on the bus. She was from here.
The old man was short, thin. I could have easily knocked him out. He uses the fact that it would be shameful to physically accost someone so weak in order to try to humiliate young women he wants to harass.
When I walk home from the gym, old men make comments about my body, with their old men chums. My hair is plastered to my head with sweat.
When I’m at a bar, old men are shouting “NIÑA” so loudly at the woman who runs the bar I feel sick. She herself looks disgusted but says nothing.
I remember when I’d left my keys at home, and went to a bar across the road from my house. An old man started shouting about how they shouldn’t let women in the bar. I was tired and sad about my mothers death so I pretended I hadn’t heard and just read my book.
There’s a young man who sexually harassed me two years ago. I went sick and lost all my friends. Our friends in common gave excuses for him, said that he was sad about his mother’s illness. I took care of my mother and watched her die slowly, her face twisted in agony. Only men get free passes.
Whenever he sees me with another woman or alone, he calls my name. Whenever he sees me with a man, he says nothing.
There’s a lot of men here who could do with a good slap.
I am tired of patriarchy.

The first 20 hours — how to learn anything

  1. deconstruct the skill: Euskera- listening, reading, pronunciation. Decide what you want to be able to do.
  2. learn enough to self-correct: Get books. Don’t procrastinate. Learn just enough that you can self-correct/self-edit as you practice
  3. remove barriers to practice: television, internet
  4. Practice at least 20 hrs: feeling stupid is a barrier to us, causing frustration and stopping us practicing.

Another “Friend”

I first met him outside a bar in Bilbao La Vieja in 2016. He was an older dude, maybe late fifties. He was nice and said he could get me a gig teaching dance once a month in a social centre. I taught there for 6 months.

We messaged every now and again. I proofread a speech for him that he was giving in English at a university.

I asked him for help with getting into radio in Bilbao. Is this course worth the money? Are there any places I can apply to? Do you know anyone?

He suggested we go to the beach to talk about it. I was mildly apprehensive about going in the car with a guy I didn’t really know. I don’t like to depend on other people for transport, especially men. I feel trapped, as if it all goes tits up (like they make a sexual advance and you say no, you’ll be left high and dry). I thought that, maybe because of the age difference between us (around 25 years), he might feel a fatherly affection towards me.

The beach we went to was a nudist beach. I don’t tend to go to them so much as in my experience they tend to be full of naked men. After being masturbated at several times, I don’t feel comfortable around naked men.

I deliberately didn’t wear make up or nice clothes. Some people call this “uglification”, when women behave like this (like when I chopped off their hair and felt more “comfortable”) to try to ward off unwanted advances.

He stripped down as soon as we got there. I really didn’t feel 100%comfortable but I tried to be cool about it. I’m foreign, maybe that’s normal here? Maybe I’m just a big ole square.

Despite my apprehensions, the day went smoothly, without any sexual advances.

That was 6 months ago.

Then, this week, there was the big all day drinking fest of Santo Tomas. He was messaging me, asking where I was to go for a drink etc. I hadn’t been feeling well so I had been chilling at home all day, then went out for dinner with a female friend. We then met up with my best male friend, and the three of us went for a few drinks.

I bumped into my older friend other on Barrenkale, my little group and my older friend’s little group. He was visibly very drunk and the first thing he did was put his hand on my arse. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt (I was wearing a long coat, maybe he made a mistake?) and moved away.

-That guy I saw you with the other day is your boyfriend, isn’t he?

-No. I wanted him to be but he said no.

(One convenient thing about having a boyfriend is that you have an instant excuse to politely decline unwanted advances. I didn’t want to lie)

Dame un beso (Give me a kiss)


Por qué? (“Why?” he asked me, over and over)

Porque no quiero. (Because I don’t want to)

Por qué no podemos follar de vez en cuando?”, “Why can’t we fuck every now and again?” he asked me over and over. I rejected him politely, over and over again. “Because I fall in love with people I have sex with”. His response was always: “But why?”.

My male friend, my wing man, my work husband, saw what was happening and called to me: “Sarah, we’re going now, come on”, giving me an excuse to leave the situation. He gives me faith in malekind.

At the time, I laughed it off, but the next day, I felt deeply saddened by what had happened. Why does “friendship” with women to many, many men, mean sex? Why can’t colleagues do favours for each other and there be professional boundaries without someone putting an unwanted hand on someone else’s butt?

This is basically why women find it so hard to advance in all fields. Grades are a small part of a successful career. It’s all about making contacts. Men hold the majority of the positions of power, and they form networks, they help each other out,  then they “help” women, but in return for future sexual contact… Women learn to keep men at arms length at all times, or else get accused of “inviting” the sexual advance, or using their “wiles” to manipulate.

I used to be “pretty”. I used to have long hair, do make up, heels, have lots of clothes. But I just got sick of it. Conforming to beauty standards, being “hot”, using my sexual power to manipulate men. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realise that that was what was happening. All I knew was that people were nicer to me when I dressed up, and I loved it. But it is a fleeting and precarious type of power, and leads to all sorts of (sexual) favours expected in return.

The next day, I received a message from my older friend, not of apology, but again propositioning me for sex. I didn’t reply.

I went out after work with my work husband, planning on having a few drinks and then meeting up with a guy I’ve just started getting to know who seems to be a total muffin. He just seems so honest and genuine, intelligent, interesting to talk to, makes me laugh a lot, tells dark stories, is better at me at darts but chill about it…

It turned out that this guy had missed his transport connection and wouldn’t be able to meet, seeing as a close friend of his was in town, and he had work the next day etc, but luckily (or unluckily for him?), we bumped into each other anyway. I was merry, chatted on a bit, didn’t leave him to hang out with his friends… Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I walked him to his door (it was on my way to get a taxi, and I always get taxis home if I’m too drunk to cycle as I can’t be arsed to get attacked on my walk home alone. Even if it’s just a grab grope, it ruins my mood for weeks).

Emboldened by alcohol, I kissed him goodnight, properly. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to want to kiss me back that much so I pulled away…  His body language wasn’t a “yes”, and if there’s no clear “yes”, then it’s a “no”.

I didn’t ask him “why” repeatedly. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone in for the kiss, but I think it’s important that women initiate stuff like that… Blurred lines, although an undoubtedly catchy song, is not something that applies to me. If I like you, if I want a physical relationship with you, you *will* know about it. And if you reject my proposition, I’ll wave you on your merry way, without any hurt feelings or resentment. I am aware that I am a strong flavour, and not everyone’s cup of tea.

The next day, I had to run some errands, and I saw my older friend walking down the street on the other side. I pretended like I hadn’t seen him. I was tired and had to do some last minute Christmas food shopping. This was the first year where I was doing my own Christmas dinner, the third Christmas after my mum’s death. I had bigger fish to fry.

It seems to me that maybe some men like to hang out with younger people in order to keep feeling young, and this logically overspills into the sexual, ya que el roce hace el cariño. I wonder if when we are “equal” (in the economic sense), will rich older women do this? Are some of them doing it right now? If I was in that type of situation, would I want that type of relationship?

I know several women my age who are in stable, loving relationships with guys that are 20 (or more) years older than them. They seem so happy. I don’t judge what works for other people.

I wonder if my older friend genuinely likes me, feels attracted to me, or just wants to use me to feel younger. But, seeing as I don’t get that sexual attraction chemical reaction with him, there’s no point in hypothesising. I am not the fountain of youth, my time is precious, and what I really yearn for is to invest my time in deep, loving, long term relationships, in my friendships and romantic relationships.

Asking Guys Out

So. As heterosexuals I believe we do this weird “dance”, where:

-Masculinity: men are expected to do all the asking out, be active, be more “sexually driven”

-Femininity: women are expected to be more coy, be passive, like sex less.

A lot of times, there can be miscommunications between men and women in the start (or rejection) of an advance towards a romantic/sexual relationship. Women often don’t feel empowered to say “thanks but no thanks” directly, without some sort of unpleasant consequence, seeing as, as we all know, some men are absolute psychos. But they also don’t feel empowered to say “Yes”, or make the first move.

As a radical feminist, I try to be as transparent as possible in my relationships with men, be they platonic or romantic. “I fancy you. I don’t fancy you sorry. Do it like this. I love that!” is something I think it’s important to say, and in the Basque Country, it seems to freak people out a bit.

A few months ago we were looking for a new person for our house. The owners had stipulated that the house should be all female, unless it was a guy we knew well (e.g. through friends etc). Not my choice, but I accepted the terms. Men… it sucks to be on the receiving end of prejudice, but it also sucks the weird shit that some men do that women spend our lives avoiding. Fact.

As soon as I put the ad online, the phone started ringing. Message after message from a million internet weirdos, ranging from criticisms of the advert, to people wanting to move in with their small children (consider my heart strings pulled), to people’s annoying grandmother’s insisting that they move in straight away without us even having met the person.

It was a huge pain in the arse. Most messages from men I didn’t reply to, as the ad clearly stated only women, but I did recognise one guy’s dog.

I’d met him at a party the year before. He was a friend of a friend. He seemed nice. I remember having had a bit of a crush on him…

He came round, we chatted. He was nice. I got the sense that he wasn’t telling the whole truth, like he was trying to take less drugs or something…but then who ever tells the truth in a job/flat interview? He said he didn’t want to share food (as me and my housemate do. One person cooks, the other cleans, we eat together a lot etc). He left, with me saying something like: “Well, for me, you can live here. But I’ll have to speak to the other housemate”.

We talked it over. She said it didn’t sound like a great idea to her, if he wasn’t into sharing everything etc. So I sent him a message, apologising but saying that we had talked it over and that we had chosen someone else. I added at the end, in Spanish clumsy as fucking shit, that I didn’t want to live with someone I thought was hot either…

My friends back home, in the UK, commended me. I felt like some sort of feminist hero, a bit like the following sketch:

Just like in the above scene, he rejected me, by replying and making zero reference to my advance. That is completely fair enough. He said “no”, no harm no foul. Peace bro!

My friends from Bilbao were aghast. First of all, the language I used was way too strong. But I also got the strong sense that women saying directly what they want (in terms of men and sexual relationships) is not the “done” thing here.

My friend said: “What if it was the other way around? That’s so aggressive”. I was shocked that she had such a different view on what I did. It’s not aggressive to me to put it out there, say it once, especially seeing as men aren’t the ones afraid to walk home on their own at night… He said “no thanks”, and that was that. I don’t ever think “Qué pasa si fuese al revés?” because it’s unlikely that a woman will rape a man on his walk home, as it’s unlikely that a man will have a woman’s kids taken off her and use them in order to extort money from her. Call it biology, call it society, but that is the way it is, and we have to change it.

This friend and my other friend had started seeing each other recently, and I had found the way that my male friend came on to my female friend and that my female friend pretended not to like him to be kind of… not ideal. I even spoke to my male friend, saying: “Be careful. You’re bordering on sexual harassment.”. But then… he actually wasn’t. My friend did relent in the end, and they’re in a happy relationship now, but for me, situations like that are…

I’m really big on consent. I’m tired of men pretending to be my friend and then sticking their erections in my back. I try to be honest and direct in sexual relationships. So as to protect myself from feeling betrayed, or from confusing signals, I have a strict “no friend fucking” policy. I like to keep my friends and my lovers separate. It’s a system that has it’s disadvantages, but it works for me for the time being.

I remember a friend of mine talking about her experiences in South America, saying how to people there, asking if you can kiss someone would be such a moment killer. Maybe that is a bit much but… Consent is important.

The experience made me realise two things. Firstly, if I’m a strong flavour in the UK, which is no utopia by any means, then here I’m like some sort of martian when it comes to philosophy produced by (too much) life experience. Secondly, no matter how long I live here, I will always be basically like… “disabled” in Spanish. Unfortunately, I gain my sense of worth/self-esteem from the idea that I am in some way funny, intellectual, interesting, and… I’m none of those things in Spanish. I’m the weird foreigner at the party that no one wants to talk to. I’m the person that mispronounces things. I’m the person with very little interesting to say. Worst, I’m a “radical” for saying things like: “it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear. Men are not animals. They can control themselves.”

This episode, among others, made me realise that I at least need a break from the Basque Country next year. If anything, I have forgotten how shit things are in other places, so I can go and reremember all that and then come back here, rested, and ready to learn Basque properly.