I visited the Basque Country in June of this year. The trip was for a Basque language exchange programme organised by Asti Leku of Portugalete, a picturesque town lying at the end of the metro line from Bilbao. The ebullient organiser, one Zurine, had arranged our week’s programme jam-packed with educational excursions and activities. My fellow Basque language learners (eight Poles, one Czech, one Italian, one Armenian) and I were treated to endless rounds of museums, lunches and local cultural events, as well as the company of a group of enthusiastic Portugalete teenagers with whom we stayed.
Unfortunately, despite Zurine’s efforts (and those of my indefatigable and, now I am no longer his student I unashamedly add, hansom Basque tutor), my skills in this most authentic of languages have since declined to the negligible. But one phrase in particular stays with me, for it is pasted in red to a blue and white checkered handkerchief that hangs from my wall. It embodies the spirit of Basque culture in just three words:
GURE ARRANTZALEEKIN BAT
With our fishermen we unite.