[Week 5] Galego Word of the Week: Brétema

A Coruña at dusk

I’ll let you in on a little secret this week. The word I’m going to discuss isn’t the word I listed above. It is…but it’s not in the language I know it in. The word is actually bruma and while both words have virtually the same meaning, bruma holds a different connotation for me personally. I’ll explain later on.

At the beginning of 2015, I renewed with the Auxiliar de Conversación program and chose to stay in the autonomous region of Galicia for another year. However, I received a new placement at a primary school in the capital of the region, Santiago de Compostela. Though I had mixed feelings about my placement in the very beginning, a couple of friends helped me put it in perspective and through their encouragement, I began to get excited about the upcoming school year on my own. I already loved the city center of Santiago and knew that it had a much more youthful feel to it than any other city in the region. I loved those things about the city but the reason why I was reluctant to leave my old city, A Coruña, was because of one giant reason: the ocean.

I’m happiest when I am by the seaside – in rain or shine…but mostly shine.

I grew up in the landlocked yet beautiful state of Ohio in the United States. It’s a state that’s full of creeks, parks, hiking and cycling trails not to mention a huge body of water in the form of Lake Erie and the well-known Ohio River which forms part of the bottom of the state’s line in between Ohio and Kentucky. However, there is no ocean. The closest one is the Atlantic and it’s a good 8-10 hour drive away.

And while my family has taken vacations to California every once in a while to visit our extended family who live there, we never took a family vacation to the beach. Looking back on that part of my childhood, I don’t regret that we didn’t do a beach vacation. Deep down, I always felt that visiting a beach and spending time on it was something that I should do alone. On my own and without my family. I’ve felt a deep and elusive connection to the ocean for as long as I could remember. I would always listen intently to my mom or other friends tell me what the ocean was like or how the sand felt on their feet as they strolled down a beach barefoot. We even had a clock with built-in sounds from nature and I would always want to change it to the waves only to get a small peek into what it must like to hear the ocean waves crash onto the shore at night. For the longest time, all I had was my imagination, the Internet to find images of beaches and a vision in my mind to go on before I saw an ocean with my own two eyes. I never gave up hope that I would one day see and experience the ocean and the beach in person. If anything, I grew more hopeful with every passing year.

It’s much easier to find farmland than it is to find large bodies of water  in Ohio
(minus Lake Erie).

Finally, when I was 17, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with a group of students from my high school and we flew from Dayton (with a connection in Denver, Colorado) to San Diego, California. I may have even swapped seats with someone on our team to have a window seat because it would have been my very first time seeing the ocean. After flying almost 6 hours across the country, the time had come. The moment my eyes laid on this huge blue colored landscape, I was filled with such joy. The Pacific Ocean was bluer than I had ever imagined it to be or had seen in photographs. And even as I write and reflect about that moment now, that same feeling of joy is welling up inside my chest. That experience -and the many thousands of experiences at oceans around the country and world that would follow – is one of the highlights of my life. There are a lot of things, places and people who make me happy but one of my favorite places of all time now is the ocean. I dream about it, I crave its company and I physically ache when I don’t see it often.

The second time I saw the San Diego coastline – the first time was
taken with a disposable camera in 2006!

So, with all that being said, (and having spent 6 years prior to this living near a beach in Florida) you can see why I was hesitant to leave that city by the sea for a new city nestled in the mountains and a good thirty minutes to one hour drive away from the Atlantic Ocean. (Especially since I lived only 15 minutes on foot from the beach in A Coruña). However, in retrospect, I’m much happier and better off here in Santiago without the ocean -gasp- but I do try to visit it as often as I can.

I love the ocean in all seasons and in all its moods.

One of the things I love about Galicia overall is the niebla (fog) that you can see in all types of weather. Rain or shine. The high percentage of humidity here also influences the thickness of the fog and often times it’s too thick to see your own two hands stretched out in front of you. Nevertheless, I love it as I feel it paints a magical or mystical glow on the landscape before you.

I especially love having been able to see a special type of fog called sea mist or brétema in the Galician language. I had read about it and seen pictures of places like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California covered in a thick blanket of fog but I had never seen any of those places in person. It wasn’t until I arrived here in mid-autumn and saw the fog from the window of a bus, that realized just how much I wanted to see a verdant landscape or rocky coast blanketed in fog. And what’s more, I had only wanted to experience this in the last couple of years and not all of my life like with the ocean. This new goal literally came out of thin air you could say.

We saw brétema that afternoon on the beach but it was hard to capture it on camera.
And I did need to wear a sweater that day because the air was crisp and it was very windy! (June 2015)

However, once you see this sea mist (or any other type of fog) in person, you develop a desire to see it again and again. It stays in your mind and you begin to think about or plan the next time you will see it. At least this is how it is for me.

Though, I prefer the sun over the rain, I have a fun love-hate relationship with the weather here. Part of me hates how unpredictable it is but then the other half loves it because you never know what to expect here. Some days can get pretty dreary and dark outside but it’s sort of exciting to live somewhere that pours down rain in the middle of a sunny fall day or blasts hail at you on your walk home in the dead of winter. You can certainly get cabin fever after putting up with so many rainy days in a row but you come out of the experience more capable of handling all kinds of weather. Now how’s that for a skill to add to your resume? haha

The meaning of the word brétema isn’t as deep or elusive as the other words I’ve written about so far in this series. It’s an exception to the rule simply because it means something special to me. The words to describe rain and other types of weather in Galicia are numerous as there are more than 70 words in the Galician language to describe rain in all forms and strengths. If you don’t believe me take a look at the article and you will quickly realize how clever the Galician people are and how rain affects almost every area of their lives.

Well, on the contrary, the word bruma has been adopted into my daily interactions with people I know. The reason being that I see Bruma every day and sometimes it’s not so happy to see me. Sometimes it’s ecstatic and won’t leave my side. It also lives inside my flat (apartment) which, if you think about it, is hard to do given its natural state. It goes from room to room to visit everyone who lives there. And, in fact. I don’t mind its company most days (and it doesn’t get our already wet laundry even wetter, haha) so it’s fine by me if it wants to hang around.

In fact, Bruma  has helped made my transition to this new city quite smooth. Even though I was hesitant to move to a place that had so much of it as I have been without the presence of something like it for over a year, I’m so glad I did. Have you figured out what this type of bruma is yet? If not, this photo below should clear up any confusion you may have.

To me, Bruma is a kitty! And one of my flatmates is her owner – er, rather Bruma owns her,
as she is queen of the flat after all. 😉

So, there you have it. The type of Bruma that I like best comes in the form of a small cat with massive tufts of gray and black fur and piercing gold-tinted eyes. She would rather be out in her natural habitat running around a farm and chasing any creature she can get her paws on…but, I’m glad she’s decided to spend her most of her days in a tiny yet cozy flat in Santiago with me and two of the most wonderful Galician girls I’ve ever met. 🙂

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