Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A friend from Holland asked me today if I had heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was born in Mogadishu Somali, but went to secondary school in Kenya. However she is now the second most popular politician in the Netherlands. How did that come about? After a career, which began as cleaning woman and mail sorter, she later became a translator (she speaks excellent Dutch). Although she joined the think-tank of the Dutch Social Democratic Party, she later switched to the Dutch right-of-centre (classical) liberal party.

Her reason for switching parties was that Ayaan Hirsi Ali believes, passionately, that the wooly thinking of the liberal left on multicultural issues is misguided. In particular they do not help women, particularly Muslim women. Some of the issues for Muslim women are personal - she underwent genital mutilation ("circumcision"), and ran away from an arranged marriage. In fact she has now converted from Islam to agnostic and lives with tight security to save her against death threats from Islamic radicals.

Anyway my friend was wondering if I had seen a short movie she has written the script for, which he says is sure to become very controversial. I haven't but I'll be interested to see it when it does come out.

Some of the links where I got my information:
Tech Central Station (1 January 2004)
BBC News (23 December 2003)
QSI blogg (15 Feb 2003)
Radio Netherlands (10 January 2003)

Monday, August 30, 2004

Women on waves

Women on waves set off for Portugal on August 23rd, invited by Acção para a Paz, Clube Safo, Não Te Prives and UMAR, to help Portuguese women who need it to terminate their pregnancy in safe and dignified conditions. Women on Waves is a Dutch non-profit organisation "concerned with women's human rights. Its mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world." The Portuguese Navy is waiting to hear if the boat presents a military or health hazard, in which case the boat won't be allowed to enter.

Within Europe Poland, Malta, Ireland and Portugal have restrictive abortion laws. But Portugal is the only country where doctors, nurses and women having an abortion are actively prosecuted. It makes the whole thing a sordid and often dangerous affair.

I have sat in the waiting room of a doctor's clinic in Cascais at 1 in the morning amongst people waiting for an abortion. The abortions were carried out after midnight by the doctor's receptionists. Most of the girls, between 12 and 16, were with their mother. There were a lot of tears as they entered the "doctor's" examination room which was filled with smoke because the three receptionists ( with blood stains on their white coats) were all heavy smokers. The girls had to keep their shoes on, pulling their trousers down to the ankles. It had to be a quickly in and quickly out affair because demand is high.

On the one hand these girls were unlucky because if you have the right connections you can find a properly trained nurse or even doctor to do the business. On the other hand they were lucky because they had found the 500 Euros it cost to have the abortion at this clinic. For your money you also knew that the receptionist had a mobile phone round her waist which, she said, she would use to contact the doctor immediately if something went wrong. The real doctor would also check you up one week later. If you didn't have the 500 Euros to pay this clinic, you could find someone to do it for as cheap as 100 Euros.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

BTT - Mountain biking

We must have passed at least 50 people cycling in the hills today. People of all ages. But, as always, NOT ONE of those people were women. We, two women in their mid-forties (devem ser das tais says my friend laughing at the way we are looked at by fellow-cyclists) representing our species in the Serra de Arrabida.

Grandes mulheres that we are, are now thinking of entering the next Olympics. And we’re only half joking. If we can do the Estrada de São Paulo, Terras de Alcube and the road back via Viso (23 kilometers) in 1 hour 30 minutes. Or the circuit through Arrabida we did today (35 kms) – leisurely – in 2 hours and 30 minutes – we could surely be a match for Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway who won the gold medal in the Olympics.

Maybe it’s the TV image but the track in Athens looked certainly didn’t look any more challenging than what we do. And it took her just under 2 hours to do 32 kilometers. I didn’t see anyone competing for Portugal– so who knows, maybe next year. Perhaps I might join the ranks of Francis Obikwelu as a Portuguese estrangeira who gets the first gold in mountain biking for Portugal. Maybe that's wishful thinking. I've got a doctorate to finish.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


I loved these wonderful plates stuck on the outside wall on the road to Sagres in the South of Portugal.

While I was in Sagres I spent an eveing in Lagos in the Algarve. Lagos is a beautiful Portuguese town, home to a thriving British community (and other Europeans). This situation reminded me of the area my daughter lives in in Manchester where there is a thriving local Indian economy and community. In both Lagos and Manchester I was suprised to see how many people speak the local language so poorly. And in both places I was fascinated at a synergetic relationship between two different communities. Someone from the Indian community in Manchester is both part of and independent from the host economy, just as "the Brits" are in Lagos.

I've spent a lot of time wondering if it would be desirable and practical for the governments of either country to give people language lessons. It would be empowering for some of the (Indian) taxi drivers and shop keepers I met in Manchester to speak better English, just as it would be empowering for the (English) waitresses and shop assistants to speak better Portuguese.

But I haven't yet come to any conclusion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I have to confess to not reading many other people's blogs - but I do read regularly this one by Miguel Vale de Almeida. He is an anthropologist and has written some interesting books, in English and Portuguese, about culture, politics and identity.

I'm away 'till Saturday, so my own blog will be quiet until then.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Cordao de Ouro

Back from Manchester, visiting student university life. It's fascinating to observe a house of ordinary English students living and breathing Brazil, its language, songs and stories through capoeira - even though most people haven't been there.

An important part of capoeira training is to learn the language - you need to know how to sing the songs, understand the Mestres and feel the alma. As Parente, the instructor, told me - How can you learn capoeira (a sport/art/dance) if you don't know its language?

I felt uplifted to see English undergraduates, not famous for their interest in languages, talking comfortably in Portuguese when they could. And captured again by the pedagogy of capoeira.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Há palavras que nos beijam

This is the title of a poem by Alexandre O'Neill, a surrealist Portuguese poet who died on 21st August 1986. It's a strange story but I "belong"" to the same clan as Alexandre O'Neill: the Owen Roe O'Neill clan.

This is how it all began:

Owen Roe O'Neill (in the 16th century) was an important general Northern Ireland who led certain battles for independence against the Crown of England. He fought for a number of years in the Spanish army and also attended Salmanca Universtiy. He had a reputation for being brave and was considered Ireland's only hope for defeating Cromwell - but died (of poisoning) before he was able to.

Anyway, after his death some of the clan left Ireland and came to Portugal. O'Neill is now a Portuguese surname. And Alexandre O'Neill a famous Portuguese poet. But more than that - the chief of the Owen Roe O'Neill clan is Hugo O'Neill - who is Portuguese.

Meanwhile at the same time as some of the clan went to Portugal others went to South Africa. Those who went to South Afrcia were my side of the family and they kept the name Owen Roe O'Neill in each generation. My aunt, poor thing, is called Owen Roe O'Neill.

My mother was excited to know I was going to meet the clan chief who doesn't live far from me and who has the portrait of the original Owen Roe O'Neill in his house. I still haven't been to visit him, but want to show him the book written my great (+/-) grandfather Owen Roe O'Neill who was involved with the Zulu royal family in Swaziland (Queen Labotsibeni, her son King Bhuno and his royal wife Queen Tzaneen) in around 1895 - 1899. The book is called "My Adventures in Swaziland".

But that's a whole other story.

(The poem title comes from "No Reino da Dinamarca: Relógio D'Água.)


Last night I thoroughly enjoyed watching Libertarias (1996), a film by Vicente Aranda set in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War. A young nun (Araidna Gil) runs from the convent when revolutionaries invade and she finds herself hiding in a brothel. There she meets a group of Libertarias, anarchist militia women fighting not only the revolution (against Franco) but also the conservative attitudes towards women in the revolutionary forces.

Women revolutionaries libertarias played an important role in the Spanish uprising of 1936. However, despite the demands of Mujeres Libres and their achievements - they were mostly relegated to secondary positions during the fighting and eventually withdrawn after rumours that they were spreading venereal diseases. Most of them ended up being raped and murdered by Franco’s men. One of the things their presence highlighted in anarchism was the relationship of the individual to the collective and to how the collective is shaped by individuals.

My friend’s mother – in Moura, Alentejo, Portugal - remembers Spanish people in the village being rounded up at that time and killed, as Salazar, head of Portugal’s own fascist regime, made an example of his neighbour’s revolutionaries.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Capoeira party

My daughter is a dedicated Capoeira player (she’s at University in Manchester, UK) and I’m packing my bags to go and see her perform on Saturday night at a Capoeira party.

Capoiera is a Brazilian art/sport that combines movement, gymnastics, music, and a practical philosophy. The jogo (game) is a ritualized combat with two people in movements of attack and defence and little (or no) physical contact. The rhythms of the berimbau determine the speed and movements of the game.

I’m intrigued by Capoeira, not just because of the movements and the music, but because of the way it does its learning/teaching. In fact one of these days I’m going to write about it through a Communities of Practice lens. I think the two are sisters!

Capoeira has an interesting story (as told by my daughter). When there were no longer enough native Brazilian Indians for slaves in the 16th century the Portuguese settlers started importing slaves from Angola (mostly Bantu people). Many of the slaves escaped and hid in the quilombos (villages) although they had to defend themselves against the Portuguese (and the Dutch). It’s believed that Capoiera evolved from these Bantu groups of Angola in their self-defence.

However, in the 19th century, King Dom João VI (one of the members of the Portuguese royal family helped to Brazil by the British in 1807 when Napoleon threatened to invade Portugal) outlawed capoiera in order to destroy the slaves’ African culture and sense of community. The slaves apparently developed their fighting style by disguising it as a dance so that their owners didn’t know they were training for combat.

It was only in the ‘30’s that it was made legal. An academy was started (by Mestre Bimba) who presented it to the authorities as a disciplined martial art. He also formed a new style – Capoeira Regional (you pronounce "regional" as heh-jo-now!). Capoiera Angola is less acrobatic and slower. In fact each school and each Mestre develops their own style.

If you haven’t heard of Capoeira before, don’t worry there’ll be one near you soon! Capoiera schools are sprouting up all over the place, creating work for a number of dynamic and entrepreneurial Capoiera players whose knowledge and energy might otherwise be lost working in bars or serving at tables.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Two "quotas" on bikes

Hmmm...we seem to be the only women who go cross-country cycling round here.
Quota is slang used by kids to refer to people like me: adults who have a "share"/interest in a young person and is consequently old and boring.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Originally uploaded by Bev Trayner.
I've enjoyed following the development of this entry about "desenrascanço" in the Wikipedia.

It seemed to start as a petty argument, but has developed into an interesting entry. I was intrigued by one of the comments that the origin of the word comes from "disentangled".

The photo comes from Pedro Neves writing "a little about Portuguese culture". I find this photo strangely familiar. I'm clearly drawn to people who know desenrascar - whichever part of the world they come from.

Lixo, lixo e mais lixo ...

No this isn't the local rubbish tip, it is the entrance to one of the most beautiful spots in Portugal - Serra de Arrabida. I walk past it every day as I walk my dog or go cycling.

Oh yes - the wall that you see is the wall of the school - Lima de Freitas in Setubal.

The word lixo has a special connotation for me. It's not the same as rubbish. It implies an incredible disregard for public spaces by a significant number of people. And negligence on the part of the local camara (council) and schools in terms of dealing with the problem.

Anway, now you can feel like you'e doing something by writing to the e-government portal and making a Denunçia Ambiental. I'm intrigued to see if it works.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Os elementos fundamentais da cultura Portuguesa

What a wonderful title (The fundamental elements of Portuguese culture). It could only have been written in 1950 - which it was. It was a paper presented by Jorge Dias at the first Coloquio Internacional de Estudos Luso-Brasileiros in Washington in that year. It has been required reading for many people along the years.

In the light of what I say on my web page I love this line:
"Creio mesmo que virá um dia em que o progresso dos estudos etnológicos permitirá uma síntese perfeita e cientificamente fundamentada do que é culturamente específico do povo português."
(I hope that one day the progress of ethnological studies will allow a perfect synthesis on a scientific basis of what is culturally specific to the Portuguese people.)
I do not buy into the idea that there is a fixed set of cultural characteristics to be revealed and identified. This notion dates back to the '50's but people still limit themselves by believing it's true!

There is, to my mind, no such thing as a fixed personalidade base of the Portuguese (or any other culture) but there are stories that are told which help form people's perceptions of themselves and others. When my students talk of "the Portuguese" they could, in fact, be quoting him directly. Their (or anyone's) shared reality of themselves as a culture is as much determined by these bigger narratives as it shapes them.

On another track - after a number of pages of describing the Portuguese characteristics he has a wonderful line when it comes to Portuguese and their tolerance for people of other races:

"Ainda hoje o Português tem decidida inclinação por mulheres doutras raças e é capaz de mostrar grande afeição ou profundo amor".
(Even today the Portuguese have a decided inclination for women of other races and are likely to show great affection or deep love).

I'm wondering if his statment implies that "the Portuguese" are all men? Or maybe that neither men nor women in Portugal have much time for men of other races. Hmmmm ... perhaps Jorge Dias was only including hetero men and lesbian Portuguese in his analysis of the Portuguese!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a critical person in my personal learning and development was attacked (and his wife) two days ago in Nairobi. It was the first time in 22 years he had been back after self-imposed exile. He lived in London and then moved to New York to teach comparative literature. He was in Nairobi for a one month lecture tour organized by his publishers.

He was a writer from Kenya, with books including Weep Not Child (1964), The River Between (1965) The Grain of Wheat (1967) and Petals of Blood (1977). One of the first books that excited me politically was Decolonising the mind: the politics of language in African literature (1986). After 20 years of writing in English Ngugi went back to writing in his first language Gikuyu, arguing that the only way to break from neocolonialism was to develop a subversive literature in languages of peasants and workers.

Both his literature and his politics were important to me and he was the one who set me on the trail of thinking about English as an international language. In fact I have a photo of moi in earnest discussion with him at a political meeting in London back in the 1980's.

His writing opened doors for me to other post-colonial writers and eventually to more recent writers such as Alasdair Pennycook (The cultural politics of English as an international langauge, 1994: Longman), James Tollefson (including Planning language, planning inequality, 1991:Longman) and Norman Fairclough (including Language and Power, 1989: Longman). And then, of course, to Fairclough and critical discourse analysis.

I never fully agreed with Ngugi going back to writing only in Gikuyu and would be interested one day to find out what difference his decision made - culturally, politically or spiritually to the world. I agree with Pennycook who said: “While it is indeed important to write politically in the local languages of the people, it is also important, perhaps imperative, to engage with the English language. Language is not merely a means to engage in struggle but it is also a principal site of struggle, and thus to take up a cultural political project must require a battle over the meanings of English."

Getting started

"Quem não vê bem uma palavra
não pode ver bem uma alma"

Who doesn't see a word well
doesn't see a soul well

Fernando Pessoa (in A LÍNGUA PORTUGUESA, 1997:Assírio & Alvim)

I want to explore my world as a "privileged outsider" in Portugal, working in two languages. It's not so much the language itself that interests me, it's the worlds that those languages represent. English is my connection to the international academic and professional world and to my family. Portuguese is my connection to my day-to-day world, my friendships, my survival, my local knowledge. Both represent different and equally important aspects of my learning, my struggles and my alma.

In terms of language, English is my first language and Portuguese my second. As a child I spoke Swahili although I didn't have a clue how it was written nor any notion of the grammar. I did French up to A'level which helped me read and understand Moliére and other French literature, but I can hardly speak a word.

Now the first question is: Do I translate or not? If I do, how? How do I represent the words in different languages?
This is an exploratory blog, to try out what I do.

alma = soul