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Where I Began

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, its always been a very small farming community. Growing up, we never really had a lot of money and we didn’t travel a lot even though my mom really wanted to. I had never really given much thought to travel when I was younger but as I got older I got curious about the other places in the world. That small spark of curiosity smoldered in my mind for many years, but it never actually turned to fire until I was about 15 years old on a summer day when my sisters mother in law came to visit from England a year after my sister wedded an Englishman. I had no job at the time, not even a summer one and one day she asked me if I would like to go to England. of course I did have a strong desire to travel, but I imagined that most people who were able to go such a far distance like that were only wealthy people who could afford plane tickets and passports to Europe. I told her that I did indeed want to go, but I would never be able to save the money for such a big journey, but she told me that was all nonsense and I already had everything I needed. she told me “you just worry about buying your passport and plane ticket now, and I’ll make sure you’re well fed and you have a place to sleep”. The offer, of course, was a very generous one I would hate to dismiss, but I had to because I still didn’t believe that I could ever do it, but she told me that I could find some sort of work even though I was only 15 at the time, that way I could get the money to go to England.

Now you may find this very odd, but the next day, I was supposed to be auctioning a goat in the livestock auction at the 4-H fairgrounds. I started by writing down the predicted amount of money I would get that night and then, that would become the money I would spend to get my passport. I also wrote down a summary of money I would need to go to England. I, of course, shared all of these ideas with my sisters mother in law and she liked the way I was thinking. I was saddened that night because I got less than half of the money I had hoped for, and I had lost all hope of this adventure ever succeeding.

Fortune had come to me that Autumn when I got my very first job at a pumpkin farm. It was a very tough season, as it rained almost everyday it seemed. My job was to help a group of people move a lot of pumpkins in a field while it was raining. It had also rained many nights before and the fields were flooded, the water was so high that it reached halfway up to my knees. I had been saving every dollar I could get and I spared nothing for anything else since the summer I spoke to my brother in laws mother. One thing that still impresses me to this day is that I desperately needed a new pair of leather boots to work in, but I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to afford my trip to England if I got new ones. I do a lot of farm work, so leather boots have always been a priority for me. these boots were so worn that the bottoms were smooth and the upholstery on the leather had torn, leaving huge holes in my boots. I just remember that cold, rainy day when I stepped into the flooded pumpkin patch and the freezing cold water and mud instantly flooded the inside of my shoes and I had to work all day like that. as you may imagine, I was cold and exhausted for the remainder of the day and some days I had to go back to work with a cold from working in the rain on several occasions. my mind was absolutely set on this grand adventure and if I bought anything extra like clothes or new boots for working, that could have been money for a meal or tickets for something fun to do in London, so I would do anything then to save a few dollars. 

Later on that same month of working at the farm, I was able to pay for and order my first passport. At the end of the month, I was able to pay for my plane ticket and save some money for food and extra spending in England. For a small while, I worked in a small shop in town for store credit so I would be able to get a suitcase for my travels. in April of 2017, I found myself saying goodbye to my family at the Chicago airport and walking into the security line with my passport and boarding pass in my hand. When I turned around in line, my family was gone and I had realized that for the very first time in my life, I was alone and had nobody here to help me. I managed to find my way through the airport and I asked questions, lots of questions, even if I thought they were dumb ones. I boarded an American Airline flight and sat down next to a sweet lady who had flown many times before, but this was my very first time on a plane and I was nervous. She comforted me and assured me that flying wasn’t all that bad. she even offered to hold my hand during the takeoff. 

When I had finally arrived in London after the 8 hour flight, I met my sister who was waiting for me with her husband in the arrivals. I was soon in their car and driving through London. I must admit, I cant remember the first 2 days of my trip since the flight was so exhausting and I was extremely jet lagged from crossing over 5 time zones in one day. Soon, I met my brother in laws mom once again, this time it was in her home and she welcomed me with open arms. We spent a lot of time together and we took the miniature steam train to a very unique place in England called Dungeness where we went to the only pub in sight to share some drinks and food. Dungeness lies on the edge of southern England and meets with the English channel that divides England from France. Before we went into the pub, I walked down to the beach alone to look at the water and the shingles that cover the beach. There was not a single person in sight and I was once again all alone looking out at what seemed to be endless water. I wanted to share this moment with someone, but for the time being I could not. But I do remember feeling, not frightened, but peace. I had struggled for a very long time and worked extremely hard to do what I had just done. I had never been so far away from home in my life. I was away from all the stress back at home. in that moment, I knew that this is what I want, I want to be a traveler and I want to go on adventures like this. I was proud of myself, I had achieved a lifelong dream that I thought was entirely impossible. 

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Spain - Cantabria - Liérganes - The Fish-Man Statue [EXPLORED 2020-May-26] by Marcial Bernabeu España - Cantabria - Liérganes - Estatua del Hombre Pez

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ENGLISH:

The fish-man of Liérganes is an entity which belongs to the mythology of Cantabria, located in the north of Spain. The fish-man of Liérganes would be an amphibian human-looking being, that looked a lot like a metamorphosis of a real human being who was lost at sea. His story was examined by the Enlightenment writer Benito Jerónimo Feijoo, who claimed that the story of the fish-man of Liérganes was true.

According to Feijoo, legend has it that around 1650 there lived in Liérganes, a small village in Cantabria, northern Spain, a couple named Francisco de la Vega and María del Casar. The couple had four sons, and when the father died, the mother, lacking of means, decided to send one of her sons to Bilbao so that he could learn a trade as a carpenter. This son, who according to Feijoo was called Francisco de la Vega Casar, lived in Bilbao as a carpenter till 1674 when, on Saint John’s day eve, he went with some friends to swim in Bilbao’s estuary. Although he was allegedly a good swimmer, the currents of the river took him and he could not get back to the shore. He was last seen swimming away into the sea, and it was thought that he had drowned.

However, five years later, in 1679, while some fishers where seafaring in the bay of Cadiz, in southern Spain, they noticed that a strange-looking creature had become entangled with their fishing nets, and was trying to fight his way out. Although they tried to capture it, the creature was able to set itself free. During the following weeks, several local fishermen reported having seen the creature, until in the end they were able to capture it by tricking it with loaves of bread. When they got the creature on board, they found that it had indeed a human shape: it looked like a young man, of white skin and thin red hair. However, he also showed some fish-like signs, such as a strip of scales that went down from his throat to his stomach, another one that covered his spine, and what seemingly were gills around his neck.

Thinking of it as some kind of monster, the fishermen took the creature to the convent of Saint Francis nearby, where the creature was allegedly exorcised and then interrogated in several languages without any success. After several days of questioning, the creature finally articulated a word, “Liérganes”, the meaning of which nobody knew. This extraordinary event soon spread all around the Cadiz bay area, and nobody was able to recognise the meaning of Liérganes until a sailor from northern Spain who happened to be in the port of Cadiz commented that close to his home town there was a small village called Liérganes. Domingo de la Cantolla, secretary of the Holy Office, confirmed that there was a place called Liérganes near the city of Santander from which he himself came. The bishop of Cadiz thus sent word to Santander regarding the found creature, including a physical description so that anybody somehow related to the creature could recognise it. From Liérganes came the word that no creature had ever been seen around the town, and that the only extraordinary event that had happened lately was the tragic death of Francisco de la Vega in Bilbao five years ago, who was indeed red haired.

A friar in the convent where the creature was being kept postulated that the fish-man could perhaps be Francisco de la Vega, so he asked and was granted permission to take the creature with him to Liérganes. Allegedly, when they were close to Liérganes, the friar let the fish-man free and followed him. The creature was able to guide him directly to Liérganes, and not only that, he took him directly to the house of María del Casar, who recognised him as her late son Francisco.

The fish-man was then left to live with his family, and he kept a tranquil yet odd lifestyle: he would always walk barefoot, and unless he was given clothes, he would rather walk around nude. He never really talked; at most he would sometimes mutter words such as tobacco, bread or wine, but without any link to the desire of smoking, eating or drinking. When he ate, he did it with avidity, but then he was able not to eat for a week at a time. He was easygoing and even obliging, and whichever simple task he was asked to do, he would do it promptly but without enthusiasm. After nine years living in such a fashion, he went to the sea to swim and was never seen again.

***

ESPAÑOL:

La primera reseña en la que aparece el relato del hombre pez es en el volumen VI del Teatro crítico universal de Fray Benito Jerónimo Feijoo.​ Posteriormente José María Herrán escribió un libro titulado El hombre-pez de Liérganes (Santander, 1877), basado en esta historia tradicional popular. Actualmente existe un centro de interpretación en Liérganes, emplazado en un antiguo molino, en el cual se puede obtener información sobre este ser mitológico.

Según ha llegado hasta nosotros a través de los escritos y la tradición oral, el relato dice así: a mediados del siglo XVII en el pueblo de Liérganes, en La Montaña había una pareja, Francisco de la Vega y María de Casar, que tenían cuatro hijos.​ Francisco falleció y la viuda mandó a su hijo Francisco a Bilbao a aprender el oficio de carpintero.

Estando en Bilbao, Francisco se fue a nadar el día antes de San Juan, en el año 1674,​ con unos amigos pero llevado por la corriente, este desapareció y no se volvió a saber más de él. Solo cinco años después, en 1679, se afirmó que había aparecido en la costa de Dinamarca, poco después en el canal de la Mancha y en las costas de Andalucía.​ En Cádiz, unos pescadores afirmaron ver un ser acuático pero con apariencia humana que desapareció rápidamente.​ Esta aparición se repitió constantemente hasta atrapar a la criatura con trozos de pan y unas redes.​ Una vez capturado pudieron constatar que se trataba de un hombre, con escamas y forma de pez.

Entonces fue llevado al convento de San Francisco donde fue interrogado para saber de quién se trataba y al cabo de un tiempo consiguió tartamudear una palabra: “Liérganes”.​ Nadie sabía que significaba, hasta que una persona de La Montaña que estaba trabajando en Cádiz, comentó que en La Montaña había un pueblo que se llamaba así. También Domingo de la Cantolla, secretario del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, confirmó dicha afirmación ya que él era de allí.

A continuación, llegó la noticia a Liérganes para averiguar si había pasado algo extraño en los últimos años y desde Liérganes respondieron que únicamente se había registrado la desaparición de Francisco de la Vega, cinco años atrás. Entonces Juan Rosendo, un fraile del convento, acompañó a Francisco hasta Liérganes para comprobar si era cierto que era de allí y a la altura del Monte de la Dehesa, Francisco se adelantó y fue directamente hasta la casa de María de Casar, que rápidamente lo reconoció como su hijo.

Ya en casa de su madre, Francisco vivió tranquilo sin mostrar ningún interés por nada.​ Iba descalzo y a veces desnudo y no hablaba apenas.​ A veces estaba varios días sin comer pero no mostraba entusiasmo por nada. Se dedicaba a llevar cartas a poblaciones vecinas, e incluso a Santander, a donde llegó en una ocasión tras haber nadado desde Pedreña, entregando la carta mojada.​ Después de nueve años en casa de su madre, desapareció en el mar sin volver a saberse nada sobre él.

https://flic.kr/p/2j5tMEi

gentlyepigrams
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