Jacquie Bullard

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Expats and Immigrants (Part 2)

Back in September 2022, I posted an excerpt about the struggles of being an expat in Barcelona. Here is a peek into some attitudes towards immigrants and expats from that same WIP.

Ernesto walked slowly across Rambla del Raval and paused at the cat. El gato. El gat, in Catalan. It was a pleasing thing to look at, voluptuous and cartoonish at the same time, but what really made him stop in almost an act of reverence was the thought of Botero, the artist who created El Gato, and how his art appeared in places all over the world. And it wasn’t just normal sculptures, but things that were out of proportion, ridiculous yet full of life and feeling. It was, for Ernesto, a bit like Picasso’s work: so fantastical as to be memorable and striking, so disproportionate as to make one feel like life itself was out of proportion for seeming too square and solid.

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Nit de Foc (Outtakes)

Was it really William Faulkner who said, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings."? It's such a dramatic way of describing the editing process, but I have to admit that at times, it really does feel like you're killing something when you cut it out of your manuscript. On the flip side, though, comes more creative options and new possibilities.

The photo here is one of me and some friends in Barcelona on Nit de Foc, also known as the Sant Joan Festival. It was an unforgettable night that I just had to capture in my WIP, but alas, some of the details didn't serve the plot of my novel, so this little excerpt is just part of the scene that I'm cutting out.

This one's dedicated to all the real, living, breathing people that inspired my writing without even meaning to!

“And you? What’s your job?"

“I teach English.”

“You came to Barcelona to teach English?”

“Yes...and no. I came here because I wanted to, and teaching English is a way for me to stay here.”

“Ah. Well, you could help me! I need to learn English before I move to America.”

She giggled, until her laughter grew and grew and pretty soon she was laughing like someone had just told her the funniest joke.

“What’s so funny?”

“I just think it’s funny when people call it America. It sounds so much more legendary and idealistic than ‘the United States.’ America, in my mind, includes Canada and probably a lot of Canadians would want to be distinguished from the United States. The world doesn’t like Americans.”

“That’s not really true. I like America. I want to go there.”

“Have you ever been?”

“Well, no. But for some reason, I think of New York and think that I would like it.”

“I like New York. But also, New York is not like other places in the U.S. It’s different everywhere. It’s like Barcelona, here we are in Catalunya and people from Madrid or Andalucia talk about “the real Spain,’ in other words, the rest of Spain outside Catalunya.”

“True. But here we are, you and I, both foreigners here...”

“Ha! Like half the population of this city! People come here from everywhere!”

“Exactly. We all have our reasons for coming here and probably there are things about Barcelona that we never expected or imagined. But we come here with a different view, an outside view. We see this place with new eyes.”

He took a drag on his cigarette and held the smoke in, thinking. Then he exhaled and held up the half smoked cigarette. “See this? It’s just a cigarette but it makes me think about time. While smoking one cigarette, you can think of so many things. You can come to conclusions. I told you I came here with the goal of staying one year, and throughout that year you can have good days and bad days, you can change your mind about whether or not you want to stay. You go in phases, you pass through moods, you think of things you never thought of before. But it’s a measure of time; like this cigarette, it is a measure of time, a reminder that whatever is happening now is going to pass, that things change, that cigarettes burn out; you know what I mean?”

“That’s the most philosophical excuse I have ever heard a smoker give for smoking!” she teased. She thought of all those little cortados that people drank so slowly, sometimes over deep conversations, other times alone and in silence. Then she turned to him. “But I know exactly what you mean.”

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Expats and Immigrants (Part 1)

Here is an excerpt from my #WIP, a novel set in Barcelona. This little bit brings out some of the inner conflict of the protagonist as she debates whether to stay in Barcelona or go back home.

“Guapa, let me tell you: history does not repeat itself,” Dario said as he leaned on the bar with one hand and glanced at the TV up in the far corner of the room. “Things are always a little different. The problem is that people imagine others to be someone they are not. For example, I immediately assumed you and your friend weren’t from the United States, and when I asked, it was a surprise. What if I had asked the question with no assumption about where you were from? Many people hate Americans, no? And why? Because they hate your president, or your history. They are not talking about each individual American. America is only an idea. Like Spain. Didn’t you come here with an idea of Spain?”

“Of course. I didn’t come here because I pictured something I didn’t like.”

“Exactly. But did you find what you expected?”

Foam from her cortado had collected at the inside of the rim of her demitasse. She smeared it around with the back of the tiny spoon that had been sitting on her plate. She scooped up some of it and ate it off the spoon while Dario leaned steadily on the bar looking intently at her. She reverted his question back at him.

“Did you find what you expected when you came to Barcelona?”

“I was just a little boy. Too busy thinking about how I would miss my friends in Argentina. I didn’t think much of where I was going.”

“How did you end up working at Bar El Born?”

“You know how it goes. A friend of mine worked here and I was looking for a job, so he got me to start working here.”

“And now it’s your life.”

He laughed. “Guapa, I hope not! I work a lot. It’s true I am the face of this bar at the moment, but Barcelona is out there, so alive all the time. I can’t just live here and in my flat. No.”

He reached into the case with tongs to grab a bikini. He held it up in offering to her.

“Si, gracias,” she said.

He turned around to heat it up for her. She tried to picture him outside of the bar, aside from the image of him smoking on the curb in front of the bar with Mateo. He put the bikini on a plate in front of her, cut in half. “So,” he picked up the thread which she had tried to break. “Did you find what you expected in Barcelona?”

“Not at all,” she replied, then took a bite of the bikini.

“And is that a good thing or bad?”

She shrugged. “It’s both. There are good things and bad things. Isn’t everything that way?”

He chuckled. “Ay, guapa. Your life is maybe too exciting. You have some secrets, I bet.”

She wiped her mouth and swallowed. “I guess as a bartender, you hear a lot of people’s secrets? The ones they would never tell if they were sober?”

Dario’s eyes surveyed the scene outside the window as if watching the past playing out on El Born. He shook his head and said, “Sometimes the secrets they want to forget; or the ones they can’t forget about and just need to tell someone.” He ran his hands through his hair and almost on cue, reached into his pocket, pulled out his keys and placed them on the bar. Then out came a lighter, a folded piece of paper, and a pack of cigarettes. Blaise stared at the keys.

He took a cigarette out and put it between his lips, then put everything else except the lighter back into his pockets. It was just a coincidence, but the sight of the keys set Blaise’s mind to thinking of Adrien, and Diego, too. Dario winked at her and said, “Guapa, I’m just going out for a smoke. If someone comes, I come back inside.”

“Vale,” she continued to eat the bikini. Just before he stepped through the threshold, she called out, “Dario?”

“Si, guapa?”

“You know why a bikini is called a bikini?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Guapa, you think about things too much.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“It’s both, no?”

She waved her hand at him, shooing him out the door. “Go smoke and come back to tell me if you know about it.”

“I do. But only because so many tourists kept asking me why, why, why is it called a bikini. Then I had to find out. Before that, I didn’t care. I never wondered why.”

Dario stepped out and lit his cigarette. Shuffler approached him, who held up his lighter for the old man. They stood and chatted as they smoked. Blaise watched the movement of their arms and hands as they talked, like they were making plans for the renovation of that tiny rambla.

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Off Track

A couple weeks ago, I published a post about using the wall for a mini practice and I started it with the quote, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” Then last week for the Tuesday mini practice, I entitled the post “Time to lean,” planning to link it to the previous week. A few days later, during a random moment I realized that, in the process of writing that post, I veered from my initial topic and so the title didn’t make much sense any more.

This is what can happen when you finish a post as the baby is screaming and tugging on your pants at the same time the older child is calling out to you to play with them (and also, I’m my own editor!).

When I was out the other day walking with the baby, I thought about how funny it was that I published that post with an irrelevant title. It made me think of what’s in a title, and the titles we all assume. I come across all these instagram bios that proudly state things like, “mother of 2, entrepreneur, and foodie,” “wife, mom, and writer,” or whatever other things we call ourselves. Of course, those are all hats we wear, but our true Selves aren’t those hats — instead, we are the heads wearing the hats. And sometimes those hats can get us off track. We might think, “I’m too busy attending to the kids, shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing activities, fundraisers, working 9-5, working graveyard shift, planning a date with my partner, etc.

That’s when things get mis-titled.

So I didn’t go back and change the title of that post, simply because I wanted it to stay there as an example of how motherhood is full of distractions, including big ones where we forget what’s important to us, and who we are besides somebody’s mommy.

All the items on our to-do lists as well as the distractions from those ‘shoulds’ are just mini stories; but they aren’t the narrator. YOU are the narrator, and you get to tell your story, or stories, as you probably have more than one.

So, you might think, what the heck do stories have to do with yoga?


Every time you step onto your yoga mat, or sit on the meditation cushion, you get another chance to look back at all the stories that make up who you say you are, and say, “I am more than that,” or, “That happened then, and now here I am.” Then maybe you breathe and move a little bit and take a vacation from the pull of past events, until you bump up against worries about the future: things like, “Oh no, what if…?” and “I really hope that….”

Those are the stories you tell about the future before they’ve even happened (and they might not!). So I invite you to take a moment, whether it’s a brief pause to breathe and chill out, or a luxurious 20 minutes or an hour to do yoga your way. And by that I mean, do what feels right in your body. Tired? Do some restorative poses. Overstimlated? Burn off your anxiety with a dynamic flow or sun salutation. Take a moment, or many moments, every day to get centered and look back at the ways you’ve mistitled your life: ‘just a stay-at-home mom,’ ‘doctor,’ ‘married to so-and-so,’ or ‘failed artist,’ and know that whatever the chapters that came before, you get to write the ones that follow.

Then the question comes, “Who are you besides all these titles (which are really just subtitles to the True You)?” Then the real yoga comes as you get to know who You are besides a mom, wife, whatever-your-day-job-is, wherever-your-religion (or lack of), and your accomplishments big and small. In our yoga practices, we don’t necessarily have to strive too hard to know that no matter what we do, we are who We are: love, light, peace, human beings.

I know, it’s hard to feel and know that all the time. That’s okay. Just set out to at least remind yourself of it; there will be days when you do feel like love, light, and peace, as well as days where you feel like a hot mess. That’s just being human:)

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. I just had to address that misstep because I knew there must be someone out there asking, “Why the heck did she title this post, ‘Time to lean?’”

Now tell me, what’s a title you’ve given yourself, or someone has given you that you got stuck on? What did it take for you to realize you were more than just that one, little title or label?

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Tapas part 2: more than just focus and flame

Last week I wrote about tapas as a form of transformative fire, but that ‘fire’ can have different qualities. Tapas doesn’t have to be a raging fire. It can be the fire of concentration, a spark of insight, or the slow burn of steady focus. It can be mental and not just physical heat created by movement. In light of that, here’s one yogic practice I’d like to share with you that involves this gentle/mental form of tapas: trataka. Over the last couple of months, I wrote about dristhi here and here; trataka is similar, but involves a more extended period of time. Think of a sitting meditation, eyes opened, gazing at a candle flame, flower, or some other object that has spiritual significance for you.

During the summer, I prefer to use water as a focus, to balance the fiery heat of the season. Water dances and reflects light in a softer way than fire does. Water transforms, nourishes, and yet holds potential dangers the way fire does. I don’t have the luxury of living close to the ocean or another body of water, like I used to. But water as an object of contemplation can take the form of a bowl of water, a fruit or vegetable from the garden that contains a lot of water, or even a recording of ocean or rain sounds if you want your focus to be auditory.

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Tapas: bites or burning flames?

When I say the word ‘tapas,’ it’s pretty likely that you’ll think of one of two definitions, or maybe you’ll recognize both: 1. Small dishes that are part of Spanish cuisine, and 2. The yogic niyama that usually gets translated as ‘discipline’ or ‘austerity.’

There are all kinds of ways to explain tapas and how it brings life to yoga practice, but before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to bring up the link between tapas and fire. If you live in a place where summers are hot, then the element of fire is strong and you don’t have to do much to generate heat in your body. But what else can we say about fire except that we feel its essence from the sun?

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Yoga Mama turns 1

Yoga Mama is 1 year old!

As I began to plan to launch my Yoga Mama newsletter, this was my vision:

"There is so much information out there for mamas who want to incorporate yoga into their lives. There’s almost too much…so why do I want to add to it? Well, I’m not exactly trying to reinvent the wheel. I just think that every mama’s perspective counts and it’s all about each one of us sharing our stories. So, Yoga Mama is going to be my outlet for sharing my story as it unfolds."

Check out the latest post at: https://yogamama.substack.com/p/black-moon

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Syncopation of movement

As we zone in on one simple thing, we notice how complex the simplest things are. Not only do our lungs breathe, our attention breathes - it expands and contracts between innermost and outermost. If you’re doing a yoga sequence, then there’s also a rhythm and harmony as you move through a sequence: inhale reach up, exhale stretch down; inhale, backbend, exhale forward bend. There’s the sound and the silence: that hushed sound of ujjayi breath, the light sounds of hands and feet moving around the mat, and the unheard sounds of the thoughts in the mind.

It’s crazy to realize that when you slow down and move with attention on your yoga mat, you discover so much going on inside! You begin to notice more around you, as well. You might not sprout eyes on the back of your head or super sonic hearing so that you can catch your kids before they draw on the walls with crayons, but you will slowly feel more present and calm. You’ll notice the little things more, and you know what they say. It’s all little things.

Read more at Yoga Mama