Hay Festival International Fellow 2017/18 Jenny Valentine

… from our International Fellow (part 1)

Jenny Valentine is Creative Wales Hay Festival International Fellow 2017/18, travelling to each Hay Festival edition to meet with young people and explore the experience of adolescence. Here the award-winning writer offers her first dispatch from Hay Festival Querétaro 2017…

I am in awe of Mexican trucks and topiary.

The trucks are huge. I daydream about converting one into a house. But I would never be able to drive it, never, ever park it, so its truckness would be redundant and the daydream dies.

The trees are cut into squares of solid shade. And twisted spirals just for the hell of it.

I try my best to speak Spanish. This means I will only be dining on eggs and coffee with milk. I am more disappointed in my lack of communication skills than I can say, in any language. Perhaps by the time we reach Colombia in January I will be able to ask for something more elaborate. With vegetables. And wine.

We are in Queretaro just a week before the centenary of the declaration of the new constitution. Signed here in the municipal theatre in 1917. I learned this today. I have been filmed walking (self-consciously) and gazing up (awkwardly) at the theatre’s handsome façade. I hope that neither of these moments make the cut in the film we are making.

I also learned today that Costa Rica has no army, which is my new favourite fact and one that, along with breakfast, went some way to bolstering my faith in humanity. The same goes for the brilliant, articulate, funny, generous students I met this afternoon at the Colegio Celta International. We talked for over two hours about politics, ambition, family, the church, parties, national pride, love, the poverty gap, landscape, identity. I am promised a tour downtown this weekend. And a light aircraft flight over some vineyards. That will be something else to write home about.