Udaleku 2011: a format change but a huge success
Every year since the early 1970’s N.A.B.O., in conjunction with one of the Basque clubs, has organized Udaleku – a two-week Basque Culture Summer Camp. Participants have an opportunity to learn more about their Basque heritage while having fun and making new friends.
This year’s Udaleku 2011 took place in San Francisco during the second part of June. The camp underwent its first format change since its inception, and went from a two-week summer camp for kids of all ages to a one-week summer camp where kids are sorted by age, a decision that had been many years in the making.
Valerie Arrechea, N.A.B.O. President and Udaleku Chair, was very nice to she share with me her impressions about Udaleku 2011, just in time for the Udaleku reunion next weekend in Gardnerville. She also shared the good news about Udaleku being held in Boise next summer. I am very excited about it, although my kids will not make the age cut off for another 3 to 4 years, unfortunately.
According to Valerie, the Udaleku in San Francisco this past June – which focused on dances and traditions found in Iparralde – was very successful. The majority of the instructors and aides came from different clubs in N.A.B.O., although four instructors traveled from Euskal Herria — two dance instructors from Luzaide, the Euskara teacher from Gipuzkoa, and the pilota instructor from Uztaritz. Parents were able to follow what their children were doing by going to the Udaleku blog. In addition to the usual subjects of dance, txistu, mus, culture, and euskara the campers learned how to play joko garbi — a form of jaialai. This was the first time Udaleku had provided instruction in this specialty, and it was a huge hit. Most importantly, camp gave Basque children an opportunity to make friends from different clubs, and meet others who work hard at keeping their culture vibrant and alive. These friendships are what make Udaleku such a special activity and are also what will keep Basque clubs moving forward. It is amazing how the bonds and connections formed in one week can last a lifetime.
Udaleku is growing rapidly, with over 90 applicants per year. In an effort to accept all interested applicants and with the approval of the N.A.B.O. delegates, this year N.A.B.O. experimented with two one week camps based on age instead of the usual two week camp. Overall, this model was a success. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of both campers and teachers, Udaleku were able to accomplish everything we wanted despite the limited time. Although this is perhaps not the ideal solution, it is a viable alternative indeed. There are pros and cons to every model. One of the advantages is that the quality of camp increases with a smaller, more intimate camp. The campers did not become as tired as they do in a two week camp and were able to focus for the entire time. On the other hand, some families had siblings split into different camps – sometimes this worked well, others it did not. Those families had to make an extra trip to the camp, or arrange a carpool. It also made for a packed week. The campers worked most of the day, although there was time as well for an outing and plenty of games. N.A.B.O. will continue to look at this issue, as they are committed to keeping Udaleku the vital program that it is.
Udaleku will take place in Boise next summer, during the two weeks before the yearly San Inazio celebration. The idea is to have a two week camp open to kids 10 to 15 years old, and applications would be made available online at the N.A.B.O. website in February. The camp will be capped at 105 participants on a first come, first serve basis. Udaleku changes focus with each area, and the area of specialty scheduled for next year is Gipuzkoa.
It has been 8 years since Udaleku came to Boise. Valerie, as well as everyone in N.A.B.O. , is thrilled that a new generation of campers might have a chance to experience the hospitality of the Boise Basque community. Many have gotten a taste of that community through Jaialdi, but Udaleku gives participants a chance to really get to know the people who make this a special place.
On a personal note, Valerie’s first Udaleku (back when it was called Music Camp) was in Boise and she’s kept up those friendships throughout the years. She says that the stories from that camp often come up when she and her friends start reminiscing. “Who can forget being woken up to the sound of Anise Mendiola hitting a frying pan, or Mentxaka teaching txistu?”, she laughs. “Some people who embodied the spirit of the Boise Basque community are now gone, such as Jimmy Jausoro,” she remembers, “but it will be with great pleasure that I will send my children to make their own memories and friends in Boise.”
The 2011 Udaleku Reunion will take place at the Mendiko Euskaldun Picnic, (Gardnerville, NV) on August 13th. It will be held in conjunction with Kantari Eguna and the N.A.B.O. Youth Event.
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