Livin' Large in Basque Nevada
Originally published July 12, 2006 by John M. Ysursa . Neither NABO or the Basque Government is responsible for the following content.
Across three weekends NABO action was centered in northern Nevada with the 2006 NABO Mus Champships in Gardnerville, Nevada and then Udaleku (Music Camp) and Kantari Eguna in Elko. It was Basque action high desert style. Here's what you missed (or forgot).
It was rise and shine early Friday morning (June 16th) as the Party Van (photo above) fired up for another Basque tour de desert. This time we had three things on the agenda--first we would hit the NABO Mus Tournament in Gardnerville, then roll onto Elko for Udaleku right into their festival there and then Kantari Eguna. But of course first things first, so we carefully planned the trip to make sure we arrived at J&T Basque Restaurant in Gardnerville just in time for dinner. Now THAT'S the way to start a Basque marathon. Of course we burned it down, but we didn't want to push it too hard because the next morning was the Mus tournament and my partner, Steven Gamboa and I, wanted to be ready. So of course we settled into a massive slumber party at the home of Enrike & Lisa Corcostegui--thirteen of us (Udaleku instructors and some partcipants) took over the house.
The cards were flying at the Overland Hotel/Restaurant as the NABO Mus tournament began with 39 teams vying for the prestigious championship. Okay, I admit it, it was my first time at the national tournament but I wasn't feeling the pressure really (I was more concerned about the Party Van that the night before had blown its alternator). It wasn't until the sixth hand that I saw anything higher than a jack so we didn't jump out of the box. For the record we ended with four wins and five match losses, and we did our part to prepare the eventual champions (Noel Erdozaincy & Raymond Laforgou of San Francisco) for their eventual victory.
Then Sunday morning it was time to navigate northeast to the city of Elko which this year served as the host for arguably NABO's most important venture: Udaleku (Basque for "Summer Camp"). Formerly known as Music Camp, the name change came about a few years ago to 1) give it a Basque name to remind us of the foundation of the Basque language and 2) to better reflect the wide array of things that participants learn about across this two-week event as illustrated by our Udaleku bull/cow theme (drawn by instructor Garikoitz Otamendi)
Udaleku is about work and play--that is about Recreate + Educate = Perpetuate. While labor intensive, Udaleku's overall objective is not rocket-science: the primary goal is to offer kids ages 10-15 an an opportunity to learn about different aspects of Basque culture with the hope that they might make a positive connection with their Basque heritage. It is this positive connection that holds the key to the endurance of Basqueness in America. While Udaleku has now been restricted to younger kids, NABO is presently at work on preparing a program for Basque young adults with the same objective: getting younger Basques to positively connect with their Basque heritage.
I have only just recovered from the "Udaleku Haze." This strikes participants and instructors alike and symptoms include: loss of a sense of time as the days begin to blur together; a slowed down existence as fatigue intervenes to give most everything a slow-motion feel; finally no real idea as to what is happening out in the world--I knew vaguely there was a World Cup being played, but it was days after the fact that I discovered the Miami Heat had won the NABO championship (and I'm a Heat fan). If you didn't notice, Astero took a two-week hiatus because of this affliction--but we're back now!
Udaleku was a great success this year, and I'd have to say that from my eight camps where I have instructed, this was the easiest one. There are probably several reasons for that including: a great job of organizing things locally on the part of Bob Echeverria and Anita Anacabe Franzoia who rounded up a great team of local supporters to work and house the kids; the closeness of the Elko's great Basque restaurants; an A-team of instructors that included Lisa Corcostegui, Jenny Ysursa, Garikoitz Otamendi, Maialen Irastorza, Aita Tillous (his 11th camp!), Haritz Zubiaur and Joseba Etxarri (his 8th camp). It made my life SO much easier having such a talented group of people who could multi-task so well. But probably the single largest factor was the group of kids themselves--from day one they took to each other and got along very well. It made it a real joy.
Udaleku came to a close Friday afternoon (June 30th) with a final show that highlighted what we had done across the previous two weeks. we worked and we played, but now it was time to say goodbye, but many a new friendship was made and that's Udaleku's greatest success story. Now these young Basques know others in other Basque communities, and they'll be ready to travel to see them again. Keeping a Basque spirit alive isn't rocket science--if we can provide an opportunity for young Basques to have a good time while learning something about their Basque heritage, then we have succeeded.
For many years the Mendiko Euskaldun Kluba of Gardnerville was gracious enough to serve as our host for NABO's annual Kantari Eguna. They have opted to go to an alternating schedule, thus this year Elko stepped up to host the event. It preceded their Saturday night dance at their clubhouse. Kantari Eguna began years ago as a way of focusing on Basque song. There were about a dozen participants of various ages, and the audience also got into the act with several sing-a-longs. There is something about people singing together that makes for a magical moment. It was a fun event, and it rolled right into the dance outside with the music of Jean Flesher and his band. There the Udaleku kids were able to show off their newly learned dances.
With the Elko picnic on Sunday, the Basque festivities came to a close in Elko and the Party Van rolled once again down the road back to the Reno area and we wrapped it all up with a kayaking trip on Silver Lake, a high-mountain lake in the Sierra Nevadas. And thus the two-plus week adventure came to close. But no it's not over yet. We got the Party Van gassed and ready for another trip! Look for news from the road as we make our way to Buffalo for the NABO Convention in a few weeks. Livin' large in Wyoming!