by Andrea Szirbik, translated by Derick Pasternak
The very fact that we could even talk about planning the camp filled us with joy, after the void left by our inability to organize it last year.
As we slowly approached November and it continued to look like there were no major barriers in our path, we went full steam ahead with planning the third Washington State Diaspora Camp in the middle of autumn. Our major difficulty lay in finding a venue, since schools and churches are not in position to rent out space in view of the pandemic. Thus, our only choice was to rent a private location. We had great luck in finding such a house near Seattle, in Redmond, in the middle of a forest. Further, we were pleasantly surprised during the visit that there was a building with a dance floor at the end of the garden. Here we were able not only to follow our activities agenda, but to insert dance lessons accompanied by professional violin music. All through the camp, in the dance hall and elsewhere, we learned new songs; it was a delight to hear my children break out in song at dinner. Other parents reported similar experience.
Back to the Camp now! We can be proud to say that we were able to put together a broad, colorful program for our campers. Naturally, everything revolved around Hungarica. The first day started with leather works; we created wonderful plaits, purses, and wristlets with Hungarian motifs, which the children immediately donned and took home with them. Next came the learning of some songs and for the older children lectures about the Fairs at Csíksomlyó as well as about religious freedom. In the meantime, the smaller ones learned about the variety of Hungarian working and hunting dog breeds. Given that this was Thanksgiving Day, the main meal reflected this holiday and everyone contributed his/her reason for being grateful.
On the second day the theme was Hungarian cookery: lecture on Hungarian sausage (kolbász) and salami, then we rolled up our sleeves and made sausage from the basic ingredients. We baked them and ate them, too. This required something to drink, which led to the lecture on soda water (similar to seltzer). We made this as well with the traditional syphon, then drank it. This was no time to stop yet; next came the traditional Hungarian “kürtős kalács” (there is no precise English translation for this specialty; “chimney cake” may be the closest). Under the supervision of a specialist in this cake everyone made one and ate it! We finished Friday with a campfire, we sang a lot. Every group presented a skit which led to much laughter and great atmosphere; the weather cooperated as well, there being no rain.
Saturday started with the only ZOOM lecture as well as a local one, on the Kodály method of music. Following that we took a long hike to explore the wonderful environment in which we found ourselves. This was followed by a midday meal, then cookie decoration with traditional Hungarian motifs. Most ended up inside the campers, but some children managed to take a few home. There was a program Saturday evening as well; the local Hungarian-owned winery hosted a Harvest Ball, at which we were able to stay together. We had the opportunity to dance to the tunes of a Hungarian band.
On the last morning, Sunday, the children listened to two lectures: first about Hungarian porcelain, then about the Hungarian “tanya” (homestead). Following this we had hands-on activities: the older children decorated colored tiles, and while these were cured in the oven, they created a model tanya with traditional water well and other customary attachments. In the meantime the small ones created soccer balls from socks in memory of the legendary footballer Ferenc Puskás, then they pretended to create the special fish soup of the Baja region; everything that went into the kettle was cut out of paper by little hands.
Every afternoon was devoted to dramatics. Over the three and a half days the children learned and rehearsed a show based on the fairy tale “The Square Round Forest” by Ervin Lázár. They performed it for the parents and visitors after the parent-child midday meal on Sunday. Needless to say, the play was full of Hungarica, including songs. The play was presented in costume, including make-up by a professional makeup artist. The children and their parents were all delighted by the performance.
The twenty-two children, ages 6 to 15, came from the Seattle, Portland, and even Spokane areas. Thanks are due to the instructors, mostly parents, whose wonderful and strenuous work made this camp happen. Thanks to the outside instructors, who contributed by their lectures, preparation, and enthusiasm. Thanks to the kitchen crew, who once again spoiled us, and of course thanks to the parents who brought their children, often from afar. It is my feeling that children and adults alike gained experience and memories that they will carry with them in their hearts. It is not an exaggeration that we are excited to look forward to the next camp.