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Cwrs Cymraeg Y Pont Aur, 1998

The seismically active San Francisco area was rocked by the descent of the 22nd annual Cymdeithas Madog week-long intensive Welsh language course. Local organizers David and Karen Evans were on hand greeting students as they arrived, arranging transportation to and from the campus and assisting them throughout the week. With their invaluable help, students were able to settle into their dormitory rooms and gather their energy for a week of learning the "language of heaven". The North American course is held every July with the support of the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu Association and the National Welsh American Foundation.

Teaching on his sixth Cwrs Cymraeg, lead teacher, Cefin Campbell, returned from Llandeilo, Wales accompanied by three other Welsh instructors. Basil Davies, who is well-known to Y Drych readers from his monthly column, Un Cam Ar Y Tro, Steve Morris and Sue George all traveled from Wales to guide and encourage their students. North American teachers Marta Diaz, Hefina Phillips and Pawl Birt rounded out the staff.

Students were divided into six levels with the assistance of a placement test and received four language classes daily. Afternoons were filled with workshops selected by the students according to their individual interests.

The Welsh theme continued into the evenings as each day brought a new activity to challenge and excite the participants. A Twmpath Dawns (Welsh Folk Dancing), Trivia Quiz night, Welsh language film, tour of the University's Bancroft Library "Welsh in the West" exhibit and a Welsh Pub night at Henry's Pub in the nearby Hotel Durant were all well attended.

Highlights of the afternoons included plenary presentations by Professors from the Celtic Studies Program of the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Kathryn Klar spoke on "Madog in America", Dr. Donna Reid explored the "Symbology of the Eisteddfod, Professor Eve Sweetser explained the History of Celtic Studies and Dr. Annalee Rejhon offered information on "The Welsh Arthur". In addition, the course teaching staff led a discussion on "Devolution: A Year Later".

One of the outstanding events of the week was an excursion to the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve. Students toured the grounds and mine and had a picnic lunch. Five coal mining towns thrived there until the early 1900s operating California's largest mining operation of coal (black diamonds). Many of the resident miners were immigrants from Wales. On the site remains a Protestant cemetery, Rose Hill,where course participants were able to read Welsh inscriptions on the old headstones.

Culminating the week was a banquet at the University's International House followed by a Noson Lawen (cheerful evening) typical of Welsh gatherings the world over.

Entertainment explored the talents of the staff and students alike and included music, poetry, skits and recitations. Capping off the night was the announcement of the winnersof the Cymdeithas Madog Eisteddfod. Kevin Rottet of Whitewater, Wisconsin was "Chaired" as the 1998 Bard and was given the guardianship for the next year of a hand-carved chair made in Wales and engraved with the names of the previous winners.

On the last morning, students, staff and visitors attended a Gymanfa Ganu before taking their sad departure for another year. Looking forward to 1999, Toronto's York University will be the site for the next Cymdeithas Madog Cwrs Cymraeg.