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Cwrs Cymraeg y Cwm Canol, 2006


Despite one of the worst heat waves on record, the 2006 Cwrs Cymraeg in Stockton, California-Cwrs y Cwm Canol-was a breath of fresh air and an undeniable success. Seven tutors and nearly 55 students gathered at University of the Pacific for the Central Valley Welsh Course, July 16 - 23, 2006, meeting old friends and new for Cymdeithas Madog's annual week of Welsh language learning.

The week began with a welcome reception sponsored by the Welsh-American Society of Northern California in the lavishly appointed President's Room. Students who had journeyed from all over the United States and Canada were able to meet one another and greet the tutors, headed by veteran lead tutor Mark Stonelake. Mark, Maldwyn Pate, and David Morgan were the contingent from Wales, while the North American teaching staff contained a number of familiar faces: Marta Diaz, Hefina Phillips, and Meredith Rehbach, along with first-time Cwrs tutor John Good. All the tutors offered their students numerous chances to learn and practice their Welsh throughout the week during daily language classes-punctuated, of course, by much-needed coffee breaks.

Each day students were also offered their choice of afternoon workshops in topics as varied as Reading, Background to Wales, and the cwrs newspaper . In addition, there were four post-lunch plenary sessions: an informative lecture about the Welsh founder of University of the Pacific; a panel discussion on going from Welsh learner to Welsh teacher; a slideshow about the Welsh colony in Patagonia; and a look at the history of the Eisteddfod.

The evening activities offered the chance to socialize and practice Welsh in a more casual setting, while learning more about Welsh culture. Monday night's twmpath dawns, or Folk Dance, was an excellent icebreaker. With some live musical accompaniment from tutor/musician John Good and Cwrs student Vivien Bosley, a little extra merriment was brought to dances such as the lively jac-y-do. Tuesday night consisted of a trivia quiz in the nearby Valley Brew pub, and everyone learned a few more factoids about Wales while agonizing over the challenging questions (and cheerfully accusing one another of cheating!).

On Wednesday was the mid-week field trip. Students were taken by bus to the state capital, Sacramento, where they toured the Capitol building and gardens-including a glimpse of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office-as well as walking around historic Old Sacramento. The trip was topped off by a picnic in the shade at William Land Park, a welcome cool-down after walking around in the summer warmth. A smaller group of students opted to visit the nearby scenic ranch of Lefel 6 student Wade Dowdell, and they too reported a relaxing afternoon. Upon returning, some students joined in the Welsh Games Night and improved their Welsh skills with Bingo and Hangman, followed by an impromptu storytelling session from our resident raconteur, Ginny Grove.

Thursday night was movie night. Students gathered to watch Mela, a touching film in Welsh about a young girl who becomes friends with an elderly beekeeper. Friday evening was the yearly Cwrs Eisteddfod. Course attendees are invited to participate in one of three levels of competition for a brief written piece in Welsh, and prizes are awarded by our very own Gorsedd of Bards. The top honors this year went to Lefel 6 student Janis Cortese of Burbank, California, who was awarded the CM miniature eisteddfod chair to take home until next year's course. Prizes were also awarded to Diana Moller, the winner for Levels 3-5, and Myriah Williams, who won the competition for Levels 1 and 2.

For many, the highlight of the course is Saturday evening's noson lawen, or merry evening. Each class performed an entertaining skit, emceed by Lead Tutor Mark Stonelake and his collection of atrocious jokes; there were also musical performances, recitations, and two songs performed by the the Cwrs choir, which never fails to amaze the audience with its skill after only a week of practice. The week was topped off by the Sunday morning nondenominational service in the beautiful Morris Chapel on the UOP campus.

All in all, the 30th annual Cwrs Cymraeg was another successful week of camaraderie and hwyl, thanks in no small part to local organizers Brenda Jones Belaski, Maxine Garrison, and Sarah Stevenson, and to photographer Bonnie Pavlis. Though temperatures were in the triple digits, spirits were equally high, making our annual course a memorable experience. This year's Eisteddfod winner sums it up well: "Learning about my fellow students comprised a large part of my enjoyment; there are almost as many reasons to study this sweetest of languages as there are people who study it." The Board of Cymdeithas Madog hopes to see many familiar faces next year at Sage College in Albany, NY, for Cwrs yr Ymerodraeth (The Empire Course), July 22-29, 2007.