Cwrs Cymraeg y Rhosyn Gwyllt, 2008
For the fourth time, Cwrs Cymraeg Cymdeithas Madog was welcomed back to Iowa-home of the wild rose-for our annual week-long Welsh course. Cwrs y Rhosyn Gwyllt, which translates to the Wild Rose Course, brought 47 students and seven tutors to the campus of Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa to learn the Welsh language and enjoy cultural activities, including some after-hours singing in the local "tafarn" (pub).
As always, it was a busy week but packed with hwyl. The first official course activity was dinner on Sunday followed by a welcome reception in Barker Hall lounge. Students, teachers, Board members, and local organizers were able to mingle with one another in a casual, comfortable atmosphere and enjoy a variety of snacks, including Welsh cakes. A sing-along capped off the evening, led by a new face on the Cwrs, Deian Evans-originally from North Wales, he is currently the minister of Dewi Sant Church in Toronto, Canada, and the husband of Board member and frequent Cwrs tutor Annette Evans.
In addition to Deian and Annette, course students were pleased to see Mark Stonelake return as lead tutor, along with fellow tutors from Wales Chris Reynolds and Geraint Wilson Price. Geraint, who is Director of the Gwent Welsh for Adults Centre, was another new face at Cwrs Cymraeg. Rounding out the teaching staff were frequent course tutors Hefina Phillips and Marta Diaz. As always, the tutors provided a very high standard of teaching in their daily Welsh classes as well as encouragement inside and outside of class.
Tutors also offered an array of additional opportunities to learn in the form of afternoon workshops on Welsh-related topics. This year we had a number of wonderful sessions to choose from, including Reading for Beginners, Intermediate/Advanced Reading, Welsh Conversation, Situation of Welsh: 2001 Census, Elements of the Welsh Language, History of Christianity and Cymraeg, Treasure Hunting in Y Drych, and the course newspaper. Treasure Hunting in Y Drych was offered by Lefel 7 student Martha Davies, who works with the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project and brought samples of interesting items from early issues of the Welsh-American newspaper.
The evenings offered students and tutors alike the opportunity to socialize and practice Welsh in an out-of-class setting. Besides the unofficial gatherings at the pub for a drink and a few songs, there were organized activities each night. Tutor Chris Reynolds led Monday evening's twmpath dawns (folk dancing) again this year, which was a great ice-breaker as well as a good workout. New Cwrs tutor Geraint Wilson Price led the quiz this year, which took place in the banquet room at La Casa Restaurant-whose helpful staff became honorary Cymry for the evening.
Wednesday we were treated to a post-lunch plenary lecture by Berwyn Jones, Ph.D., also a student on the course. Dr. Jones, President of the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project, gave a talk and slideshow on Welsh Pioneers of the Middle West as well as the valuable work undertaken by the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project. Afterwards, those who opted for the mid-week field trip got on the bus and were treated to a guided tour of some of the famous covered bridges of nearby Madison County, as well as an optional visit to the John Wayne Birthplace in Winterset and a cookout in scenic Winterset City Park. An intrepid group of course attendees even took a brisk hike to Clark Tower, which overlooks the scenic 100-acre park. Wednesday evening ended with a storytelling session in the Barker Hall lounge from our resident storyteller, Ginny Grove.
Thursday night a Welsh film, Solomon & Gaenor, was shown in the Carver Hall auditorium, and Friday night was the Cwrs Cymraeg Eisteddfod, honoring the winners of our literary competition. At the CM eisteddfod, course attendees are invited to compete in one of three levels of written Welsh. Prizes for the top three entrants in each category are awarded by the teaching staff, outfitted as the Gorsedd of Bards. The winner of the top-level category is awarded the miniature Eisteddfod chair to take home for the next year. This year, our winner was Ginny Grove of Denver, Colorado. Llongyfarchiadau - congratulations!
The week was capped off by Saturday night's festivities, which included a banquet attended by several members of the local St. David's Society as well as the much-anticipated noson lawen (merry evening). The emcee was lead tutor Mark Stonelake, and there were performances from the course choir and many individual students as well as skits from each class. The final course activity was Sunday morning's nondenominational service, led by Deian Evans and accompanied by the course choir.
During the course week, we also experienced the tremendous warmth and hospitality of small-town, Midwest America. The staff at the nearby café and at La Casa Restaurant; the good-natured waitress at the nearby tafarn, Mojo, who didn't even bat an eye when thirty crazy Welsh burst in upon her quiet Monday evening; or our server "Ioan" at the brand-new pizza restaurant, who actually learned some Welsh while he was taking everybody's beer orders, the last night of the course-perhaps it was no different than other years, but the community hospitality was a treasure of Indianola which coursegoers certainly won't forget.
All in all, it was another successful Cwrs Cymraeg. Many thanks go to the local committee, Ada Mae Lewis and Ruth Hall, for their inexhaustible efforts planning and implementing the wonderful week; and to the hardworking staff of Simpson College. Also, our gratitude goes out to the National Welsh-American Foundation for their generous grant towards our 2008 scholarship awards. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at next year's course in Edmonton, Alberta, at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, July 19 - 26, 2009.