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New Years in Esperanto at JES Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in Events

If you haven’t yet seen it, check out my initial coverage of the Junulara Esperanto-Semajno (Esperanto Youth Week) in my post: JES, great Esperanto youth congress. That covered everything except New Years Eve: the most important day of a youth congress.

Bas singing the Kashubian alphabet

The day started with the usual walk up from breakfast to look at the program, but what, a band is playing in front of the program board? But, what a great concert it was. This band, Bas, specializes in playing music in the Kashubian language. In one song, they explained that they used songs to help their children learn their language, since at the time, everyone would be taught in German at school.

The most fascinating part about the band was their unusual instruments. The one I liked most was something that looked like a wooden man. On the top was a pair of cymbals, so that when you push it into the ground, it would make the cymbals clap. You could also strike at the bottom for a loud beat or at the cymbals at the top for a lighter beat. Another incredible instrument was something that looked like a barrel with hair sticking out. First you would put your hand in water, and then you pull on the hair making an interesting sound. They even gave the audience a chance to try this unusual instrument out for themselves!

Polish specialty: cut-off fingers

After this, I attended a discussion group on the Occupy movement and then went out with some friends for tea at a local cafe. That evening, was the dance and buffet. One nice tradition of these events, is that you have people celebrating from all over the world, so every time a participant has the New Year in their time zone, everyone yells Happy New Year again. Yes, that means our friend from New Zealand celebrated at noon, while the Californian had to wait til 9 in the morning!

We danced the night away and could take breaks to visit the buffet. There you could eat bigos, a traditional cabbage and meat stew, which I heard is always served for New Years in Poland. There were also the curious tranĉitaj fingroj [cut-off fingers], which I suspect were actually vienna sausages. 🙂

Frenchmen squeezed into train hallway

The next morning, we gathered up our group and were surprised to find the only lunch alternatives at the station were McDonald’s and KFC. Considering, we were 11 people including 5 vegans and 5 vegetarians, this was quite disheartening. So, french fries and onion rings it was and off to the train! On the track, we were surprised to discover that our reserved seats were only on the second part of the trip, so for four hours most of us took turns sitting on pull out chairs from the wall and standing in the crowded train hallway.

After a grueling Polish train ride, I’m now back home in Berlin with guests from England, Switzerland and the USA. So, last night we had the JES after-party at the private bar of a cultural center in Berlin. Around 30 people showed up and we had a blast with Muzaiko playing in the background. Judging by the amount of fun everyone had, I believe this after-party is on its way to becoming a tradition in Berlin, so come join us next year!

Photo of “cut-off fingers” courtesy of Jessica Grasso.

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.