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From Esperanto-USA number 2/2001:

Esperanto Gatherings in Europe

Many (if not all) Esperantists know about the Universala Kongreso (UK, the annual convention of UEA, the world Esperanto association) and the International Youth Congress (IJK, the annual convention of TEJO, the youth division of UEA). But how many -- especially the new Esperantists -- know about the other large international gatherings? I only recently found out about three significant youth gatherings in Europe -- IS, IJF, and IJS -- and had the chance to participate in IS in Germany at the end of this past year.

IS is an abbreviation for International Seminar, which is a wild, week-long, youth gathering in Germany. It is arranged by the German Esperanto youth organization (GEJ) and occurs each year in a different city in Germany. Around 200-300 young people from 20-30 countries participate, mostly from Germany and France. It is held during the changeover into a new year, so there is a New Year's costume-ball on the last night of the year, with a contest for best costume. Perhaps in the beginning IS was a real seminar, but now it is more famous for being a one big party. There are still lectures and events during the day, but I heard that the real participants sleep during the day and party at night. From what I saw, there were enough of both type of people that everyone enjoyed the gathering, whether during the day, the night, or both.

IS is held in a large youth hostel. There is a room designated the discotheque, which is open during the entire night and where one can dance to typical music. (I was surprised to discover that the music was totally the same as in the US! There weren't that many songs not in English.) There is also a room designated as the bar, where many people smoked and smoked. I'm often in smoke-filled clubs in the US, but I had never seen that much smoke before. I couldn't breath there, so I wasn't in the bar much. The bar was one of only two places where smokers could smoke, so it was nearly always full of this strong European smoke. That was really unfortunate because most of the night-time conversation was there, and I couldn't participate. The other location for conversation was the Gufujo. That's the name of the smoke-free room reserved for quiet conversation. It's a tea-bar where no one is allowed to smoke or drink alcohol or coffee. The Gufujo (Owl's Nest) is dark, lit mostly by candles, and with only tranquil music -- unlike the bar where sometimes people can even be found dancing on the tables. Also each year at IS is a huge book service, which was located this past year in the corridor between the other rooms. That way, everytime you walk between events, you can look through the tables and tables of books, pamphlets, and music.

During the evenings there were fun programs, often concerts because many talented people attended -- among others, members of the rock groups Persone and Esperanto Desperado. On one night each year is a big professional concert. This year, the concert was by Dolcxamar, a new group who became famous at the recent Esperanto Cultural Festival (KEF). The wonderful new group Esperanto Desperado (which includes one member of the famous rock group Amplifiki) gave a small spontaneous concert in the discotheque. Other evening programs were skits and presentations of other talents of the participants. Everything was wonderful and tons of fun. Who knew how much fun I could have in Esperanto-land?!

The gathering was truly international. In fact, it was my first multinational gathering and I had the chance to chat with people from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and more! It was an unbelievable experience! I only regret that there was more "krokodilado" (speaking in one's native language) than I have every heard. I heard way too much German and French. Even when I sat next to them, too many people didn't use Esperanto. Despite this, I had sufficient and sufficiently diverse experiences in Esperanto. I played lots of games in Esperanto, discussed politics, discussed the Esperanto community, and even discussed love. It was incredibly amazing. I encourage every young American Esperantists to attend IS, if you haven't yet been to an international gathering.

At IS, I learned that IS is only one of three similar European gatherings. The other two are the International Youth Festival (IJF), which is held in Italy in April, and the International Youth Week (IJS), which occurs in Hungary in July.

Jacob SCHWARTZ (Somerville MA)


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