This was one of the most life changing things I have ever done. When I was a junior in high school, the Oregon Bach Festival started the Youth Choral Academy. It started out small, probably only about 50 or 60 of us, all from Eugene. They got one of the best choral conductors in the country, Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College, to come and lead us with the help of an amazing Dick Clark from the U of O. I imagine we were not that great the first year, but I can tell you that I left that week of the academy a much better singer and chorus member. We got to work with amazing singers on vocal technique, body singing and so much more. We went to the ‘camp’ during the day, but were free to get into all sorts of shenanigans at night.
The next year, the administrators wised up, and put us in the dorm to keep a better eye on us. We were also much better the next year, coming from all over Oregon. Dr. Armstrong expected much more from us and kicked our butts a little harder. I learned even more. Unfortunately, my college women’s choir was a huge let down after singing with the amazing singers in the OBFYCA, so I quit singing after my first term in the choir. I did go back as a chaperone for the YCA the next summer.
I was a very strict chaperone.
This year was the 15th anniversary of the academy, so they invited all 700 of the alumni back for a weekend of rehearsals, a luncheon and to since a couple songs with the current YCA (now called Stangeland Family YCA) kids. The concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say I had so much fun. Only about 35 alums showed up, but there were 4 of us from the original year. I took Alma to the luncheon and it was pretty fun to imagine her singing in the choir in 15 or 16 years. Oh, how lucky she would be to have an experience like singing in the SFYCA.
I was a Girl Scout from kindergarten until 5th grade. I went from being a Daisy to a Junior Girl Scout. Man, those were the days! I was lucky enough to have an awesome troop – Troop 102. We had the best leader (my mom) and always had a ton of fun. Some of my favorite memories include being in the Eugene Celebration Parade, hiking at Mt. Pisgah (with our hand-painted walking sticks), singing Christmas songs at the mall, snack time, craft time, play time. I think I just loved that once a week, I would have all my friends over to my house and we’d get to do fun stuff. I also liked the uniforms and the cookies, I’m not going to lie.
Oh my gosh, so 80s.
I hope all my children get the chance to be Scouts.
Activities at a Sumqayıt Hub Day
The Hub Night tradition in Mingəçevir (that I think is still alive and well!) came out of the random Hub Days during Pre-Service Training. Every so often all the volunteers got together for all day training and bonding. There were 55 Trainees in our group and for the first 3 months, we lived in small communities around Sumqayıt and only got everyone together for these Hub Days.
On our way to Mike's for a Hub Night
When we got to our site, Mingəçevir, we wanted to keep up the Hub tradition. We had the most wonderful site mates in Azerbaijan, so it was a lot of fun to meet up once a week or so for dinner. It was great to have the support from other volunteers, get ideas from them and most of all, eat wonderfully (almost) American food.
Nate playing with Mike's computer at a Hub Night
For the first few months, Mike was the only volunteer in Mingəçevir with his own place, so most Hub Nights happened at his apartment. After a while, we all moved out to our own houses and apartments, so we rotated it a bit.
Another common Hub Night activity... crowding around a computer to watch a movie or YouTube
I miss getting together with Nate, Mike, Cindy, Kate, Mariko and whoever else happened to be in Ming at the time. They were great nights with great friends!
Trying to fix laptops with head lamps and vodka... always a good idea...
I don’t have any photos of this… bummer. I love jumping in puddles. I’m sure I did it as a child, but my fondest memory of jumping in puddles is from college at OSU. It was an autumn day. Jesse and I had been dating for just a couple months. Our friend Rayne was visiting us. The three of us ran all around campus barefoot, running, jumping and splashing in the puddles. What bliss!
Last night Jesse and I went on our nightly neighborhood walk in a torrential downpour. We were soaked before we had reached our mailbox. On our way home, we passed a flooded sewer drain that was just too perfect to pass up. Jesse beat me to it, but we were both jumping in the deep, cold puddles with youthful abandon.
Jumping in puddles is one of those activities that can keep you young. It feels so irresponsible it’s delicious. I hope I never outgrow the urge to dance and play in the rain!
Ağırlıgım- uğurluğum bu odda qalsın!
Novruz is one of my very favorite holidays. It is the Islamic New Year. It’s actually a month long holiday with celebrations on all of the Wednesdays leading up to the equinox. There is a week for each element – wind, water, earth and fire. Novruz is a wonderful celebration all about life, hope, birth and Spring!
One of the things I love most about Novruz is jumping over a fire. When you jump over a fire three times you say, Ağırlıgım- uğurluğum bu odda qalsın! which basically means, All my troubles, fall in the fire! It’s a way of starting the New Year fresh – none of the bad things that happened in the old year will follow you through the fire. I love that.
Bibi and her plov (and a hungry Farid)
Another great part of Novruz is the food! Azerbaijanis go all out for their Novruz feast! There’s plov, dovğa, pakhlava, dolma, şəkərbura and much more! It’s wonderful. Our host family treated us while we were there and we’ve made it a tradition to treat our friends to a Novruz feast every year – this year’s the 2nd Annual!
My students at the Mingəçavir city festival
Novruz Bayramınız Mübarək!!