Campers and Teachers Love Udaleku in Chino, Calif.

All campers learn to play the txistu.
All campers learn to play the txistu.

The 100 or so campers at Udaleku, the Basque summer camp taking place in Chino, Calif., hail from Basque communities all over the west: Winnemucca and Reno, Nev.; Ontario, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Bakersfield, Chino, San Francisco and Rocklin, Calif. And even Buffalo, Wyoming. One boy comes from France, a girl from Spain. Several of them are coming back for their second, third or fourth time!

The teachers and aides come from far away as well. Five are from the Basque Country, two are from Argentina, and one 19-year-old aide, Anne Marie Chiramberro, came back to the U.S. from her studies in England to work at Udaleku and attend her favorite Basque festivals.

This is Ezti Villanueva’s fourth time at Udaleku. The 14-year-old from Reno said she keeps coming back because she enjoys seeing friends and all the nice teachers.

“The classes are a lot of fun,” Villanueva said. The organizers, Jenny and John Ysursa, Maite Maisterrena and Jeanette Duhart, keep the kids on a tight schedule. Organized into groups of about eight, the youths switch classes every hour. The camp, sponsored by the North American Basque Organizations (NABO), is being held at the Chino Fairgrounds at Edison and Central Avenues.

(See Udaleku’s daily schedule.)

Campers make tortilla a la española.
Campers make tortilla de patatas.

Music is a big part of the day. In fact, Udaleku used to be called Basque music camp. They learn Basque songs, txistu, tambourine and txalaparta and traditional folk dances. But they also learn pala (racquetball with a wooden racquet), the card game mus, cooking, and Euskera. Lisa Corcostegui’s culture classes, in which she teaches about the history and traditions of the Basque people through fun activities, are popular.

“It makes me feel more connected to my culture,” said Anika Terpstra, 14, of Lincoln, Calif. “It’s like Basque school away from school.”

In addition, an extracurricular activity is thrown into each day’s schedule to add to the fun quota. One day it was bowling, another night it was a disco dance. And of course a trip to Disneyland is on the agenda.

Husband and wife Jexux Larrea and Ane Albisu came from Donosti (San Sebastian) last year to teach at Udaleku in Buffalo, Wyoming. After that experience, they had to come back.

“It was a real surprise for me, because I had a really good time,” Larrea said in Spanish about Buffalo. His favorite activity there was the celebration of the Feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24.

Kids love playing mus at camp.
Kids love playing mus at camp.

They celebrated with the kids in the manner traditional in the Basque Country, walking house to house, singing traditional songs, collecting goodies, then celebrating around a big bonfire in a local park. They even jumped over the fire, like they do in Europe, he said. Of course, the group had prearranged with the homeowners to let them know they would be visiting. And, admits Larrea, the celebration was much easier to organize in a small town like Buffalo, with its population of 4,500.

Larrea, a master dance teacher of the group Argia, and his wife, a costume designer for dancers, enjoyed teaching Udaleku so much that they couldn’t turn down the request to do it again. And they aren’t the only returnees.

Anne Marie Chiramberro attended four Udaleku camps and this is her second time working as an aide.

“I had such a great experience as a participant that I wanted to give back to the program, to keep it going,” she said.

Kids make crepes at Basque camp.
Kids make crepes at Basque camp.

The camp culminates with a final performance on Saturday, July 11th, at the Chino Basque Club. During the day, the NABO mus finals will take place at the clubhouse and campers will be having their own tournament. A dinner and show will highlight what the youths learned at Udaleku. The performance will be followed by a dance for everyone with the music of Jean Flesher.

Cocktails will start at 6 pm, with dinner starting at 7 pm, show at 7:30 pm and dance at 9.

NABO has provided a list of local accommodations for parents picking up their children and champion mus players arriving for the grand finale. The festivities have been dubbed NABO Day in Chino

Here’s a map with the clubhouse location.

Campers learn traditional dances and songs.
Campers learn traditional dances and songs.