I volunteered this year for the Folklife Festival looking to contribute to the festival and hoping to experience a little bit of Basque culture right here in Washington, D.C. Over three days of volunteering I got all I expected and more.
Interacting with other volunteers and the Basque participants was fun. Seeing the passion the participants had for sharing their culture was amazing.
While assisting the three boat builders working on the chalupa, we swapped words back and forth for particular names of tools and woodworking techniques. The chalupa they were building is a smaller boat that is launched from a larger ship to hunt whales. Helping visitors try their foot powered lathe, holding the end of boat planks, and keeping visitors away from sharp tools were some of the tasks they assigned me.
But having lunch with three Basque boat builders and a world renowned maritime archeologist was the highlight of the Folklife Festival for me and totally unexpected. Mikel, Marcos and Ernesto invited me and Dr. Robert Grenier to share lunch with them. They knew him as the leader of the team that discovered the Basque whaling ship, “San Juan” in Red Bay Labrador and consulted on the reconstruction of a replica in Albaola, the Sea Factory of the Basques. He is a compelling storytelling and delightful lunch companion.
Never did quite manage to learn to pronounce “Hello” in Euskara, the Basque language. But the bit of Basque culture I did experienced whetted my appetite for more.