Friday, July 13, 2007

Nant Gwrtheyrn

I've got three good names for bands that I need to mention straight away:
Heroic Doses (from Eric)
Aural Small Print (from Mr. Phin)
Absent American (from Chris)

The last of those is inspired by the fact that once again I will be missing a blogger meet-up in London this weekend. I am genuinely upset about it, but I suppose that on the plus side, I won't yet have to pay up on my bet with Huw that he couldn't create a Chris Cope fan club on Facebook that would have more than 50 members. Currently there are 83 members, which I find both delightful and disturbing.

Instead of drinking in London, I will be travelling off to Nant Gwrtheyrn as part of Cwrs Meistroli.

I'm doing my very best to temper all the good things people are telling me about Nant Gwtheyrn. The Welsh have a certain knack for overselling things: five defeats and one win against England is a successful rugby season; a dozen people are a good showing at a protest; third-rate talent shows are revered cultural events.

It's a side-effect of national pride, this kind of thinking. As a Texan, I can relate -- you can produce all kinds of evidence to the contrary, but I believe to my very core that Schlitterbahn is the greatest place on Earth, that the Houston Rodeo cannot be outdone and that Shiner Bock is the trump card in any "good beer that you can actually drink" discussion (and as a half-Minnesotan I also believe that societies lacking a Dairy Queen are far more likely to fail*).

Nant Gwrtheyrn is a sort of re-education village for Welsh learners. Or so it feels from what people say about it. They tell you that it is beautiful and inspirational and life-changing and on and on until you start to wonder when they're going to hand you a glass of Kool-Aid.

In reality, it is an abandoned quarrying village in North Wales that was turned into an immersion learning centre. Everyone and his uncle will tell you that the slings and arrows of immersion are the best way to get up to speed in a language. But that is difficult in the Welsh language, where English is always a fall-back option. In Nant Gwtheyrn they've apparently established little rules for themselves where everything is done through the medium of Welsh. The village is isolated from the rest of the world to the extent that TV, radio and phone signal are unreliable, so it exists there on the Llyn Peninsula as an Epcotian dream of the Wales that nationalists are always telling themselves still exists.

Obviously I am being aggressively sceptical about it. One of the best ways to ensure that I won't enjoy something is to tell me how great it is. My problem is that I actually believe people, but my definition of what is great often doesn't match that of others and I have a powerful imagination that creates difficult-to-fulfil hopes and expectations. So, I try to beat down my visions of things before experiencing them. This is especially true when it comes to things in Wales. There have been a handful of staggering disappointments in the last year.

I'll be up in Nant Gwrtheyrn for a week, so intermittent blogging will be reduced to no blogging at all.

Despite my efforts, I am looking forward to it. I'll apparently have time and space to wonder around, and there is a reportedly a pub within walking distance. That's pretty much all I need.

*Thankfully, DQ is planning to begin expansion to the European market in the next five years.


David T. Macknet said...

Perhaps they only oversell things to YOU, Chris. Perhaps, for them, it's a way of maintaining that ... certain feeling of having been an oppressed people for hundreds upon hundreds of years. It lets them know that it's the best they can expect, so they should enjoy it.

Entrenched misery.

Like it.

Afe said...

Curly and Huw get links from this blog post and I don't even get a MENTION. You promised me beers but all you gave me was heartache.

Neal said...

I miss being within walking distance of a pub. I would settle for short commuter flight distance from a pub.

Annie said...

Bendigedig! (fave Welsh word).

Anonymous said...

It is a beautiful place though not sure about the walking distance from the pub!
I have some work there, an information board about the garden if I remember correctly.
In the olden days when it was a working village the women used to go to Liverpool by boat and they were the most fashionably dressed women in North Wales. And the Irish workers had special barracks away from the main village so as not to contaminate the locals!

Blewyn said...

Hey cowboy what's with the staggering disappointments ? Did you see yourself as Jimmy Page clambering up the mountain to the magical druid ? Seriously, what did you imagine before coming over to my homeland ? Wales has 2 million less people than Houston (so you know lots of people can still get it wrong) and only 1 in 5 of them actually still understand Welsh.....did you expect a thriving literary and philosphical oasis ?

heatherfeather said...

dairy queen is evil.

i know this because i've tasted their caramel waffle cone blizzard and holy crap that's all i want to eat now ever.

David T. Macknet said...

I think that what Americans expect when they travel overseas is to be presented with an unified culture. It sounds to me as if Chris is undergoing the transition from tourist / student to "ex-pat." It's a rough one.