One of the main reasons for this success was that it coincided with another welcome resurgence: that of the Cardiff Esperanto group. Spurred on by a couple of new Esperantists in the area who were looking to meet other Esperantists and practise the language, the Cardiff group has been meeting regularly for a while now. Their younger members are also active in JEB, and so when the national group was looking for a place to hold their next meeting in February 2010, the Cardiff troop were kind enough to invite us to their home town, an invitation that we gratefully accepted.
We arrived at Cardiff on an uncharacteristically sunny Saturday morning to find that we were already being most generously hosted by a member of the Cardiff group who met us at the train station and guided us to the first stop on our tour of the town: Weatherspoon's pub number one of many. We were greeted there by a constantly increasing group of lively and enthusiastic Esperantists from all over the UK and further afield. The total number of participants was 22 which was a fantastic success and made for an unmissable 'etoso' [atmosphere]. The whole spectrum was covered from non-speakers interested in the language (or invited by someone who is), through new young Esperantists meeting other speakers for the first time, and on to experienced speakers of the language from many different countries. I counted participants from at least seven nationalities (and three continents) communicating freely and naturally together in Esperanto. This also made it a great chance for us Brits to get exposed to Esperanto pronunciations from other countries which is an invaluable experience in terms of progressing in the language.
The Cardiff group took wonderful care of us all, providing us with detailed local knowledge to help get ourselves situated for the weekend. After a lively meal in a local restaurant where we took over the top floor, we were then treated to a highly professional, educational and witty tour around Cardiff by one of our participants, an Esperantist based in the city, as she narrated our tour entirely in Esperanto. After taking in the local sites (including Cardiff Castle, the Taff River, the canal and some great hidden artwork that we surely would have missed without a guide) and swotting up on the local history, the evening's festivities began with much chatting, eating, laughing and even playing an Esperanto word game or two.
One of the greatest successes to come out of the event, besides the fun we all had actually attending it, was that it had some attention from BBC Wales, who interviewed a couple of the organising Esperantists in advance of the event, and then published a very positive article about the event on its news website, which was a great achievement for everyone who was involved.
JEB's habit of moving around the country has proved very successful, allowing many different people to attend, in particular those beginners who are interested in the language but are perhaps not yet ready to commit to a full long distance journey. Another interesting side detail is that the event had a distinctly modern flavour, with some of the live organisation during the event being handled by the micro-blogging site Twitter (used frequently by many of those attending the event) and with photos available to view almost immediately by those who couldn't attend. We even received a message saying that Esperantists from other countries were following the progress of our event via the internet after having heard about it via the BBC Wales article (news of that had also spread quickly through Esperantujo, it seems!).
I am now eagerly anticipating the next JEB meet-up!
[More photos can be seen in Heather Eason's photo-gallery]
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