Conferences, simplified

I believe I’ve praised the Esperanto culture of membership organizations and conferences. (You have to love a language that makes membership blank a basic vocabulary word. And for any number of internal cultural reasons, Esperanto conferences tend to be very, very good value. After all, the goal is to have Esperanto speakers meet and (since some of whom have their own additional interests, such as ham radio, keeping cats or Unitarian Universalists) conduct the work of organizations. With a focus on low-pressure fun. A time to make fellowship. Bring your ukulelo.

So consider the Mekaro, la Mez-Kanada Rekontigxo (The Mid-Canada Gathering). It’s a weekend of sightseeing, free time and dining in Kingston, Ontario. Tapas or Cambodian? Alehouse or coffeehouse? $50 for adults, including four museum entry fees, plus the cost of two dinners and a lunch, perhaps another $50. College housing available for about another $50, single. Exciting? Doubtful. But I bet it was fun.

And look at this weekend in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The main considerations seem to be that it is accessible to different people and that the costs are low. (Walking access to rail and bus help here.) Offers to share a room (that comes with breakfast) plus two meals (essentially a split check, and with cuisine that accommodates vegetarians) with a single outing and loosely structure fun time. A minimum of organizing that provides the introduction for people to have fun and an opportunity to do something else (plan another event; launch a website; teach a class?) if they want. Or not.

An opportunity, at a price and structure that promises little and risks little, has a lot to speak for it.

The lesson of the Esperantists’ conferences

Spend any time with Esperantists and you discover how important conferences — kongresoj — are. I think it’s because the community is so small that it helps to have intentional times together. That, and since one of the language’s selling points is your ability to speak with people from other countries through a non-national auxillary language, international travel is a frequent option. Little wonder that the word for registration form shows up on beginners’ wordlists.

No doubt due to the lack of sponsors, the likely fact that most attendees pay their own way and the long duration of conferences (perhaps due to custom — Esperantists have been doing this for more than a century — and the long distances traveled) great attention is made to keep costs down.

Discounts routinely go to the young, persons from particular sets of countries and early registrants.  The lodging costs are often very low — with comforts to match. Room-sharing is routine, and camping and floor-space accommodation (bring your sleeping bag) are well-known. Meal plans are common, and a vegetarian option is a given. Some conferences allow for cooking, and I even noted a United States conference info page that tacitly apologized for this option not being possible.

It’s possible to have a private room with a private bath. There are sometimes banquets and very often day trips. There’s little to help the cost of very long distance travel. One can spend money (and donate money to help offset others’ costs) but a conference trip, doubling as a modest and interesting vacation, is kept as affordable as possible.

A couple of examples. The Universala Kongresothe big international conference at the end of July this year — is in Copenhagen: a very expensive city. A 29-year old attendee from Poland, who is already a member of the Universala Esperanto-Asocio, registering before last December 31, would have paid €60 for the 8-day conference. Even my late-registering, non-UAE-joining, forty-something United State citizen self would only pay €300, which doesn’t seem unfair for occasion.  The whole conference in a college dorm share with one other is €190. No word about self-catering.

Or you can go to the Christian (mainly Protestant) Esperantist conference (PDF, in Esperanto, of course) the week following in the spa town of Poděbrady, Czech Republic. Our early booking Polish friend would get this 8-day conference for €160, shared room, meals and (perhaps) day trip included.

This is a long way around to saying that there’s nothing wrong about counting pennies when putting together a conference if it means more people can attend. I’m thinking of the next General Assembly. My first was was in Charlotte. I got the young adult rate, a shared room (thanks I think to Joseph Lyons) but had to live on vending-machine Cokes for three days because there were no grocery stores within walking distance and the restaurants were full and expensive. (I think the area is more built up now and in any case there’s a light rail system that did not then exist.) One dear minister — no longer with us on Earth — bought me lunch, under the excuse I’m sure of examining my interest in the ministry. It’s largely because of the experiences at the 1993 General Assembly that you have me today. So when I organized a seminarians’ breakfast the next year in Fort Worth, I found a place that everyone could afford, even if it wasn’t fancy.

Costs matter if people matter.



Do any Unitarian [Universalist] ministers speak Esperanto?

A simple question: do any other Unitarian Universalist (or Unitarian or Universalist or kindred) ministers speak Esperanto? I’m barely not a beginner, but I have to think UU ministers once learned the language. Thanks.

Simple, ĉu estas aliaj Unitariaj aŭ Universalistaj pastroj ĉe parolas esperante? Mi estas ekskomecanto, sed pensas ĉe UU-ajn pastrojn antaŭe lernis la lingvon. Dankon.

Typing in Esperanto with Ubuntu Linux

And while I’m talking about Ubuntu Linux, I recently discovered a feature for Esperantistoj, courtesy of Mikeo of the Junularo Esperantista Brita (British Esperantists Young-persons’ Group). Dankon! See the article for full details and other options.

For those unfamiliar, there are six letters found in Esperanto not found in other languages. This can complicate typing.

In short, System > Preferences > Keyboard > Layouts tab > Options button. Choose Adding Esperanto circumflexes.

Now, to get the point:­ just type the corresponding Latin letter while pressing the Alt key to the right of the space bar.


Quiet weekend: finding Esperanto resources

It’s been a quiet weekend with gloomy weather. A good time to prepare for future blog posts. (A day’s blog post often has several days of research or preparation behind it.) And to note small errands today.

My ability to read Esperanto has gotten much better recently entirely from running through Montagu C. Butler’s hoary Step-by-Step in Esperanto. Got this copy at the D.C. public library — main Martin Luther King Jr. branch; foreign language section — but I figure I’ll make so much use of it that I’ve made the now-unusual step of actually buying a copy. The exercises should, in time, help with my written and spoken Esperanto, and so I’ve started downloading Esperanto podcasts to improve my hearing comprehension. (I use Rhythmbox to manage and listen to them.)

Among them:

China Radio International has a broadcast (using Windows encoding!) but I can’t find a podcast, so will read their Mikrofone magazine instead.

Where I step out to translate Esperanto . . .

Like a medieval schoolboy translating Latin aphorisms, I plan to translate out what I can of L. L. Zamenhof’s Deklaracio pri homaranismo (1913). (PDF download site). This will surely take some time, and I’d appreciate correction from more experienced Esperantists.

L. L. Zamenhof was the inventor of the Esperanto language, but he also speculated in religion. Originally called Hillelismo (Hillelism) for the Jewish sage Hillel, his thought developed into Homaranismo, which is sometimes translated — if unconvincingly — as humanism or humanitarianism.

There is frustratingly little written in English about Homaranismo, though I suspect it may have been intended to serve an “auxiliary religion” function as Esperanto would for a mother tongue. Keep what’s native, but rely on the auxiliary in common discourse across cultures. An interesting thought, and certainly rare in the West, if it is so.

Something I love about Esperanto organizations

I love the membership cards. What’s the point of being a card-carrying Esperantist, if you don’t get a membership card?

KELI membership card, 2011

I got this one in the mail yesterday, and shows I paid my dues to “United-Statesian” section of the League of Christian Esperantists International for 2011, if that wasn’t plain.

But apart from the symbolic value, membership cards can signal voting rights, link to services and log-ins and note benefits of membership.

This might not be the most practical of tools for church administration or religious associations, but they can be made easily with the gLabels software (for the GNOME desktop, usually associated with Linux users) I mentioned before, and I’ll begin reviewing it this weekend.

Esperanto flashcards for learning correlatives

I’ve been having a devil of a time with correlatives in Esperanto, so have made up some flashcards and thought I would share. Download both PDFs; print one on one side of letter-sized cardstock or heavy paper and then the other on the flip side. Cut along the guide lines. The cards will be the same size as U.S. business cards.

The English side

La flanko esperanta

This is one in a short series where

  • I use and document (later) a use for free and open-source software in a way I’ve not seen used. Some useful for church administration, too
  • Making something for Esperanto users (like the hymnal and service book I transcribed last week)
  • Steeling myself for writing in Esperanto in public (not quite ready; there’s that correlatives problem for one.)

Alternate English translations for the correlatives are also welcome.

1907 Esperanto hymn and service book

I transcribed and have just now published the Esperanto booklet Ordo de Diservo — “Order of God-service” — prepared for the third Universal Congress of Esperantists, in Cambridge, England in 1907. (A brief Wikipedia entry, if you read Esperanto.)

Some — Esperanto readers anyway — will love the charming original hymns while others will enjoy the translated Anglican morning prayer service.

Thanks both to Ros’ Haruo of Biblioteko Culbert, Seattle, who published scans made by Karl Heinz Schaeffer from a copy in the possession of the German Esperanto Library, Aalen

Goals: 41 to 42

I recently had a birthday, and am now 41 years old. That gives me a year before I reach 42, which — as I knew, and surprisingly others also volunteered — is “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.”

But the proof that I really am in my forties is that my personal goals are much more modest. Or at the very least it means that I don’t have time for self-serving and dysfunctional causes. More about that later.

As for those goals: weight-loss is a perennial, and I hope we might refinance the mortgage, but neither of these are related to this blog. And then there’s legal marriage, but hitting the right mark between civil marriage and our Christian faith — especially since we had the church wedding seven years ago and the fact that we won’t get any more rights by marrying — means it’s more of  process than a goal.

Not having a local religious home is a sore point, but again more of a process than a goal. I have some thoughts about a nonlocal home that I’ll share as the 2010-2011 year goes on.

For skills, I want to be reasonably proficient in Esperanto, say, to read magazines without halting and carry on a non-technical conversation with infrequent circumlocution or clarifying questions, before the next Landa Kongreso. I also want to learn enough Python — as a goal — to use it to solve a problem that I would normally solve in a Rube Goldberg way.

But one goal I’m particularly proud of — writing 100 letters. Pre-email, I was an avid correspondent, and I both miss writing and receiving proper letters. So that, with dusting off some sermon and knot-tying skills, are my modest goals for the next year. No ultimate questions on display, but I hope to share of some of what I develop here.