Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finally, I go to language camp August 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:28 PM
Authentic architecture is integral in the Concordia Spanish Language Village.

Authentic architecture is integral in the Concordia Spanish Language Village.

A colorful mosaic graces a building.

A colorful mosaic graces a building.

Nearly 40 years ago, I longed to spend part of my summer at a German language camp in northern Minnesota.

It was, I figured, as close as I would get to Germany without leaving the state, unless you counted visiting New Ulm. I’d been to that predominantly German community several times.

But I needed more. With a natural ability to quickly learn a foreign language and with a passion for German, I hoped to immerse myself in the culture. And that could happen at the Concordia German Language Village near Bemidji.

However, as much as I wished to become a German camper and as much as my high school German teacher desired the same for me, it wasn’t going to happen. Sending me to summer camp didn’t fit family finances.

Sunset on Turtle River Lake.

Sunset on Turtle River Lake.

So I never went to camp. That was until this summer.

And it wasn’t exactly German camp. It was El Lago del Bosque, Concordia’s Spanish Language Village, also on Turtle River Lake north of Bemidji.

No, I don’t speak Spanish. But my daughter, Miranda, is majoring in Spanish and worked the past two summers in the El Lago del Bosque kitchen. Several weeks ago my husband, son and I traveled north to see her.

As we drove down the 2 ½-mile tree-lined winding road toward the Spanish village, I couldn’t help but ponder my adolescent wish of so many decades ago.

But that was in the past and I had other concerns now. How exactly would I communicate in a totally Spanish-speaking environment? Not to worry. We got by for the brief time we were at the Sunday evening asado argentina (outdoor Argentine barbeque) with Miranda as our interpreter.

Besides I was way too busy admiring the brick courtyard, complete with fountain and gorgeous flowers, and the Spanish architecture and paintings to even think about language barriers. This camp was unlike any I’d ever seen. I would have sworn, at least from exterior appearances, that I was at some swanky resort.

From what my daughter has told me, the food classifies more as cuisine than camp food with everything, even the bread, made from scratch. I could like this kind of camp.

Miranda returns home this weekend from her three-month stint at El Lago del Bosque. We’ll be picking her up at her sister’s place in Minneapolis and eating a meal together. I asked where and what she wanted to eat.

Anything, she said, except rice or beans.

Tabletop artwork at Concordia.

Tabletop artwork at Concordia.

Art representing San Miguel de Allende.

Art representing San Miguel de Allende.

Table art representing Santiago.

Table art representing Santiago.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Safety first?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:58 PM
A Faribault firefighter seeks donations while standing in the traffic lane of busy N.W. Fourth Street.

A Faribault firefighter seeks donations while standing in the turning lane of N.W. Fourth Street. This photo was taken from the passenger side front window of our car as we neared the intersection with Second Ave N.W.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to our local firefighters, but I saw something this morning that truly astounded me.

There, standing in the turning lanes at one of Faribault’s busiest intersections, were several firefighters seeking donations for The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s national “Fill the Boot” campaign. The drive benefits research and local services for the Twin Cities chapter of the MDA.

It’s a worthy cause and I applaud the charitable efforts.

But walking where they were, putting themselves in danger and creating a distraction for motorists seemed more than a bit unwise on the part of the firemen extending their boots for a donation.

What about safety first?

My husband rolled down the driver's side window as we passed this car and firefighter in the turning lane of N.W. Fourth Street.

My husband rolled down the driver's side window as we passed this vehicle and firefighter, who was seeking donations in the turning lane of N.W. Fourth Street.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling