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Kursa 2023 has come to a close!

Hello, Kursa families and friends!

The 2023 Kursa summer season in Washington has successfully come to a close!

Congratulations to our four graduates – Arabella, Kelly, Kārlis, and Laila! This year, we had 13 new participants – totaling 28 students. Students came from the West Coast to Liepāja, Latvia, as well as from many places in between – Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio.

Foto: Vēsma Pūharte As our students are now getting ready for the school year, whether continuing in high school or starting college, we've had some time to reflect. Our Kursa summer wasn't without its challenges, especially with the unexpected COVID outbreak at the end of the second week. But, we persevered – thanks to all the staff, volunteers, and, of course, the students who diligently continued to wear masks and follow all COVID protocols so that we could experience all three weeks of Kursa. (The question even came up: should we close the camp?)

We continue to be grateful to all the staff and parents who could gather on-site and continue to work long shifts, or who came from Seattle and Portland to help us in the kitchen even for a day. The kitchen was probably hit the hardest. When all four kitchen staff members came back with positive Covid tests – two volunteer parents were left to cook meals for over 40 of us. They admirably held down the kitchen for several days! Our heartfelt thanks to them – Danielle Noviks-Tucker and Māra Kraushaar – for the tremendous work in keeping us all going!

A heartfelt thanks to all the parents who helped from near or far – whether by coming to the camp and pitching in where needed, or by sending masks and COVID tests to us. With all of your support, we were able to continue learning and enjoying the Washington woods through the end of camp.

In the third and last week of camp, even with COVID protocols in place, things were still on schedule. We managed to complete Latvian language level exams, and present Independent projects, as well as enjoy another poetry evening and a dance party – all before saying goodbye until the next summer!

Wishing everyone a great schol year in 2023-2024! See you in 2024 at Kursa – Kursa will celebrate 50!

Graduation Day | Closing Program Speech Captains' Log … Stardate 2023.85 … As we wait these past 8 days for the fog to lift from our camp, we continue to monitor the perimeter known by the locals as the Estrāde. The Kursieši have warned us of the wildlife in the area: a cougar, a bear. One of their children even claimed to have an image of the bear. But even after scanning the area several times, we have only seen one dog and a few wasps. What we found most disconcerting was a wheelbarrow of items left abandoned by an empty dining hall. We do not know where the owners of these objects left willingly, or disappeared. This past week has felt a bit like a science fiction show; like something from Star Trek. It felt surreal when we had to ask the students to line up, and we opened the first boxes of COVID tests – something that in this past year since the pandemic retreated felt distant, from other times. And now, it suddenly returned.

The likeness also includes the rank and file effort required to keep things running the past 10 days – staff and volunteers working non-stop to handle everything necessary – whether it's with fewer educators and counselors, and, particularly with kitchen workers. Where if one more fell ill, or if a volunteer simply said, "I can't do it anymore" (and with multiple 14 hour days – understandably so) – then Kursa would be forced to close.

Some even asked me, should we consider ending Kursa early?

But the answer was clear - looking around at the students, with masks and a sniffle, or with masks protecting themselves and others from the virus. No, we won't be ending camp early. They want to be here.

In the last couple of days, things calmed down a bit, and I had a chance to talk to students to find out what they enjoyed the most.

• The Kursa Kursino (Kasino) evening with guest Imants Holmquist leading the auction with counselor Valdis Birznieks and teacher Indra Jēkabsone! Imants, a Kursa graduate and parent of Kursa student, also generously gave Kursa instruments for a whole band – a complete set of drums, two guitars, a bass guitar, and amplifiers. Many hours were spent both by students and staff.

• Many also mentioned our field trip. This year we were on the Pacific Coast, at Ruby Beach, where we climbed rocks, observed interesting sea creatures in tide pools, and a few even dared to dip in the water at the shore.

• The creative hour in the evenings – where we had some time to spend together – free time. One of our parent volunteers, Atis Blakis, not only showed students how to play Novuss, but he also organized a Novuss tournament for the students!

• The Kursa 12-Hour Film Challenge, where unfortunately, some teachers did not understand that a 12-hour film cannot be made in 16 hours (though visiting lector Kims Ligers speculated that the team may have thought one hour was only 40 minutes).

But most often I heard this – that it was the everyday moments that stood out. Whether walking or running around the lake together, having lunch at the table with friends and counselors, both in deep conversation or joking around.

It's what we also heard at last night's graduation dinner – how special these friendships are. Last night at the graduate dinner, the graduates themselves said:

"Enjoy this time while you can, and know that it doesn't end here, it's only the beginning – these friendships are for a lifetime."

So whether you're in your first year, or the graduating class – know that this is just a beginning.

A huge, heartfelt thank you from all of us – to everyone who spent their days learning, working, or maintaining Kursa during this unexpected wave of COVID – thank you to parents for entrusting us with your children, thank you to the teachers for traveling far to teach and nurture the youngsters, and thank you to all the students for being here, learning, and adjusting especially this summer.

Wishing everyone the best in the upcoming school year, whether it's in middle school or college – and we look forward to meeting again next summer, at Kursa!

Live long and prosper.

Foto: Vēsma Pūharte


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