Thursday, 26 March 2015

L’viv Liberty English Camp – An Englishman’s View

This is an account of the Language of Liberty English Camp held in L’viv, Ukraine, from 15th to 20th March 2015. Told by Neil Lock, the only born and bred Englishman in the camp.

This was my fourth Liberty Camp. Normally, I’m the spare member of staff. I turn up for a few days, give a lecture, drink a lot of beer and wine with the students, and go home. (I also used to ring the bell to get people in to the sessions; but that tradition was discontinued in 2009).

This time, it was different. Visa problems meant that the teaching staff were a bit stretched. I had already planned to stay the whole week; but beyond that, I had to take the role of No. 2 teacher behind Glenn.

I had to do three lectures, as well as compére a debate and coach a presentation team. And as I do the liberty philosophy stuff rather than the entrepreneurship stuff, this meant some danger that this particular course might be a little unbalanced. But I needn’t have worried.

Now, this wasn’t exactly a camp. In fact, it took place in one of the better hotels in L’viv. Affordable, because of the war and the consequent collapse of the Ukrainian hryvnia. And within easy walking distance of the centre of a beautiful city.

Arriving on Saturday afternoon, my stay began with a trip to the opera. Because Glenn is an opera buff, Vlad, our excellent local representative, had booked tickets for “La Traviata” for four of us who would be there that evening. And we had a box! The two top singers, who played Violetta and Alfredo, were superb. But (being, among much else, a tuba player) I spent as much time watching the orchestra as listening. I particularly enjoyed seeing the percussionist singing heartily along with the male chorus...

On Sunday and for the next four days, we got into the work (and the fun). Most of the students were from the Ukraine or Poland, but we had a few from further afield. And, once we had caught and defused a little bit of nationalist animosity, they were a good bunch. They seemed to enjoy my presentation on John Locke – and the more extrovert among them also enjoyed declaiming, loudly, examples of his best sayings.

And then, we discovered the truth. Well actually, we discovered Pravda. It calls itself a “beer theatre.” And with standard beer in L’viv about 10 per cent of UK prices, and craft beer of 8.5% alcohol at 60p or $1.00 a measure (four of which are enough for an evening), we enjoyed ourselves. There were those who went on to strip clubs, but I wasn’t among them.

I was astonished by how much progress some of the students made in so few days. Not just in their ability to speak English, but in their confidence to express themselves. I found that very satisfying. And those, who were already confident, had a ball.

One young lady said, to Glenn in my presence, something along the lines of, “But you don’t behave like professors! You treat us as your equals!” Yes, I thought, that’s because we aren’t professors. We don’t have doctorates from politically funded institutions; but all Liberty Camp teachers have top level qualifications from the University of Life and Business.

I’ve enjoyed all four of the Liberty Camps I’ve been to, but this was without doubt the best. Huge thanks are due to Vlad our local organizer; to Jim Turney, who came all the way from Cyprus to help out with the teaching; and to Jacek Spendel and Kamil Cebulski, who gave very interesting presentations. But ultimately, Liberty English Camps are Glenn’s show. And he’s some showman.

So let’s raise our glasses to the Language of Liberty. За здоровя. Cheers!

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