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My Trip to “Oh the West”

by Craig Scott


            A few weekends back I went to a camping area about 9 miles outside Temecula with my parents. We went down to meet a group of Russians from an organization called Time Presses. They were meeting up with a lot of other Russian groups—the total number of people there was about a thousand. At the “Oh the West” festival we were paired up with about 7 other families sharing 3 decent sized campsites.

            The campsites were full of children and teenagers running around with friends, and the men and women were sitting and talking for the greater part of each day. All the conversations were in Russian or as close to understandable Russian as the person could speak and vocalize. A nice part of this arrangement was that they would speak English to the people at the camp who knew little to no Russian. My mom, uncle, aunt, cousin, and I all benefited from this successful attempt to be drawn into the lively atmosphere. The conversations were as straight-forward and to the point as others I had encountered once we made it past the awkward moments to figure out what to speak about.

            The Friday I was down there was Victory Day and there was a lot of celebration during that night. Victory Day is the day when Russia and its Allies defeated the Germans during World War II. This is a day of remembrance for the twenty-seven million Russians who died during the war.

            All the camps had people who knew guitar and could play it quite exceptionally. All the camps would echo with yells and guitar and singing. The first night I went to bed around three o’clock in the morning and the music continued up till at least six AM. The noise was very loud and overpowering the closer you went towards the camps. I found it unique and appreciated the emotion in the music that was played. The songs and rhythms had an alternating flow where the tempo would stay somewhat slow and steady at the beginning then change up to a really fast and knowledge-passing segment. This was most common with the folk music that was played and as expected there were all types of different styles that were played.

            During the three days that the camping was going on there was a stage with a lot of bands that would float on through playing some of their indivual work and some well known traditional songs. Friday night was devoted to Victory Day and all the songs had a ballad like flow that quite often sounded to me like a moral message was trying to be passed on to the audience. The enthusiasm felt during the concerts was amazing and made the music more interesting to listen to since you could hear a reply to the song and from the way it was yelled you could tell if it was well taken or not by the indivual. Saturday was a day when the music started about eight PM instead of midnight and it went until about three that morning. The music Saturday was personally written songs which were performed mostly on the guitar along with a small assortment of other instruments. The music was done by people of all ages and professions. I found their talent quite outstanding and am glad I was able to see traditional Russian music and see how they funneled their energies into their music.

            The people at the campground had a lot of interesting stories about their time in Russia and their time abroad. It was nice hearing how Kyrgyzstan was and about parts of Moscow they had gone too. It was a great experience to learn about the Russian culture in an across-the-table fashion, very straightforward and honest.