Last weekend, MrH and I, along with our friends Z and D, attended the 93rd Session of the University of Atlantia, at Elchenburg Castle near Yadkinville, NC.
The SCA is an educational organization that recreates various aspects of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, and Universities are events where individuals with knowledge or expertise in an area can pass some of that on to others who are interested.
To the best of my knowledge, each SCA Kingdom (region) has a University, and Atlantia’s holds three sessions each year in locations around the Kingdom.
University of Atlantia is free to attend, though they request a $5 donation to help defray their costs, and instructors may charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs of their handouts and materials. All staff and teachers are volunteers.
Many Universities are held in venues like schools and colleges, but this University used an outdoor site with tents and pavillions set up to house the various classes. Thouse that could be housed in tents and pavillions, that is – there were also an archery range, a space for equestrian classes, and an area set aside for smithing.
There was space available for camping, and the four of us decided to share Z and D’s tent and cook our meals on site. There was to be a potluck feast Saturday evening, and we brought along food for that as well.
Yeah, I Was Nervous…
I’ll admit I had some reservations about the trip! I hadn’t been camping in over a decade, let alone since I’d lost my eyesight.
Would I be able to find my way to the bathrooms, especially if I had to go in the middle of the night? More important, would I be able to find my way back?
Would someone have to take me every time? Would I become a burden on MrH and our friends?
What about navigating between classes? None of the other three were taking the same classes I was, and I wasn’t sure they’d be available to help me get from one class to the next.
And what about those classes? I was pretty sure I’d be able to handle the dance classes and improvizational class I’d signed up for, but my fifth class was a two-hour session on making bobbin lace, which I’d never done before and which has a lot of fiddly little bits to keep track of. Would my fingers be up to the challenge?
I considered dropping the class and taking something more manageable instead, but I’ve been wanting to learn bobbin lace and this was a perfect opportunity. In the end, I decided that if I didn’t learn to make bobbin lace, I’d learn more about *how* to make bobbin lace and I’d be able to work from there.
How it Played Out
D had to work Friday, so MrH and I rode up with Z and the gear. The site was about four hours from her house, and we yakked the whole way.
When we got there, MrH and I went to the bathhouse, and my heart sank. The bathhouse was converted from part of a residential house, and the route to the bathroom was far from straightforward. A kind lady led me to the ladies’ room and helped me find my way back to the entrance. I was convinced I’d never be able to do it alone, but at least it seemed I’d be able to find people who could help me out!
Back at camp, MrH and Z unloaded the car and set up the tent and our campsite, with the assistance of a friendly gentleman who’d finished setting up his own camp and was wandering around helping others. Isn’t chivalry great?
I’d have liked to help, but I didn’t know the site, didn’t know the tent, and wasn’t familiar with how the car was packed, so I mostly held the pillows and stayed out from underfoot.
It was already getting late, so we heated chili and buttered cornbread and had a lovely dinner. We wandered around some more, fed D when he finally arrived, and turned in early. We wanted to be rested for our big day tomorrow!
The next morning, we ate breakfast, signed in and paid our camping fees (and made our donation) and learned where our classes were.
My first class, Introductory English Country Dance, was in the Castle, a roofless concrete masonry structure with door and window openings in each of the four walls.
MrH studied the map and told me that if I went out the east door, I could go north until I reached the row of classroom tents. My second class, Improvization for SCA Life, was in the last tent on the right side of the row. I thought it would be pretty easy to figure out directions, because it was easy to tell which direction the sun was coming from. I did worry a bit that I wouldn’t know where the path in front of the tents was, because there was nothing marking it, but figured people would be walking along it and I could ask for help if I wasn’t sure.
As it turned out, a lady in the dance class offered to help me find my second class. MrH picked me up from there, and I’d successfully completed my morning classes!
In the interest of keeping this post semi-manageable, I’m going to break out the classes into a separate post. I’ll get to them, promise!
By lunchtime, I was in bad shape. I don’t know whether it was dehydration, heat, the broiling sun, or some combination, but I was ready to drop! D found some shade behind the tent, and he, MrH and I moved back there, which helped a lot!
After lunch, I had two hours of Introductory Bobbin Lace. Z walked me to the tent and I settled in. Unfortunately, as the class wore on, the sun began to slip in and fall on my back. It felt as though it was burning right into my body, even through the thick fabric of my dress!
Class let out a little early so the instructor could set up for her next class, and the four of us regrouped in the shade behind our tent.
My last two classes were to have been Basic and Intermediate Gresley Dances, back at the Castle, but I absolutely wasn’t up to it. I felt better in the shade, but every time the sun fell on me I started to feel weak and sick again.
I really wanted those classes, and in my younger days I might have pushed myself through them, but I felt that if I did that, my body would pay a price later. Instead, I spent the last two class hours lying on a sleeping bag under the trees while the others attended class.
As the sun began to go down and the evening cooled off, I revived. The potluck was a lot of fun and my homemade bread and the cheese we brought were well received.
Somewhere in all of this, I was beginning to learn the bathhouse. I still needed help to the door of the ladies room, but I could find the toilets and sinks and make my way out again unassisted. I’m told there were showers as well, but I never went looking for those.
Home Again, Home Again
Sunday morning we got up relatively early, broke down our camp, and packed Z’s car. Once
We stopped for breakfast, then settled in for the ride home. Once again, we talked most of the way. MrH showed off the book he’d made in his Medieval Bookbinding class, and I bubbled over with ideas for projects and things to make.
D had some mechanical trouble on the way home , so we dropped back to follow him, and he managed to make it in one piece.
All four of us agreed that we had a good time, and we want to go camping together again – though maybe not until the weather cools off! Personally, the whole weekend really boosted my confidence, and I couldn’t have asked for better campmates. I can’t wait until the next University!
Next post: The classes I took, the things I learned, and reflections. on the experience