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Scholarship Recipients

Mendocino 2016: Paula Peng

By Paula Peng, Spring 2017
Paula Peng

Paula Peng

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

Occupation: Mushroom cultivator and tincturist; cooperative founder, Permaculture Design

Connection to Balkan music/dance: UCLA Bulgarian choir. World Music singing class. MJT events committee. Kypseli Greek dancing.

Number of times at Balkan camp: 2006, 2012-15

Studied at camp: Remedial santouri 😉

Memorable moment at camp: This was my first year offering something for the auction (I know, for shame!) and it was a really great experience. I decided to offer a tasting of my tinctures and although it was kind of touch-and-go, it gave me a chance to talk with a cross section of camp that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Bringing something to offer that is the result of my personal health struggles gave me a window into the lives and passions of other Balkanophiles and ways that they are active agents of healing and change for themselves, their friends and families, as well as animals and the environment. Although perhaps 90% of us still got the post-camp virus (after all, you can’t bottle sleep), it felt good to know that I brought as much as I could to help everyone get an advantage over it, and in sharing my own story, gained access to others’ stories and strengths.

Paula at Olympos on the Antalya coast of Turkey in 2011.

Paula at Olympos on the Antalya coast of Turkey in 2011.

One other thing that may or may not be what you want to hear from a scholar but was, to me, lovely proof of true community: Many folks know that last fall I had a terrible case of poison oak that basically overtook my entire face and body for the most of a month. It was pure hell, and there was a good week when I could barely sleep. Needless to say I was also losing my mind. Since then, I have been vigilant any time when going into nature, so coming to camp felt somewhat more fraught, as I heard each exposure can be exponentially worse. Toward the middle of the week my paranoia started to overtake me, as friends definitely were exposed to poison oak and had rashes and I was myself battling an inexplicable rash despite obsessive showers at any hour of day or night and strategic organization of clothing and bedding. Finally I decided to take the advice of several wise campers and talk to our medic, Sommer [Halligan]. Although she did give me something for the rash and advice on managing it, the compassion and empathy that she and Dr. Norm [Rosen] showed me really helped me to completely reset and reconnect with the camp experience I so love and needed.

Knowing that they and others were there and looking out for my well-being, offering resources, not only physically but as a person, even though we may travel in different circles at camp, was remarkable to me. After that point, I could come to them with elation and relief to say, “I think I have a parasite!” and feel understanding and acceptance. It turned out my cabin mate was also experiencing some itching and the rash resolved easily post-camp. Phew!

© 2014 East European Folklife Center