...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Be prepared for ... what?

The nearest association I've had with the Scouts, although very indirectly, was through my dad. He and my uncle Billy were in the Boy Scouts of the Philippines: 

dad and unc (high-waisted uniform, dad!), and dad with a well-equipped belt, I see!
According to a family story, dad really wanted to go with the Scouts to the World Jamboree in Greece in the 1963. As luck has it, my grandparents didn't have enough money to send him (50 pesos short, reportedly), and so by chance my father didn't die in the crashed plane that carried 20 Filipino scouts, and he didn't have a street named after him in Quezon City's Scout Area.

My sisters were also with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, although for a short period of time when the school offered scouting as an extra-curricular activity. Liz was reportedly “best in knots”, but they added that everyone had to be best in something!

♫ We are the girl scouts, the RP girl scouts! ♫  He he he!

During my own gradeschool years, the school skipped this activity so there was never any scouting for me. And among the circle of friends I had in my generation, nobody was a scout either. Somehow the school recruitment seemed to have died down and the nearest one can get to being called “scout” was when people teased you as being “always ready” (“laging handa”) because you owned a Swiss army knife. (Little-known trivia was that I saved up some money to give a college crush a Swiss army knife for Christmas. Knives and multi-tools are good presents, as I learned in my family. It seems that he thought it was a very strange present though).

- - -

My indirect relationship with the Scouts seems to continue. After waffling about for months on whether I should volunteer in the Scout Movement or not, I signed myself up to join a Camp – cautiously, “on a trial basis”. Someone put it into my head that this could do me good, to get out and meet potentially like-minded people while helping the organization out.

The weekend I spent in the Scout Camp a week ago (2 nights and 3 days) was mostly okay. There were about 8 adults and 28-35 children. I didn't have to interact intensively with the kids as I first feared, ha ha! Actually, most of the time, the kids were minding their own business which is perfectly fine by me. I also slept in my own tent and not in the kids’ tents.

When you eat and mingle in big groups,
sleeping undisturbed is the way to go, I say!

Mostly I was just checking out what various groups were doing and helped out when needed, like with digging, buttering bread and keeping the utensils in order. On the last day there was also a series of games (competitive non-competitive in that the winning group, i.e. ours, got the same prizes as the non-winners). It was great fun running around and doing challenges. That was pretty much the highlight of the trip for me.

Here's how the Camp looked like. Basically, folk went out into the woods and felled some trees, tied the logs together into tripods and made a roof using string and tarp. 

to the left, the food tent; in the middle, the eating tent; 
to the right, the kitchen tent, also pictured below: 

Camp living was a bit like plain tenting, the big difference being that it has a camping-van aspect of living tightly together and doing common activities with a whole bunch of people. That's a whole culture to get used to as well.

One of the things I clearly realized in the Camp was that the Scout Movement really is a youth organization. The adults are rather what keep the machinery going, but the activities actually revolve around the kids. Funny that I never thought of it that way before. I expected kids and their families to be there but it was still a bit unexpected for me not to find anyone there between high school age and mid-40s.

I've been telling people that I had “80% fun” and that's quite a good rating I guess. On the other hand, I couldn't help feeling that I got away easy because I didn't have so much emotional investment and therefore not so much responsibility for the kids nor for any of the logistics and planning. The egotistical thing about just joining the Camp without being a member is that I could just enjoy the cool parts (hiking, cooking, the challenges) but otherwise be disengaged in what seems to be the movement's soul, that is, investing in the youth's social and mental development. I wonder how true-blue Scouts see this from the point of view of solidarity.
- - -

Okay. Actually, when I think about it, it basically boils down to how much I dig the whole Scout "concept" as a package and if I see myself absorbing the whole Scout culture. I want the fun but I don't know how much I am willing to assimilate the traditions this late in life, such as singing about Baden-Powell or the Kumbaya song (which apparently also has been sung in my dad's days, speaking of traditions!). The non-scout parents are obviously into these things because their kids are. But to me it seems plain strange to be "into" singing campfire songs about pancakes and pork chops in chorus with some screaming kids. Maybe I really just don't understand kids. Or maybe I needed to be in the Scouts much earlier to get what this whole tradition thing is all about. On the other hand, do I need to "get it" to get involved? Maybe my indirect relationship with the Scouts is good enough; "80% scout," ha ha!

Lola and dad. I don't think dad goes anywhere without a Swiss army knife. He is also an all-around handyman, and he and mom actually carved the panels on our front door. Hey dad, where do you keep your patches? ;-)

On being 80% scout: it amazes me how some of the people in the Camp can go hiking without band-aids or foot tape, or leave their gloves and hat at home! Only one person seemed to have extra batteries aside from me (which actually did come to use for someone). I never go on hikes without foot tape (Leukoplast). Most anything can be fixed with tape, as my mother knows when I attached her sagging sole with Leukoplast in Kolmården. The taped sole held throughout the hike. A personal must-have.

I have to give the Scouts points for the good organization of the weekend though. Food for 40 people that can be prepared on time on one stove is no logistic joke. And I must say that the scenery around the area was, at times, wonderful. The best part of scouting or just doing your own trek is the fact of just being out. To be out is a reward in itself, but it also helps when you don't have to experience it alone.


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