The 25th World Scout Jamboree made international headlines for descending into chaos amid scorching heat, heavy downpours and poor organisation. But one Scout from Haslemere, ARUNE HOLLOWAY, had a very different experience. What follows is his account of his time in South Korea...
The World Scout Jamboree is held every four years and is a camp full of activities that thousands of Scouts from across the world participate in – at least that is how it usually is.
You see, there is no denying that the 25th World Scout Jamboree held in Saemangeum, South Korea was an anomaly in the history of the event. But I still enjoyed the trip greatly, despite the change in plan.
This year the Jamboree went very differently to its usual schedule of events.
The UK contingent had to withdraw from the event early due to notable problems with the condition of the campsite, including the unprecedented heatwave causing people to faint, the lack of cleaners, and some Scouts and whole units becoming ill.
However, during my time on the campsite I did not suffer any issues, nor did any members of my Surrey 71 Unit. We fortunately did not fall seriously ill or faint of heatstroke while on the site – which others elsewhere on the campsite had.
I enjoyed my time while on the site greatly, in particular talking to the Scouts from other countries, including the Philippines, Hungary, Australia, Mexico, Uruguay and various other nations.
The opening ceremony itself was quite phenomenal, with light emitting drones flying overhead forming the Scout emblem, and even a portrait of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts.
Live music was performed, and figures such as the president of South Korea and Bear Grylls, the Scouts’ chief ambassador, appeared and contributed.
The theme of the 25th Jamboree was ‘Draw your Dreams’.
I remember finding the heat very intense when I first arrived on site, especially when setting up the tents. But I adjusted to the heat despite the fact that outdoor activities were cancelled because of the rapidly rising heat – which reached around 40 degrees Celsius.
When the activities were cancelled I had ample time to walk the paths of the campsites, which were shaded with a tunnel-like canopy with climbing plants on the inside and water mist devices to cool us down.
It was here that I traded many of my Surrey 71 Unit badges with other Scouts from all over the world.
On a different day we were taken on a full day trip from the site and got to see a Buddhist sanctuary, a university and a site of archaeological interest, which was a palace from ancient times. We experienced performers enacting traditional dances for us as well as traditional Korean folk singing.
This was one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me, especially seeing the light gradually dimming as we lit lanterns that carried wishes which we had written on flat strips of wood and then tied on to a frame among many others.
This area was covered in small wooden mounds or banks covered in grass that marked the outlines of where I can imagine buildings once were. It was certainly atmospheric, and the memory of it has stuck well and vividly for me.
There was also a museum there, which was the first of quite a few that I would visit during my time in South Korea.
We were told that we would be withdrawn from the Jamboree and return to Seoul only a couple of days into the Jamboree, during the night. The news did come as a shock, and we didn’t know whether we would leave the next day or the day after.
Yet I found myself, as well as others, to be determined to make the most of what we had left of the Jamboree campsite with all of the other international Scouts.
So I did as much trading as I could and I introduced myself to quite a lot of different people, and our unit said goodbye to our neighbours. We ended up leaving the next day and waited for the coaches to arrive.
Fortunately we didn’t have to take down our tents, which were on top of pallets, so packing up wasn’t too difficult.
We only spent one night in the ballroom of a five-star hotel in Seoul before we managed to get rooms, which were tolerable and air conditioned! We stayed in groups of three at first, and then later in pairs.
We saw many interesting places in Seoul, although I do feel the actual Jamboree campsite would have been better for my personal development.
However, the entire Jamboree site was evacuated a couple of days after the UK had been withdrawn, so we didn’t really miss much. Places of particular note I visited were the Blue House, the presidential villa and the demilitarised zone near the border with North Korea.
I found the demilitarised zone to be a highlight of the whole trip, as I found it interesting as there was a lot of emphasis on reunification there, the promotion of peace for the future, as well as hopes to reunite families that were split between the two countries of North and South Korea.
The theme of the Jamboree was ‘Draw your Dreams’, and a dream it remained. It never fully actualised in its entirety, but rather existed as more of an inspirational idea. The trip has certainly reinforced my wish to travel and perhaps help establish peace in the world.
By Arune Holloway