I forget exactly how it was brought to my attention that there was going to be a World Jamboree in Chile during Christmas 1998/99. I think Dad and I went to an interest meeting at the scout office and watched a promotional video about it. I had never heard of a World Jamboree, but I figured that it would be a great opportunity for me. I recall being taken from Cross Country camp through winding Tennessee back roads by Mom during the summer. I was going to Camp Buck Toms to stay in campsite 6 for a pre-jamboree training camp out.
I met scouts from all over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia that weekend. We took turns cooking and doing tasks as patrols. I remember that we had a carton of rice pudding and it was disgusting to eat. The scoutmasters, Mr. Croley and Mr. Leonard, interviewed those who wanted a senior position inside one of the tents. Mr. Leonard had glasses and a mustache, the Kentucky scoutmaster, Mr. Fowlkes, was white-haired and tall. Another scoutmaster, Mr. Scarce from Georgia, was also present. I learned later that Mr. Scarce was a good friend of my friend, Larry. BSA Troop 1711 would consist of 40 boys and five scoutmasters. Not everyone was there because they didn’t have enough time to prepare for this outing. What had happened was that our troop took a contingent of scouts from the Memphis area because they couldn’t raise enough scouts to form a Jamboree troop. This merger had taken place at the last minute before the scheduled camp out and we didn’t meet them until we arrived at the Orlando airport.
When I went for my interview I felt that I wouldn’t be Senior Patrol Leader because I hadn’t earned my eagle yet, but I figured I had a shot at the Assistant SPL slot. I can picture both Mr. Croley and Mr. Leonard asking me different questions, though I have forgotten what they were. At the end of the weekend it turned out that the Atlanta twins, Ben and Matthew received the positions of SPL and scribe respectively. Chris, another scout from Atlanta, received the ASPL position, and I got Troop Quartermaster. Though, I hadn’t gotten what I really wanted, I was excited to be on the leadership team.
Back at home I remember Dad stressing a bit over being able to meet the BSA’s payment schedule as he was paying for both of us. I was the more expensive, at $3,995, where he was paying an additional $2,000 to be on staff. We both had to have complete scout uniforms complete with belts, unit numbers, Council Strips, US contingent patches, pants, shorts, etc. I was required to produce at least four! Dad asked me if I needed leather BSA Jamboree belt and I said “no” due to miscommunication between the SPL and myself at the camp out. This was the first of a slew of mistakes which occurred throughout my Jamboree experience. I wasn’t thinking clearly when we ordered patches, either. If I had been, I would have ordered more CSPs, unit numbers, and contingent badges. The design of our troop’s unit numbers was unique in that it wasn’t just the normal red background with white numbers and I have not seen a troop since have numbers like ours.
BSA Contingent badge, CSP, and Unit Numbers
Our Troop shirts
The National Contingent shirt
In the months leading up to the Jamboree it didn’t really hit me that I had signed up for a life-changing experience. It was just another of my many Boy Scout functions that not a lot of my Scout friends could relate to. Larry Edwards, one of my mentors and friends, was ecstatic that I was embarking upon this journey. He had attended the 1967 World Jamboree that was held in Idaho and told me all kinds of things that I would be finding out for myself at the event. His experienced advice proved invaluable to me during my excursion. I remember the Christmas of 1998, which was when it hit me that I was going to do something extraordinary. It was a small, dark holiday as Dad had left that morning for the Jamboree so he could help set everything up. I recall my brothers and mother around me as I opened up my (few) presents. I got three disposable cameras, some other items, and a black camera bag. I have used that camera bag ever since and it is one of the best gifts that Mom ever got me.
I left the day after Christmas and arrived at the Knoxville airport early for our Delta flight to Atlanta and then to Orlando. Our flight was delayed 45 minutes because the plane’s food cart was stuck. With me were my fellow scouts Paul, Ricky, __________, and Mr. Croley. At Orlando we finally met the Memphis members of our troop in a large open room with tiled floors. They were sprawled out on the floor along with hundreds of other scouts from different parts of the country. They had spent the previous night at the airport and looked like it. This was the first time that I met Mr. Shadrack, who was to be “my” scoutmaster and later to become a great friend. Our bags were to be stenciled in orange, representing the VOLS, but my orange turned into black! As we got on the American Airlines plane taking us to Chile, I saw many scouters sitting in business while our troop was flying coach. Nearly the entire plane was filled with scout uniforms! I don’t recall much of the flight except that I had a window seat and was able to snap a great photo of the Andes Mountains as we flew by them close to Santiago.
Meeting the Memphis group. Mr. Shadrack is standing
At the Santiago airport I can remember grabbing our blue and red troop bags from the baggage carousel while Ben said, “-it doesn’t matter if it isn’t your bag; grab any with 1711 on them”. After getting our bags we lined up in order to pay our “Immigration Tax” that every foreigner had to pay before entering Chile. I remember thinking that was pretty weird for a country to do, but I have since learned that many countries have this tax.
On the chartered bus ride to Picarquin, the Jamboree site, I recall that it was full of just our troop members. Santiago divides its main thoroughfare with a series of long, thin green spaces; just like I would find in Istanbul years later. As we rolled along the highway coming out of the city we saw designs on the mountains, ostensibly made by the Inca. Picarquin is a large hacienda off the main highway approximately 35 miles south of Santiago.
There were tall wooden poles holding the flags of the world at the entrance to the Jambo site. Our bus stopped in a parking area and we had to trek maybe a kilometer with our heavy bags to our designated sub camp. The jamboree site held two large circles and one long banana-shaped area. We were camping in the “banana” at sub camp Bororos, which was near one end of the banana. There were four or five wide main alleyways connecting all three regions together. As troop quartermaster I went with Mr. Shadrack and some boys to check out and sign for our gear. I was then busy handing it out and making sure all of our stuff was properly taken care of. I didn’t have to put up the tent that I shared with the blonde-haired ASPL! I can remember forming up by patrols to hear the daily news and for flag ceremonies.
The Monkeys are the only patrol that I remember because they had all the Memphis boys and were misfits and oddballs. I recall that the Monkeys seemed to get into trouble with the SPL and scoutmasters for odd reasons. I didn’t much care for the Atlanta twins and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I recently found out two of the other patrol names, Sloths and Flamers. Our campsite was next to a Spanish troop on the right, a Uruguayan troop behind, and a Greek troop across from us. An Argentinean troop was nearby also, and this would play a role in my life later. The Greek scoutmaster thought that I was a leader because of my red epaulets on my shoulders and he wanted to trade hats with me later.
Our campsite rarely had more than a few people in it during the day. Most of the troop members were off exploring, meeting new people, staring at girls, trading badges, and going to the Global Development Village to learn something. Indeed, I only came back to sleep, eat, or to restock my trading supplies and it is a wonder that the scoutmasters let us have such freedom. 157 countries participated, and nearly all of them had made a contingent badge commemorating the event. For reasons that are lost to me now, getting those wasn’t nearly as important as getting other items. I really liked trading for neckerchiefs and German speaking country stuff. It seems that I met my Argentinean Scout brother Guillermo Chabrando within the first two days of the Jambo. He had come over to our camp during the day with his brother, cousin, and some friends. Somehow we took an instant liking to one another, but I can’t remember what we talked about then. Groups of foreign scouts were always dropping by throughout the event to say hello, see how Americans did thing, and above all to trade stuff.
During the first two days I traded for a hat from the Philippines with an adult lady scout. It looked a lot like those Vietnamese farmer hats we see in films, except this had a rounded top. I didn’t hang onto it for very long, as one of the Monkeys begged me to trade for it because his dad would really like it. As I was closest to the Monkey patrol, I happily agreed to help him out. The Jamboree had four official neckerchief colors: blue for VIPs, orange for staff, yellow for leaders, and green for youth. The only color I haven’t gotten yet is yellow, and the blue one cost me over $125 on EBay. Each participating scout received their scarf in a plastic package along with an official patch. The patch was not made in the United States because it had no rolled edge or thick packing. It was just made on a loom and you could see where the threads were on the back; I loved it. I also overheard the scoutmasters complain about the pace of getting things accomplished in Chile, the standard answer was “manyana” (tomorrow).
I had the green, Dad had the orange
While it was winter in the US, it was summertime in Chile. The sun threw a dry heat down upon us instead of the humid oven that I had become used to living in Tennessee. Within a couple of days my skin was baked to a nice tan complexion and was inured to sun burns after a week. Indeed I was to keep this wonderful golden tan for months afterward. The air was dry because it hadn’t rained in months; so we couldn’t do any water activities. Dust was everywhere and of a reddish color. The showers were inside mobile trailers and the water was just one temperature – COLD! However; I recently read a Jamboree account by an English scout who writes that some of his showers were hot. I tried not to take showers unless I had to. We also had metal water basins with which to wash our clothes in and I can vaguely remember doing that.
As quartermaster I had to take some boys along with Dad and Mr. Croley to a line of shipping containers. We were there to get our allotment of surplus National Jamboree articles to spread around the Jamboree. Somehow Dad managed to be there and as we were on the way back I saw this German scouter. So I dropped the box I was carrying and traded a patch with him. Dad looked back in exasperation “Shane” to which I replied “Dad he’s German!” like that explained it all. The National items that we got were mostly neckerchiefs and T-shirts. I stood by the boxes and gave every troop member a few of each item. This National stuff was great as it augmented everyone’s finite supply of trade stock. I took 30 or more neckerchiefs to a Ukrainian troop and their scoutmaster gave me a leather Orthodox Icon medallion.
Bracelet and one of three Ukrainian medialions that I received
I had heard that a troop got some National Jambo windbreakers and I went to this troop to inquiry about them- I wanted them for our troop. There I met a scout who told me that his scoutmasters had requisitioned them for the adult leaders of the foreign troops. He also told me that their troop was run like a military organization as all the scoutmasters had military backgrounds. Those scouts were not having as much fun as scouts in our troop were having.
I also had the job of issuing the four patrol food cards to each patrol. These had a predetermined amount on them along with a barcode and could be used like ATM cards. Our patrols would use them to buy their daily food needs from the supermarket tent located between our sub camp and another. I remember going into it one time and being shaded from the sun by a blue tarp. There were lots of Chilean grocery products which were in unfamiliar packages; otherwise it was just like what you would expect. The four cards each had a unique number and I got to keep one at the end of the event. As our troop ate by patrols, the four youth leaders took turns bumming off a different patrol for food. Well except for me who took the Monkey patrol as my permanent home.
There were three major shows at the Jambo: the Opening, New Years Eve, and Closing. The president of Chile attended and spoke at the Opening ceremony, which I recently viewed on Youtube. It is no wonder I cannot recall anything of that show, it was over long, mostly in Spanish, and boring. There was also a group of singers that performed the Jamboree song “It’s Jamboree” which had choruses in English, French, and Spanish. This song was played constantly during the entire event and at the time I didn’t think much of it, but now it tears at my heartstrings. I can remember sitting on the grassy field and looking at the stage while the shows went on. It must have been on our way to the New Years ceremony that our American flag fell to the ground. I cannot now remember much of December 31st, 1998 but I have come to the conclusion that it was the best New Years that I have ever had. For each show scouts dressed in their class A uniforms and attendance was mandatory. Every troop brought along their national and troop flag on large staffs. Well these staffs were made of two pieces that screwed together, and our screws were defective and we had to pick our American flag up from the dust. It fell as we marched alongside a Brazilian troop who said that now we had to burn our flag, well Mr. Croley reassured as that this was just an old wives tale.
Flags held an importance for me beyond the usual patriotism. For my Eagle Scout project I was retiring old, worn out American flags and replacing them for free. I had brought four of these replacement flags with me to trade with. When the scoutmasters heard that I had extra flags, they politely “confiscated” them for Troop 1711’s gateway. After the Jamboree, Mr. Croley presented me with the Troop’s American flag in exchange for giving all of mine away. The flag still had dust on it from when it was dropped in Chile.
The Flag that kissed Chile
Each troop was expected to have a unique gateway at the entrance to their campsite. Our gateway had been planned back at the campout at Buck Toms it utilized PVC pipe along with flags from Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The Atlanta twins took great interest in this project and they also designed our troop’s CSP and number set. The gateway would be judged on a special cultural day, where each troop showed off their national cuisine. I think we made either BBQ or hamburgers for this day and the foreigners were not impressed.
Wandering through the Jambo site was exciting. There were so many scouts from all around the world in uniforms as diverse as their countries. I saw sky blue, maroon, red, dark blue, hunter green, brown, yellow, orange, khaki, and even purple uniforms. My goal at the time was to collect a uniform from every German-speaking country (Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria). I traded for my first Germanic uniform with this towering German girl who was my size. She had dark hair and broad shoulders and the uniform I got was sky blue (and it still fits). I then found a Swiss troop in the big circle and got a khaki uniform underneath a green tarp (it never has fit). A few days later, also in the big circle, I got a maroon Austrian uniform that had long-sleeves from a sandy-haired guy with glasses. I just got a contingent badge from Liechtenstein for some reason.
While I was roaming around in the circle, I ran across troops from Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The leather Egyptian patch I traded for smelled like fish and had a boat on it. At the Pakistani campsite, I got a few merit badges and a t-shirt with a Pakistani celebrity on it. I also traded for my favorite Jamboree item with the Pakistani scoutmaster. It was just made from a simple yellow rope and some tin. It is from the National Jamboree of Pakistan and is probably worth less than 10 bucks on EBay, but as soon as I saw it I knew what it meant for me. If somehow I lost all my other scouting memorabilia, as long as I had this one thing I could survive. After I finished at the Pakistani campsite, I met with a Saudi Arabian scoutmaster and sat cross-legged under a green tarp with some other scouts and we talked about various things. He told me that Arabic scouts were friends with Jewish scouts. He made tea for us to drink and I got a cool keychain from him as a parting gift.
The Pakistani Medalion
The Egyptian fish patch with a “boat” haha
Where our troop camped was referred to as the “banana” or at least it could have been. As there were two circles the center may have been called the “donut” since the center was left for shows. In this “Donut” were the Global Development Village and scouting HQ from all over the world and lots of patch traders. I scoffed at the traders but probably should have haggled with them for some of the Jamboree items. The Jamaicans had brought just 20 scouts as Byron, a guy in our troop, reported as he showed off his Jamaican contingent badge. Somehow I managed to pick up this badge years later on EBay, but I’m not sure excatly when I did. Dad worked in the GDV doing Geology and we met up a few times during the Jamboree. I felt that he was taking something away from my experience. I could have met with him more and explored the Jamboree together as father and son. Talking with him it seems that we actually did walk around together for a bit. I think he really wanted to do that with me, but we were both kept very busy doing too many other things. I did go visit him while he was working at the Geology booth and met the people that he worked with and he did visit the troop four or five times. I have since come to look on his participation with amazement, wonder, and gratitude. He gave a friend and me tickets for the staff dining tent. This was on December 31st for I can distinctly remember a group of Italians celebrating 1999 with wine and enthusiasm. I snapped a great photo of that moment.
The Italians Celebrating New Years
We were in the yellow “A”, The big shows were in the circle between the blue and red sections, the GDV is the circle between the banana and the donut.
I hung out with three main people from my troop; Byron Camera, and Asian. With Asian I met a Russian scout who gave us some stickers and a Taiwanese scoutmaster who gave us a cool keychain and told us to come back the next day for Calligraphy, though I took a nap instead. I went along with Byron to eat dinner at the Ugandan campsite, as they had invited us when they visited our camp. Byron wore his US contingent jacket and I just wore a t-shirt as we wended our way from the banana to the big circle. We talked along the way, but I cannot remember what we spoke of. Our dinner from the Ugandans was to be spaghetti served on thin metal plates atop a brand new picnic table. There was this Ugandan guy that I met the day before named Livingstone Ssemgasha, nicknamed “Stone”. We had taken a liking to one another and became fast friends. I remember that it got chilly right as we sat down and Stone wrapped me in his sleeping bag. Everyone thought it was funny, so I had someone take a picture of me…maybe it was Blonde or Stone I cannot remember. Weeks later, I would see that picture for the first time and my face lit up in amazement: it was perfect. This one photograph was, and remains still, my favorite photo of myself.
Alex, _______, and Byron K
That is the back of Asian Guy and Ben is looking towards the camera
Camera is in the center
The spaghetti was okay I guess and Stone would visit our campsite a few more times during the Jamboree. Dad remembers that I introduced Stone to him; but I cannot unfortunately. I gave him half of a beaded wristband so that we wouldn’t forget one another; years later I would throw my half away while cleaning. As we passed by a group of Mormons handing out their book, I asked for one. The adult looked at me for a moment and asked if I was actually going to read it, I said “yes” and he gave it to me. I did eventually read a few chapters of it, but I needed a place to write Stone’s address down. I still have that book, yet Stone is no longer at that address and I have no idea where he has gone to. I thought Stone was a bit weird because he liked holding my hand while we talked or walked, I thought he was gay but figured it was just his culture and tried not to flinch!
The American contingent wore these floppy canvass cowboy hats that had a chin strap and a do-hickey to put up one side of it. I thought these hats were pretty cool until I ran into a bunch of Australians. These guys were all taller and had more muscles then I did. They must have come from the outback because they had this rugged look to themselves and their hats were just as impressive. They too wore cowboy style hats, except that these were made from genuine leather and kept their shape better than ours did. I went everywhere with my hat either on my head or hanging around my neck. When I was trading for stuff I would take it off in one smooth motion and drop it to the ground. I did this so much that by the end of the Jamboree my hat was permanently crumpled and I had to use a cardboard insert.
There was an incident that happened to me involving a bathroom. The Jamboree site had plenty of two things: Fruit and Bathrooms. Fresh fruit was provided to all participants freely at posts spaced around the site. One just went up to a propped up fruit box and took some; there may have been bottled water available too. To this day, eating a plum takes me right back to Chile. There may have been other types of fruit, but I only remember the plums. There were lines of green-blue portable bathrooms between the banana and the center circle. I had to use the john badly and looked for one that was vacant. I found the one I wanted and pulled the door open only to find that it was occupied already. There was a woman in that bathroom who had forgotten to turn the door handle and she was either a Filipino or Chilean. Well I couldn’t hang around to chit-chat; I had to go and soon found another one….I can still recall that the hair was black.
Boys from our troop during a flag ceremony
Thankfully, incidents like this were the exception rather than the rule as I roamed around the Jamboree looking, trading, and talking. One of the main focuses of the Jamboree was to foster multicultural understanding and to broaden a scouts’ mind to the world. Therefore a thing called a “Peace Badge” could be earned by scouts. To earn this badge a scout had to join a patrol made up of scouts from different countries, a “Peace Patrol” as it were. As a “Peace Patrol”, scouts had to participate in five of the GDV zones and get a stamp from each one after completion.
My Peace Patrol was formed by this English guy, with whom I would trade uniforms and neckerchiefs later, and we didn’t really do much as a patrol until the last day. We participated in one zone that dealt with conflict resolution or something and it was a role play activity. I didn’t want to participate, but one of the staff there made me do whatever the roleplay was with a black girl scout. The English guy said that he knew staffers who would just sign off on our peace badge requirements, but that ended up not being the case; we really had to do the activities. Some of the other GDV zones were _________, __________, _________, and __________.
Another of the main focuses of the Jamboree was service, and so on the second or third day our troop went to do this. We trekked to one of the surrounding villages to help make a drainage canal. We were given a plan that showed how this task would be accomplished. [INSERT PLAN] first, scouts would clear the ditch of the existing rocks and obstructions, then more scouts would sculpt the ditch into a trapezoid shape, finally other scouts would lay flat stones upon the ditch to complete the job. 1711 was part of the first phase and so we had to get down in the muck and throw out rocks. I distinctly remember our Kentucky scoutmaster, being exasperated with our trepidation to get muddy, got in the middle of the ditch and moved big rocks. The whole troop grumbled but our SPL stated that we were lucky to be doing our service so soon, as the entire Jamboree would be open to us afterwards. I think that each sub camp went out on a specific day and area. I remember walking up a hill to eat our lunches near a large white building. The surrounding countryside opened up before us and it was beautiful, but I cannot recall specific details at the late date. Many scouts were milling about and the food was good and it came in a white paper bag. The village was built on a sloping hillside and we were not too keen on moving rocks that were in a creek full of effluent. But since our scoutmaster from Kentucky had admonished us to “just get in and do it” we managed the task for some hours.
Our troop also participated in an overnight hike besides our service project. We packed day bags and hiked out from one end of the banana up and along hills in an area that was highly evocative of Southern California. Thousands of pine needles covered the floor of the forest as we hiked along a dusty dirt path. At the top of a particularly high hill we stopped our hike and settled down to eat dinner. I gather we cooked it, but maybe it was given to us in bags. I had had a wart on my finger frozen just before the Jamboree and it chose that place to come off. I had to find a large blue water container that must have held hundreds of gallons to wash my finger off. Some nearby scouts told me not to drink the water until the next morning and I nodded that I understood them. I had no band aid with me and had to wait until morning to properly take care of my finger.
Once we got back from the hike, all we had to do as a troop was to attend the shows, flag ceremonies, and to break camp. I spent most of my free time walking around trading for stuff. I got pins, badges, neckerchiefs, hats, stickers, and uniforms. I really like the neckerchiefs because they were large, colorful, and easily carried. Sometimes I would give stuff to scouts who had nothing to trade with; but when I ran out of trading stock no one returned the favor. I’d go to the BSA’s trading post in the center circle to buy more stuff. I carried cash, traveler’s checks, and a $1200 credit card. I argued with one of the employees there about taking my credit card. He told me to use an ATM machine, but I didn’t know how and was scared to try it. Now I think that I should have tried because of what happened next.
One of our guys went to the trading post and bought out the last bunch of stuff that was available. He got 30 to 50 leather patches for two bucks a pop as well as some other stuff thrown in for free (blank nametags). We then followed him as he went to a Singaporean troop and traded for two sets of their badges. The Singapore scoutmaster asked if I had anything to trade, and when I said no, he just shrugged his shoulders and traded more with that guy. We also went to an Indonesian troop where we saw a bunch of pretty girls and that guy traded for their badges. I was a bit sullen and jealous during this time as no one showed me the same kindness that I had shown others. The lesson to be learned from this is to never be kind like that again, because no one is going to be kind back to you. You can try to argue with me, but from my experiences it is the truth.
Later that day or the next I found some more items to trade with and went back to the Indonesian campsite. I didn’t find any of the girls, as they were doing something, but I did trade for some cool pins and badges with a lady scoutmaster. Sadly, I never got a picture of or with those cute girls so that I could always remember their beauty.
The strangest thing that I traded for was a bit of crockery (sewer pipe) for England. During World War Two the German Luftwaffe bombed a small village on the Channel coast. All they destroyed was the antiquated sewer system and they are still strewn all over a certain beach. The most awesome piece of Jamboree memorabilia that I didn’t get was a Brazilian contingent jacket. It seems that only the United States and Brazil made special jackets for the Jamboree, and we each wanted one another’s jacket. I had a golden opportunity to trade for one after New Years from the local Brazilian troop in our sub camp. Two female scouts came into the campsite where Mr. Shadrack and I were chatting and wanted to trade jackets with me. I had just sewn a back patch onto my jacket a few minutes before. We each tried the other’s jacket on as my scoutmaster looked on and commented that they both fit well. He must have been disbelieving when I turned down her offer because I was afraid of making a mistake. Later on that day, a Bolivian scouter came by and offered to trade his hat for my jacket. He actually could have been Mexican because the hat was a huge black sombrero that must have been a party hat. When I declined him he then offered his vest along with the hat. I could see in his face that he badly wanted to trade for my jacket; but again I declined and he walked out despondent. I now believe that I ought to have traded with him because that would have made his entire Jamboree. I could have gotten his address and corresponded with him over the years, perhaps even going to Mexico/Bolivia to visit him. After thinking about it, the next day I went to the Brazilians campsite and offered to trade, but the only jacket they had was a medium and didn’t fit me at all. Thankfully, I only have these two regrets from that two week period.
I managed to get a Brazilian jacket 17 years and one month later!!
I did eventually trade my jacket, but not for another jacket and under some peer pressure. The ASPL, my tent mate, had gotten to know this Belgian troop pretty well and he encouraged me to trade with this one girl. Some of the Monkey guys were encouraging me as well, and they all followed me to the girls’ campsite. The girl was going to trade me a neckerchief, a Belgian contingent shirt, and a pack of special playing cards that one could only get by visiting all six Belgian troops. She asked, “Is this okay?” and I traded with her for the items and took her photo. The other guys were disappointed because they expected her to take off the shirt she was wearing, as the Swedish girls would. I didn’t feel all that good about the trade. I felt that perhaps I had made a mistake. That night was the Closing show and we sat next to a different Brazilian troop. Guess what? There was a scout who wanted to trade for an American jacket a few hours after I had traded mine away. I was pissed at myself for being so stupid, and even more pissed that night as we slept in the open air.
The Belgian Girl
You see in preparation for leaving we had taken down the tents, tarps, gateway, and put away the cooking supplies. Since I was Quartermaster, I had to make sure we packed everything correctly and that it made its way back to where we collected the items in the first place. When we were taking apart the flag poles, the ASPL decided to take the eagle top piece as a souvenir. All of our stuff was going to be given to the Chilean troops, but we could buy our tents if we wanted to keep them. Later, during our tour of Santiago, I stole it from his bag as he was showering. I felt that only I had a right to that piece of the Jamboree as I was Troop Quartermaster; I am going to track him down and give it back to him.
Just around sunset on that last day, Stone came by our campsite to say goodbye and I took a wonderful picture of him that brings feelings of longing to my heart. Guillermo had said his goodbye to me earlier that day, as a few days before I had made onion soup for his friends and himself. When I went to his campsite, he made us something better than onion soup. He had also treated me to hot yerba mate, which Argentineans drink in a metal cup through a metal straw. It has a strong flavor to it and I want to try it again soon. Dad had come to stay with us that night so he could bum a ride back into Santiago as he was leaving for the US two days earlier than we were. He left me some Chilean pesos that before he left our Santiago hotel. I do not think that any camera took a single photo of us together at the Jamboree; perhaps one of my troop mates took one, I will have to ask them.
Stone, my Scout Brother who got away
That last night was a cold one since I had no jacket with which to warm me as I slept. I remember looking over at the large hills by which scouts could find their way from any part of the Jamboree site. My thoughts that night are only partially remembered but I can reconstruct the general mind. There was regret at the trading mistakes and lost opportunities that I had been party to. Sadness was close to my eyes as I would be leaving that wonderful, world-encompassing even forever. Gratitude was in my thoughts as well, to have been part of such an experience. There must have been some excitement in myself as well, because I would get to tell my friends and family all the amazing things I had done and seen. These thoughts and others may or may not have been charging through my mind that night, but it has been far too many moons for me to accurately recall them.
That morning we finished packing up and policing our campsite before trudging to our bus. Leaving the Jamboree site was a bittersweet one. One the one hand, we had completed a great adventure. Yet on the other hand, our adventure was over forever and try as we might later, we would never be able to recapture it. Oh, there would be other World Jamborees, in Thailand, England, Sweden, and Japan; but they would each be their own adventure and for other scouts than us.
During the bus ride each of our scoutmasters stood up and said a few things to us. The Atlanta scoutmaster gave us red monkey fists with which to remember the event by. Then Mr. Croley handed out to us red neckerchiefs. The scoutmasters had bought them for us because deep down they cared deeply for each one of us and were proud to call us “their scouts”. For the next three days our troop was going to tour Santiago and its environs. We stayed at a hotel where I found out that I had a camera that I hadn’t taken any pictures with yet. We were going on a tour of the Museum of Chilean History or something that next day. I guess it was cool, but the rooms were dark and my thoughts were still upon the Jamboree. Perhaps we went to another hotel or something the days after that, I forget.
We were given the red one by our scoutmasters
I do remember how we ventured into the countryside to watch a rodeo and have BBQ for dinner. I hung out with Camera a lot during this period. Camera had jet black hair and wore glasses; he also loved photography. I think he had taken over a hundred photos of the Jamboree and he was from Atlanta. A photo opportunity that I missed during the Jamboree was when Jerry Radcliffe, the Chief Scout of the Boys Scouts of America, visited our troop. Dad told me that he met with both the Chief Scout of the BSA and of England. He said the difference was that the Englishman walked around alone while Radcliffe had an entourage. I picked up a few stone animals from sellers at the rodeo; a bird, a penguin, and some others.
We had the choice of a hike or whitewater rafting, and I chose to raft because I had never done it before. I have never rafted again since and have no wish to do so; I do not want to die caught between rocks in a river. We set off in this big yellow raft clad in helmets and lifejackets. The guide said that when he told us to “paddle” we were to paddle as if our lives depended on it. Sometimes a few of us would also have to quickly move from one side to the other so that our raft didn’t turn over. We went by a class 4 rapid named “Pinochet” after the Chilean dictator. The experience was exciting for me but I have no desire to do something like that again. There was also a horseback ride up a mountain that I participated in; I won’t do that again either. My inner thighs ached for two days afterwards and on the downhill trek I saw the horse in front of me poop out greenish balls and I thought I was going to fall off my ride into them.
Well we arrived at the Santiago airport and flew back to Orlando. It was the last time that Troop 1711 was together and I think there was a speech. We had to take our bags from American Airlines to be rechecked in by Delta airlines. I handed my bag to the wrong baggage handler who said “Give it here” and consequently this bag did not arrive in Knoxville with me. It took me three weeks to a month before I received my bag at our front door. Dad had given up hope because the task was a bit difficult. He told me something like, “Your bag is gone, Shane, move on.” Well, I wasn’t going to give up that easily and kept my efforts up. These included making various phone calls to airline lost baggage centers and filling out a few baggage claim forms. Once I received this large bag, my Jamboree experience was officially and symbolically over. However I have been steadily collecting things from the Jamboree over the past 17 years in bits and pieces, some of which you will find here:
Jamboree Contingent Badge Gallery
A few odd pictures from the last days our troop was in Chile:
NEW MATERIAL REMEMBERED:
Blonde’s name is actually Byron K, Alex said that he gave the hat to his grandfather. I accompanied Byron to a belt-making zone in the GDV where we both made belts from leather. The beltmaker had made some beautiful belts that he would change for patches, however I didn’t trade enough patches for one and by the next day all his belts had been traded away.
One of our troop members, a kid with red hair, had a rather terrible jamboree. He and his dad had their bags get lost and only received them on the second to last day of the jamboree. This also happened to Mr. Shadrack and a few others. Well on the last day as we were taking down tents the red haired guy takes his father’s contingent jacket and told a passing scout “Here, you take it” he didn’t even feel like trading it away. I was angry at him and yelled at him for doing that, but my anger was over making that bad trade with the Belgian lady, I was just venting my frustrations on him.
I forgot to bring my nail clippers with me and one morning while Ben, Chase, and the ASPL were in their senior leader meeting, I saw a pair. I took it but Ben said that those were his and I should have brought my own.
The time period from the fall of 1998 to the spring of 1999 was the apex of my scouting career. I was bestowed my Vigil Honor during October of 1998, and I became an Eagle Scout on March 25th, 1999. I did many other scouting things since, including three national scout events, running some scouting programs, and working as in the Kitchen at Camp Buck Toms until 2008. Yet, nothing has ever come close to those two weeks of wonder in Chile and I do not think anything ever will. It remains one of the best times of my life, and I’d gladly trade all the wine, money, and women that I have since had for another shot at it. I have been able to regularly keep in touch with one of my scoutmasters, Mr. Shadrack as well as another troop member. Chuck Shadrack is now a proud grandfather and traded for a Brazilian Jambo jacket three or four years ago. Mike, who was known as Paul during the Jamboree, worked a few years at camp with me before doing something else and making a family. Both his wife and son are outstanding people that I am humbled to be friends with.
I have also stayed in touch with Willy, the Argentinean, in the years that followed. I write letters to him once or twice a year and one of these days I will go visit him and his family.
As for my brother Stone, I lost touch with him sometime in 2000. I have learned that he immigrated to the UK and may live in London now, but I have no idea how to contact him. Whenever I think of him a great sadness comes over me at our estrangement. These days I am taking steps to reach him and it is my goal to keep it up until we are reunited.
The Jamboree set a spark aflame in my heart which later grew into a flame. That burning fire is why I have chosen to eschew a comfortable life in the United States and instead seek out people throughout the world that I can learn from. In many ways this globetrotting path has been difficult; I am away from all of my family and friends, the cultures that I encounter are sometimes radically strange, and I do feel like an outsider. But I have to think that something fantastically wonderful is going to come out of these sacrifices. I do not want any of you to think that I am “better” than you, because the truth is your life has just as much value as mine; and I have been happy to share in it with you.