I was standing in Pearson International Airport at 5:30pm on July 15th, decked out in all red from head to toe, patiently waiting for the rest of my Patrol. As the time ticked by, I couldn’t help but worry about the fact that no one else had shown up yet. As I searched through the crowds, all the worry washed away as I saw a flood of red coming towards me. This was it. We were finally off on another amazing Scouting adventure!
We touched down in Finland and you could feel the nervous excitement in the air as we were about to embark into this new country for Roihu 2016, the National Finnish Jamboree. The first part of our journey started in the small town of Loppi, Finland in a beautiful countryside home and riverside cottage. All ten of us were graciously welcomed into the home of the sweetest lady, Arja. As we drove up the driveway, we were greeted by two gigantic, and friendly, dogs (they became our personal mascots, pillows and best friends). The first thing the veteran Scouter did when we arrived was feed us, and feed us again and again and again and all of the food was delicious. The meals were mostly composed of homemade cheese, bread and a variety of sliced meats and sausages, LOTS of sausage. However, the best part of the meal was always dessert. One beautiful, sunny morning Arja took us all out to pick wild blueberries and then preceded to teach us how to make the most delicious pie I have ever tasted! Finland has some traditions very different from our own such as relaxing in a boiling hot sauna. The sauna was a completely new experience for most of us and we definitely could not handle the heat as well as our Finnish counterparts. We decided to battle the heat by diving head first into the freezing cold river only a few steps from the sauna. We spent the rest of our days touring the town and lounging in the sun.
Finally it was time for the jamboree. We arrived at the amazing campsite and were greeted with friendliness and complete organization. As we headed into our campsite, a rush of Finnish Scouts gathered around us and we were presented with their favourite Finnish chocolate. Throughout the week, we received the same kindness as we made new, lifetime friends everyday! The camp was set up quite differently from any Canadian camp I have been to. We were divided into large subcamps (ours was called Unity) and then into smaller camps. All of our food was made for us and all 2600 of us in our subcamp were fed in about two hours (we were very happy we did not have to cook and were amazed by the efficiency). They also had a variety of cafes around the camp that sold everything from ice cream to full meals. The two most popular purchases (besides ice cream of course) were strawberry jam-filled, pink doughnuts and salted licorice (commonly known as salmiakki in Finland and EVERYONE is obsessed with it, unlike the Canadians who mostly preferred chocolate).While at camp we learned that not all Scouts are as avid about badge trading as we are. The camp set up a SWOP! Program for trading, however we learned that in Finland most groups do not receive badges after accomplishing certain things, which meant that they did not have a lot to trade. As most of our group are active and enthusiastic traders, this was a bit surprising. We all made it work though by trading internationally and helping to teach our Finnish friends the basics of trading!
When we were not hanging out with the Finnish Scouts from our subcamp, there was a variety of activities we could participate in such as paddleboarding, woodworking, leather stamping and even activities with animals. The amazing and unique aspect of this jamboree was that Venturer aged youth were required to work two shifts at one of the activities. This experience was fun and added a sense of responsibility to the camp, while allowing us to meet new people from all over the world. There were a variety of events you could choose from such as aviation, spraypainting, and fire twirling. I personally chose to go on the international hike and I am so incredibly happy I did! The international hike was composed of a group of about 20 individuals who all hiked together, completing challenges along the way. Everyone on the hike was so nice and I am extremely grateful I met them all. There were people from all over the world including, Finland, Belgium, France, the UK, Germany and the US. One thing I love about meeting people from other countries is that you can learn so much from them. My new friends and I would stay up all night, sitting by the beautiful lake talking, sharing funny Scouting stories, learning new card games and being completely and overwhelmingly happy! All of us who met on the hike continued to hang out for the rest of the camp and continue to stay in touch to this day. The atmosphere at the camp was very relaxed and there were many activities catered to the older youth, such as Club Encore. Club Encore was a dance party a short distance from the camp where Venturer aged youth could go and hang out with their new friends and dance the night away. This was probably one of my favourite parts of the jamboree because it was simply an enjoyable and laid back way to meet new people, bond with new friends and blow off some steam. One thing I love about Finland is that it never really gets dark, the sun does not set until about 2:30-3:00 in the morning. Our leaders may not have liked that we were up all night but there is nothing better than hanging with Scouting friends by the lake, laughing and making memories!
On the final day of the jamboree, our Group had to be all packed and ready to go at the gate for 5:30am. It was sad to be leaving the jamboree and all of our new friends, but our adventure was not over yet. We had the amazing opportunity to go on a post tour, travelling around parts of southern Finland, including Turku (the former capital) and Helsinki (the current capital). We had the privilege of staying in beautiful hotels, including a fantastic seaside resort. Some of our activities including visiting a national park in the archipelagos near Turku and going for a midnight swim in the Baltic Sea. Another exciting day trip was to a Viking village where we learned about the early Finnish Vikings, got to throw axes, try our hand at archery and walk on stilts (I mostly fell off the stilts despite using the shortest ones). While in Helsinki we were able to meet up with some of our Finnish Scouting friends who gave us a tour of the beautiful and historic Helsinki! Finally it was time to head to the airport at 4:30 in the morning and fly back home to Canada. I miss Finland and my new friends very much and hope to return soon.
Out of the 10 people in our Patrol, half of us had the extreme privilege to travel to Japan last summer for the 23rd World Jamboree. That was an unbelievable trip and so we were very happy and excited to be travelling again! I like to believe that travelling allows you to transform into an amazing person who is aware and understanding of their surroundings. Being a member of Scouts Canada has given me so many opportunities to see the world, meet new people and become a better person through the adventures I go on. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to attend Roihu 2016 and I will cherish the memories I made forever.