Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sunrise at the Jamboree

Dawn has broken at the World Scout Jamboree. Happy Birthday, Scouts!

Mike Ballato

A Night in the Dark; A Day in the Park,

Nighttime shift again here at headquarters. It's another cold night here at Hylands Park. (See the attached picture. Yes, that's me wrapped in a sleeping bag while on duty.) A brilliant full moon stares down on us as we await the dawn of the new century of scouting.

At 3 a.m. it's another evening of sorting out the jamboree issues of the day. So far tonight:

**Two Indian girls just arrived at camp with their two leaders at 12:30 a.m., and we had to be sure they had sleeping bags and a tent to keep them warm.

**There are thousands and thousands-and more thousands-of neckerchief scarfs being distributed to the sixteen subcamps as we speak. The scarfs will be worn by the scouts at tomorrow morning's sunrise ceremony. Some of the subcamps are not as patient as others, and I have one particular chap at the Atoll subcamp who has called me three times in the last two hours wondering where his 300 missing scarfs are...I think he wants to put a special scarf around my neck.

**The propane at the on-site hospital is apparently not working properly, and I am in the process of getting it back up and running with the help of site operations. There is only cold air blowing out at the present time, and the doctors want to get the situation fixed. There's the phone now....
(---The propane tanks are full, but still no hot air coming out, so there must be some other problem. We may be in for some extra blankets until morning arrives.)

**A scout from nearby Sussex showed up at the entrance gate around 12:45 a.m. and wanted to come and spend the night with his troop located in Wadi subcamp, but he had no credentials, and he will have to watch the ceremonies tomorrow from the news footage.

There have been a number of lesser dramas this evening, and all in all, just like Mark and Chip stated in their earlier entries, the weather has been great during the day. Warm, sunny weather all day today, and the weather forecast is for more of the same for the remainder of this week. We have certainly been fortunate so far. Troop 220 scouts were due to participate in a service project for the local community today under the "Starburst" offsite program. I will have to check up on what their assigned task was, and how they did, when I go over the reports here at headquarters.

Located in the center of Hylands Park is Hyland House, and behind it is a garden that is probably the best kept secret of the Jamboree. The chief gardener for the Chelmsford Borough Council (which owns the Jamboree site, and is on the management team for the entire Jamboree) gave me a tour early this morning.

The gardens are beautiful, and on Saturday Prince William and the Duke of Kent attended the dedication of the One World Garden that is to be the lasting legacy of this jamboree. The attached pictures can only partially convey the beauty of the area. There is even a large Sequoia tree in the midst of this secluded area. And to think that this space is surrounded by over 40,000 scouts, only several hundred yards away.

Well, that's all for now. There's another call on the phone...

Beautiful days weatherwise; thousands of day visitors;what's a peanut?

We all have been quite busy the past few days with our respective Jamboree jobs. Mark and I are on the same shift, but different teams. We worked from 11 pm Sunday night to 8 am yesterday followed by 3 pm to midnight yesterday followed by 12:30 pm to 4 pm today. I have not kept up those sort of hours since my college days in the 70's! For my 11 to 8 graveyard shift I had an Irish chap from Dublin who had a number of great terms that I was not used to. For yesterday's 3 to midnight shift I had a Brazilian woman who rode her  bike while I walked along on foot. Each of my shifts were uneventful, but interesting. While I was patrolling a campsite last night I watched a great presentation from a groups of Scouts from Taiwan featuring drums, fans that make noise when they open them, etc. They were all decked out in beautiful costumes. It was fun watching the sun rise on Monday morning although a little cold for me. I didn't know that I should have brought gloves, long johns, etc. for a summer jamboree!
Today I visited the tents for a number of countries. I gave the fella manning the Tanzania tent a bag of VA peanuts. He was not familiar with peanuts as I tried to explain how they are grown, how good they taste, etc. Hopefully he will enjoy them.
I brought American flag lapel pins and bags of shredded US Dollar bills from the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond. I have about given away all my flag pins, but still have a number of bags of money (approximately $80 each) to give away. I try to give the pins to young folks from other countries. Last night I gave two flag pins to two Arab scouts show were in white robes sitting on the ground with all their patches  to trade spread out before them. I have given several pins to Scouts from Sudan who are most courteous in thanking me in excellent English for my gift.
We have been blessed with a beautiful couple of days with no rain. We're glad that the Scouts have have not had as much rain as we have experiences.
Tonight as dinner we saw a Scout band comprised of Scouts from the UK, Ireland and Holland who are going to perform at tomorrow morning's sunrise service.
Watched an interesting presentation form the Singapore delegation who are trying to land the next World Jamboree in 2015 after the 2011 World Jamboree in Sweden. We don't know what other countries they are competing against for that 2015 Jamboree.
Met an older gentleman from Scotland who was a Queen Scout (the English equivalent to Eagle Scout) back in the 1950's. He said that a BP relative awarded him his Queen Scout award. He was a big golfer who wanted to talk about Tiger Woods so I gave him a Masters golf tee that a Scouter from Augusta, GA  gave me earlier. He really appreciated it. I had his buddy take a picture of the two of us.
Ran into Stuart Tucker, a doctor from Charlotte who grew up in my hometown of Warsaw, VA before moving away. While I was in a camp patrolling last night, I was a Scout from NC with a list of everyone in his Jamboree troop. I noticed the name Stuart Tucker and asked the Scout if Mr. Tucker was a doctor from Charlotte and he said yes. I next asked where Mr. Tucker was and he directed me to their campsite. When I got there, they said Mr. Tucker was back at the stage area for that subcamp where I finally found him. (I already knew that Stuart was a doctor in Charlotte from the 2005 National Scout Jamboree after he looked me up while on break from serving on our subcamp's medical staff.  It's interesting that in 2005 Stuart looked me up and in 2007 I did the same with him.) I had to break the news to Stuart that our old Scoutmaster, Clint Carlin, recently passed away. We both chatted about all the fun we had in Troop 203 which is still sponsored by Warsaw Baptist Church.
Lots of day visitors from all over the world are bused into the Jamboree every day. 
In this technological age, Scouts and adult leaders exchange business cards with their contact information particularly their email addresses. Some folks have every elaborate business contact cards with extensive artwork, photos, etc. 
Mike and I each have a son here with the VA Jamboree troop. We have not seen much of them as they are too busy running around with their friends. I saw John yesterday and asked if he needed anything. He only asked for some more patches to trade after which he said goodbye and went off with his friends. 
Chip Delano

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Hi ho, hi ho

It's off to work we go.
It's been a long 48 hours as all four of us have done a turn on night shift which starts at 11 PM.  That is followed by an evening shift 7 hours later after trying to get a few hours sleep during the day. 
That is all behind us now and we look forward to a day off and participating in the Sunrise Ceremony that starts at 8AM tomorrow (Aug 1).  That is the big deal this week as it commemorates the 100 year anniversary when BP first took his scouts on a camp trip to Brown Sea Island.
Today, I was on "spare duty" which means to cover special events.  My duty was crowd control at the jousting.  The best part of this is that I'm up front and can see best.  There are 4000 youth in that area doing special events from each country.  The USA tent teaches roping, branding, and other western things.  Most countries have interactive events and games.  It's quite interesting and the youth seem to jump right in.
Our schedules are different but we should all be off tonight and can maybe catch up on sleep and swap stories.  Having radios on our shift, we hear what goes on behind the scenes.  We stewards are the eyes and ears but are not to do anything but report to the command center.  There are some injuries and lost people, but some incidents can be funny.- like a stray horse on site or an icelandic woman wandering in her pajamas at 3PM. 
The weather has been great but quite cold for late July.  The last two nights the temperature was in the low 40's.  Most did not anticipate that kind of cold and I think there are a few adults who did not prepare properly for this situation.  All for now.

A G'day and Update from World Scout Jamboree

Wow! This is one of the first times I have been able to get access to a computer to check emails or to send messages since arriving in England last week.  As Mark and Chip have detailed in their earlier reports, it has been an amazing transition from open spaces occupied by only a few hundred people on July 21st to the crowded encampment of over 40,000 scouts and their leaders that now covers a large part of Hylands Park, just outside of Chelmsford, England.
My job is to work with the "contingent support team," and involves working with the representatives from the over 150 countries represented at the Jamboree.  My direct responsibilty is to assist the contingents from Iceland and Slovakia.  I have attached a photo of my new vehicle courtesy of the Icelandic glacial rescue team.
In addition to my duties to support the contingents attending the jamboree, I am assigned to the main Jamboree Headquarters, where I am working tonight.  Ordinarily things are quite hectic and busy, but fortunately tonight is rather tame in comparison, and therefore this chance to give some recollections.
I have had the the chance to work with a wide variety of the jamboree team, including the director, Bill Cockroft, and the jamboree manager Aidan Jones.  Everyone from the United Kingdom group has been great to work with, and I have certainly enjoyed being included in the team.  It has given me an insider's view behind the scenes.  At the same time it involves a lot of "gopher" activities.
Tonight I am on duty here in the problem management center from midnight to 8 a.m., and already we have dealt with late arrivals to the jamboree from Gambia who were not on the preregistration list, as well as a contingent of scouts and their leader from Swaziland, who at 2 a.m. arrived from Heathrow Airport and needed something to eat, as well as some warm sleeping bags! 
The first week here was an adjustment for all of us.  My assignment separated me from most of the American contingent.  I was originally put into a campsite with the Swiss.  We got along well, and I was picking up their Swiss German rather quickly when...boom!...I came back to camp one evening to found that my tent had been moved across the boundary line for that camp.  It was explained that the Swiss needed more space for their contingent team.  I had been expelled from Switzerland!  I now live in my own camp, which I have identified as Lichtenstein.
Then there was the rain... The first week had its share of rainy days and nights.  And like the other guys wrote previously, with the rain came the mud.  Eight thousand adults plodding through the brown muck on their way to the showers and the dining hall in the aftermath of heavy rains the night before dampened a few spirits in the days before the scouts arrived. 
And there are the cool, and sometimes downright cold nights.  Tonight (like last night) is pretty cold, with a temperature of about 40 degrees. It can be a challenge to camp in such weather when you are a participant from Trinidad and Tobago, or from Angola.
But things definitely turned brighter when the scouts arrived on Friday.  In the wee hours of the morning (and I mean wee), thousands of scouts from the UK came through the gates to enter their campsites.  Thereafter, throughout the day, a seemingly endless stream of busses unloaded troop after troop of scouts in a myriad of colorful uniforms.
The past couple of days the weather has been nice, with daytime highs of about 75 degrees.  Sunny skies and breezy days have been the norm.  The ground has been drying out, and the scout spirit has been much more evident.
During my jobs around camp, I have gotten to stop by a couple of times and see the Troop 220 contingent from Virginia, which has our Heart of Virginia scouts in it.  Everyone is doing fine.  With over 40,000 participants, and nearly half of them female, the boys are not in camp very often, and  the chances of seeing them are somewhat limited.
Actually, the scouts have a busy schedule during the week. There are sixteen subcamps at the jamboree arranged in formation around four central hubs.  There is a prearranged schedule for the scouts in each of the sixteen subcamps to follow.  It takes the approximately 800 troops in attendance to various onsite or offsite locations daily to learn about topics as varied as environmental concerns, human rights issues, and scientific studies.  The scouts also get the chance to experience water activities, and to make a trip to the "Gilwell Adventure" course. 
Opening ceremonies on Saturday were blessed with gorgeous weather.  I was involved with the arrangement for the arrival of Prince William and the Duke of Kent, who made an official visit to the site on behalf of the royal family.  I had just escorted a group of scouts who were going to meet the royal guests behind Hylands House when the helicopter carrying the Prince and Duke landed directly in front of me, and out came the entourage.   It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
The massing of the troops for the opening ceremony was moving, both figuratively and literally.  Thousands of scouts in full dress uniform, with their national flags blowing in the wind on a sunny afternoon.  As you watched the colors move like a snake over the rolling hills in a long processsion-many chanting, some dancing, some singing national anthems, others marching in unison--it was a stirring, unforgettable scene.
And just when I thought it would be nice to sit down and enjoy the event, the call came in that there was a group of five Norwegian scouts that had just arrived at the rear gate to the jamboree, after having sailed their own boat to England from Norway.  After a switch of a few names, printing a few new registration passes, and running a mini-marathon,the credentials were issued and the new arrivals joined their fellow Norwegians before the ceremony began.
I sat near the back of the arena, and took in the whole experience.  The sights and sounds were truly memorable.  There was a message from the Queen read to the crowd by the Duke of Kent.  The entire crowd rose to repeat the scout law.  Ther was a review of the national flags. There was song and dance.  All quite grand.
So now I end my night shift, sitting here at my computer, after a night of relatively minor problems.  I have just seen the sun come up at 5:17 a.m. and it is another beautiful day ahead.  And tomorrow...sunrise ceremonies from Brownsea Island, and the celebration of the centenary. 
To one and all, another good day in scouting,

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The rain is back

Oh well, the sun was nice while it lasted.  It rained again all night but was clearing at day break.  The two days of mostly clear skies was great as the youth were arriving and the opening ceremony could happen with good weather.  You sort of get used to the mud.
Today will be a venture to the plaza area to check out the international tents and the faiths/beliefs area.  It's an open day but will end with a stewarding shift starting at 11 PM followed by another tomorrow afternoon. 
While doing research in 2003 on International Scouting" ticket for Wood Badge, I stumbled across the International scout camp in Switzerland called Kanderstag.  It intrigued me as a great place to take a troop for an international excursion.  Since that time, I've heard about it from Gary Bryant and also John Turner.  Yesterday, I found a pavilion representing the camp and got some information.  Perhaps I can generate some interest with a few troops joining efforts and going there in 2009.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

2007 World Scout Jamboree

As of today, the four of us who have been serving on the International Service Team ("IST") have been at the World Jamboree for a full week. Time has really flown! Although yesterday was the first  day of the Jamboree, the event officially commenced with the opening ceremony. Mark and Chip were fortunate in being able to get within about 15 feet of Prince Williams as he entered the arena area while we were performing our Jamboree jobs as "stewards", which is the English way of saying security detail. It was fun watching the flags of all the countries represented march into the arena to the cheers of their fellow country members.
Yesterday Jamboree Troop 220  composed of Scouts from our Heart of VA Council  and most of the rest of VA arrived and set up their camp. They flew out of Dulles on Monday, arrived in London on Tuesday and had been seeing the sights around the London area up until they arrived at the Jamboree. The Scouts all seemed to be excited about finally arriving at the Jamboree. 
We have been blessed with the past two days with good weather  AND NO RAIN. Tomorrow, which is Sunday,  the Scouts have an opportunity to experience other faiths by visiting the faith and beliefs tents from many of the world's religions.
Mark and I have to report for the graveyard shift (i.e. 11pm to 8 am) as stewards. That should be an interesting experience. Sam is blazing the trail by doing the graveyard shift tonight beginning at 11 pm. By settling into our regular Jamboree jobs, we are starting to get into a routine.
Got to run. Yours in Scouting,
Chip Delano

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Visit from Prince William

Prince William arrived by helicopter today along with the Duke of Kent who is the head of the British Scout Association. After touring for a short while, they attended the opening ceremony. Mike Ballato works in the headquarters and told me of the route William was to take so that we could catch a good view. I was officially working as a security person so it was my job to be up front and hold back the crowds as he passed.

The other 3 were able to see the ceremony but I was on duty at an entry gate to restrict people from entering without credentials. There are a lot of folks who just show up expecting to see their youth.

Our shift work begins in earnest as we will now be on very different scedules including the 11PM to 8 AM shift. They move us about every two hours to avoid the boredom.

It is hard to explain how many different outfits there are around here. It is a challenge to figure out where a person comes from. Today, I had extended conversations with people from Nepal, Nigeria, the Netherlands, and Thailand. I hope the young people from the States seize the opportunity to reach out and learn from others. They will experience few opportunities this rich and varied.

Scouting in all other countries is a co-ed program from the beginning. You can tell the young people are used to being together. There are nearly as many girls and young women here as the boys and men. It seems to work.


Friday, July 27, 2007

30,000 youth and leaders arrive today

The youth contingents are pouring in.  Like our national jamboree, they let the local UK groups in a day early.  There are several ways to tell folks apart.  The youth wear yellow banded neckerchiefs, their leaders have green, IST are purple, and national coordinators are red.
Our Virginia contingent will be in the Plateau section with a direct view of the Hylands house to their south.  They haven't arrived yet but there is no doubt a long line of folks arriving in a very tight area and road system.
The weather has been around 70 degrees today and no rain yet - although it is getting cloudier.  I hope it holds out so everyone can set up in dry conditions.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


With only afternoon training today, a group of us ventured to Chelmsford which is about an hour walk from the middle of the Jamboree site in Hyland Park.  We each had an item that we wanted to find.  Mine was a thicker rain jacket which I found in a small shop along the canal. 
Chelmsford is a pretty town and very English.  On the way back, we stumbled across the Essex museum which had a nice collection of Baden Powell items including several sketches and paintings of his.  Also saw an original Scout handbook. 
Rain for about an hour made everything soggy but it is very cool and windy tonight with clear skies.  The british say this is very unusual for the summer.  There is much mud with 8000 people using the same routes.  You just slog on.
We start our jobs tomorrow and Saturday.  Three of us are sort of like friendly rent-a-cops called stewards.  If anything serious occurs, we call for backup.  We will work rotating shifts that run 9 hours - including the night shift.
Good times and lots of energy here with most being quite young.

Standing in a Queu

Now that there are 9000 people sharing facilities, there are lines for everything.  That should improve once everyone is working their job all hours of the day.  The lines are fun though as people find a way to entertain themselves.  Unlike the US, most countries organized their IST workers into contingents and know each other well.  They will spontaneously since songs or cheer to break the time.
I was a bit surprised by how young most workers are.  It makes sense as the ones who have time are young or the retired.  Most Americans are like us - middle aged and mostly male.  My estimate is that the other teams are between 18 and 25 and equally split between men and women. 
It is quite fun to hear the many languages and to strike up a conversation with someone.  Most will speak English easily but others require some jesturing too.
Tomorrow the youth will arrive and really turn up the volume.  We toured the main area which is still being set up.  It is much more compact than AP Hill was for the US Jamboree.  The walk from one end to the other is no more than 30 minutes.  The Hylands manor is in the middle with a beautiful garden in the back.  It's an oasis in the middle of scout encampment.  More later.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We all made it, finally

Hello from England.  All of us made it and the final bag caught up yesterday morning.  When we arrived, there were about 400 people in the IST camping area and there are now 8000.  Most of those arrived yesteray.
Our assignments have been great so far.  On Monday, our group of 45 packed all the arrival bags for 8000 IST workers and 30,000 contingent youth teams.  That took 6 hours.
Yesterday we helped check in the 6000 IST adults who arrived at the staging area ( North Weald airport).  Chip went in the morning, greeted arrivals and directed them into the check in area.  Sam and I went at 3PM and did similar work.  The two of us stayed there till 4AM when the last bus arrived to go back to the Jamboree site. 
As a check-in assistant, looked at 600 passports and tried my best to communicate to the arrivals about their ID badge and job description.  Most understood me - or at least nodded yes.
Mike was with a different team and we haven't caught up with him today.  He's probably been adopted by the Italian or Swiss teams.  He makes new friends readily.  Mike will be working in Contingent support - which I think is similar to Commissioner work to the contingents.
Sam Chip and I will be stewards.  This job is a mix of security and communications.  We'll have 8 hour shifts to patrol the perimiter, be visible, and help anyone who needs help.  We'll have radios and cool yellow vests.  Some times, we'll be on bike.
There are several unexpected things we've found.  The most obvious is the young age of the IST.  The average age from non-US countries is about 22 (my guess) and the average age of US IST is about 50.  All are very friendly and eager to talk.
More later.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Departure Day is Finally Here

All is packed and ready to go. Amazingly, I managed to get 3 weeks worth of gear into the Jamboree duffle & backpack and it only weighed 41 pounds. We were told that we must be able to carry everything about a mile once we get to Hyland Park. If I dont have it now, I probably dont need it - or will have to buy it or borrow it.

The four of us who are on the IST will be meeting at the airport and then have two days merge together as the London flight arrives in the morning. The organizers are no longer picking up IST at the arriving airports but asked that we transfer via bus to a smaller airport nearer the Jamboree site. I guess this makes sense as the folks arriving on Saturday are the first real wave of volunteers. The majority of volunteers will be arriving on the 24th.

We decided to wear our field uniforms during travel. The contingents are required to wear it and we shouldnt need it for our job assignments. If were to be ambassadors for scouting, we might as well look the part. Im sure it will start several conversations along the way.

The site of the jamboree is easy to find via Google Earth. Type in Chelmsford, Essex, England and see the aerial or hybrid view. Once you find the town of Chelmsford, scroll about a mile to the south west and find an estate along route 414. Hyland Park is 570 acres with a gray mansion in the middle. I figure its about ¾ of a mile wide and over a mile long. This should be a very densely packed place in about one week.

Hopefully we can send emails to this blog so you can share in our adventure. Yours in Scouting,

Mark Larson

Friday, July 13, 2007

Packing and Preparing

One week to departure.

This blog is set up to allow fellow scouts and friends to hear of our experiences while at the World Jamboree. There will be 30,000 scouts from nearly every country plus 10,000 adults at this event.

Four Scouters from the Heart of VA Council are preparing to be part of the 8000-person IST (International Service Team) at the World Jamboree. Sam Saunders, Chip Delano, Mike Ballato, and I signed on to help behind the scenes. We'll be leaving on Friday July 20th to prepare for the event that starts on July 27th and goes until August 8. The Southern Region contingent includes an ASM and 11 youth from our council. They will be traveling and camping separately.

This Jamboree is special as it marks the 100th anniversary of scouting in the place where it all started. A coordinated worldwide celebration will occur on August 1 to mark the date when Lord Baden Powell took scouts on their first adventure to Brown Sea Island.

While communication from the Southern Region has been great, the communication from the English Scout Association has left us in the dark on a few things - like what job we'll be doing when we arrive. It makes being prepared a challenge.

Anyway...It should be quite an adventure. My hope is that we'll have occasional access to the internet - to post reports. We understand that internet service will be available at some level. However, with 40,000 people vying for it, we can't predict how often we'll get access. We'll maintain "rigid flexibility" and see what happens.

Mark Larson