Sunday, 11 July 2010

Guiding across language barriers

I've been involved with Girl Guides/Scouts on and off since I was about 6 years old and I wanted to be cool like all the other little girls in my grade 1 class and wear the beeeeeautiful brown dress to school on Wednesdays and sell cookies (thankfully my fashion sense, although not terribly good has improved since then, just wish I could say the same for my taste buds... mmm Girl Guide cookies! mmmmm....) My mother balked, as she thought Guiding was a para-military movement. But I joined, and had great fun including my first camp - a one night sleep-over where, much to the amusement of my leader, the four of us in my tent ended up rolling about so much in our sleep that we used each other as pillows!

I became a leader first in Canada as an undergrad, found a troop to join while on exchange in Osaka, then started my own troop in the US as a grad student, visited a troop on a semi-regular basis in India, and now the troop in Tokyo that I've been with for four years. It has been an incredible experience to learn about Guiding/Scouting in so many different countries, but it has also had a drawback, having to get used to Guiding/Scouting in so many countries means having to learn a new set of rules, a new set of customs, and a new set of songs each and every time. Sure the handshake is the same, and many of formal songs have been translated or are the same, but the little things are different.

Or at least they normally are.

I just got back from a one-night camp that managed to tie in just about everywhere I've been in my Guiding career. There was the Brownie sleeping next to me who kicked off her blanket when she was hot and then got cold and thought my sleeping bag was hers, so tried to steal it and ended up using my feet as a pillow, much to the amusement of one of the other leaders. One of the other leaders had decided to teach the girls a whole bunch of new songs, two of which turned out to be my FAVOURITE Japanese camp songs - one from Osaka and one from the Japanese girl I worked with in India. And then, when we had finished other tasks early and were waiting for dinner, I suddenly had a brainwave and came up with a song from my days as a Brownie that my Japanese brownie could also sing! Aie Oonie. They weren't too sure about it at first - it sounds pretty silly and the hand motions can be confusing, but the next morning they asked to sing it again as we were waiting for their parents to pick them up, and after a dozen or so times they had all the words and actions down and were BEGGING to PLEEEEEEEEEASE sing it just ONNNNE MOOOOOORE TIME!

Sure I got less than 4 hours of sleep on a hard church building floor in a room that alternated between freezingly way over-air conditioned to stiflingly warm and humid, but I honestly can't think of a better way to spend my Saturday night.


  1. "This little guiding light I'm gonna let it shine...." you've been shining for a long time :)

    I agree Brownie camps are the best. I remember as a leader all the girls coughing their lungs out at bedtime so they could stay up later! Brown Owl gave them all some medicine (undiluted red cordial) and of course that just made them stay awake longer!!

    I'm not sure why I loved Brownies so much, maybe it is the simplicity of it all and with that comes joy through fellowship.

    BTW Australian Guides don't have/sell cookies!!

  2. Achan - No cookies?! Whatever did you do? I know that I wouldn't have gotten through my undergrad end-of-year crazy week with all the exams and papers due if it hadn't been for a box of GG cookies to get me through my all-nighters. (The sugar high was a necessary buzz, the extra pounds were not so appreciated...!)

    As much as I loved Brownies as a girl, I have to say I enjoy being a leader far more. Really rewarding. Really really rewarding.

    Oooooh! I love your Brown Owl's resourcefulness! (a true Guide, that woman!) But perhaps something less flavourful (and less sugary) might have had the double benefit of not making the girls hyper while also convincing them that it'd be better NOT to cough than to have to drink the foul medicine?

    (garrrrgh... now I'm going to be singing that song for the next three days straight... ;)