It's the last day of the mid-term holiday today. The sun is shining and melting all the snow that fell last night. About 20 Cubs and Scouts came to the pool for a play, and to give a little to the Scout funds. We read the Thinking Day message and before the kids and some of the leaders hit the water we talked a little about how lucky we are to not have to worry about malaria when we go on hikes, and that we have clean and cheap health care.

Kerstin, a scout leader

After playing about for 90 minutes, I read a letter from a little girl in Ethiopia, who told about the lack of drinking water and school toilets. The letter is part of the UNICEF campaigne for helping children i Ethiopia, and this week the Cubs and Scouts are going to start selling the UNICEF drop of water-pin, to collect for this charity.

All in all, we had a lovely time!

Afterwards some of us leaders met up to plan for this summer's big camp: Agema, that will be held the first week in August. We hope to take at least 30 scouts. It will be held at Kragenäs, 250 km up the coast, and the program promises lots of good fun!

Thinking today

It's just past midnight. It's Thinking Day. I'm thinking. I've just been out with the dog. Tonight saw the third of the Swedish competition rounds of the Eurovision song contest (don't ask me to explain, it's too complicated!!!) weekends. My best friend and I have had a lovely night in front of the telly, after a lovely dinner, and a not so lovely clear up of the house. My husband is coming home tomorrow, and she phoned me yesterday, saying that she was coming over to help me clean the house. That's very thoughtful.

I think that I have been coping very well for 5 weeks, being a single parent, as the Hubbie has been in Tanzania doing his last work experience on his course to become a nurse, but some things have been left "'til tomorrow". I have been thinking a lot about all the single parents out there, who have to manage on their own all the time, coping with kids, school, economy, cleaning and all the everyday tasks that won't wait. It's very hard to make ends meet, even if you are on your own for just a short while. I'm greatful for being reminded of that.

Mother Nature is chucking down snow tonight. We rarely get a lot of snow, and it rarely last for very long, but Febuary is a very likely month for snow. House owners are obliged to tend to their paths. We live in a house, a bungalow, in a nice area, very close to the centre of the little town. There is a row of flats to our left, a family much like ours diagonally across the street, oposite and to the right couples in their 70ies. The man living on our right is the former police comissioner, and still a very strong man, and if we're away, he'd clear our driveway too, just so the house looks lived in, and if we get up first we'd clear the pavement outside their house too. We're not close: We don't borrow eggs or invite eachother over for coffee. But we care.

When my best friend left tonight, it was half past 11. I walked her a bit of the way. There was already about 8 cm (2.5 inches) of snow, so she couldn't cycle. All the sounds are muffled, it's so lovely. Only a few cars were out, mainly taxies. I had the dog off the lead. The neighbour had done my pavement too. I couldn't tell who did the oposite neighbours' pavement, but he looked much younger - parhaps their son-in-law, the baker, on his way to work?

When I walked back down the street, I realised that the widow 'round the corner would wake up tomorrow to a stretch of very heavy snow. When I got back to the house, I took out the shovel and did the paths up to my door and a little bit on the drive. As I felt I had the energy (and perhaps a few calories of nice dinner to work off) I walked round the corner to do her pavement too. The dog came with me. He's not a fan of snow shovels and brushes and usually attacs them, but he very seriously kept a watch for aproaching cars as I shoveled away. I hope she will be pleased in the morning! (And it's so much fun, knowing that she won't know who did it!)

This morning we'll meet at the pool, to have fun together, and to collect for the scout charity funds. We'll think about all the people, less fortunate than ourselves, but also about all our scouting friends out there.

Thinking Day used to be a holiday for Girl Guides around the world, but as the Swedish Scout Federation is a member of both WAGGS and WOSM our group have made an effort to celebrate Thinking Day as much as St George, but put different focus on the days. This year we will collect money for charity on Thinking Day, and repeat last year's success and do a Book Crossing Wild Release for St George, as it coincides with World Literature Day.


Scout surprise

As the committee felt that they needed some help with ideas about how to sort the numbers in the red, and also, on a happier note, at the same time inform everybody about the regional camps in the summer, all parents were called to a meeting. To hopefully make all parents come, all Cubs and Scouts also had a meeting. The Scouts had organised the whole thing, and were manning the control points, and Cubs, cub leaders, helpers and visiting Rover scouts had no idea what was on the cards.
As the parents were "enjoying" themselves in the warmth inside the hut, we certainly enjoyed another lovely, crisp, starry winter's evening outside. Still no snow, but -1. We are over all very lucky with the weather!
A short quiz walk was laid out around the hut, testing our knowledge of scouting, spelling and woodcrafting among other things. The path was lit with parafin lanterns, and it was just about adventurous enough for everyone; far enough from the hut to be completely in the dark, except for the light of the lanterns, but close enough for the littlest ones to see the cosy lights from the hut where mum or dad is.
The younger and older Cubs, who usually meet on seperate days, were mixed in new sixes for the evening to get to know eachother. They will meet again at the group camp in May, and then the nine-year-olds get invited on a cannoeing hike at the beginning of summer with the older ones to make the crossover in the autumn smoother. It was fun to see how the more experienced members of the group very naturally took command, and even the rowdiest of the boys quieted down and listened to their just slightly older peers.

The quiz walk finnished with a short "blind" (i.e. very dark) obstical course, and then everyone ended up around the fire where we practised campfire songs until the parents were let out of the hall to join us. (Unfortunately, the dark evenings don't really improve the camera phone's picture quality, but I'm sure you have plenty of memories to draw on for illustration)

Btw, does anyone know any more verses of the PizzaHut song? We just found out about the Ford Escort verse, but love to hear more!


Gourmet Restaurant in the Dark

Learning how to use a Trangia is brilliant fun and very useful. Cooking is also a great life skill, and a very good team building excersise. We try to do cooking at least once a term, not including the group camp in May, where all the scouts do their own cooking for at least two days, the Cubs on Trangias, and the Scouts over open fire.

Cooking in the dark poses some difficulties: If your carrots escape, it is very difficult to find them before someone steps on them. It can also be very difficult reading the recipe. But it is very cosy cooking by the light of parafin lanterns, especially when the result is so scrumpious!

The Cubs were proud and happy with the result of their efforts, and there were hardly any leftovers. Even the cooked vegetables got finished! And this time we let them off by not having to do any washing up, which was a smart move, as we then didn't have to rush anything, but had time for both a game and a song.

Many of the Cubs took the recipe home with them to cook for their family.The recipe for the culinary success you find here.


Back at Gilwell Lodge, Sweden

Gilwell Lodge, Sweden

Our second Gilwell weekend started already on Thursday, when we started our 5 hour drive towards Flen and Sparreholm, slightly tired after a days work, but full of anticipation and singing along with sixties hits and ABBA-songs on the car stereo. We arrived in the dark, to find the lodge warm and welcoming, already full of life. We helped make the bread for the Friday breakfast, before we went to bed.

The rest of the participants arrived on the Friday morning, while some of us had our mentor talks. Just before lunch we gathered around the flag pole and broke flag and started the weekend with a lovely, hearty gulash soup out in the crisp winter air. When everybody had settled in, we learnt more about the FIRO-theory and discussed where we were in the group process, how to use the theory productively in our scout groups and coping strategies.

Non violent communication

Before dinner we were given half an hour's solitary reflection. I took a lantern and took a walk in the nearby woods. I lost the path in the dark, but as I never lost my barings I still enjoyed the walk, though it got slightly adventurous, climbing over rocks and sliding down the hillside to the bigger path along the lakeside. I saw fresh roedeer hooves' marks in the snow, and the lights from Rockelstad castle across the bay. It was beautiful!

After dinner we met our mentors for evaluation of the between time and the tasks we had been set. Then we spent the rest of the evening, socialising and using our hands, making leather covers for our books among other things. The cooks had made us carrot cake for evening tea, and there was a happy little log fire crackling in the big fire place in the hall.

After starting off outside with more group dynamics and practical discussions we had another quiet half hour to ourselves to reflect, this time in daylight. I walked along the waterfront and found the little beach, where the jetty usually is in the summer. The ice lay still underneath the thin snow cover, and I sat down on a rock a little bit out on the lake, looking across the bay at the castle, that now was clearly visable, with it's farmhouses, barns, boathouses and lawns sloping down towards the lake. It was crisp and still, and for some reason I started thinking about the Mumin trolls...

Lunch was organised as a competition: In our groups we were given some sausage, an onion, and a few other bits and pieces. On a table were then layed out a collection of vegetables, spices, pasta and other condiments. Our task was to cook a two course meal on our Trangias, for ten people, and to present a helping to the jury for evaluation. When I saw the beetroots and the fresh lemons I had an idea for the starter, that I communicated to my group. Marie, a chemist at one largest pharmaceutical companies in the world volonteered to make the starter, and as "sixer" I took the task of co-ordinate the cooking. Two minutes before time we delivered a THREE course lunch for evaluation: A starter consisting of grated beetroot, sauteed in balsamic vinager, served on a lettuce leaf with a dollop of greek yoghurt with lemon rind, a main course that we named sausage cassarole and pepper symphony, a colourful dish with reds, yellows and orange colours, creamy and mild, as one of us can't handle hot spices very well. As a desert, we served fried apple rings with cinamon and sugar, with marengue crumbs. And we WON! Then we had a thought provocing walk, discussing symbols and ceremonies, how to use them and how to make them meaningful and inclusive. We had some time to prepare the theme for the evening: Spirituality. We had a wonderful group discussion about our definition of spirituality, faith, or lack of the same. Together we found that to us LOVE and respect is the essence of spirituality.

We had another lovely three course meal, a filled chicken breast as main course, cooked by our excellent kitchen crew, before we went outside to try and visualize our views for the others. We found a lovely clearing close the lodge, and put lanterns out in a heart shape. Then we got some soft reindeer hides and sleeping mats and laid them out on the ground. We lay down to try our installation. Softly, we talked about the wonders of nature, listening to the ice on the lake singing, watching the stars in the deep, black sky above us. Nobody really wanted to go inside, even though it was almost -5.

The cooks had made us semla for evening snack, and we went to bed, filled with inner piece and sweet weat bun and cream.

There are very few situations where you can find 40 adults playing tag in the snow, laughing and having fun, tumbling around like children, having fun. The youngest on the course is 24 and the oldest member of the Gilwell team is in his 70ies, and we all gave our heart and soul in the game!
The Sunday program was to be about children with special needs and how to meet those needs in scouting. Although all of us agreed that scouting should be open for everyone, there was a collective sense of frustration as we don't have the resources to care for everyone, and many had experienced loosing members due to one or two very difficult children. We never found a good answer to how to deal with these situations, but the discussion took us forward nevertheless.

After a light lunch we travelled back, filled with energy and thoughts, already looking forward to the third and last weekend in May.