Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My three lives of Guiding: The Nomadic Era [Canadian Edition]

Off I went to university...Guiding came with me.

I became a Sparks Leader. I might have been an adult, but I was still a girl...I was in a part of town where the leaders were a pretty even mix of 18-22 year old students and moms in their late 30s-50s. With the exception of a small few of the "older" leaders, most of them figured us young uns had no idea how to run a group, had no good ideas, were irresponsible, and couldn't be relied on. It went so far that the treasurer wouldn't let me keep the books for my unit, but oddly enough she let me and the other guiders in our group (who were the same age as me) buy things and write cheques to reimburse ourselves...

Anyway...frustrations aside, Guiding was important to me as a student. It was something I did for myself. Something I did that had no relation to my studies. Something I looked forward to every week, because no matter how tired I was or how busy I was or how many assignments I had, I got to leave it all behind for a couple of hours every week and have a blast with five year olds. And they know how to have fun!

I loved my Sparks...but they were only around until April when school ended and I went back to Kelowna. For two summers I helped in a Pathfinder group when I was home - the opposite end of the spectrum - 12-15 year olds. Who were a challenge and lots of fun, just different fun than Sparks.

As graduation approached and I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, I started thinking about what to do next. And I didn't know. I knew I was done with school for the time being. I knew I didn't really want to jump feet first into the work force and have a retail or office job that I didn't particularly enjoy. I figured there must be something out there that would give a challenge, that had purpose, that might even be fun.

That's when I remembered a promise I made to myself when I was 14.

When I was 14, my wonderful Mama decided I should accompany her to Switzerland when she went for her annual visit to see my aunt, uncle, and cousin who lived over there eight months (or so) of the year. I was thrilled. I had a blast. I decided I loved Europe and travelling. And I visited my first World Centre.

My aunt and uncle weren't far from Our Chalet, so we went. The only day we could go was a day that was actually a cleaning day - the staff spent the day scrubbing the building from top to bottom - and they were technically closed but they agreed that we could come up and go for a tour.

I had a great time. The snow was taller than me. We had a tour, given by a volunteer, Helen, from the UK. The people were all so nice and friendly. And I vowed I'd be back. I wanted to volunteer just like Helen did.

So, when I got stuck on what to do with my life after I finished university, I turned back to Guiding and did some research on World Centres. Based on the availability of volunteer jobs, the times of year and duration of those positions, and my vow to return to Our Chalet, I decide to apply there and also to Pax Lodge. I wanted to go back to Europe.

I applied at the end of my third year of university. I spent hours on my applications. Eight-seven people looked over my applications and made suggestions. I rewrote my cover letter so many times. And then I sent them off. And crossed my fingers.

And, on September 25, 1998, I got the letter I was waiting for from Pax Lodge. They had accepted my application to be a House Assistant. I was excited for days. I spent my last two semesters as a student dreaming about my six month stint in London.

Just before I left Vancouver in April of 1999, ready to have a great adventure, I received a surprising (and welcome) phone call from my District Commissioner (DC). My District had been very supportive of my adventure, even chipping in to buy me a new uniform and some gifts to take with me, but there was still an undercurrent of grouchiness towards younger guiders. My DC called to tell me that while she was still working to convince all of the "older" Guiders in our District, she knew the value of young Guiders and knew that her District wouldn't be able to have half the number of units it had without young Guiders. Her acknowledgment meant the world to me!

And so, I found myself on a plane in July, ready for the experience of a lifetime!


  1. YAY!

    And boo to those stuffy old guiders!

  2. I don't think any of them are actually still around...I think they were so stuffy they suffocated themselves out! Do you remember any of them?