Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hard core..

Scouting here can be pretty hard core stuff....and most of the time that's ok by us all. But every year the patrols have to go on a 'mission. The mission involves the patrol (leader usually 15 maybe 16, a deputy of the same age or a year younger and then 4 scouts ranging from 12 to14 years) being dropped off somewhere - usually in the hills - with a  map, instructions and a mission to complete - sounds ok right? It does involve sleeping too - they get picked up from their mission the next day sometime after lunch - having taken photos along the way to show they have carried out all the instructions. And there is no adult supervision - it is just the patrol. Usually a scout leader is in the area and if there are any problems can be called in etc etc. Even so, for us parents it's always a bit of a worry. But hey, you can't just be a good time scout family can you - in for a penny and all that .....In the past, Thomas's missions were pretty tame but then his patrols were always hard working, productive, 'not pissing the scout leader off' types of patrols. Leo's isn't. He has been a patrol leader for 2 years now (2 loooooooong years) - and when it came to the mission last year I was a little concerned - Leo was in charge of these little ones (2 12 year olds, a 13 year old and he and Vanti both 14  (best friend, same age) - they went off into the hills - like the one in this photo
 - and not to a village but actually in the woods....had to walk for a couple of hours (following the map), find their shelter for a night (an old shepherds hut - no water, no electricity etc used by the scouts), cook dinner (homemade bread and 2 chickens - yes, chickens, not chicken pieces but 2 f*** off big chickens/ and remember no water, no electricity), sleep, get up in the morning, find their way to a particular convent (still in the hills), have mass, then walk into the town to be picked up at 11.30.
It didn't work out quite like that. They walked for almost 3 hours, realised thay were lost (no sign of the hut anywhere), Leo called the scout leader who, having the map in front of him and with Leo telling him what they could see (skyline etc) realised they had gone in completely the wrong direction- he told them they had 2 choices, turn round and walk the hour and a half back to find the hut or  camp down for the night. Leo had to make the call - the little ones were tired (it was almost 7 in the evening) so they decided to camp down - they found a big field, away from any trees (not easy in itself - look at our hills) , made a shelter with their waterproof ponchos and sticks they found (they go prepared), built a fire, cooked, and then huddled together for the night under the ponchos (I swear, I feel sick reliving all this) - next day they were up and off at 5.30 (they were worried about getting lost going back getting back into the town - and I don't think any of them had really slept) and in fact ended up back in the main square of the town where they were to be picked by 8.00 - they then spent a good few hours de-stressing and playing football until they were picked up at 11.30.
There was a lot of fall out from this mission  - too much to go into - the 5 sets of parents had different reactions - and I think guilt - when it comes to it, we the parents agree to send them off like this - are we the ones being irresponsible? But this is scouting, Italian style. The reality was, the scout leaders knew where they were (response to 'what if they had needed to be rescued?), they knew what the weather forecast was (response to 'what if there had been a storm/mega downpour?), wild boars don't bother you if you don't bother them (response to 'what if they had been attacked by a wild boar?' / we do get them around here) etc etc and if there had been a serious problem the leader would have got to them within 45 minutes. The boys had actually found a house and asked for directions at one point - when one mother asked 'why didn't you ask to stay there' the boys said they didn't know if they could trust the people so had chosen to keep on walking and rely on themselves - good call? who knows? but it was an experience. I was very proud of them all - they were in a difficult situation and they all dealt with it- I was extremely proud of Leo (and Vanti) for looking after the younger ones and bearing the responsibility.
The patrol at last years summer camp
And this weekend, they are on this year's mission. We were all concerned. Yesterday they left - a parent was asked to deliver them, together with a leader, to an area near Mirabilandia - a mega theme park nearby. There was some sort of  kids sports day and we think our patrol were there to help out etc (they had been told they would not be sleeping outside and the mission would involve working rather than walking).  Unfortunately, the area is also FULL of prostitutes - when I dropped them off yesterday I swear I dropped them off 10 feet away from some poor working woman and 10 feet away from a clown (a part of the sports day) - if the leader hadn't been there I don't think I would have left them - and I drove away thinking that maybe being stuck on a hill all night with just each other for company isn't such a bad thing after all.



  1. Hmmmm. I'd prefer the scout leader to be closer than 45 mins, but I bet it's something they'll never forget. Daughter's DofE expedition is in a few weeks, it's a similar sort of thing and I'm worried. I'm also worried their route isn't remote enough. Would prefer there to be no people than 'odd' people around. This parenting lark is a bit hard isn't it, watching whilst some one else teaches them to stand on their own two feet whist we recall it was only yesterday they need a hug and a pick up each time their legs were sore and tired. Now they hae 20kg rucksacks and a map. I feel slightly ill with worry.

  2. I know how you feel. Leo came back safe and sound yesterday and another patrol were sent up to the hills like last year but Thomas's group (maybe the equivalent of Rovers - not sure - but all over 18) were on an overnight hike in the same place - I think the scout leader realised that last year was a bit of a disaster and decided to play it safe by sending the patrol to an area where they also knew the older ones would be (ie literally in sight). It really is all experience - and I'm sure CoG will have a great time - you maybe less so ;) (ps what doea DofEstand for?)

    1. Duke of Edinburgh. It's an award kids of that age can work for. It involves voluntary work, self improvement and an independent expedition. COG is only on Bronze. You can do silver and gold too. She has already declared she won't do any more levels!