When I look back on my life as a scout in secondary school, I can’t help but appreciate the many life skills learnt away from the classroom, and more importantly, the friends and values I’ve brought along with me till this day.
In a time (1999-2002) when the internet was still on dial-up and the revolutionary Nokia 3310 would cost $400, Scouting was still pretty much a very relevant Extra Curricular Activity that kept me in constant contact with nature and away from the confines of an increasingly urbanized and wired society.
I remember adventures to Punggol End to cut bamboo for outdoor cooking classes, the never-ending ultra dangerous structures we built for pioneering competitions, countless campfire disguised as vain attempts to woo girl guides, as well as the amazing furniture we built from nothing but rattan, tek kohs and some twine.
My troop was known as the 2002 Montfort Knights Scout Troop. 20 representing the Serangoon District with 02 indicating that we were the 2nd Troop formed in this area.
I went from being a Patrol Boy bullied by many, to become a Patrol Leader that unfortunately was still bullied by many. I had plenty of proficiency badges earned during my time but stopped short after my uniform fell off my 13thstorey clothes rack and I had to buy a new badgeless uniform.
BEING ONE WITH NATURE
Camps and scouting go hand in hand, and unlike many orientation camps in Universities that encourage sexual dry humping, camps for us were rough and tough battles that toned our muscles, made us more knowledgeable of scouting skills, and also made sure we had little or no dignity left after mass shower sessions where uncomfortable pubescent moments left you wishing you had your underwear on.
I still recall a route march that we undertook in our Sec 1 Training Camp, where we hiked approximately 15km to Bukit Brown cemetery before embarking on a confidence walk with two other scouts through the cemetery at 1am with nothing but a small torchlight between us. To compound this, we soon discovered what a groin abrasion looked and felt like.
Job weeks were also an annual occurrence for us, and for at least one week we discovered how much our maids or parents did on a daily basis. This especially after I received $4 for cleaning 200 CD covers at a neighbour’s house.
Annual Camps for us were a testament to the skills that we’ve learnt throughout the year, we competed in creating full fledged campsites and many scout related activities such as orienteering/navigation, decoding military scripts, talent-time competitions and even testosterone laden mud wrestling matches.
Campfires were initially done to create a harmonious and life saving circle of friendship for scouts when it began, but soon evolved to be the biggest excuse for a desperate teenager from an all boys school to attempt to meet a girl guide.
It somehow amazes me that scout and guides ever fell for each other, considering that most of us had
1.) Really ugly uniforms that never did fit
2.) Bad hair, countless pimples and zero sex appeal
3.) MIRC / ICQ
Yet campfires were also a good time to test the resilience of friendship, where true friends never ditched their friends for a girl guide. Unfortunately, I must admit to breaking that rule once or twice with no end results to show for it.
Campfires also turned out to be a masquerade of everything a campfire wasn’t. From building insane bridges, creating pyrotechnics from matchstick powder and the humiliation of dancing to pop cultural hits from the likes of S Club 7 and N’Sync. It was much like going to a K-pop concert nowadays where we cheered at anything for no apparent reason.
DUTIES & COMPETITIONS
As a scout, we were also entrusted to many duties in school. This included raising and lowering the flags during assembly, showing everyone how a tekkan session was really like, and disobeying all safety regulations by constructing Flying Foxes and abseiling structures led by angry post National Service Leaders.
We also took part in many vigorous national competitions like the National Patrol Camp (NPC) held at the Scout Sarimbun campsite. We prepared for months on end designing structures on graph paper, tying an average of 10,000 lashings through our scouting life and through which, we soon appreciated how tough the life of a foreign worker was in a construction industry.
Playfulness and injuries went hand in hand, a few bones were fractured, we discovered the power of overnight nest building ants, that you could drop a chicken on the ground, wash it and still win a cooking completion, and that it’s good to live life dangerously once in a while.
WHY SCOUTING WILL NEVER END
With overtly cautious over achieving parents on hand, it’s hard to see the appeal of Scouts to the current crop of students, yet if anyone asked me if I ever regretted Scouts I wouldn’t hesitate to say that i never once regretted doing so.
Most importantly the guys I’ve slogged for 4 years with, the guys who I shared uncomfortably gay moments when we look back on it, the guys who I did 10,000 push ups and hiked many miles with are perhaps some of the best friends I have up till this day.
For those who want to know more about the history of Scouting in Singapore, do clickHERE