Scouting was a really important part of my youth. I quit a lot of extraciricular activities when I was kid, mainly things I wasn’t good at like every sport on the planet. But I stuck with girl scouts for an impressively long time. All my closest friends were my scouting friends and it didn’t matter if we ended up in different classes in school or even if we went to different schools because we would see each other every Tuesday night and a lot of weekends too for scouting. When we got to middle school being a scout became quite uncool so we called girl scouts ‘GS’ instead. ‘Are you going to GS tonight?’ ‘See you at GS.’ I think we thought we were being clever by disguising our uncool hobby with a code name but looking back, GS was a pretty easy code to crack. I stopped scouting when I moved to Belgium at 13. I’m sure there was a scout unit I could have joined there but scouting for me was about being with the friends that I had spent every camp out with since I was 5.
As an adult I’ve tried to give back to girl scouting / girl guiding and help enable other young girls to have the same fantastic experiences I had. When I was 18, I worked as a summer camp councilor at the GS summer camp that I used to go to every summer as a kid. My camp name was Narnia. That summer I sang so much, did lots of silly things, and had the best time. When I was living in the UK I volunteered as a girl guide leader for guide units in three different cities (Cambridge, Brighton, and Durham). I achieved my girl guide unit leader qualification. I liked guiding in the UK but not as much as scouting in the US. There seemed to be less singing, less camping, and more religion.
It’s been awhile now since I’ve done any scouting or guiding. Sam, Noggs, and I go camping a lot still. Noggs went camping in a tent for the first time at 16 months. We’re going camping next weekend in Kruger National Park. I also still wear a t-shirt I made with retro guide badges on it. But that’s about it.
I was recently approached by an old friend from my GS troop in Maryland to ask whether I would help out a daisy scout project. The troop was sending Flat Juliette dolls they made to girl scouts (or ex-girl scouts) around the world and requesting photos and information about the countries the dolls visit. The dolls are named after Juliette Gordon Low who established the first girl scout group in America in 1912. She’s quite a big deal in the history of girl scouting in the US and as a result, the Baden-Powells’ role in scouting seems strangely overlooked.
Anyways so two Flat Juliettes came to Africa in a posted envelope like Flat Stanley.
And we took the dolls on tour. The Juliettes saw giraffes in Balule Nature Reserve, which is part of Greater Kruger.
They also met the Black Mambas. The Black Mambas are an all female anti-poaching unit working in Greater Kruger. Anti-poaching is traditionally a very male profession. There are still expectations in some African cultures that women do not belong in the bush or around wild animals. The Black Mambas have made a huge impact on reducing snaring and poaching – they have removed 12 poachers’ camps and 3 bushmeat kitchens, and reduced snaring and poisoning activities by 76% in their area of operation since their deployment in 2013. They are awesome because they are super tough but still feminine. They break societal expectations and do their jobs exceptionally well. The unit is named after a venomous snake but I like to think the name Black Mamba also has a connection to Kill Bill and the bride’s code name. I love Kill Bill and I love the Black Mambas! I am less enthusiastic about actual black mamba snakes, especially when they are in our house.
The flat Juliettes saw zebras by our house.
And they posed by the Drakensberg Mountains which we live near.
The Juliette dolls have now crawled back into their transportation unit (an envelope) to journey to Brighton, England for the next part of their world tour. Thanks to troop 81612 for letting me be part of scouting again in a little way.