​NCS Work – Phase 1 as Wave Leader

I’ve worked on a lot of youth-orientated programmes, such as John Muir Award, DofE, Adventure Service Challenge, Scouts and Girl Guiding, so when I was looking at freelance work to cover the month of July I thought I’d give NCS a go.

Now, I’ve been on the National Citizenship Service (NCS) programmes for the past couple of weeks as an instructor but not a leader. It is a scheme that is a four phase programme designed to end with a social action project involving the participants’ local community. The first phase is the ‘Adventure phase’ where young people camp away from home and partake in adventurous, outdoor activities. The second is a residential at a university so they can experience what this will involve; the third is planning the social action and the forth is running the social action then the students will ‘graduate’ from the scheme.

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Campsite set up

So I have just completed the first phase with a Swindon, Weston and Bristol group as Wave Leader in the Brecon Beacons and it was eventful.

The views were lovely as we were camped by Llangorse lake and the site was at the multiactivity centre near the town. On-site they have a riding centre (which we didn’t use), high ropes and an indoor climbing/abseiling and caving area.

So, I mentioned it was an eventful week; during the midweek we had an overnight thunderstorm and heavy rain which kept a lot of the young people out of their tents at 2am trying to hide in the toilets – how did I know this? I was sat in the toilet block reception area bit with one participant waiting whilst their parent came to pick them up (the thunder etc was too much for them)!

The tents themselves weren’t the best, so rainwater did get in. This involved the mentors staying off activities the next day to put the sleeping bags and roll mats out to dry in the sun, whilst leaders keep things as normal and took the kids on activities – I was spending the day driving to the A&E and Minor Injuries Units to transport young people for various issues (of which, some of the trips weren’t even required!).

At this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours! I think I lasted a good 36 hours before things calmed down enough for me to sleep…

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View of the lake

It was interesting to work with team leaders and mentors of varying experiences – from the ones who had done this before, to the overly cautious ones who thought a lot of ‘bumps and scrapes’ meant a trip to A&E (unfortunately, it meant the mentors saw their share of the inside of a hospital!)… from the leaders who just managed things on their own to others who had to ask your permission for every little thing… and from the leaders who had to tell you everything they were doing to those that did things without consulting and causing more issues to deal with.

So I think I had fun. Working with such a variety of people required a lot of different leadership and management styles and my previous experience certainly helped in certain situations – the girl who suddenly got “worse” with her aliments when friends were nearby, organising the site after the storm, time management and dealing with incidents and the head office when it seemed like no one knew what was going on.

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The mountains from the lake.

Next week is phase 2, which will be in Bristol at student accommodation there. This is a three-week programme so phase 2 and 3 are combined in one week and I think they’ll enjoy it although, activities will be more classroom-based and they will have to cook their own meals and keep their rooms clean – for some, that might be a challenge!

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Rush hour in Wales

I have a lot more stories I could tell, but in this public social media platform, it wouldn’t be acceptable. Let’s just say, I hope next week goes as well as this one did (despite the rain…)

-Just Joanne 

Freelancing experience

I’ve finally found some time to catch up with myself and write for a little bit.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself back freelancing in Devon as walk leader for an NCS wave along the South West Coastal Path – I wrote a blog post about the previous time here. Given the nature of freelance work, you meet a lot of new people and outdoor leaders/educators etc to whom you will spend a short amount of time working, eating and conversing with. It’s a smaller world than one would imagine, as I discovered when I found out I share a mutual friend from North Wales with a freelancer down south, however, it is also a small community where reputation plays a big part.

It also a community where a vast range of people, either with little or lots of experience, with differing ideas and opinions, like to be in the outdoors as their common interest and this, for me is fascinating and I just love to meet new people and hear their stories.

So this week, the usual freelancers were moved to the on-site activities and three new freelancers were on the walking activity. (The site manager does this so regular freelancers won’t be bored with running the same activity for weeks at a time.)

 

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The campsite

 

What was intriguing about these new freelancers, as yes, I will be judgmental (it’s a normal human trait, get over it) but I only do so as I found their attitudes to outdoor learning somewhat disliking?

Now, the attraction to outdoor freelance is one of romantic Instagram-able beauty – working in wonderful coastal, mountainous, forested areas delivering developmental programmes for the uninitiated whilst also utilising a unique skill set that, if you’re not strong in, can result in a very unpleasant time for all. It’s desirable for many. It seems easy. It seems fun. It seems like it’s well paid (it depends) and most importantly, you’re outside and who wouldn’t want that?!

The three to join us, two were young – one living in a converted transit van and going around the country freelancing and the other had taken a Level 3 Outdoor Education course wanted this to be their source of income – and the other was an older person who had semi-retired and thought freelancing was an attractable source of income after years spent indoors. So you can see that freelancing does introduce you to people of varied backgrounds.

 

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Views from the coast in Combe Martin

 

What I hoped though, after spending a week with other freelancers passionate about outdoor education, was the same attitudes towards the walk they were placed on… it soon became apparent they did not.

First, was the issue around the required kit they were due to carry as part of the risk assessment. They all objected to the 20 man bothy bag (group sizes were 18 including adults) because of its size… and throughout the week wouldn’t shut up about it. Other freelancers and I asked them to consider, should anything bad happen and they didn’t have the required documented supplied kit, what would happen in court? Now this was an extreme consideration but it does happen, but apparently, them being able to carry a small bag was more important than group safety. Red flag one.

Second, each freelancer has a group and the walk is classed as a ‘local explore’. The young people with you are inner-city kids who, for many, have never been to the coast or walked further than an hour a day on anything other than concrete. Maybe it’s me, but ‘local explore’ means just that… going to points on the map to look at what’s there and educate the young people so they have a robust, enjoyable experience. For these guys it seemed walking into the coastal town as fast as possible was their aim so they could sit for longer there… they missed a lot of opportunities, which was either a) because they didn’t have any information about it (research people, come on!) or b) just weren’t interested in their groups. Red flag two.

Thirdly, attitudes towards the young people. Yes, some are unfit. Yes, some aren’t interested. Yes, some want to play their music to keep them going. Yes, some have issues around their social skills… I could go on, but what they all are, are technically “clients” looking for a memorable experience. As an outdoor leader/educator you have to be able to “read your group”, find out what they want to get out of it, adapt it to suit them and use a lot of your knowledge and experience throughout the day. To see a mass of 45 young people walking past a trig point, coastal views, a unique church etc because the leaders wanted to walk together (not leading mind you but rather at the back chatting together) is awful. Where is the safety and control going on? One leader even lost half her group on the walk in the woods because she wasn’t managing them, luckily they had followed others to the correct location – she hadn’t even known she’d lost them UNTIL they all turned up at the same location. Red flag three.

Lastly, I mentioned about the fitness of young people. Yes, fitness does turn an easy couple of hours walk into something a lot lot longer… six miles shouldn’t take five-six hours but it does with unfit people; that shouldn’t mean you should loudly and openly moan about it to your group and especially walking off and telling the ones at the back “you’re going too slow, hurry up” then proceeding not to stop and wait for them so they can catch up. I wanted to scream at them WE SHOULD BE ENCOURAGING THEM TO ENJOY THE OUTDOORS SO THEY WANT TO COME BACK LATER, NOT HATE IT. Red flag four.

I kept my group separate from the others. I wanted them to have an experience, learning about history, laugh on the route, bond as a team and find out about them. I stopped frequently, I let them set the pace, I reassured them that the route was manageable and encouraged along the way…

 

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We went Geocaching and found this guy!

 

When I got into the town and sent them for lunch, the Wave Leader who had been walking with me, after conversing with the other team leaders, told me that there had been a lot of tears, threats of quitting and hurting legs and feet from the other groups because the other freelancers hadn’t been stopping the groups on route, showing them anything local and being rude to the slower members. She was livid. She asked me about their experience and refused to talk directly to them. She wondered why they weren’t doing what we were doing. She wondered why they’d even bothered to do the work if they didn’t care for people. She wondered why they’d been employed in the first place.

After a chat, she asked me to lead all of the groups to ensure they would have a relaxing time.  She wondered if I could “teach” the other freelancers about group management etc…

Now, I’m not comfortable leading large groups in small, local areas; just because of the size really than anything else as it impacts on the public and environment, but I agreed to anyway as the team leaders threatening to leave calmed down when it was suggested and I took over.

So, placing one freelancer with me and two at the back we walked through the forest to the next stop, stopping frequently on the way (yes, the freelancers moaned that we were going too slow and about the “unnecessary” stops…) and generally allowing them time to take in their surroundings.

 

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Exmoor ponies again!

 

Learning to manage a group on a walk comes a lot from experience. You learn quickly about keeping control, the group together and the varying leadership styles to manage all this. When we reached the last major stop, a National Trust building, I knew the route would be switchbacking steeply uphill and for some, this would be a very big physical and mental challenge. At this point I didn’t have trust in the freelancers at the back – mainly because of their attitude and opinions on slow walkers – so I decided to swap the front leaders with the back… can you guess what happened next?

Yes, the front freelancers “ran off” as to be expected, with a struggling group trying to catch up as best they could panting and puffing – even our calls at the back to the front leader were ignored as the group ask him to slow down. Though it was infuriating, I didn’t mind too much as the route was simplistic enough to get back to the campsite and the group hadn’t exerted too much energy from the slowed-down walk they did before the stop, (plus they had topped up with water and food at the stop); I knew that issues usually occur at the back of the group, so felt it better that I was placed at the back to handle any incidences. Can you imagine any of these three dealing with issues? I dread to think about it.

Predicably slow at the back, we did have a big issue. A young girl, not from my group, who a year into her knee operation recovery, was clearly exhausted. I’d never seen iris’ go pale before in a lightheaded person! It was nerving, but, after a lot of rest, water, energy and reassurance we slowly paced up the hill (at this point the freelancer with me left quickly – I don’t think they wanted to help deal with any issues as the frightened look on her face suggested!). The wave leader, who had joined me at this point, and I stopped frequently to keep her rested and safe and when at the nearest road a call was made to pick her up to take back to the site. This must have taken about 30-45 minutes overall… I joined in with the ride home having realised the other freelancers hadn’t bothered to send one of them to return to check up on us… when we got back to the site, the group was already there!

 

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Sunset in Illfracombe.

 

***

I know this experience is not representative of the world of freelancers, that each person views outdoor activities from different perspectives etc but what resonated with me was the seemingly lack of care to make the experience memorable for the young people involved. Maybe it is because I’ve been working with young people for longer, enjoy exploring new areas deeply or I set a standard where I want to feel as if I’ve done a good job? Whatever it is/was/will be, this experience did surprise and frustrated me. These were inner-city kids who, for many, was their first introduction to a longer, coastal, hilly walk on the South Coast and for many, this experience sadly involved walk leaders who paid little attention to their welfare, didn’t want to involve them in the local area and felt that being rude and mean was the appropriate way to manage a group.

-Just Joanne

Peak District Explorers Adventure

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I’ve just returned from a fun few days in the Peak District with Phoenix Archer Explorer Scouts and thought I’d do a quick blog about what we got up to!

We’ve been to Gradbach Scout Camp before; having wanted to give the young people a bunkhouse experience we found what we were looking for in the Peak District years ago and decided to return again this year.

Motivating young people, especially from an urban population such as Swindon, into hill walking can be hard at times. Although we have the Ridgeway a short ride away not many of them use the green spaces or go beyond the entertainment areas but, being Scouts, they do get out and about and we like to offer them different opportunities away from the town; so twelve young people joined us on the adventure!

The bunkhouse has bunks that they loved. Ideally, they sleep eight per room but they all managed to bunk in together in one…

I wasn’t present for the first days activities, I was on the train from Swindon to Macclesfield… the fourth national park I’ve managed to travel to via train and one of the easiest – Swindon to Reading to Macclesfield (then 20 mins by vehicle to the site) and in the same amount of time it would take to drive there. Simples.

For the second day they decided to have a small walk in the morning and explore Buxton in the afternoon, so we started off at Speedwell Cavern car park, up to Hollins Cross, along the ridge to Mam Tor then a walk down Winnat’s Pass to the minibus (which, started to roll down the hill due to the weight of all the Explorers sat on it! THAT was a moment of panic and having to get them to exit the bus quickly!)

 

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James making clouds again.

The next day, I’d planned a route which involved a grade 1+ scramble up Red Brook to Kinder Low area. We had some Explorers who had been to the Peaks with us before, so had to change things up for them as well as planning a route to keep newer participants interested!

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The weather was on our side and the scramble was great. At first, it was just a bog slog to get to the lower parts but once on it, it was a lot of fun!

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Off route walking to our destination!
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Looking up at Red Brook from the valley below
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Arriving at the top of the scramble

Will definitely be coming back here to do that again! It did take a while to get to it but certainly was more exciting than walking along the top of Kinder Scout…

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Walkign along the top of Kinder Scout. I love the views.

To break up the boredum, the Explorers did their usual “how many can we get on the boulder?” moments…

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Standing on the boulder!

There were a lot of tired faces and sore feet when we got back. Overall it was easily 25K on the route, a welcomed evening of Spaghetti Bolognese and sleep was needed!

I can’t say more than just that I had a fantastic time, I think the Explorers did as well. They’ve decided they want to do a lot more scrambling in the future and more exploratory routes on harder ground. Once certificate comes through, a Scouting hillwalking permit is next and we can start planning to go elsewhere and further with them!

More photos can be seen on the Phoenix Archer ESU Facebook Page 

– Just Joanne

10. smotra (10th Serbian Jamboree)

I have just recently returned from a 10 day Scout Jamboree in Belgrade, Serbia. This is the 10th Jamboree for them, the 3rd for me and by far one of the most enjoyable I’ve been on.

Phoenix Archer Explorer Unit has been travelling to the Serbian Jamborees since the 7th in 2008(I think). I’ve been to the 8th (2011), 9th (2014) and now 10th (2018). I even have the passport stamps to prove it…

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One thing that is enjoyable about the Jamborees is that they are in different locations each time. 2011 was Šabac, 2014 was Bela Crkva and 2014 was Ada Ciganlija in Belgrade.

Ada Ciganlija is a gorgeous place. It is a river island that has artificially been turned into a peninsula on the River Sava. A popular recreational area, you can partake in many outdoor activities there – swimming, kayaking/canoeing, high ropes, artificial climbing wall, volleyball, fishing, SUP, bike riding, skating – there’s even an option to bungee jump over the water!

The temperature all week was in the low thirties, around 33 degrees Celsius – so, combining that with the water, cold drinks, tasty food and beautiful views, one couldn’t complain!

Our flight transported the group into Belgrade late into the night, so after an hour’s bus journey we pitched our tents up in the dark and slept.

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For those that don’t know or understand about a Scout Jamboree let me explain; Scout Jamborees have been around since the early 1900s (1920 to be precise in the UK, just learnt that!). They are defined as being “a large gathering of Scouts who rally at a national or international level”, usually a camp, but there are “Jamboree Days”, such as Jamboree on the Trail/Air(Internet) where Scouts, internationally, partake in one activity (hiking/amateur radio/web chatting) in their own group/county on a certain date or dates.

They are all good fun. Some countries only run one every few years (such as Serbia) whereas others, such as the UK or US, run several small ones annually around their countries. The idea is that groups from overseas join with that countries group/units and partake in a Scouting programme, usually with a shared purpose/theme, over a week or so together. The theme of the Serbian Jamboree was “Scouting for all“.

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We also had ten Explorer Scouts out on their Explorer Belt Award visiting other towns and villages around Serbia to find out about the local culture and history of the county.

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They spend 10 days exploring a minimum of 5 towns/villages whilst trying to complete 10 mini projects and a major one. The teams visited Novi Sad, Ruma, Bačka Palanka, Pančevo, Belgrade and Stara Pazova. I’m not convinced they explored Serbia to the best of their ability and they weren’t very forthcoming with information about its culture, nor did it seem like they spoke to many locals, but they are delivering their presentations in September at the district camp so they might have experienced more than they talked about in their debrief. It would be good to think they’ve appreciated this wonderful country and the heard the struggles of the locals, but we shall see!

Not to bore you with a day by day account of the ten days (I couldn’t if I tried, I’m not very good at remembering things), I will talk about the highlights and interesting things I found out though.

Camp life

The Jamboree was poorly attended this year compared to the others. They had planned for approximately 3,000 turning up but due to Serbian Scouting politics, only 800 (including foreigners) showed up. There were various reasons why we were told; Belgrade Scouts have an annual camp so didn’t want to attend this one as well; this Jamboree was too pricey for many; many groups travel across the border to the Macedonian Jamboree etc… The cost of this camp, excluding flights and insurance, was €90(?), which is very cheap for UK Scouts for 10 days (we did contribute more to cover equipment donations to the Serbians etc. £220 in total) but for Serbians it’s costly.

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Entrance to subcamp 3.

But it was worth every penny I thought.

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Scouts queueing for an activity in the city.

I did think it was a shame that more could not attend, for whatever reason, as I felt the programme, layout and information was well planned in comparison to the other Jamborees I’d been on. BRAVO to the organisers for doing such an excellent job!

Even though the weather was in the low thirties all week (which is HOT for UK people) there was some occasional rain… when it rains in Serbia IT RAINS. The thunderstorms are loud and unpredictable, but as soon as they arrive they are gone and it’s back to the hot weather again. I recorded a video to show what the rain is like (the video starts off with thunder!). I love it when it rains in Serbia; reminds me of the normal UK weather.

Once it had cleared, I was able to get back to the hammock to relax and read the research papers I was sent as prior reading for my course at uni in September…

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Smartphones are wonderful for reading documents!

Some animals did wander on site. I thought I would include them as Serbians have an interesting relationship with stray dogs – it is illegal to harm or kill them under the Serbian Animal Welfare Law 2009/Serbian Criminal Law, Article 269 but it is horrific what some will do to them (graphic content on webpage) if they know they can get away with it – I saw a dog who was missing part of his tail, yet the bone was still sticking out, it didn’t look like the animal had it done professionally. Nearly every dog that came near us shied away from being touched, it was clear to see they haven’t had a friendly pat on their head often! Organised dogfights are commonplace and, sadly, the police turn a blind eye to it – the punishment of 6 months is not enough IMO.

Yet, on the other hand, I saw many Serbians with tea-cup sized dogs (Yorkies, Chihuahua, Maltese and other small dogs) dressed in dog clothing and being carried around by their owners. Many stary dogs looked well fed and Serbians seemed to ignore their presence without hostility. Conflicting.

This beautiful dog wandered on to our site, he didn’t stay long but reminded me of Bailey. I wish I could have taken him home. At night, many dogs – especially puppies, roamed the Ada area seeking food under the concealment of night time when fewer people were about…

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Serbian Food

I’m a girl who’s not afraid to say she loves her food! Maybe I love it a bit too much at times! Haha. One of our hopes for this Jamboree was substantial meals; the Serbians have always been gracious hosts but they do like their cabbage! The food on the first Jamboree I visited in 2008 wasn’t much – it was my first introduction to a large hot lunch in the early afternoon and a very small dinner as the Serbians prefer to eat well during the daytime (when it’s hot!!), whereas us Brits do love a large hot dinner in early evening… anyway, the following Jamboree saw the money for the food go missing from a corrupt company so the organisers had to bring in another company at the last minute… the saving grace on that Jamboree were the burger bars around a lake nearby. I think on this Jamboree they wanted to make sure the foreigners (especially the fussy eaters) had access to alternative food if they didn’t like what the Serbians were providing so probably chose this location, especially for that reason!

So, with apparently nearly 70 outlets around the Lake, there were a lot of choices – burgers (Gurmanska pljeskavica – in the picture), kebabs, chips and my favourite – Palačinke! A crepe pancake with a filling, such as Nutella or Eurocrem, wrapped in a triangle shape. As the conversion rate was so low one of these would cost about 80p! A burger would cost around £1.60 depending on where you went – bargain!

I loved the food at this camp as each meal was different! Of course, some items, such as the yoghurt drink, was repeated but the whole meal wasn’t the same as the last; so we got to experience a lot of different meals and snacks the Serbians would also enjoy. If the organisers had intentionally planned this then BRAVO again – our young people enjoyed the anticipation of finding out what their next meal would consist of and several did want to try some of the ‘snacks’ again (they enjoyed the pizza margarita snack.

Many meals did contain a lot of bread…

We also visited a couple of restaurants whilst exploring Belgrade. At one such restaurant, the Mala Gostionica, we wanted the Explorer Scouts to experience a traditional Serbian meal. So, out came the bread and salad (cabbage!!) followed by the plate of various meats for them to enjoy! This was followed by a type of doughnut cake with a walnut inside which was delicious – the name escapes me and I haven’t been able to find it online since sadly.

I found the prices very reasonable (conversion was great); as with any city the closer you are to attractions and the city centre the prices do increase but the food quality was always great…

Of course, no trip to Serbia would be complete without trying the Rakija (pronounced RA KEE YA)- a fruit brandy that’s popular in the Balkans. This is the national drink of Serbia and is generally homebrewed with an alcoholic content of about 50% (can be as high as 65%!) and comes in many flavours (i.e. what’s available to the Serbians to make it out of) – plum (Slivovica), grapes, apple, peach, fig, cherry…

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As the households homebrew the stuff you’ll expect to be offered some – more so if you’re an adult male – at your meals. There is a joke that a Serbian breakfast is “Rakija, coffee and a cigarette”.  Serbians are well known for their hospitality and will keep giving you Rakija if you empty your glass… so to let them know you’re done just leaving some in the glass shows you’ve finished or they’ll keep magically producing bottles until their entire stores are finished with!

(They also have a “drink” called “Concrete“. It’s where you drink Rakija, then a pint of larger and repeat. Why is it called “Concrete” though? It’ll be where you’ll end up after a few of these…face first!)

Trips out and attractions

One thing I do enjoy about visiting other countries, and this may be very geeky of me, is using the public transport. I like to learn how another country runs theirs and I think it’s a good lesson for anyone to learn; this time we got to experience the trains and the buses (no trams, went on them last time). Since the last four years, the bus passes have gone contactless! Previously before you purchased a ticket at the kiosk on the corner (still do) and it’s ‘punched’ by a machine on the platform or on the bus… by now, you can buy either a day pass (290 dinars) and load it with a day’s unlimited travel (90 dinars approx 70p) for use around Belgrade; purchase a 90 minute journey pass from the driver (150 dinar approx £1.15) which, if you asked the driver for he’d always say “no ticket” and let you on without one; OR the last option was to buy a plastic card for 300 dinar (approx £2.30), which lasts 3 years and you can preload it with cash and use on the contactless machines on the bus. Simples.

At the start of the week, we couldn’t figure any of this out. When we spoke to Serbians they kept saying “no ticket”, Kiosk ladies and bus drivers shook their heads at us so we didn’t bother… we even got told by a Serbian waiter not to bother buying tickets after 7pm as the inspectors all clock off and go home then…! Terry lived in fear of getting caught, I scoffed at him until one of our Explorer Belt teams called up to say they’d been given a ticket for 2,000 dinars (approx £16) each… which turned out they’d been fined for not having a proper one (karma for not attempting to find out how to buy tickets in the first instance!)! So he made sure we all had enough and what happened on the way to the airport? We got asked to see our tickets! *Phew*

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Reusable Belgrade bus pass.

The Serbian trains aren’t so complicated. They expected you to purchase a ticket before you board and you will definitely be checked whilst on the train! We planned to visit the Explorer Belt groups in Novi Sad and could have taken the bus but I wanted to show Kelvin, our district commissioner, the joys of the Serbian railways…

It all started easy enough from Beograd Centra station, the tickets were easy to purchase, the station air conditions and we got seats on the train… however, what Kelvin didn’t know was that there is what is called “Serbian time”. This differs from regular time, it’s where the Serbs will leave when they want! The train stopped on the tracks, the driver and train staff stepped out of the vehicle and decided to have a 15-minute smoking break on the train whilst the passengers sweated onboard. Once done, the train then moved closer towards its destination.

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On the way back… the train decided to turn up 45 minutes late, in fact, it arrived the same time as the other train, due 2 hours earlier at the station, came in! The Serbians didn’t seem to mind, some even decided to sit on the edge of the platform and eat their dinner and take selfies… why rush?

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Our return journey from Novi Sad, which was meant to be 2 hours, ended up being more like 3 (train driver smoking breaks); by hey-ho, with the errors in finding our way back on the buses, we eventually got back to camp 5 hours later! Haha.

After meeting with the Explorer Belt teams in Novi Sad and ensuring they are ok and still on track to achieve we visited the Petrovaradin Fortress (translated as “the town on the rock-firm as faith”) on the right bank of the Danube.
What is interesting and will make you look twice is that the minute and hour hand on the clock tower are reversed, with the small hand showing minutes, and the big hand showing hours! This was created this way so that fishermen on the river can see the time from a long distance but for others, it’s just confusing!

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Novi Sad was a favourite place for the teams to visit and, due to the meetings, we didn’t get to spend much time here but have vowed to do so on our next visit.

Throughout the week we visited Belgrade for various sights as part of the Jamboree programme. The fortress and Kalemegdan park on the hill overseeing the Danube and Sava rivers, the botanical gardens, the souvenir markets outside the fortress, the modern shopping centres, the old streets with unique art for selling and various museums.

One of the museums we visited was the Nikola Tesla museum. I’m kicking myself as I had a video of me holding a fluorescent tube near the Tesla coil but somehow have managed to delete it (It was pretty cool)! Here’s a video of the coil in action (and surprisingly the same guide is still working there 3 years later!). Anyway, I would recommend people visit, I found it to be interesting… even, strangely, seeing his urn with his ashes in displayed in the museum; recently the activist group “Leave Tesla Alone” were trying to stop them being moved to the Church of St Sava, the resting place of many of Serbia’s national heroes (even more interesting article about “Satanic rituals” happening at his resting place!).

I have so much more I could write about Serbia. This just skims the information and experiences I’ve had whilst being in such a beautiful hospitable country.

It’s now been several days since the Jamboree and I do miss the easy life that I had whilst there; no worries or anything to do really! Now I’m back I’ve had many things to sort out for the upcoming couple of months and it’s been pretty hectic but the countdown has begun to the 11th Serbian Jamboree now… roll on 2021! Let’s see where life is at then!

Just Joanne

Shelving is fixed!

Only two more working days left, then I will have left a job I’ve been at for nearly eight years! Longest job yet (though it’s always felt like a new job each year with the number of changes the Senior Leadership Team make!!)!

I’ve been fortunate enough this week to have help in the form of, Shawnee (teacher) and Chris (technician) at work,  in fixing the missing shelves in the back of my van. These were very much needed to give protection to the battery and separate it from possible spills etc., and so I can have more space for clothing etc. The invertor has also been fixed in properly (I pleasantly surprised at how quiet it is when it is running)

 

Fixing in the shelves in the van.
The space at the side allows for a cable to run from the inverter to the ‘electronic shelf’.

 

The bottom shelf and middle will become clothing shelves, the second from the top will be an ‘electronic shelf’ where the main plugs go and the top top shelf… no idea yet. I still have a lot of thinking to do around storage and considerations on what I will be taking.

I have the opportunity to gain a Mountain Bike Instructor Level 2 Leadership award whilst at Uni but, somehow, I don’t think I can fit my mountain bike in the van with me. I believe the university has bike racks so it might be that the bike is taken up initially with me and left there…? Still pondering on that one.

Anyway, I also found the missing shelf so, that’s gone back in properly.

 

The missing door has been found and fixed.

 

I’m gearing up for the move. Still, lots to consider and do. I found a nifty laptop backpack in TK Maxx that’ll carry all that I’ll need

 

My new University bag…

 

And lastly, with the help of Maria as work, we spent a good couple of hours preparing, pinning and using the sewing machine to ‘finish’ the neckers on my camp blanket… I say ‘finish’ loosely as I have two more to go on there but they are coming to Serbia with me first. If you look at the picture you can see my mother’s beautiful attempts at the top, perfectly near and aligned, then’s there’s mine at the bottom! Cringing.

Still, I’m pleased as punch with it. It has ten years worth of memories from various camp and events on it with space for more… I still have about fifty badges to sew on…

 

My camp blanket with neckers from Serbia, Iceland, Switzerland and Ireland as well as UK camps.

 

Now long now until our Serbian adventure! Our contingent kit has arrived in its bright red glory! The badge has been sewn on to the uniform and… well, we’re just about ready to go.

 

My various pin badges from various camps and the Jamboree badge.

 

I hope it all goes well for the Explorer Belt participants, the weather whilst we’re out there looks to be a mix of rain and high humidity, but they should be ok as long as they are sensible.

I’m glad I have this in my calendar so soon after finishing work as it’s nice to have something to look forward to. I was recently asked to describe my holidays in the recent years in an interview, I faltered when giving my response when I realised that my ‘holidays’ aren’t your typical family-type-relaxation-ones but days spent helping others achieve various awards, such as the DofE or Explorer Belt, I don’t think, at this stage in my life, I would know how to have those family-type-relaxation-ones!

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The bright red tomato kit.

Still, it’s all enjoyable. Only a few more ‘get-ups’ then we’ll be on our way across Europe to the land of ‘new beginnings

збогом!

Just Joanne