First class scouts I.U.P. Suriyapperuma, K.P.L. Perera, D.N. Peter, M. Mallawaratchie, N.D. Dias and senior scout V.P. de S. Samarasinghe were among the 14 members of the contingent selected to represent Sri Lanka at the 17th Asia Pacific jamboree in Kangwon, South Korea (200 km from Seoul). We were fortuitous enough to receive the audience of Her Excellency the President who presented the Sri Lanka flag to be hoisted at the jamboree.
The 17th Asia Pacific jamboree was held at Sorak National Park in the Kangwon province of South Korea from the 17th to the 13th of August 1996. Over 15000 Scouts and girl scouts from 52 countries from the region took part in the jamboree. The motto “Save Nature Greener Tomorrow” was fitting indeed for modern times where development is taking its toll on the environment and its inhabitants.
We had to take a flight to Hong Kong via Bangkok first as there was no direct flight to Seoul. Then we took flight to Kimpo international airport where we met our welcoming party. The whole journey from Colombo to Seoul took about sixteen hours and it took another five hours by coach to arrive at the jamboree site, where we were given temporary tents to sleep in. Next morning we were taken to our campsite, a journey which took half an hour by foot. We managed with our heavy luggage as we got a taste of Korean hospitality when some scouts offered to help us with our bags. That same day, the opening ceremony of the jamboree, which was a massive spectacle, was held.
Next day we were given passes in jamboree activities both in and off site activities which included paragliding, wind surfing, off road hiking and many activities which were on the rest of the jamboree. We started our activities right after lunch which was a “hamburger, fries etc.” type meal.
During the jamboree we were invited by many troops for meals or just to make friends. We also explored around the jamboree site which took about an hour by foot from one end to another. When walking around, sometimes you are mobbed by scouts who want to swap badges and souvenirs. Most of them who couldn’t speak English would go “exchangee!!” or “got patchees!” which means “got any badges for exchange?”. Most of the Korean scouts could not speak English at so we were forced to use sign language and learn a few Korean words in order to overcome the language barrier. We made friends not only among Korean scouts but also with scouts from India, Pakistan, U.S.A. and many other contingents that participated.
The campfire was held in grand style while a culture festival let us educate ourselves about different cultures of our neighboring countries. Our item was a “Devil Dance” which was quite realistic with which, we managed to share a part of our culture with them. The closing ceremony was like a rock concert with two huge screens showing what’s happening on stage and lights all around. There were two official speeches but right after the closing remarks there was a musical show which got everybody dancing and singing along some with tears in their eyes as the jamboree had come to an end officially.
Next morning everyone started packing after breakfast as the coaches were scheduled to leave the site in the morning. The mood was a sad one indeed as you could see it in everyone’s eyes as they said good bye to each other. We were among the last to leave along with some other foreign scouts.
We had to make a long journey back to Seoul by coach. Our destination was Gocheock Middle School in Seoul as their scout troop was supposed to host us during the rest of our stay. We were taken to the homes of the scouts (each Korean scout assigned to one of us), where we had to stay and live as they lived within a short radius of each other. During the home stay program, we were taken for bowling, swimming and to a theme park like Disneyland. Then on the final day we were taken to their national museum and then around the shopping malls where we did our shopping. The day ended with a dinner and a trip to a game arcade before going back to their respective homes. Although most of our scouts had gone to sleep, some of us were given farewell parties by our hosts.
The next day we met at the airport where we bade farewell to our friends and their families who hosted us during our stay. The flight to Colombo included short stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok. We arrived in Colombo on the 17th of August, leaving us one day of the 2nd term vacation to get ready for the first day of school.
We would like to thank the Sub Warden (Acting Warden), Mr. D. Edirisinghe, G.S.L. Mr. Victor and A.S.L. Beshan Kulapala for all their support and advice concerning the Jamboree.