Wednesday, July 18, 2012

a friend in every EU country

I recently hit the milestone of having a friend in all 32 counties so my next target is a friend in every eu country

Completed (i've picked one friend so sorry if its not you)

Austria - Martin
Belgium - Shona
Bulgaria - Nikki
Czech Republic - Miko
Denmark -Andres
Estonia - Kristjan
Finland - Ilona
France - Igor
Germany - Jens
Italy - Luca
Latvia - Iggy
Luxembourg - Amandine
Netherlands - Maureen
Poland - Jacob
Portugal - Juoa
Romania - Andrei
Spain - Pablo
Sweden - Caroline 
United Kingdom - Sam

Not Completed 
Cyprus -
Slovakia -
Slovenia -

So it turns out i'm further ahead than I thought I was

Update 29/7/12 - managed to knock the Czech Republic and Portugal off the list

Update 20/1/13 - managed to knock Luxemborg off the list

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Photo of the Week

In the first of my photo of the week segments:

This was taken in a bookstore in London. Ironically this was the last photo I took before I left London

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chief Scout Award - 10 Month Review

I've been working on my CSA for about 10 months or so. At this point I thought I'd do a review of where I am and where I hope to go with it.

Community (including additional weeks)
For the last 9 months I’ve been working as a Scout Leader with the 23rd Limerick. I set myself the target of promoting the ONE Programme within the Group, with particular focus on the Adventure skills and the Chief Scout Award. I think I’ve had reasonably success with this
  •  Adventure Skills Training weekend for Scouters organised in March
  • Assessments carried out for Senior Cubs, Scouts, Ventures and Rovers
  • Individual Scouts given targets to reach higher levels and some venture scouts have started assess younger members of the group
  •  Resources developed to help Beaver and Cub Scouts to support the Personal  Journeys in their Programmes
  • 3 Beavers, 6 Cubs, 3 Scouts and 2 Ventures registered for and working towards the CSA with more expected in the next six months.

At this point I am almost completed with the 52 weeks. I have decided to use Scouting for the additional weeks. However in September I expect to have move to Dublin so I will have to discuss my goals with my mentor and new Group Leader.

I have chosen photography for my skill. I have decided on the following challenge:
  •  Join the Dublin Camera Club and take part in the Beginners and Intermediate courses
  • After the courses, I will attend the Tuesday night meetings and work with other members to improve my skills
  • Prepare a portfolio of my photography work and organise an Exhibition of my photographs (on a theme selected with my mentor)
Most of this will be completed in the next few months.

I have chosen rock climbing for my phyiscal activity. I chose this for a number of reasons. A) to get fit, B) to improve my skills and c) to get over my fear of heights. I've a few sessions done with the UL Outdoor Pursuits Club but when I move to Dublin I hope to continue with the Gravity Climbing Centre. I have decided on the following challenge:

  • Join the Gravity Climbing Centre and spend 1 hour a week climbing
  •  Take part in at least 4 outdoor climbing sessions
  • Learn how to lead
  • Be in a position to start working towards my Single Pitch Award

I’ve been looking at potential areas for my Expedition with Snowdonia being amongst the favourites. The route would take me from Conwy to Porthmadog (including climbing Mt Snowdon). Things needed to be done
  • Recruit team
  • Plan Route
  • Pick dates

 Public Transport will be used to get to and from the expedition and a full training plan will be devised for the team.

I have signed up for the Cork Scouts of the World Award team – more to come.

Adventure Skills – Camping to Stage 8
So far I have reached Stage 6 (Internal Group Assesment) and I am working my way through the requirements for Stages 7 and 8 

Adventure Skills – Hillwalking to Stage 7
I am waiting assessment on Stage 6 and have begun working towards Stage 7 having already completed the 1300m objective. I need a bit more experience in mirco navigation and I have about 10 or so hikes to log

Adventure Skills – Emergencies to Stage 7
I picked this because I would be starting from scratch. I have recently attended a CPR Courses (with a certied course due to follow next week) and I am currently trying to arrange a REC3 course for Scouters in Limerick in September. Hope to get assessed by the expert in April.

Portfolio Work
So far I have written the Introduction section and began a page for each requirement explaining my challenge and motivation.

There is significantly more work involved in this than I imagine but I am progressing along at a good pace and hope to finish on target for September 2013. 

My Saudi Experience

I wrote this report in October 2011 after returning from the International Peace in Jeddah.

When you think of going for a holiday, i'd imagine Saudi Arabia probably doesn't make most people's top 10, does it? It certainly had it for me but in August 2011 I saw an article on looking for applications for a Peace Camp in Saudi Arabia. Never one to turn down an opportunity, I signed up not really expecting to get picked.

So off myself and Noel Synott went to the desert for 10 days. Over the next few days we got to meet our fellow delegates from Georgia, Iceland, Denmark, Italy, Estonia, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Ukraine, India, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nepal, Japan, Columbia and Nicaragua as well as our hosts the Saudis. The Peace Camp is in fact several small camps taking place around the country with the largest (including the International Sub Camp) taking place just outside the King Abullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), near Jeddah.

Camping in Saudia Arabia is a strange experience. We had large tents, lined with Arabian rugs and fitted with Air Con and electricity. Over the next few days we were brought around to various places such as local Scout Campsites, Schools, Museums, a local bazaar, a (very modern shopping centre), the KAUST campus, a volcanic spring and the Jeddah City Centre. We also got to do several water activities in the Red Sea. One of the things I noticed was the difference in lifestyle between those in the countryside and those living/working/studying in KAUST. Two places only a few miles apart yet thousands of light years away from each other in reality. 

To describe it as a culture shock was an understatement. I don't mean that it in a negative way. Most people look at the Middle East as being quiet backwards and this isn't nessecarily the case. Its a different place with different history, culture, traditions etc. The people of the Middle East probably thing everything we do is crazy.

I found our hosts to be very friendly if a little too friendly. The idea of personal privacy seems to vary. We found young people were for ever coming up and taking pictures of us. We were a novelty (the token white people) and it was just something we would have to get used to for our stay. That said the people around our own age were incredibly nice, respectful and helpful. I did notice a big difference between attitudes of older people (more conservative) and younger people (more liberal, question authoring of the king) which was interesting to note.

On our last full day at the camp we were visited by members of the World Scout Foundation including the Swedish King and Queen who were lovely people. That night we were involved in the official launch of the Messengers of Peace Programme at KAUST.

On a negative note, I found the trip to be a wasted opportunity of sorts. Here you had Rover Scouts from across the world and it could have been a perfect chance to get some really amazing work done on developing MoP projects. That said, I hope to build on the connections made.

From this trip I've made some contacts and more importantly some great friends. Thanks to Scouting Ireland and the Saudi Boy Scout Association for this experience.

For more on the Messengers of Peace check out For my photos check here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Swedish Experience

Here's an article I wrote back in August 2011 about my experience at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden.
This summer I had the pleasure of being part of the 800 strong Irish Contingent to the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden. This was my first time at a World Jamboree. Despite having attended several large national events including the Irish Jamboree in 2008 and hearing a lot of stories for last World Jam, nothing could prepare me for the experience in Sweden. The Jamboree site was a thriving multicultural city of tents with all the services you’d expect in a real city from shops and restaurants to a hospital and dentists. Every day brought new encounters with different nationalities and helped me create friendships that will last a lifetime.
My role at the WSJ was working on Waste Team 4. This sounds like a horrible job but I loved it. I got to work with a truely international group of people, I got to visit nearly every corner of the massive Jamboree site and I great sense of satisfaction knowing that with my work the jamboree could not happen.
This year the Irish were one of 10 contingents to offer a food house at the jamboree. The other nations were England, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Lichtenstein, Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Austria. Despite being one of the smallest the Irish House was by far the busiest every night with good food, live music and good old Irish Craic.
The Irish apparel was the most sought after on the jamboree. Every day we had people coming up looking to swap for stuff. I was able to come home with a huge collection of neckers and badges.
One of the highlights of the site was the massive tower in the middle of the site. After a long walk to the top, you could see most of the subcamps. On my day off i got to try out the ferris wheel made out of pioneering timber. This was very well built and an enjoyable experience.
The activity of the jamboree had to be Quest which was planned, built and run by a predominately Irish Team. I was lucky to attend the IST session on quest were i got to try out the Cave (a giant maze) and conQuest- an incredible obstacle course. Definately one of the highlights.
Words cannot truly describe the Jamboree Experience. With that in mind I can only urge you all to go to Japan in 2015 if you can and experience it for yourself.
Waste Team 4