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NORDJAMB ‘75 Remembering the 14th Annual World Scout Jamboree and the Nordic Adventures of My Younger Days
One very late night in 1975, just barely after my sixteenth birthday, I lifted up the airplane window shade to get a better look outside. Everything was pitch black except for the faint red lights that dotted the shrinking Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The aircraft was packed with boys around my age, my new Boy Scout troopmates, all of us on the way to the 14th World Scout Jamboree in Lillehammer, Norway. Nordjamb ‘75, as it would come to be known, was the adventure of a lifetime, an amazing experience that’s stuck with me ever since. After we landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, we were each spirited away to stay with our respective host families for about four days. For a sixteen-year-old who’d never had the opportunity to explore the world, living with an older woman and her two sons in the heart of Denmark was a hoot. During the day she would drive us around in her little red Fiat, introducing me to the sights and flavors of the town. The car had no brakes, so as we were cruising around, she’d have to slam on the parking brake at all the stop signs. In the evenings, the two friendly brothers took me out to explore. They’d show me the local haunts, introduce me to their friends, and we’d sit around listening to the latest rock ‘n’ roll jams. Soon all us Scouts were back together on the road, heading to the Jamboree in Lillehammer. We stopped along the way for a couple days in Gothenburg, Sweden. My mom’s family originally came from Holland, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was back there in the old family neighborhood in Scandinavia. Everyone I met throughout the three-week trip was so friendly and welcoming, regardless of where they came from. The Jamboree itself was incredible. As I walked among the different camps, I was struck by the diversity of tongues being spoken. There were 94 countries from around the world represented at the event, with over 17,000 Scouts in attendance. The rudimentary showers they’d rigged up around the campground spat out
water so unimaginably cold it felt like needles piercing your scalp. For 10 days, we did everything from mountain patrols to learning about modern technology, though
the activity that had the greatest impact on me was a hike we took across a landscape that I can only describe as tundra. For days, we hiked through unfamiliar brush, over
this strange spongy sphagnum that felt like nothing we’d ever walked on before. You would trudge for miles, then suddenly come over a rise and see those
massive Scandinavian mountains rising in the distance, split by winding fjords. It was otherworldly, the kind of scenery that just doesn’t exist in North America.
At the end of the Jamboree, we all collected into the shape of a single massive hand. The theme of the event was “Five fingers, one hand,” with each finger representing one of the Nordic countries involved. Despite being surrounded by kids from all over the world, I’ll never forget the keen sense of community I felt during that moment. That was one trip that just couldn’t be beat.
- Jim Monast
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