Paul’s Top 5 iProj Moments

By Paul Leung

“If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.”

-N’gambai African Proverb

Upon completion of our next International Service Project to Malaysia/Singapore in May 2015, our Head Advisor John Chow and I will be the last two remaining members who have participated in all five International Service Projects. These projects, or iProj for short, have been a cornerstone of our program and have made up my most exciting memories in Scouting. These trips were initially designed to build a strong team by throwing members, new and old, in an incubator for 2-3 weeks and giving them the challenge of supporting the global community.  Not only did we have to quickly bond as a team while we are on the ground, we also needed to prepare for many months, or even a year, before taking off to our destination.

The result has been life long bonds, stories that will never get old, inside jokes galore, and an important lesson in being a global citizen that I would never have experienced otherwise. So to tell you all a little bit more about my vast experience in all things iProj (and some of my favourite movies), here are my top 5 iProj moments:

5. The Pilot: China/Japan 2008

An original series

What does TheGodfather, Star Wars, The Hangover, Toy Story, Rocky and The Pilot: China/Japan all have in common? They all had cult like beginnings with sequels of varying success living up to the original.  I signed up for our first iProj weeks after the Group had our very first meeting in 2007.  It was a simpler time when our Crew was only a handful of Rover Scouts and one Head Advisor. Too many stories to recount and many of them, unfortunately, not appropriate for this blog post. We were young and dumb—and I would not had it any other way.

4. Cooking in Xian: iProj III China 2012

If you can’t take the heat…

In my last iProj as a Rover Scout before becoming a Rover Advisor, I was tasked with my good friend and fellow Rover Scout Jeremy Tam to prepare a meal for orphans in Xian, China. As accomplished home chefs, we thought this would be a fun and easy job. When we got into the kitchen, it was a whole other story. The wok was a huge, ancient cauldron looking thing that ran on coals and there was equipment our grandparents would have trouble remembering how to use. Our cultural ignorance almost set the whole kitchen on fire at one point, as we completely lost control of a grease fire. Thankfully, the wise old man who ran the facility saved the day. It was a huge lesson in humility for Jeremy and I, and it goes to show that asking for help and working well with others go a long way.

There is a saying in our Rover Crew that if someone “burned the pancakes”, it’s your duty as a Scout Leader to let them know what they did wrong and not just pat them on the back. Well, I can tell you any time we talk about my cooking, I am reminded that not only did I burnt pancakes that day, I nearly burnt down a whole orphanage!

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Jeremy and I in the kitchen

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The Contingent exploring the streets of China

 

Aside from the disastrous cooking experience, I also got the chance to help with this:

3. Island Hopping: iProj II The Philippines 2009-10

Work hard, play harder

iProj is not a subsidized vacation. It is a long, hard, 2-3 week team building and service endeavour. But that’s not to say we did not take the time to enjoy ourselves.  After presenting in hot and humid schools and community centres around Davao City, we spent some R & R (Rest and Relaxation) time exploring the beauty of the Philippines and surrounding islands.

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Below is a short video of an adventurous Scouter by the name of Brandon who took the opportunity to taste the local vegetation.

2) Late Night Tacos: iProj IV Mexico 2014

Wanna taco bout it?

Sometimes a sequel convinces the most ardent die-hards that perhaps things have changed for the better. Think The Dark Night or Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. iProj IV: Mexico 2014 was one of our most complete trips as we accomplished multiple community service projects, teamed with another Rover Crew across the country, and bonded closely with fellow Scouters from Mexico. We even made it on Google Street View (see here). Although we stayed at an all-inclusive hotel, our team was working day and night, late into the night at that. Technology had advanced so much since the first trip, our external communications team was working 15 hours a day to keep our website and social media updated while also putting in an honest days work.

I think I can speak for our whole team when I say it was very comforting knowing that if you ever have late night munchies, a team of dedicated chefs would be waiting for you with an assortment of goodies.

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1. Mount Fuji: iProj China/Japan 2008

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” – Yoda, from Star Wars

In my opinion, the 180th Pacific Coast Rover Crew did not really start until we got on top of this mountain, together. As I hacked and wheezed to the ninth station, at around 1 AM in a thunderstorm, two of my now fellow Rover Advisors, urged me on to continue to the top. It could have been my lack of hiking experience, or the fact that a few of us snuck out the night before after lights out to explore Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, but my legs were feeling like jello and all I wanted to do was take a nap on a large piece of volcanic rock. But they never gave up on me, even when I had already given up on myself.  As the sun rose above us, we ultimately prevailed to the top of Mount Fuji, and it was nothing short of glorious.

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The “2008 Paul” at the top of Mount Fuji

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The Contingent holding the Scouts Canada flag at the top of Mount Fuji

There are few moments in my life that I can say changed me. This leap of blind faith in a group of new friends (and now, old friends) taught me more about who I am and what is important in life than anything I have ever experience before. It also became a catalyst for the largest Rover Crew in Canada, if not, the world. That is why Mount Fuji is my number one iProj moment.

As we are getting closer to embarking on our journey to Malaysia and Singapore, I look forward to the challenges await us and the opportunities to create stronger bonds with the Contingent.  Hopefully this can also inspire members of the 180th Pacific Coast Scout Group to consider attending an International Service Project in the near future. But for now, please continue to follow us on our journey when we depart for Malaysia and Singapore at http://pccrovers.com/iproj2015.

Cheryl Kwan

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