[Let’s talk about iProj] Scouter Paul Goes to Japan

For our Let’s talk about iProj, we sat down with Paul Leung; a 180th Pacific Coast Scout Group Scouter and an important player since our crew’s early days. Paul shares his experiences from the very first International Service Project in China, and Japan, and how the bond that was made between the crew’s first handful of Rovers set the foundation for a decade of Scouting memories.

Brian: Hey Paul! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your stories. So jumping right into it,  when you think about iProj (and I know you’ve done a couple), is there one trip in particular that sticks out as special, or have you had any really defining moments on one of the trips?

Paul: Hey Brian. To answer your question, for me the first trip was a really memorable one. When we first started iProj, it was kind of this crazy idea. From what I remember, John basically asked us (rovers in the group at that time), ‘What do you guys want to do in this crew?’. Kevin Li, our president at the time basically put out the idea of going on a trip. We were all in our early twenties, and a lot of us hadn’t traveled a lot. There’s this idea, and I think it’s still a prominent idea today that traveling really brings people together. Whether you are on a trip with friends, or with family, it’s a real team bonding experience. We realized was that because the global scouting movement is so big, no matter where we went there would be some sort of connection through scouting. Thinking back, i’d say we have actually been really lucky. Through scouting we met really great people and have been able to do very meaningful things during our iProj trips. When I think of the meaning of iproj overall, especially on the very first one, it’s really the genesis of our crews bond that has kept us going for a decade now.

When I went on that very first trip, I had been in the group for less than a year, I didn’t have a strong scouting background, and I really didn’t know anybody too well. I was literally remembering names on that first trip. Being the first trip of its kind for our crew, we had no idea of whether it would go well, or not. Fortunately for us, we made it through, and it brought us to where we are today as a crew.

Brian: And like you mentioned, it’s kind of the genesis of our group, since a lot of the people that went on the trip, are the people who laid the foundation for our crew today.

Paul: It’s really that experience. Like, whoever was there, even those who aren’t with us today, we have that bond right?, Again, this bond is what kind of helped our crew survive for the next couple of years down the road. You build that bond the first time, and it’s so strong; moving forward we could weather a lot more together.

Brian: Now going back to the first proj to China & Japan, can you think of any specific stories of things that brought you together

Paul: Yeah! So there’s a couple things I can think of; First off, we participated in a big conference, with other scouting groups from the area. At that time, we had a few songs in our back pocket, but we never really practiced anything together. Now you guys probably have 20 meetings or something right? Back then, during that first iProj, we only had one meeting before leaving to China. We really had zero expectations going in, but we knew we were going to these countries representing Canada to some extent, and definitely Scouting in Canada. 

Arriving there, we saw other groups doing foot drills and performances, and we started stressing out since we really didn’t plan anything. As a group of people that didn’t know each other too well, that was really the first time we had to work as a team. A really funny memory was our foot drill practice. Since we didn’t want to be too disruptive, we were practicing foot drills in the lobby of the hotel, you know like by the elevator. We practiced our scout songs in our rooms (and I didn’t even know any scout songs!) A few of the things that we created as a group on the first Iproj are still things that are done today.

Brian: Yeah! I think it’s really cool that it was through these trips, by bonding as a team, and by observing other groups that the crew really evolved, and came together as a team.

Paul: Yeah, and you’d see how close the other scout groups were. You know, these are people that have been around since they were little kids. It was really during these exchanges that we would witness the close bond and support that our group at the time was striving for.

My final story comes at the very end of our trip, when we hiked up Mount Fuji. By then we had already bonded and were pretty close friends. First of all, I had never done a full blown hike before. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought we were taking a tram or something. Everyone was wearing long pants, meanwhile I was there wearing shorts and a thin dollar store poncho. I was not prepared at all. On top of that, the night before, a couple of us went out to explore this district in Shinjuku, which I guess was okay at that time. We went for some food, and afterwards played these games where you could win dolls and stuff—dolls that we later gave to some of the girls accompanying us.

Anyways, we traveled all day the next day, not arriving to the basecamp of the mountain until 7pm. I was super tired, and that’s when they announced that we’d be hiking for 6 hours. It was raining, and we even had cans of oxygen that we could bring up. Usually people hike midway, sleep in at the 8th station, and carry on the next day. We did it all in one shot. By that 8th station, my legs were shot, the elevation and the fatigue were killing me. Once at the 9th station, the last one before the summit, the sun was rising and I didn’t think I would make it. Brandon took my backpack, while Sofe and Lester walked step by step with me, even stopping when I was out of breath. Now, I had just met these people two weeks before, and we’d just been on a crazy adventure leading up to this point. On my way to the top, I had to push beyond what I thought was possible for myself. Sometimes you just need people to believe in you, and to stick by your side. They kept me going, even when I no longer believed that I could do it. So we got to the top and saw the sunrise.



Brian: Going into this first trip, were you expecting anything like this?

Paul: You know, this is the philosophy I had going into the crew, and I always tell new rovers this: Just join, and get involved! For better or  worse, in the activities that you have done, there’s always something to learn from it, and you will always get to know a person or two. For iproj, I was just told that there was a trip to China and Japan. I didn’t even question it. John being my mentor, I was really close, and I decided that I was just going to try things out. By participating and getting to know some of them, I knew they were a good group of people. I just hoped to find guidance for my future career, and make some friends. Just like many new rovers even today! So I guess I jumped into things without having many expectations. I guess I was lucky that a lot of the things I jumped into turned out to be really good experiences for me. It was also the first one, so they had nothing to sell, nothing to base on. So in terms of expecting the kinds of experiences I had, that we had, no, it was totally new and unexpected.

Brian: Yeah! And by now, going on the crews 6th iProj, we’ve maybe not perfected, but definitely polished our craft. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us!

Paul: No problem! 

Be sure to tune in weekly for more iProj highlights from your favourite 180th Rovers and Scouters! Interested in knowing more about iProj? Here’s a solid summary of Scouter Paul’s Top 5 moments during all of the international service projects! 

Also, be sure to check out our home page to get a sneak peak at all the cool things that we have in store for our 10th year celebration! 

Brian Asin

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