August 8, 2011

Memories of SOAR 1998

There are certain events in one's life that stick with them like super glue throughout all of their days. Sometimes an event is momentary - your first kiss, the instant your newborn child cries for the first time - other are longer, spanning days, weeks or even whole months at a time. While not as momentous as, say, my wedding day, one event that had a profound impact on my life was SOAR 1998.

For those who haven't heard of the Girl Guides of Canada SOAR (which stands for Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous) camps before, they're large week long camps for both Canadian and international Guiding members that are held in various lovely locations throughout the province of British Columbia.

As with many big camps - even national level ones - that carry hefty price tags, preparing for SOAR took several months of creative, dedicated fundraising and more than a little elbow grease. We did bottle drive after bottle drive, hosted event nights for friends and family, worked at the local Christmas craft fair, anything and everything we could think of to help us reach the funding we needed to attend SOAR 1998.

It was close in the end - I still remember standing in a local park near the beach in my hometown while one of my Guiders stressed to parents how important it was that contribute whatever they could to help send their daughters to this wonderful camp.

She was right, it was wonderful - in more ways than I could have ever imagined as I trudged through the snow in early spring to sell cookies for a camp that would take place under the sizzling hot July sun.

I'd been to many of Girl Guide camps before my feet hit the long, dusty path that wound through thick Vancouver Island brush to reach the SOAR '98 campsite. Some had been overnight, others for a weekend or three days - but this camp, at a week long - was not only my biggest camp to date, it was also going to be the longest I'd ever spent away from home and my family.

It would take a lifetime for me to explain the dynamics of my home life when I was growing up, but sufficient to say, it wasn't exactly a bed of roses. Freedom was as obtainable to me as a child as the sea is to a person standing smack dab in the middle of the Sahara desert, so you can imagine my elation at being hundreds of miles away from home, just my close Pathfinder friends (and our two Guiders) and I setting up tents, cooking three hearty meals a day, learning new skills and having a ball.

SOAR '98 was many things, one of the most memorable of which was hot, hot, hot! In fact, though I do recall at least one drizzly day, this camp earned the nickname "Sear" because of it's constant warm temps and gorgeous sunshine.

Under that toasty summer light I paddled a canoe, hiked up a mountain, bicycled for 40 kilometers (my legs felt like aching Jell-o after that!), paddled canoes, made my first (and subsequently second) dream catcher, learned about the eco system of Sooke (where the camp was located), greatly enjoyed a day trip into Victoria, and swapped with anyone and everyone I came in contact with during the whole week (but that, I think, is another post unto itself).

Over the week my summer tan darkened, I slept beneath the diamond-esque stars, took a shower under a bag of water with a hole poked in it. I spent my own money on souvenirs without having to ask my parents for permission to do so (or doing so in secret, which would have been more probable by that age).

I bonded even more deeply with the other Pathfinders in my unit (two of whom, Karen an Anne, were my best friends at the time), stood my ground during an argument that arose one evening during meal prep, sent postcards home to my siblings, took walks around camp on my own and felt, perhaps for the first real time in my young life, like I could sense what adulthood was going to be like.

Of all the things to take away from a week long summer camp, that may seem like an odd one, but it was so immensely poignant in shaping many of the life altering decisions I would make in the coming years.

Though sadly, I do not have any photos from that camp (and the only patches from it currently in my collection are ones I've bought online in recent years), the memories of those summer days spent on Vancouver Island, camping with around 2,000 other Guiding sisters, learning new skills (both Guiding and life related) and growing as a person will remain vivid in my memory for the rest of time.

While '98 remains the only SOAR I've ever attended, with the recent occurrence of SOAR 2011, I couldn't help but pause to reflect back, with a wave of nostalgia and immense fondness, at that amazing week I spent under the golden Sooke sun and the many, many important lessons I learned from my time at such an exceellent Guide camp.

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