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by bryan wendell photogr a phs by randy pil and

I’M BAREFOOT AND 5,000 MILES from home. I’m surrounded by a group of strangers speaking lan- guages I don’t understand. The light is fading—at 9:30 p.m. Bizarre. But one thing I’m sure of: I’m having the time of my life.

A thought hits me during an impromptu volleyball

game with Scouts from at least eight different coun- tries. Here is one of the few events where a moment like this could take place. Different colors of skin—and uniforms—only make the experience that much sweeter. (The lingonberries help, too.) My mind snaps back into the game just as a wiry,

mustached Pakistani Scout from the opposing team dives to his left and thumps the ball into the air. His pass wobbles toward a shaggy-haired French Scout, who smoothly sends the ball skyward in the direction of a British teammate. The Brit’s spike sails over my head and lands … six feet out of bounds. My side wins the point. But the victory hardly

matters. Both teams share encouraging words and high-fives as an American Scout chases the errant ball. “Join us,” someone calls out, waving to a young Swedish woman who’s been standing near our court. She kicks off her sandals and joins the game, saying “Hej” to her new friends before taking a spot opposite me. We’re Scouts and Scouters, after all, and this

contest—this whole 22nd World Scout Jamboree, really—isn’t about winning or losing or keeping score. Sure, we proudly wear our nation’s colors on our uniforms. But for these two weeks, we’re united under Scouting’s common banner. From 150 different countries we’ve come to this

flat, grassy, 550-acre farmland in southern Sweden to celebrate diversity, build friendships, and change the world “with a small step forward”—a quote from the jamboree’s official song. Organizers say this version of the quadrennial event is the largest ever: 40,000 participants and staff. Despite its size, though, the whole thing feels like a big family reunion. By the end of the first full day, I’ve made friends from places I only dreamed of visiting: Iceland,

Seen from high above or enjoyed at ground level, the 2011 World Scout Jamboree is a kaleidoscope of colors. Everywhere you look, Scouts wave flags, show off traditional dances, and proudly display cultural attire. Even the arrangement of troops promotes diversity; an aerial view of the site shows how organizers intentionally avoided placing troops near their compatriots. Troop 70210 from Texas, for ex- ample, camps at least 600 feet from the nearest Americans. Instead, they share a border with Great Britain, Iceland, and Switzerland.

South Korea, Egypt, Denmark. And Ohio, which is home to Justin Sayre, the Scoutmaster of Troop 279 in Reynoldsburg. Like me, Sayre didn’t know what to expect before

he arrived. “I was nervous, as I’m sure many were,” he says. “The sometimes-negative views of America throughout the world concerned me at first. But those fears were quickly put aside. Scouting has a unique ability to cross those cultural and political barriers and allow the participants the camaraderie we all share.” That camaraderie reaches well beyond the dimen-


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