A Centerville lad’s summer experience half a world away from home turned out differently from what he expected when record heat changed the plan.

Quentin Turner, the 14-year-old son of Kelly and Karen Turner and a freshman at Centerville Sr. High School, attended the 25th World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum, South Korea. A member of Scout Troop 16 in Centerville, he spent about two weeks with a thousand other Scouts from the United States. The jamboree is held every four years. Some 43,000 Scouts of the World Organization of Scouting Movement attended this one.

The jamboree is normally about two weeks long, and this one should have been from Aug. 1-12. However, weather and associated health issues forced cancellation of this one after five days. South Korea, like much of the world, is experiencing record heat. The U.S. delegation left the jamboree site on the fourth day after evidence of unsanitary drinking water and dysentery. The following day, under threat from a typhoon, the World Scouting Movement canceled the event.

The U.S. group spent the rest of the trip at the nearby U.S Army Garrison Humphreys where, Quentin said, they stayed in a middle school.

“I had a good time overall. It was not what I signed up for. My favorite part was meeting people. I’m usually more of an introvert but this changed my perspective,” he said.

At the jamboree, troops of about 40 scouts and adult leaders camp next to troops from other parts of the world. Troops from Italy, Switzerland and Belgium bordered Quentin’s campsite. 

“There was only a rope between the camps,” Quentin said. “We could just walk across it.”

Roaming the huge jamboree site, Quentin met young people from all over, including walking and talking with a scout from Mexico for about six hours.

“Most people that we met spoke English pretty well. But especially for some of the Koreans, we had to pull out a translator,” he said, explaining that he let them type on his cellphone, which then translated the words into English.

“Almost everybody asked me about guns,” he said. “They wanted to know if I’d ever been in a school shooting. They thought everybody here carried guns.”

A favorite jamboree activity is trading scout insignia and uniform parts, he said. Each country’s delegation brought unique patches, neckerchiefs and T-shirts. Quentin came home with scout T-shirts from the Netherlands and Italy but was disappointed that he didn’t get one from Papua New Guinea, considered especially desirable because of its scarcity.

The program also included activities such as paragliding, archery, fire making and knot tying. An arena show featured Korean entertainers, including some K-pop groups. Quentin didn’t know any of them.

Quentin also sampled many foods he’d never had. He remembers a sauce from Italy that was supposed to be really hot, but wasn’t. He also learned to make sushi with rice and uncooked fish, which he liked, and a Korean specialty, kimchi, featuring fermented cabbage, which he didn’t like.

Before arriving at the jamboree, the U.S. delegation toured some of South Korea, where he sampled other kinds of food. He recalled a drink called Pocari Sweat, which he characterized as “a really bad version of Gatorade.” He also sampled Milkies, a carbonated milk. “Everybody else liked it but I didn’t.”

Especially memorable for him was hiking a few miles to visit the Seoul Tower, which is similar to the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.

“It was definitely cool. There is a candy shop at the top,” he said, noting that Korean Skittles are chewier than those in the U.S.

Quentin recalled shrines and temples with curved sides sheltering giant statues of Buddha.

A memorial to the Korean War included plaque after plaque with the names of soldiers who died in that conflict. By far the most were from U.S. forces, he said.

Traveling, which included 14-hour flights from the U.S. to Korea and back, was exhausting, Quentin said. But he’d like to do more international travel, especially to visit a friend from the United Kingdom.

“I’ve got a bunch of people on Snapchat and talk to them often,” he said.

Quentin earned most of the $6,000 jamboree fee by selling scout popcorn. A scout since joining Cub Scout Pack 94 in first grade, he accumulated about $5,300 in popcorn earnings over several years. He found that telling people they would be supporting his dream to attend the World Jamboree encouraged them to buy popcorn from them.

Asked what he would tell other scouts about the jamboree, he said, “I would tell them that whatever they are thinking about why they shouldn’t go, forget about that. It’s a life-changing experience. It’s a lot of hard work to get to go but is definitely worth it.”

Local scouts also attended National Jamboree

At least three scouts and two adult leaders from Wayne County attended the 20th U.S. National Jamboree. Held from July 19-28 at Summit Bechtel Reserve, a scout adventure base in West Virginia, the National Jamboree attracted more than 15,000 scouts, mostly from the U.S. It is modeled after the World Jamboree but is held separately.

Attending from Wayne County were Matthew Laster and Andrew Laster, both of Greens Fork and members of Centerville Troop 16, and Desmond Bex from Cambridge City, a scout in Troop 3 at Hagerstown.

Scott Laster served as an assistant scoutmaster for his sons’ troop. Matthew Fisher of Richmond served as a volunteer on the jamboree service team. 

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A version of this article appeared in the September 6 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.