It's probably worth pointing out that Belgian (and Dutch) woods are relatively safe: it would be difficult to get truly lost. The wooded areas are never more than a few km from civilization. I wonder if there is a spot that is more than 10 km from the nearest road/house/suburb. Also, there are (almost?) no acutely dangerous animals. The only thing we were watching out for were wild boar, but there weren't that many of those around back in the 80's/90's. These days there may be more wildlife to watch out for.
When we went on a 'dropping', there were no cell phones nor gps receivers. Just 'stafkaarten' (topographic maps) and a compass. It's easy now ;)
There were always incidents like cases of hyperthermia, being chased by wild pig, running into things blindly etc. But the 1000's of kids partaking always ended up ok at the end.
From who? Wow. I can’t read the article because I used up my free, so I don’t know if this is mentioned, but ee sounds paramilitary, and not just orienteering skill. What is the reason behind this?
The above blurb does it poor justice though. Imagine a boy-led troop with around 60 scouts on a camp out and nearly zero adult involvement outside of transportation. We had a leadership group of boys in highschool (usually 16 & 17 year olds) and they performed the roll of sentries (~6 boys) and they had flashlights. These represented sniper rifles. Each sentry got one shot (straight line...they can't wave it around) before having to loudly count to 10 representing reload time. I'm from the American south where hunting is big, so it wasn't uncommon for full on camoflauge from nearly all participants...even those rediculous suits you see snipers wear in movies. There is one hidden individual making a quite noise every 20 seconds or so (you'd have to be pretty close to hear it). There are two teams and each scout (X or O team) tries to sneak their paper message (X or O on it) to the hidden individual if they can find them. At the end of the game, the team with the most messages wins.
This is always at night and very dark in pretty thick woods. Running is absolutely forbidden as so many scouts have twisted ankles or even broken collar bones by running at night. If you get "shot" by a sentry, you have to go back to base to get another message (like respawning) and I think there is a wait period. If someone in your group finds the hidden agent, they'll naturally want to get the word out to all their fellow group without letting the other team notice, but it can sometimes be difficult. A fascinating and super fun game. In all the years I played as a non-sentry, I only found the hidden agent on my own a few times and with help a few more times. There were games when I never even found him and had to ask afterwards and was blown away by the location sometimes (inside a thorn thicket wth). It was always an amazing experience though. We played on a very large area too depending on forest density. The thicker the foliage, the smaller the need for additional area. Keep in mind that this is a pretty dangerous game from an injury frequency perspective. I'd also recommend the buddy system is used to prevent someone from getting injured and lost (think unconscious). I'd also only recommend playing in areas with no predatory animals (I wouldn't play this in New Mexico where bears and cougars exist).
We had midnight droppings during the week-long school outings as well. It's been a long time, but I think a teacher would indeed stay back 50m to observe but not intervene.
So much fun. I don't think I ever heard anything about parents having issues with it.
This is actually an extremely safe thing, nothing much can go wrong. Some supporting facts:
Our entire country (The Netherlands) measures roughly 161mi by 93mi and is densely populated. There's always a dwelling nearby. Consequently it's impossible to get really lost.
We also have no natural dangers to speak of, no deadly animals, no dangerous terrain, no raging rivers (we don't have mountains).
I haven't heard It being done for a while now, is it still a thing in this time of fear and smartphones?
TBH last time we did one each group just had one adult with them, they'd just stay silent the whole time and follow along. So it was a bit boring. But we did that because we only had a few people and one car, and couldn't keep track of the whereabouts of the groups otherwise.
Except for the eikenprocessierupsen
This particular caterpillar has seen explosionary growth and when it sheds its copious hairs, they cause extreme irritation.
You aren't really lost until you aren't in the country you thought you were in. Its possible to lose yourself to Greece say, without crossing a hard border. So the area to get lost in is quite a bit bigger.
Really? Just over the border? I would have thought cross pollination over the years would have rendered housing styles identical. Plus aren't there streets where one half is Dutch, the other half Belgian?
Edit: Like here for example
A lot of things don't cross-pollinate because they are decided on a national level. So things like the style of signage, traffic lights and other 'street furniture' are all different. Germany also still uses a lot of above-ground cabling which is another instantly obvious difference. Building codes are probably different too, which affects how buildings look.
It's not just the country, it's the people too. Living in a city near the German border we get a lot of people from Germany shopping on weekends. Often you can spot the Germans simply by how they are dressed, especially older people. I can't really put my finger on what is different (as an IT guy I'm kind of oblivious to fashion) but there must be some subtle differences as even I subconsciously pick it up.
> Plus aren't there streets where one half is Dutch, the other half Belgian?
It's even easier to spot when you're crossed the border into Belgium, if you suddenly feel like you're driving off-road you're in Belgium.
Baarle-Hertog is indeed a bit of an exception to this rule, but generally you can see it quite clearly.
Woah, you forgot about the Vaalserberg?
On the other hand, we do (technically) have mountains, as Saba has Mount Scenery (887m) and Sint Eustatius has The Quill ( 601m)...
I didn't think this had been officially metricised (metricated?), I was wrong.
Anyway, found an interesting related article.
One time the organizers, seeking to spice up the proceedings, had planned a mock-kidnapping. One of the kids (who was in on the joke) disappeared during the hike and soon enough we received something of a ransom note. Kids excited, kids crying. At the climax one of the organizers jumped out of the bushes with a nylon stocking over his head. The biggest and strongest kid in the group (who if memory serves me went on to become a bouncer at a local pub) hit him on the head with his flashlight, almost knocking the guy out. Good times indeed.
Of course nowadays the school would get sued into bankruptcy by angry parents for a stunt like that. :-)
I've always enjoyed "droppings" as they are called. There were no cell phones when I did it as a kid..I can't remember if we had a compass or not..
Oh and its not exclusive for scouting, it's also done on birthdays, I guess it happens more in places where there are woods nearby, so more towards Germany and Belgium.
Hoge Veluwe, one of the few things I miss from my home town. Such a great place to hang out as a kid.
AFAIK this is surprisingly difficult, many (most? all?) people end up walking in circles when placed in a forest without any clues for orientation.
Edit: Some random sources: https://www.livescience.com/33431-why-humans-walk-circles.ht..., https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2009/08/why-we-walk-circles, https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(09)...
"participants repeatedly walked in circles when they could not see the sun ... participants walked in often surprisingly small circles (diameter < 20 m), though rarely in a systematic direction"
Nobody said that that you can get lost in a Dutch forest forever, but I can totally believe that you might not immediately find out if you're dropped in the wrong spot in the middle of the night. After daybreak you'll be out in no time.
Boars definitely attack people in the US, and the wounds can be bad to the lower body and gut. Lots of blood loss isn't uncommon.
But groups of kids on a dropping are very noisy, they don't get to see any.
They are, if you run into them and they feel threatened (especially mothers with babes). But it's super rare to run into them, as they avoid people. A group of teens out at night staying quiet enough to stumble across one seems infinitesimally small. Which is probably why I don't ever remember ever hearing of anyone attacked by boars...
There are people who like to travel to the true wilderness, like Australia or Canada or backpacking in Scotland, but I don't see any connection to the density of our country.
And being anxious in true wilderness, well, it really is dangerous, right? :) So you should be anxious. But in this context, I can imagine we do like safety. When traveling through Australia, always stay on the road for example. Going into the desert off-road is a big no-no to us.
I'm much more dubious about giving them GPS. It's a lot of fun figuring out where you are on a map and GPS takes that fun away.
I recently read Dinner of Herbs and Going to the Wars, two books by a fellow who was a British commando in the Second World War who was captured by the Italians, escaped and had to make his way across country, living off the land and thanks to the kindness of local peasants.
One of the things which really struck me was the mettle he & his comrades showed. I don’t know how many folks nowadays would have the same character — but I think young Stĳn has a better chance than most. AS do probably many other Dutch kids.
Somewhat confusingly there is another book called Dinner of Herbs by Carla Grissman which is also a travelogue describing close contact with 'peasants', but this time in Anatolia in the 60s. It also looks good.
(There's even another book with the same title, but it's a fiction novel by Catherine Cookson).
Edit: I've just found that the title is a reference to Proverbs 15:17, ‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than feasting on a fattened ox where hatred also dwells’, which explains its multiple use.
I hope they still do it but I guess they don't.
He thought it was great, but Palo Alto being Palo Alto that was the only week that particular camp operated. Sadly.
Your father's story sounds about right. We were led through the woods (in the middle of the night, after the "tap out" ceremony, with no flashlights) all the way around to the other side of the lake at our summer camp and that's where we spent the night. I think we were given a light blanket to sleep on/with but I might be wrong. The next morning we were "picked up" and began the physical work part. The entire "Ordeal" lasted ~24 hours -- during which you were not allowed to speak.
Honestly, it's a lot scarier than it sounds. I grew up out in the country and spent a lot of free time as a kid out in the woods so that was no big deal to me (later, I participated -- as "Kichkinet" -- in other initiation ceremonies). Many of the "city kids", though, did not sleep a wink that night.
I've still got my "Brotherhood" sash somewhere around here. Around the time I received that, I "discovered girls" and my time in the Boy Scouts quickly came to an end.
Yes, you are not allowed to speak during the labor part. I remember this vividly also as we were assembling large teepees as our given task (~20ft in height) and we were very briefly given a rare exception of being allowed to speak if there was some imminent danger of the teepee falling over and injuring someone.
What they fed me in terms of food was honestly pretty gross. IIRC I didn’t get any lunch and only got basically a nasty green hard boiled egg plus a tiny mandarin orange for breakfast. by the time you’re allowed to talk again when the ordeal is over there is a feast shortly thereafter though.
The “brotherhood” second stage ordeal is actually a whole lot easier, it basically involves a night ceremony with a lot of rituals and a handwritten letter to your local “lodge” if I am remembering things correctly.
The Masons too fictionalized the story of Solomon’s Temple.
I think the OA could do worse than to hire Gaiman or similar to produce them a ritual set with historic resonance and good meter.
At our yearly JOTA-JOTI event we up the ante by going 'hunting' for the kids by cars or bike so they try to not get spotted by the leaders until they reach the main camp site.
For Dutch scouts here: http://www.hikeandseek.nl/ is super awesome (but typically fully booked).
One older scout even crafted a piece of equipment he instructed the newbie to take with him to ask for a replacement part.
... so these kids are more at risk of being kidnapped than they are of getting lost.
I’ll admit that I think it’s a bit weird to make kids walk home in the night, but the author does a terrible job of making it sound suspenseful. This activity has gotten a lot safer since GPS became widespread. I kind of feel bad for anyone that went through this in the 80’s, they might have actually gotten lost and had to knock on a farmer’s door for directions.
We were at the Zoo with friends from the US and one of their small kids was out of sight for minute at the very large playground.
My first thought: Will show up, but is there any water nearby? Their thought: he's kidnapped!
(kid did show up few seconds later)
I guess you're far more likely to drown than to get kidnapped in The Netherlands... (Most children learn to swim before they are 6 years old here)
Droppings were really cool by the way and in the eighties when I grew up we only got a compass or nothing at all (no gps or cell phone). I was no boy scout, it also happens at school trips and birthdays.
I'm pretty sure the US had the same attitude when I was growing up; I know I spent the bulk of my summer days roving the neighborhood. It's weird to me how much that has changed. Especially given that kids can be constantly tracked and contacted via cellphones, you'd think that they'd be roving farther!
In the 80s we were sent out to knock on farmer's doors to ask for a place to sleep, and we did it just over the German border so we had to ask in a foreign language too. I actually want to reintroduce that (but farms have fewer places fit for a few sleeping bags).
The fact they are in groups makes it super safe anyway.
i then adopted the idea for trips on my own travelling through europe. but instead of knocking on any door i'd search for local scout groups and ask them.
Keep in mind that they're 12+ and travelling in groups of 10 to 20 kids. Kidnapping a group that big is...not easy :)
I have fond memories of those nights.
As it was often at freezing and sometimes snowing, we had to build warm shelter (fast), start a fire, dig a latrine, find water, and get a meal prepped before dark on the first day and basically survive the cold with everything we knew. Our shelter had to be weather resistant, warm and sustainable enough to make it a couple of nights.
Boys below a certain age and rank weren't allowed to participate as it was simply too dangerous. Night temperatures often went far below freezing and I remember waking up with my camp mates to see who's shelter had fallen in under the snow, and who had the most leaves stuffed into their sleeping bag for warmth -- despite that we'd all not be able to feel our feet for a few hours until we got moving. It was an amazing lesson in how the body's survival mechanisms work.
We had two adult chaperones along who "glamped" in full gear and were available for emergencies. More than once boys had to leave early due to the cold, or a shelter falling in on them or simply giving up and throwing in the towel.
This was all way before cell phones were common. At the end we'd have to break camp, clean it up as if we had never been there (leave no trace), hike and landnav our way back out of the woods with a rough map and directional reckoning using nature (no compass!) where we'd be treated to a hot meal, a hot shower (in that order) and an immediate blow-by-blow of what went right, what went wrong and awards were given out for exceptionalism in various facets of the camping arts. Most boys also earned various scouting badges and things during the event just by way of making it the entire way.
I didn't care much for the Boyscouts, but I eagerly looked forward to that activity the years that I could do it.
I'm pretty sure we were all secretly being trained for a Red Dawn scenario. The in-joke in my troop was that the Scouts were America's premier youth paramilitary organization.
... That's not terribly inaccurate, actually. Baden-Powell was influenced by his experiences in the Siege of Mafeking, where boys of that age were organized in effectively a military unit, albeit a noncombat unit that was operating closer to a civil defense role. There's a heavy military context to scouting, and it shouldn't be surprising that a lot of scouts go on to join the military or that a lot of military brats end up joining scouting.
US scouts are always shepherded around by adults. In Germany you see them moving around autonomously.
I did droppings many times as a kid. Never did I feel unsafe. We did walk quite far. I remember it was 4 hours, we walked next to a highway for quite a while once. Since I was a kid, I have no clue whether we actually walked 4 hours.
In my experience it was somewhat less dramatic than described in the article (I wasn’t left alone more than a half hour hike from camp and the few times I did it I never let the “victims” out of sight). It seems like these teens from the article are expected to put in a good few hours hike before getting back to a certain location. It was still a similarly formative and fun experience for me, especially because I got to do it with a couple other kids my age.
The excuse was that it was training "orienteering." But really it was just fun.
If I ever have kids, I'll drive them off a thousand kilometers or two. A measly forest next door is no challenge.
It is suprisingly easy to travel without money nowadays. But it takes some communication with the world, and children must learn that. I'm of opinion that hitch-hiking is one of the most effective solutions.
So, make them travel 2Kkm in a weekend, repeat that some times.. like we had back then. There even were sports - competitions over 3-4-8K km distances.
Without maps, you'll still need some knowledge of how to use the thing. Yeah, not as difficult as a compass and topo map alone, but also not as easy as Google Maps.