Among the more than 20,000 scouts who attended the 2003 World Scout Jamboree in Thailand this past winter, few traveled further than Soldotna's Jon Buchholz, 17, and Nikiski's Stephen Noble, 16.
The two area scouts were among a contingent of 1,800 boys and girls from the United States who attended the 20th annual jamboree. For more than two weeks, they spent time camping, hiking, working and playing with scouts from more than 150 countries worldwide. Both said Wednesday that the once-in-a-lifetime experience was something they'll never forget.
"Everyone that was there was just there to have fun," Noble said.
Buchholz said he was most impressed with the fact that so many scouts from a plethora of backgrounds and cultures could come together for an event as large as the jamboree.
"A large number of people from so many countries could coexist and get along really well," he said. "It was amazing."
Also traveling to Thailand for the event was Kenai's Dr. Pete Hanson, who has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for most of his life and traveled to the 2003 event to serve as a physician.
He said his job wasn't too tough, although as one of only two American doctors serving 1,800 kids, he saw a few bumps and bruises.
"Our job was to, if someone got hurt, communicate with the parents back home," he said. "Kids would end up in the hospital, and I'd be checking on them every day."
Hanson said most injuries weren't severe, most coming in the form of sunburn and broken bones.
That's not to say there weren't chances for scouts to get hurt. Noble said he got into a bit of trouble once when his hiking group took a wrong turn in the Thai wilderness.
"We got to the top of a mountain and took the wrong trail down," he said. "All the sudden, we were out in nowhere."
That trip ended safely, however, when the group managed to reach a village and call for help.
In addition to exploring the Thai countryside, the scouts spent time on numerous cultural and social activities. And in true scouting tradition, one day was set aside for the scouts to work on community projects.
Buchholz, who spent his service day pouring concrete for a new recreation center, said that part of the trip was one of his most fulfilling.
"We always try to leave places better than before," he said.
Community service is nothing new for the two peninsula scouts. Buchholz already has received his Eagle Scout award, while Noble has completed all the work for his badge and is now waiting for it to become official.
For his Eagle Scout project, Noble painted the Nikiski ice rink, while Buchholz created a patient quiet area behind Central Peninsula General Hospital.
Dr. Hanson said the scouting experience is designed to be fun, educational and provide scouts with a strong ethical and moral background. The beauty of a world jamboree, he said, is that young people from around the world have the opportunity to see how similar their values really are.
"The scout oath is almost the same in all the countries in the world," he said. "That's important."
As for attending future jamborees, all three participants in the 2003 event said they'll likely return to future events. Hanson said he'll continue to recruit local scouts for the event, and Buchholz said he'll likely return to another event in the future.
As for Noble, he's already making plans for the 2004 World Jamboree.
"I'm already planning on going to the next one in England," he said.
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