Sunday, 2 November 2014

Blue Lagoon and Learning

We are all safely home, back to reality.  

Apart from one bag being put on a different flight, the return journey was smooth.  The errant bag should be delivered later today, so fear not.  

Yesterday morning, we bundled everything into our bags.  The lovely people at the youth hostel let us stay in our rooms a little bit longer so that we could have a bit more time to pack up our things. Our keycards timed-out at 10am, which was perplexing, but once reception had re-booted them, we could get back into our rooms.

One of things we have learnt about on this trip, is how to find a solution for something before it becomes a problem.  Also, not worrying about things and trying not to catastrophise (i.e. think worse-case scenario) are useful things to learn to do.  There are certain times when catastrophising is necessary, such as when writing a risk assessment, or when doing something which presents considerable risk.  However, when someone is locked in the toilet, saying 'what if she's stuck in there forever?!' is not helpful, as she will not be.  (There is a recurring theme here - read this is you have time)

Also, these days so many people are consumed with worry.  Yes, there are things which we need to channel energy into, but often, worry is needless.  Material things, like boarding passes, can be replaced.  Lost luggage is often found; if it's not, this epitomises one of the many reasons to have travel insurance.  

The trusty Yorik drove us in a coach to the Blue Lagoon.  This is a major attraction in Iceland and is very well set-up for visitors.  We noted the curious juxtaposition of a natural phenomenon generated by volcanic activity and the resulting geothermal seawater, with the techy micro-chipped wristbands which were entrusted to us on arrival so that we could keep our belongings safe in a locker.  

The arrival process was quite frenetic due to the volume of people, but once we were through and floating around in the water, the experience was glorious.  The girls smeared their faces with free face-pack which hydrates the skin.  Everyone with long-hair had tied it back as the water can make it quite matted.  We floated around, variously gliding into caves, or letting the cool rain fall onto our faces.  The water was beautifully warm and warmer in certain parts of the lagoon (37 - 40 degrees).  You can read more about the Blue Lagoon here.

A couple of hours and a lost wristband later, we were airport-bound in the coach with Yorik.  Icelandair were most unhelpful at the airport, which was disappointing, and the complaint letter is next on my to-do list.  

Once things were sorted, we headed through security, having bagged-up our liquids (up to 100ml) and drunk our water.  The security arch bleeped as I passed through - then again, then again.  A security woman approached me - 'I need to carry out a search of you - are you over 16?' I gave her a huge hug.

Some of the Leaders then went foraging for sustenance for our hungry group.  The Guides took photos of us struggling back from the cafe with 28 sets of everything.  A quick scoot around the airport, and we were London-bound, in the air.  The view from the plane was stunning - the sun gently setting into a smooth orange sky, over the volcanic landscape beneath.

The Guides settled, watched films, read books, listened to music and enjoyed the penultimate leg of our incredible journey.

We glided through passport control and to baggage reclaim.  One bag had been put onto the wrong flight - I'm not sure how, as we had all checked-in together (eventually, much to the chagrin of the Icelandair ground staff).  Hopefully the missing bag is now on its way to the right place.

Steve from DJ Coaches was waiting for us in bus stop 4 at Heathrow.  Yes indeed, we had flown out of Gatwick and back to Heathrow as it was the cheapest way and gave us more time in Iceland.  A quick scoot around the M25 and we were back to Chislehurst, saying our goodbyes to the unique little community of people we had spent the week with.  We bundled off the coach and headed off in our separate ways, back to reality.

What have we learnt?
- Bring the right currency.  They don't accept Norwegian currency in Iceland
- Don't worry or catastrophise (though there are exceptions to this - see above)
- Take care and try not to lose things.  If you lose something, look for it before you run to tell Helen, because she is unlikely to know where it is
- Listen to the instructions in full before you start asking questions
- Be mindful of those around you, both group members and members of the public (who are everywhere)
- above all: embrace the experience of being abroad; you will never be in this exact same situation again, so cherish each moment.

Finally, there are a few people I wish to thank as the trip would not have been possible without them:
- the legendary leadership team: Lucie, Edda, Liz, Karen, Debbie - THANK YOU for sharing the vision and helping to make this happen
- everyone who helped with the fundraising; everyone who donated things, whether it was CDs for online resale, items for eBay; everyone who attended our Variety Show; put money in our buckets when we were bag-packing; brought things from our stalls at the various events we have attended; collected postage stamps, foreign currency, printer cartridges etc. etc.  
- special thanks to the Region Chief for a grant from her Discretionary Fund; the Pat Tiley Memorial Fund; the Leslie Sell Charitable Trust; and the Centenary Dream Fund.
- personal thanks also to my parents who helped out in so many practical ways, and my housemate who was generally very tolerant throughout the preparation phase.

So that's it! Go forth and embrace the experiences which life presents.  Thanks team.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Last full day in Iceland!!!

We woke up at 8:00am for our delicious breakfast at 9:00am. We then got ready to go to the Northern Lights experience. We went on an Icelandic bus into the center of Reykjavik then walked along the harbour to the experience. At the experience we learnt a lot more about the Northern Lights. We found out how and why they develop. There were also some activities to try. These included: Making your own Northern Lights, using a projector and coloured sheets, we also learnt how to take a good picture of the northern lights. In the gift shop lots of our group bought souvenirs. We then walked along the harbour and went in the gift shop. There many of us bought ginger chocolate. We then made our way back to the hostel where we had a packed lunch.
After lunch we had free time and got ready to go to the swimming pool.  The pool was so warm - it was 32°c. There was a water slide we all started going by ones and twos and then we went down in a big chain (about 15 of us went down all at once.) It was so fun!!! When we got out - it was so cold - and we walked back to the hostel but it was only down the road. At the end the night we had really nice pizzas. Harley, Ruby, Lucy, Amy, Maddy and Sophie PS had a Northern lights party and we were given sweets. Lucy slept in our room and we stayed up until 3:30am. Tomorrow we are going to the Blue Lagoon!!!

Written by Sophie E, Tayla, Harriet, Thea and both the Immys.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Iceland day 3

Today was as cold as ever but we still had fun. As we had had a really late night last night we had breakfast at 9:00 and came down in our pyjamas! Afterwards we had free-time till 11:30 when we got ready to go whale-watching by layering up until we could hardly move.
Once we had taken the short coach drive to the harbour we all rushed to get a window seat so that we could easily see any possible signs of a whale or dolphin. When the boat moved away from the harbour we started on our pack lunches as we knew we wouldn't be seeing any whales or dolphins anytime soon. After we had got out of the main bay area and had eaten our packed lunches we saw something in the distance. It turned out to be DOLPHINS!!!

After that we went back to the hostel for a few minutes then straight out for dinner... Which Was EPIC!!! We had an amazing day. The dolphins are tired and so are we! Good Night!!
This was written by the Senior Patrol - Rebecca, Olivia, Emily, Laura and Emmy.

Second day in Iceland

After a good night's sleep we woke up and went to breakfast at 8:30. We had a nice balanced breakfast including cereal, toast, fruit and lots of biscuits! Then we went for a extremely long HELEN walk! Helen's walks are long but this was even longer. When we finally ended the walk at this beautiful church we were split into small groups of 5 and 7. When we started walking off into groups, Edda's group decided to go into the church and up the tower. We walked in casually and then got stopped and told it cost 700 kr EACH and we all said no straightaway. We then walked around some shops and lots of people spent most of their money. In the shops we bought traditional Icelandic souvenirs.

Once we'd all finished shopping we met at the church to enjoy our "lovely" lunch. Until we realised that most of us had vegetable sandwiches or chicken, egg and iceberg lettuce. When we were walking back to the hostel by the sea and mountains a guide said “I need the toilet” another guide said  “I wonder if you pee will your wee freeze?” Look at the picture which shows that it is zero degrees.

When we arrived at the hostel we were all very cold even though some of us were wearing 5 or 6 layers, but then some people only wore 1 or 2.  Hats are very important in the cold.  

At 5:45 we met in the lobby and prepared to walk to have dinner. Helen didn't really know were she was going so we went in most doors until we arrived at the right destination. We walked into this building called World Class and went into their separate function room and we had a whole restaurant to ourselves. For starters we had homemade mushroom soup with brown wholemeal bread. For mains most of us had chicken with potatoes and grape and carrot salad but the vegetarians had a couscous salad. When we finished dinner we walked back to the hostel for preparing for a long trip on the coach to see the northern lights!

Here they are:

Photo: We have been very lucky the past few nights as the Aurora has been clearly visible, even in the city, and dancing right above us !  This picture was taken by our very own maintenance hero Jirka. Isn't it beautiful?

We got back. It was 00:15; most of us had a nap on the coach though so we got in and Helen told us to go straight to bed and to come down at 8:30 for breakfast in our pyjamas!

Written by Alice G, Alice P, Eleanor B, Jade and Grace (The Chocolate Whales)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Iceland trip begins

Each day, a patrol is taking reponsibility for the blog.  Today is the turn of the patrol they call 'Mrs Hal', because it consists of Madeleine, Ruby, Sophie, Harley, Amy and Lucy.  Here it is...
On the coach, Lucy realised she had equivalent of £1.30 in Icelandic kroner.  This will not go very far.  After a long drive we eventually arrived at the airport. After going through security, we went to the shops in the airport to buy our lunch but 20 minutes later, Harley realised that she had lost her boarding pass so she couldn't buy anything. Helen managed to get another one printed for her! 
On the plane we found our seats, settled down and then found that Amy's screen wasn't working so Sophie shared hers with Amy; subsequently, Amy broke Sophie's screen. Meanwhile Madeleine was writing some postcards to her family at home, including Wilson the dog.  Ruby thought that her ears were exploding.  Apart from this, all was going well.
On arrival in Iceland, we realised that, whilst there was no snow immediately evident, there were snow-capped peaks in the distance, therefore we understood why it is called ICEland.  
We bundled into a large coach, driven by a man called Shiki.  He drove us to the Blue Lagoon, even though we were meant to be going to our youth hostel.  
On arrival at our accommodation, we struggled to make our beds.  Sophie couldn't work out how to put her duvet cover on, so she crawled into it, spread it over the floor and, variously assisted by the others, suceeded in putting it on.  She is still wearing it now.  
Meanwhile, Harriet managed to get stuck in the toilet after the lock failed.  Helen suggested we get a ladder; unfortunately the staff member heard 'write a letter' which was less helpful.  Another Guide locked herself out of her bag and another considered finding gummy bears under her bed to be an emergency.
We've just had dinner and are really tired, so it's time for us to sign-out and say goodnight.  We all say hello to our families - 'hi everyone!'
Written by: Madeleine, Ruby, Sophie, Harley, Amy, Lucy. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Why International?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that international opportunities in Guiding are a key reason for girls and young women staying in Guiding. International is a great retainer. If a girl has an international opportunity in Guiding, she is more likely to stay involved in Guiding, for longer.  International Guiding opportunities open minds, present totally unique experiences and enable girls to learn about themselves and the broader world.
As a member of Girlguiding, one is part of a giant family, which exists in 146 countries across the world.  Not only is a Girlguiding member in a unit, she is also in a District, a Division (depending on the size of the area – some areas don’t have Districts), a County, a Region, a Member Organisation, WAGGGS (the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts).  How many members does WAGGGS have? 10 million! Guess what percentage of the eligible worldwide population are involved in WAGGGS – less than 1% globally.  That said, Girlguiding has about 500,000 members in the UK, representing a significant chunk of the 1 million.  

Why am I telling you this? Because there is always scope for growth.  Leaders in Girlguiding have a responsibility to grow Guiding, in line with the national agenda.  The Chief Guide launched a #MakeARainbow campaign recently, to encourage Leaders to open up Rainbow units to address that need.  Increasingly, girls are sitting on waiting-to-join lists for Rainbows and not actually getting in!

Have you ever thought about running a Rainbow unit? We really need more, across the UK.  Maybe you don’t know anything about Rainbows – read more about the programme here.  Rainbows is where the journey through Girlguiding begins.  I would have been a Rainbow, but they had not been invented at that time.  

Part of the national Growing Guiding agenda is about flexibility, about fitting around the time commitments of the leaders.  There are all sorts of ways of doing things in an alternative way, to accommodate this.  Some units meet on Saturday mornings.  Some units have enlarged, then split into two and meet on alternate weeks.  If you’re not already in Guiding and want to do something really useful for the future of girls and young women, get involved! You will be welcomed with open arms! Have a look here and read about the amazing things Girlguiding does – opportunities, advocacy, international, residentials, growth, development, learning, independence.  Watch this to see a recent Channel 4 piece about what Girlguiding does for girls and young women.

I hope that those that are coming on this Iceland trip will be inspired to stay involved in Guiding, as Guides, Senior Section, then hopefully volunteers, in whatever capacity suits them.

But to now.  In 24 hours, we will be en route to the airport.  The months of preparation will be over and we will be embarking on the trip of a lifetime.  The itinerary is complete, everything is in place.  We now just need it to happen!

You’ll be pleased to hear that the patrols (small groups of Guides) are going to write sections of the blog as the trip progresses.

More soon.  Why not tell a friend about this blog? Use it as a tool to grow Guiding!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Not the one in Plumstead High Street

It was January 2014.  We were spending the Guide meeting coming up with programme ideas for the year, in true 'girl-led Guiding' fashion, the critical component which makes Girlguiding what it is - that which the girls want to do.

'Think broadly - think about what you would really like to do', came the instruction.

'I'd love to see the Northern Lights', suggested a little voice.  

It was these few words which led to 1st Chislehurst Guides deciding to go to... Iceland (and I don't mean the one in Plumstead High Street).  I mean the island in the North Sea; yes, the one with that troublesome volcano they call Eyjafjallajokull that wreaked havoc in 2010, and yes, that major financial crisis in 2008 - 2011, but let's not worry about these things.  This is why we have travel insurance.  This is why the first thing one does, once a trip is approved, is to purchase travel insurance, from those lovely people at Unity (Girlguiding's recommended insurer).  Yes indeed.

So what have we been doing to prepare for this trip? All sorts! We have incorporated the fundraising into our Guide programme, by doing constant fundraising, alongside the weekly meetings.  What does that mean in practice?

The Guides were encouraged to:
- fill up tubes of Smarties with 20p pieces; this raised £256.60
- bring in unwanted CDs, DVDs, books; I sold these online through Music Magpie, Ziffit and We Buy Books; the money is still coming in, but this has raised £660.17 (you'd be amazed at how many people want to get rid of their CD collections)
- bring in unwanted stuff which we could sell on eBay.  I hadn't used eBay before and was wary of the time it takes; but once you understand the basics, items can be uploaded quite quickly.  We are still actively selling stuff here so have a look! So far, we have raised £573
- bring in used postage stamps.  This has raised £21.50
- bring in unwanted foreign currency, which has raised £45.70
- bring in unwanted clothes, soft toys, bric-a-brac, which has raised £131.46
- bring in unwanted mobile phones; this has raised £9.41 (every little helps)

We have also applied to and received grants from:
- Region Chief's Discretionary Fund
- Pat Tiley Memorial Fund
- Leslie Sell Charitable Trust
- Centenary Dream Fund
for which we are truly grateful.

We've also had stalls at local events, been bag-packing - having a local presence at events is great as it raises awareness of local Guiding and promotes 'Growing Guiding' too.  We've  done sponsored events, made over £200 from Easyfundraising (if you're a Leader in LaSER, every unit in the Region is set up on Easyfundraising, so have a look; effortless funds for your units).  Easysearch is good too and you don't even need to register.  Online research, consumer testing, big events, like a Variety Show; it has all contributed to us raising the £10,000 we needed for this trip.

Each participant has paid £250 and we have fundraised the rest.  Why am I telling you this? If my unit can do it, your unit can do it too! What are you waiting for?!