A non-Guiding holiday

Yes, it’s true.

I do, in fact, have time for a life outside of Guiding.

But, to be fair, only because I make time.  On this occasion, I organised for another leader to cover my unit one week and I headed off into the wilds of Europe.

I’m making that sound more dramatic than it was.

I went to Sicily for a Shorinji Kempo seminar.  Shorinji Kempo is a Japanese martial art.  It’s reasonably obscure, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it!

95% of what we do is not as dramatic as this.
95% of what we do is not as dramatic as this.

The seminar I went to in Sicily involved a contingent from various bits of the UK, some Italians, some Spaniards, and some Japanese.  There may have been the odd person here or there from other places, but that was the bulk of it.

It was quite entertaining dealing with all the languages.  The Italians and Spaniard were mostly getting on by talking their own language and relying on similarities.  I speak Spanish, so I managed reasonably well.

And then there were the Japanese.  Some of whom spoke English and some of whom didn’t.  There are no similarities between Japanese and any of the European languages, so you would think that it would be a problem.

How do you teach a class when you have no language commonalities?

Well, what you do is you speak Japanese, demonstrate lots, and have a black belt who understands the principles of the art standing nearby to explain the finer points.  If that black belt has a few words of Japanese in his head it helps, but there were times when that wasn’t the case!

The ripple of translation going around the room was fun, especially since people weren’t standing in language groups – we were standing with whomever we happened to be next to when Sensei decided to speak.  So everything got translated several times, in several different ways.

I actually found it really helpful, because I got the explanation in several different sets of words.

Really, we're not dramatic at all.  I promise.
Really, we’re not dramatic at all. I promise.

We did train a lot, but training wasn’t the only thing we did.  We had a reasonable siesta at midday, and in the evenings the Italian hosts put on entertainment for us.

They looked after us very well – picked us up from the airport and took us sightseeing when we first arrived, provided very good food, and plenty of friendship and talking.

One evening we had a formal sit-down meal, with eight or nine courses.  That was exhausting.  But very, very tasty.

Another night they took us to a local tavern, and we were treated to traditional sweets and cakes, a traditional band playing tarantella, and some dancing.


A very satisfying weekend, it was.

After the seminar was over, flight times meant I had a day to get from Messina to Catania airport – about an hour and a half’s drive.

I did the thing my mother hates, which is turn up at the start with very little idea of how I was actually going to get back to the airport at the end.

I was reasonably confident that something would work itself out, and it did.

One of the UK contingent is actually French, so he’s used to driving on the wrong side of the road.  He’d hired a car, so a few of us went for a little sightseeing tour.  We went to Taormina and hung around there for the day.

View from Taormina
View from Taormina

Wonderful views, and a very relaxing end to the weekend.


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