Mariam first wrote for the Our Chalet blog during the summer. This is her contribution to our blog. Thank you Mariam for sharing it with us!
When I first traveled internationally with my Ranger patrol in July 2006, out of the 13 girls I was probably the most concerned about wearing a uniform all the time while in Europe. At the age of 16 soon to be 17, caring about your appearance sometimes seems to come first when traveling and even though we were staying in hostels, I had no desire to just “rough-it.”
Our itinerary consisted mainly of London, England and various towns and cities in Ireland. Before the trip I had only briefly been to London with my family so I was definitely not prepared for the crowds, the heat and the chaos that makes up such a large city in the summer.
The first couple days I was extremely hesitant to wear my uniform or to even dress the same as the other girls in my group. To blend in with the culture of the city, I would wear scarves and sweaters to cover up the red poly-blend fabric of the international uniform (which even though it dried quickly, was not at all flattering). A group of 13 girls and five leaders, we attracted attention absolutely everywhere we went with our loud voices, general commotion and matching outfits, the latter of which I refused to partake in. I’d always feel self-conscious, especially at shopping malls and restaurants, where we were clearly out of place. Eventually I began to embrace our daily uniform of red, navy or white shirt with black or navy bottoms while still adding personal touches so that I would still feel like myself and not just one in a group of tourists.
Now, looking back at that experience, and working at Our Chalet where I’m wearing a staff polo shirt with navy pants or shorts four or five days a week with a bright red necker, I appreciate the fact that I am part of something bigger and that I can easily be identified in a crowd or in a foreign place by what I wear. Residents of the town of Adelboden recognize us without any pretense and acknowledge our presence in town as more than just tourists.
Wearing the Guiding uniform abroad reminds you that you are part of something bigger, and when you see another Guide or Scout group you already have something in common without even exchanging words. People always ask where you’re from and are more than willing to share a Guiding story of their own.
I still have mixed feelings about wearing a uniform while travelling, but I have come to realize that I can sacrifice some vanity for something that’s much greater and by wearing the uniform abroad I am also encouraging Guiding worldwide in my own small way.
By guest blogger Mariam Hussain.
Members, volunteers and parents: We’re always interested in hearing from you! Will you be one of our guest bloggers? Email marketing1 (@) girlguides.ca for details.
I have travelled twice with Girl Guides, once as a leader of Pathfinders and once with a group of adults. On both occasions we wore uniform every day. At first the pathfinders gave us a bit of a hassle but soon embraced the uniform when they realised how much attention they got and they got to meet a lot of interesting people. And above all we leaders could always find them in the crowd.
I have travelled several times abroad with girls in GGC uniforms and the red international jackets and i can tell you we certainly got positive comments and welcoming remarks from many. You open a door to many who will come up and talk and say hello and ask where you are travelling to and and give you a little short blurb on their personal guiding adventures or comment about how they are also from Canada and what part are you from? and for those that do not say anything they are busy reading the wording on the uniforms and jackets and seeing who you are. Girls/leaders should be respectful of the uniform and what it represents and travel proudly wearing it . You have all the rest of your days to be your own individual self and show your personality but when together with your GGC friends travelling you represent first and foremost Canada and the youth of Canada and should be so proud to show off as well manered standing tall head high marching forward young women. ..and you represent the organization itself and it is known worldwide by many. I kove the “red” and feel very Canadian when travelling in it abroad. Also as someone mentioned it is for sure a safety issue and makes all the group very easy to spot and ID in a crowd. Dressing the same is an absolute must for travel. Peace of mind for leaders and it is a huge responsibility they take on so be appreciative of their asking such small requests of you as to wear similar t-shirts. move on to the fun things…..
I am proud to wear my GG UK uniform wherever I go. It means we all look the same, don’t have to think about what to wear, become instantly identifiable if lost in a crowd and wherever I’ve travelled people have stopped to talk to me and my Guiding pals/girls. It’s a fabulous, inclusive organisation and there is little that moves me more emotionally than being amoungst a crowd of ladies/girls in GG uniform. It makes you realise you’re part of a huge family.