My pimped totem

International Scouts LogoBy now you must all now that I’m a Scout Master at the Scouts here in Deinze. When you’re aged 14, it’s a tradition to receive a totem, in the form of an animal name (e.g. Lion). In a book called “Het Achste Vuur”, all totems are described, underlining the characteristics that go with the animal. Some characteristics could be shy, helpful, social, strong, etc. The totem one is given, is — obviously — in line with the character of that person.

When one is 17, an extra characteristic is given to each Scout/Guide. This extra characteristic is an addition to the ones already defined in the totem and is an adjective: if one were to be a “lion”, they could become a “helpful lion”. The description of the adjective is freely chosen by the current Scout Masters, and – again, obviously – matches one’s character. Above that, we — in Deinze, not all groups do this — have the tradition to give yet another totem when one has been a Scout Master for five years. Two weeks ago I received my 2nd adjective.

In 1997 – when I was 14 – we were camping in Butgenbach, a far corner of Belgium (the part of Belgium where they speak German). There I received my totem after completing many tasks (the idea behind these tasks is that one has to earn his totem by completing them). Back then I was given “Gibbon” as an animal name. The description of the gibbon reads:

The gibbon is a rather CLEVER monkey. They are DEXTROUS, FAST and very UPROARIOUS (noisy). They are SOCIAL, PLAYFUL and don’t have many enemies. They are GENTLE and TUNEFUL (melodious). Gibbons are known for their AGILITY. In the zoo they are very popular for all kinds of acrobatic tricks. The gibbon is the most human-looking monkey.

(In case you understand Dutch, here’s the Dutch version)

Then in 2000 – when I was 17 – we were camping in Dohan, again somewhere in the Ardens. There I received quirky (eigenzinnig in Dutch) as first adjective. The description reads:

“You have an avowed opinion that you spread enthusiastically. By both body and mind, you are striking. Being positive when appreciated, can change into negativism when meeting opposition, but can then again change into taking the initiative enthusiastically. This enthusiastic conveying of a peculiar idea is a unique gift”

I must say, both my totem and adjective are right on the spot. I indeed am uproarious, gentle and tuneful. Above that, I do know that I can be somewhat negative/off-holding when I’m not 100% behind an idea but — once convinced — that can easily turn into a positive vibe. And some of my ideas can indeed seem odd at first to some people until I can elaborate on them a bit.


This year, was my fifth year as being a Scout Master. Time to get a second adjective (in total there were 6 of us to receive a second adjective). Two weeks ago (the last weekend of July; July 28 – July 30) we went on a mini-camp with all the Scout Masters of our group. Normally, a weekend for our group of Scout Masters is organised by the Head Scout Masters. Together with Cédric and Emilie, we form the current Head Scout Masters. As U was about to receive my second adjective, I was relieved from co-organising the weekend. Little did I know before we left, only the location where we would stay I knew (in Brakel we stayed) and how we would get there: by bike.

[ Note to myself : Still need to steal pics from Cédric his cam ]

Friday started off with a bike ride from Deinze to Brakel. I was allowed to drive by car to our location since I had a mini-minivan where all the luggage could fit in. When the main group finally arrived, it was already around 11 PM I guess. After placing the tents and doing some bat-spotting (hey, we were near a forest) we all started chatting and drinking. At around 4 AM everybody but Wannes and I were asleep. Since Wannes had to receive his second adjective too, we didn’t want to go sleeping and went to the nearby Chirogroup to join them near their campfire. Above that we wanted a “woudloperij”.

Woudloperij seems like a very odd thing, and tests a person for being brave and such. In a woudloperij, the Scout Masters normally take 2 or 3 members – in the middle of the night that is – and drive them to an unknown location. The members have to return by 9AM to the campsite with fresh-made coffee. The members can take their sleeping bag, some ground coffee, a sock (to act as a coffee-percolator) and a shelter with them. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s a very cool thing!

By 6AM we started our search for a driver and eventually we got Tim to drive us. He dropped us off in the middle of nowhere where Wannes and I finished our drink whilst watching the sunrise.

At around 9.45AM we were awakened by a call from Cédric: “Where the hell are you guys? Your totemisation is about to start. Come back immediately”. Since we didn’t bring any socks or ground coffee, we started our search for coffee. Wannes was clever enough to realize that we wouldn’t get any breakfast at the campsite so we also were in search for some food. After 15 minutes we got it all: coffee, some bread with jam, a peach and a little snack.

When we nearly arrived at the campsite we encountered Tim who was searching us and finally ended up on a roundabout in Brakel City Center where the other 4 who were part of the totemisation joined us.

The tasks we got were quite amusing: collect 100 plastic bottles, prepare a meal and eat at the house of someone you’ve never met before, write an essay about Scouting without the words “Scout Master” & “beer” & “the”, come back dressed as a sailor, etc.

Somewhere in the afternoon we got where we were asked to be dressed as a sailor indeed. With the bottles we collected, we had to build a raft and finally cross a small pool. It was about to work out great, until the duct-tape snapped. Looks it either was some poor duct-tape, or we put in too much pressure whilst creating the raft.

After that we hitch-hiked back to the campsite, ate a bit and did our final tasks which involved tequila, eggs and shaving. Then the campfire was started (actually the Chiro their fire was still burning and we tossed on some fresh wood) and the totems were given.

As of then, I am named “inventive quirky gibbon”. The text that came with it goes like this:

“This gibbon will always solve a situation in an inventive way. With little to no resources he will create a surprising solution. To many people he appears to be closed, which makes him difficult to see through. This gibbon is engaged in the many projects that he is interested in”

Wow, that one I really didn’t see coming, which makes it even better than it can be!

And above all, it fits perfectly.

Thank you guys!

Published by Bramus!

Bramus is a frontend web developer from Belgium, working as a Chrome Developer Relations Engineer at Google. From the moment he discovered view-source at the age of 14 (way back in 1997), he fell in love with the web and has been tinkering with it ever since (more …)

Unless noted otherwise, the contents of this post are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License and code samples are licensed under the MIT License

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