A Salute to Vietnamese Scouting
1,000 Gather for World Jamboree in Fairfax
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 29, 1998; Page D01 

Huddling with seven other Girl Scouts, Vy Tran, 16, waited impatiently
yesterday in their makeshift village. The rain, which appeared suddenly
and with great force, kept the Houston native from her project of building
a "tower" in Lake Fairfax Park's wooded campground.

The beginnings of the structure, composed of tall logs held together with
rope, stood at the foot of a trail that led to Tran's Boy Scout
counterparts from Texas, who were preparing to eat their typical lunch:
Pho, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Tran, visibly restless, stood among
the pieces of a handmade ladder that was built for the tower.
"Everything's ready. We're just waiting now," she said.

Waiting, too, were more than 1,000 scouts from eight countries, gathered
for the Sixth International Jamboree of Vietnamese Scouting -- the largest
scouting event ever held for the Vietnamese community. Of the 3,000
Vietnamese scouts worldwide, more than a third are in the Washington area
through Wednesday to showcase scouting skills, to reunite with old friends
and to honor a culture that has been dispersed around the world since

The jamboree is playing host to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of all ages and
is the second such event in the United States. The last international
Vietnamese scouting jamboree, in 1995, was hosted by scouts in Australia.

The rain held off until after yesterday morning's opening ceremonies but
delayed workshops that were scheduled to begin at midday. A campfire
featuring traditional Vietnamese customs and songs was scheduled for last

Most of the scouts came from across the United States, with the largest
contingents representing California, Texas and the Capital region, which
includes Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and the District. Girl
Scouts and Boy Scouts also came from as far away as Australia, Belgium,
Germany and Switzerland.

For many of the participants in this week's jamboree, scouting means more
than learning survival skills. "We are reinterpreting our Vietnamese
identity into scouting," Kim Kyu Young, director of the World Scout
Bureau's Asia-Pacific office, told the scouts at the opening ceremonies. 

De Tan Nguyen, an associate national director for Boy Scouts of America,
said scouting has become an important part of the Vietnamese culture
because it provides a way for the children to learn about and to respect
their roots.

"After Saigon fell in 1975, the community was spread all over the world,"
Nguyen said. "The world organization of scouting allows us all to come
together as a community. It is a chance for the older people to reunite
and to pass on and celebrate the tradition with the younger ones."

As Son Vo, 19, barked out commands in Vietnamese, five other senior scouts
from Troop 1794 of Montgomery County followed along in a traditional flag
raising. Vo joined the troop, which is made up of Vietnamese Americans,
when it was formed four years ago.

"I can help out other people, and it feels good to help them," Vo said.
"And I had kind of forgotten my culture. The leaders help to teach us both
the American ways and the Vietnamese ways so that we don't forget."

Vo and his group raised three flags: the American flag, the Boy Scout flag
and the former South Vietnamese flag, a yellow banner with three
horizontal red stripes. Participants said the association with South
Vietnam is not a political one. They sing the former South Vietnamese
anthem and observe cultural customs as a way to remember heritage, not to
battle political boundaries.

"The communist regime now in Vietnam sees scouting as a threat," said Quoc
Tri Nguyen, a troop leader from Sydney. "We don't get into politics. It is
more a personal point of view. The communist regime does not support us,
so we do not support them.

"We speak Vietnamese with the children. We show them what the culture is
about and what their parents believed in."

Dai Duval, of Springfield, was at the jamboree yesterday to give support
to her six nieces and nephews, who were participating in the event. She
moved to the United States after the war displaced her and her family. She
said she is proud to be in America but feels that it is too easy to lose
one's culture.

"All of us are immigrants, and we all want to keep what we had," she said.
"We are proud of our new country, but we are also proud of our background.
This is good, because it brings us all together from around the world."

This year's jamboree represents the largest ethnic gathering for the Boy
Scouts of America. The National Capital Area Council, which is hosting the
event, includes a number of troops composed only of Vietnamese Americans.
Ron Carroll, scout executive for the council, said that along with Native
American members of the Boy Scouts, Vietnamese Americans make up the
largest and most active ethnic contingent of the organization.

"We have decided that it is good to encourage the cultural diversity, and
we fully support it," Carroll said. "It is part of the whole concept of a
world jamboree. It is the opportunity for people of different cultures to
come together and have understanding, tolerance and the ability to see a
different perspective."

Long Nguyen, 13, of Fountain Valley, Calif., is one of more than 230
scouts who came from Southern California to take part in the this week's
jamboree. Shielding himself from the rain under a clear poncho, he and
about 15 fellow scouts talked about meeting people from all over the world
and enjoying new experiences.

"This all really shows us what we are about. It keeps us united," he said.
"We would learn about our culture, sure, but it would be much, much less."

 Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company