The Blue Blazer
A sign of both pride and embarassment, the Rotary Blazer given to each exchangee before he or she sets off for a year in a foreign country in an integral part of many peoples' experiences as an exchangee.
My blazer meant quite a bit to me during and after my year abroad. I remember being measured for it. When I first received it, I had nothing to put on it - it was navy blue and bare. Before I left for Germany I was told I shoud wear it at the airport, making myself more visible to other Rotary exchangees so that we could all find each other. As a 16-year-old who didn't care for sticking out in a crowd, I cared little for this suggestion. For much of my trip, my blazer was hung over my arm; besides, who would be wearing a heavy jacket in August? By the time I arrived in London, however, I had met two other exchangees (Amber and Julie), and during our wait in London we met a whole other group of exchangees from various parts of North America - all headed for Germany. Many of the other students had already collected a number of pins and such for their jackets; many were from the central and eastern parts of the U.S., and had attended large district and multi-district conferences where they had met inbounds and other outbounds. All I had were my potato, wheat, and Idaho pins.
During my year abroad I quickly learned that not all blazers were dark blue: many Canadians (though not all) had red blazers, many South Africans wore green, and many Australians had light blue, for example. At club and district gatherings, and on inter-district trips, I exchanged my pins with other exchangees; there was only one other exchangee from Idaho there (Greg Randolf from McCall), so it wasn't too difficult to give away my idaho potato pins. When traveling around Germany, I often bought local lapels and patches for my jacket, and many of the patches were quickly sewn onto my blazer. I also collected such objects as bottle-caps. In addition, I had an excess of Canadian flags (and still do); they make up a whole "section" of my jacket. Others found slightly more exotic items for their blazers; one exchangee's jacket was graced by a nice Mercedes sign on the back, for example. I had/have a Trabi logo (courtesy of a trip to the former East Germany and a broken down old Trabi). Anna-Belem from Mexico didn't give out pins and such; instead, what she gave us was hand-made of cloth and had her name embroidered on it. From many of the South Africans I received rather nice little "animals". Our trips to Berlin and the former East Germany gave us numerous opportunities to add old Soviet collectibles. I had at one point over 250 objects on my blazer, and even more put away in a plastic bag since there wasn't enough room on the jacket itself.
My blazer even found use outside of Rotary-sponsored events. In the spring of my exchange, the town of Gifhorn (where I lived) had its annual "Schützenfest", in which I and Alex Strahan (from Australia) got to march (thanks to my counsellor). For this event we each wore our blazers; in the interest of not losing my collected items, I took off most of my jacket's "artifacts."
Since my return, my blazer has spent most of its time hung in my closet. Those items not pinned or sewn on the jacket are carefully packed away for safe-keeping.
I have a few more things I want to put up here regarding the famous Rotary blazer, and as soon as I find the time to type it all up, I'll post it. On a side note, if anyone has any interesting stories or memories about their blazers, I would love to hear about it. As usual, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be (possibly) interested in posting such stories.