Introduction to Spring Season Blog Entries

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Here are some blog entries from our Spring Programme Intern Leah from the USA. Read some excerpts of her blog below and you can continue to follow her blog here: https://sunshineandsnow339182117.wordpress.com/

The First Week

I’ve been at Our Chalet for almost a week now. Living here and being in the mountains feels so surreal. We’ve had one clear day so far where we could see all the mountains around Adelboden. It is so beautiful with all the snow!

I started my training on World Thinking Day; we hiked to the Woodcarver’s, ate lunch along the creek and spent some time in town before heading back to Our Chalet. The next evening, we had a lovely campfire with our guests. My training is divided between learning how to lead the spring programs, how the program office runs and about Our Chalet. It also involves playing with Skippy (the cat)!

During training, and throughout the entire season, I have days off to explore and relax. So far, I’ve hiked to the frozen Bonderfalles, walked around the magic tree loop and skied behind a nearby chalet. When I am walking and skiing away from the main roads, everything is so quiet and peaceful. On the hike to and from Bonderfalles, all I could hear was the stream trickling over the rocks and the snow crunching beneath my boots. I love being at Our Chalet!

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Main Chalet

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Bonderfalles

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Skiing behind Hari Chalet

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Spring (Team) is here!

The whole spring team has arrived at Our Chalet now! There are 7 volunteers and 3 interns (including myself) in total for the season. We represent 6 countries: USA, UK, Nepal, Malaysia, Canada, and Mexico. There are also long-term staff and short-term volunteers working at the center.

Spring Vollies 2018

Spring 2018 Vollies and Interns

Training is in full swing. We have learned a lot of basics about Our Chalet and played some fun team building games. We are also learning all of the different programs we run for the guests. So far, we’ve done the Marta Marmot hike, the Magic Tree hike and Swiss Night. Swiss night involved chocolate fondue, which is always tasty!

The whole spring team had Monday off, so we ventured to Engstligenalp. We hiked to the gondola station and then took the gondola up to the top. It was a pretty warm day with the snow melting in the valley. Once we were up top, it was sunny, cold, and windy. There was more snow than I’ve ever seen before in one place. The views were amazing. It was such an enjoyable hike and we got back just in time for dinner.

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Engstligenalp

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One Month In

It has already been a month since I arrived here. My whole concept of the cold has changed since I have arrived! Winter was never my favourite season but now I love the snow. The temperatures hover just below 32 degrees Fahrenheit here, give or take a few degrees. I always dress for the cold but once I start walking I often don’t even need my winter coat.

Being in the Swiss Alps, I am trying to take advantage of skiing before the snow melts. I haven’t done any big runs yet, but there is a chalet up the road that has an easy ski run behind it. I’m only a beginner, but I had fun teaching two of the other vollies some skiing basics one afternoon.

On one of our days off, a group of us explored Thun. Thun is a bus and a train ride away. In Thun, we walked around the city for an afternoon taking in all of the different sights. The mountains were clear in the distance and the day seemed surprising warm.

More recently, myself and two others spent a night at Kandersteg International Scout Center which is in the next valley over. The first day, we took the gondola up to Lake Oeschinensee where we hiked around and had lunch by the frozen lake. We spent our second day cross-country skiing on the many groomed paths around the village. It was so much fun!

Our Chalet has been really quiet lately since we haven’t had any guests. I have been helping prepare for the programs that will take place during the remainder of the season. The first spring break group arrives in a few days!

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Thun Castle

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Lake Oeschinensee

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Post Snowfall

Leah Simon, Spring Programme Intern 2018

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5 Amazing things you have to do around Adelboden in a Winter or Spring season – Morgan (Canada)

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1. Take part in local events. One of my favourite ways to learn about Swiss culture has to have been by taking apart in their local events and celebrations. From Winterlute in December to the Ski World Cup Weekend in January to Chuenis by Night in February, it truly felt as if there was always something I could take part in in Adelboden. It is an amazing way to get to know not only Swiss culture but local culture as no matter the event, you can always feel the energetic pride that people from Adelboden have for their town. If you are lucky enough to attend a Swiss Event, it will truly be a magical and unforgettable experience that you will keep forever!

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Chuenis by Night light show

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Ski World Cup in Adelboden

2. Spend the afternoon biking through Bunderlen and the Adelboden Valley. I was lucky enough to catch a few warm days in mid-January where biking became a great pastime. Exploring the Adelboden area by bike truly showed me things I would have never seen otherwise, which made for some amazing stories when I arrived back at the Chalet. From the awesome trails to the amazing views, I would without a doubt suggest biking in Adelboden whenever you can! There are many places in town to rent bikes and it is truly a great way to spend an afternoon.

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3. Spend the day skiing in the beautiful Swiss Alps. Whether you plan on taking on one of the larger mountains in the Adelboden-Lenk area, or just a small hill around by Our Chalet, skiing is a MUST in Adelboden. Whether or not you have skied before, skiing in Adelboden is unforgettable! Why not have a relaxing day skiing in the beautiful Swiss Alps? You could also spend time with a ski instructor if you choose to learn how to ski from a professional in your time here. Our Chalet also offer ski shuttles so you never need to worry about getting to and from the hills!

 

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4. Visit nearby towns. You don’t need to go too far to find more amazing cities in Switzerland. On the bus, you can reach both Frutigen and Kandersteg, which are both amazing places to spend an afternoon. Frutigen is a great place to wander around and admire the mountains whereas Kandersteg is a great place to get some souvenir shopping done as well as visit WOSM’s Scout Centre, Kandersteg International Scout Centre. Why not tick 1 more Scout Centre off your list? While these towns are great, there are also many other great places to jump off at on your bus ride such as Blausee Lake and one of Europe’s longest suspension bridges which is wedged between Adelboden and Frutigen. There are so many amazing places to see in Switzerland and Adelboden is amazing because you never have to go far to see one!

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5. Spend the day on top of a mountain. There are so many mountains to take a gondola up to in Adelboden that you could truly spend a day on top of any one of them! Whether you enjoy sledging or hiking or even just relaxing in a scenic café, spending your day atop a mountain is a great choice! Most of mountains in our valley have activities on top such as sledding or tubing, as well as some hiking trails with restaurants too. Whether you choose to head up for a great view and a great meal or a day of sledding paired with some hot cocoa, the mountains of Adelboden are right for you!

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Morgan Sibbit, Our Chalet Assistant Winter 2017/2018

 

An Experience of a Lifetime – Hazel (Zimbabwe)

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Rollercoaster

When I was asked to write a small blog about my experience so far I was stumped. How could I possibly fit all my unbelievable experiences into 500 words? After some thought it came down to this: it’s been a ROLLERCOASTER! The type of ride which you wish would never end even if you get a bit woozy at times. With the twists, the turns and the lows also comes the peaks which make it all worthwhile. With only a few months to go, time is ticking by and I am faced with mixed feeling of wanting to go home and wanting to stay here forever.

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How it began

I was just a simple Zimbabwean girl who lived in the city and who didn’t know much about Europe except from what I had seen in the movies and on TV. I never thought I would experience living in a snowy European country or even imagined I would survive under -5°c in my life. However, I made a special application to volunteer at Our Chalet World Center as the Guest Services Intern and was accepted and that’s how my journey to Switzerland began.

This was going to be my new life for 3 months starting on 5th December 2017. When I arrived at Geneva Airport I could not believe that I had finally made it to Europe. I travelled by train for the first time in my life from Geneva to Our Chalet and on my journey I was thinking of my new life ahead.

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An unbelievable experience

Our Chalet has given me an unbelievable experience that has been life changing in all the right ways.  I was welcomed by snow and to be honest my mind was blown as it is exactly how I imagined it – magical! I got to build my first snowman, wear my first snowshoes and I got to skate on ice which is something I would never get to do in Africa. My winter experience as an Intern has been amazing with new friends and welcoming staff at Our Chalet which in a few months has become more like a family to me.

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The true Our Chalet experience

My experience at Our Chalet has helped me grow as I become more independent, confident and push myself outside of my comfort zone. Leaving my family and friends for Christmas was the hardest part, while the best part has been making new friends and experiencing Christmas in the Swiss Alps in the cosy comfort of the soft wooden Chalet buildings. I also love meeting other volunteers from other countries and instantly bonding with them over our shared experiences.

Hazel C. Zaranyika, Guest Services Intern 2017/2018

My First White Winter – Sally (Australia)

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Snow falls like icing sugar, delicately coating the Alps, trees, ground, houses and every surface it touches. The cool air brushes against my cheeks, filling my soul with warmth as I make my way on a new adventure. The sheer beauty of the Alps enthralls your being in its presence, nestled at the base is where one gets to call home, and my oh my home it has been. Greeted with open arms; generosity and kindness overflowed from within the Chalet. After a bittersweet goodbye to India, a quick adventure in ‘the land of fire and ice’ – Iceland -, I found myself here in Switzerland.

They warned me of the weather, and amidst my prior concerns of drowning in the snow, one cannot fathom a winter without it now.  From ice chipping the paths around the Chalet, to sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, making snow angels and merely sitting in the depths of snow to one of my personal favourites eating snow, I have been provided with so many incredible opportunities and to live through my first white winter has been a sheer dream.

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The first few weeks of the season began with training and what fun this was. We did many different things including hiking, learning about how to maintain the Chalet and the WAGGGS programmes such as Stop the Violence. As the weeks progressed, Christmas rolled round before us and our first event was kick started with Christmas in the Alps. The group, although small, made it a pleasure for us to cater for them. With the taste of our first event, our New Year’s guests came to start their programme, which saw us cater for our biggest group yet! I really enjoy interacting with guests as there is so much to learn from them. Since most of them are from different corners of the earth and all walks of life it’s interesting to converse with each other, hearing their guiding stories and the adventures life has taken them on.

Overall, my experience so far has been life changing, I have grown in ways I didn’t know were possible and my confidence has increased. Living here in a winter wonderland at Our Chalet is an incredible opportunity and working with such a diverse team is a dream… I am already dreading my goodbye.

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Sally Groffman, Winter Volunteer – Our Chalet 2017/2018

Rover Week Participants 2018

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Rover Week 2018 was without a doubt one of the best weeks that I will have had in my life. I’m not from the WAGGGS community, I’m from WOSM (World Organisation of the Scout Movement) and so I was really surprised that Our Chalet helped me with a scholarship and admitted me on the event.

WAGGGS really is “A world of possibilities” and Our Chalet lives up to that statement too.

During my week at Our Chalet, I got to know a lot about the history of WAGGGS and especially a lot about the beautiful history of Our Chalet. Not all the planned programme activities could go ahead due to bad weather, however I was amazed at how the Our Chalet staff tackled this situation by giving us a variety of other activities to do instead. The Our Chalet staff went far beyond expectations.

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The Guides and people I met from other countries helped me learn a lot about their cultures and their perspectives about life. I’m very glad they were open and shared stories, songs, jokes and adventures with me.

The Chalet itself is a very warm, clean, organized and interesting place. The walls are full of history and every room has its own touch. In addition to that, the views you get of the surrounding nature are amazing. It’s a place where I would like to live one day.

I strongly recommend that every Guide and Scout from around the world experiences this amazing place and if you want to get more insights from anyone involved in Scouting that has been there, you can email Our Chalet or even me.

Thanks for everything Our Chalet, it was amazing!

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Daniel Eduardo Pedraza Sepúlveda, Scouts of Mexico

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Dear Guiding Community,

Firstly, I would like to thank the Our Chalet Staff and all the people who have made donations and granted me the opportunity to have this experience. I had an amazing week during my stay, even though we did not get to do all the activities planned for Rover Week 2018, because it was raining and there was not enough snow for it. I am grateful that you all keep finding different activities for us to do.

The day I enjoyed the most was the opening ceremony and the hike to the Enstligenalp, where we had a BBQ in the snow, visited an igloo and went snow tubing. It was a beautiful day and we got to play in the snow and see the wonderful landscapes with the mountains covered in snow.

In addition to this, I had the opportunity to make new international friends and learn more about their cultures and their traditions. They will always be in my heart and I hope to get to see them again soon.

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Ana Lucía Garza García, Guides of Mexico

Life in Adelboden – Nikki (UK)

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When we first moved to Adelboden in October 2014, my husband and I were determined to be involved in village life as well as Chalet life. As we’re both musicians we set about finding a brass band. We were lucky to find the Adelboden Heils Armee (Salvation Army) who had a small brass band in the village and who welcomed us into their group.

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At first rehearsals were hard, they would forget we were there and that we didn’t understand Swiss German, High German or Adelboden Swiss so there was a lot of getting confused or pointing at things. As the weeks passed, things became easier and the 2 hours of music each week were a welcome challenge. We learnt who to ask for more information about concerts or where concerts were. When you are born and bred in the village, it’s easy to assume everyone knows where Chumi is or a small farm venue, so it was quite a steep learning curve in the first year. There were still small misunderstandings, such as not wearing the right shoes to an event because in the UK you wear smart black dress shoes regardless of where the concert is, but infact in Switzerland it’s fine to wear your hiking boots for a concert up a mountain covered in thick snow because you will be playing outside and not in the nice warm restaurant as you assumed it would be. The Adelboden Swiss are hardy, outdoors types and concerts tend to go ahead regardless of the weather. The information that “if it rains we’ll be inside the cowshed” was reassuring until upon arrival the congregation are snug in the newly hosed down cowshed and the band are outside in the rain !

As the months passed, we felt more and more at home with the band. Members started to invite us to their birthday parties or family barbeques. We played many concerts together in lots of different venues including; Adelboden Church, Frutigen Church, Bern, Basel and on top of mountains. We were introduced to other bands people from neighbouring Frutigen and Bern and became part of the bigger banding community. It was hugely exciting to travel by bus to Basel for the day one summer to play at a service with both the Frutigen and Adelboden bands plus supporters in traditional attire.

Another memorable evening was the Band AGM, we all set off by car to Geils to be met by a skidoo in the carpark. We were carefully placed behind the driver and several members jumped into the trailer, then we whizzed up the mountain to a fondue hut where we ate the best fondue I’ve ever eaten. Afterwards, the band said we didn’t need the skidoo back down so we ran, slipped and rolled our way back to the cars, down what is infact a black ski run. The Swiss have this amazing ability to walk in snow and ice and it’s probably the same for other countries who experience these conditions but for us Brits, this was a real challenge especially as we weren’t equipped with torches and the gigantic piste machines were out grooming the piste for the morning. I have no idea what they thought of the mess we made of it !

Each Easter for over 40 years the band has played early in the morning at Our Chalet to celebrate Easter Sunday and then joined guests and staff for a breakfast. This has been a great opportunity to share Our Chalet, it’s people and mission with them.

Some of my favourite concerts are those given in the summer months on top of mountains. As Adelboden is a rural, farming village, the farmers take their cows up to the Alp each summer for roughly 70 days. This means that traditionally speaking they don’t return to the village as often as they might and so the service would come to them. Of course in modern Adelboden there are cars to help farmers visit the village more often but the tradition of playing a service on the mountain tops continues. There is nothing more magical than making music in the sunshine on Bonderalp, Engstligen, Silleren or at my favourite; Butschi valley. Afterwards everyone chats and there is usually cheese, milk, alpine tea and sometimes meringues and fresh cream !

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This Autumn, the band came and helped Our Chalet celebrate it’s 85th birthday with some background music during cake and coffee. It was great to have that connection between village and Chalet and to be an active part of both elements.

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We have experienced some wonderful events during our time at Our Chalet but the band have truly made us feel welcome and part of the larger Adelboden community, be it playing at funerals, welcoming newly born babies or just having a good old laugh with great friends. Thanks to them we have continued to make music and learnt first hand about village life both the mountains, seasons, traditions, sports and people. It has been an unforgettable privilege, thank you.

Nikki Tucker – Our Chalet Deputy World Centre Manager of Operations (October 2014 – December 2017)

My Swiss Experience – Isla (Canada)

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It is hard to put in words the incredible experience that I’ve had at Our Chalet, but I’ll give it a try.

I have been in Guiding ever since I was 5 years old and grew up learning about WAGGGS and the World Centres, and being so inspired by the girls who would share their travel stories and wishing I could go experience everything I was being shown.

Back in 2010, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my Ranger unit to Europe, where we spent 10 days at Our Chalet doing the summer session and then continuing on to spend some time in London at Pax Lodge. It was my first time ever travelling to Europe and being immersed in a culture completely different than my own.  Ever since returning home from that trip I had dreamed of coming back.

Fast forward to 2016 – I had recently graduated from university from a Digital Design and Development programme and while looking for an internship it was brought to my attention that Our Chalet offers a Marketing and Communications internship position (which was exactly the type of job I was looking for!) and the deadline to apply was only a few weeks away! Without even questioning anything I applied, and to my surprise, a few months later I got the good news of being selected for the Autumn 2017 season! I had about 10 months to prepare for my adventure to the Swiss Alps!

August 30th 2017- Stepping off the bus at Adelboden Oey was a surreal moment.  The best part was seeing the blue Our Chalet van and Nikki, the Deputy World Centre Manager for Operations, greeting me (I remember dragging my suitcase up the hill the last time I visited, so this was a nice treat!).

I was the last member of the Autumn 2017 team to arrive, but as soon as I went up to the attic in Spycher and met everyone, I felt immediately welcomed and it was almost like I had known them for a couple weeks already!  I don’t know what I would have done without the support, love, and laughs from the Autumn team.

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Being a Marketing and Communications Intern meant that I would spend most of my time in the office creating content for social media, editing photos, creating posters, updating flyers, and much more, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have time to explore.  I travelled around to over 10 different cities and towns in Switzerland, as well as got to join the Programme team on some hikes and day trips (I was in charge of taking all the photos during the trips!).

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I tried traditional Swiss foods I would have never thought of eating (I am a very picky eater!) and did things that I would never have dared do while at home (such as paragliding, and waking up in the early hours of the morning to hike up and see the sunrise!)

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This trip has helped me gain independence, confidence, and helped me learn a lot about myself, and about many different cultures. I have made friends for life, and made memories I will treasure forever! I am excited for the new and exciting opportunities that are to come in the future both in my personal life, and my guiding life.

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Isla McCullough (Canada), Our Chalet Marketing & Communications Intern, Autumn 2017