Life as a Guest Services Intern – Celia (Australia)

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Hi I’m Celia from Canberra, Australia and I am the Autumn 2016 Guest Services Intern.

When I was first applying for the Autumn Guest Services ocautumn2016_20160902_02-resizedIntern position here at Our Chalet, I was told by many people that you can’t really describe an average day at Our Chalet. Within the first two weeks of being here, I really understood what they meant.

Each of the volunteers and interns has specific jobs that they do on a regular basis. For example, as the Guest Services Intern, I am responsible for running reception at rostered times. I also help to supervise the volunteers on their Guest Services days, help with completing spreadsheets for reports and help to run the shop. On top of these duties, I also regularly get the opportunity to work on personal projects and plan social events for the staff.

One of my most eventful days so far was during my training: The morning began with breakfast with my fellow Autumn volunteers in the staff house, Stockli, followed by a sad farewell to my Summer predecessor who we ‘sang down the hill’ (a Chalet tradition). This was followed by the daily staff meeting where we find out about the jobs for the day and any arrivals or departures.

Photo 21-9-16, 12 54 51 pm.jpgAfter that, I had one of my final training sessions with the Marketing and Communications Intern, Beth and the Head of Guest Operations, Nikki, on Health and
Safety at Our Chalet. As we chatted about lifting techniques and risk management, we started to hear the clanging of bells which was growing louder and louder. This could only mean one thing…Cows! I was so excited to find out that there was a herd of cows coming our way, on their way down the mountain for winter. We all ran outside and watched them passing in front of the Chalet in traditional floral headdresses and with huge ceremonial bells around their necks.

After that excitement we headed back inside to finish the training session, but had another happy interruption with the delivery of delicious fresh pancakes for morning tea. After the pancakes it was back to work, straightening things out in the shop and restocking products that were running low. I also replied to some emails, drew up a schedule for the month and wrote some notes on my staff challenge.

After lunch I had my first driving practice, 2016-10-21 11.44.02.jpgwhich turned out to be quite eventful as I struggled with driving on the right hand side of the road and tried to remember that the gear stick and indicators were on the wrong sides. We drove through the valley and past some beautiful sites including the second
highest waterfall in Switzerland, Engstligenfalle. On the way back up to Our Chalet we managed to pick up some staff members who had been out on an overnight hike, saving them the walk back up the mountainside.

Then, after a couple of hours working in reception and dinner with the guests in the dining hall, the other Autumn Vollies and I relaxed in the staff house and watched a movie together before heading off to bed.

IMG_8653.JPGThat night however, I was on duty which meant that I was responsible for answering the duty phone if any guests need assistance overnight and so had to be prepared for a call at any time. Although it hardly ever rings, I got a call at 3am when a guest arrived earlier than anticipated to check-in. I checked her in and showed her to her room before crashing back into bed.

So, as you can see, while the Guest Services Intern has many standard jobs to do, you can never really predict what you might get up to from day to day!

Celia Vaughan – Guest Services Intern, Autumn 2016

The most exciting 26 hours of my life – Lisa (Austria)

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image2It was 5:20am and my alarm rang. Super excited for the day but quite tired I pulled on my hiking clothes grabbed a breakfast on the go and hopped into the Our Chalet van. The van was full of half-asleep vollies, interns and staff from 7 different countries. We drove to Engstligenalp where we caught the first Gondola up at 6am, on top it felt as cold as the arctic winter. We grabbed our hats and gloves and prepared ourselves for the wait for the cows! It was Alpabzug and I was crazy enough to stand up on an Alp before sunrise. One herd after the other passed us; all of us were trying to get the best shots in. After most of our group left to make it to work on time, Beth from Wales and me, Lisa from Austria, chose a calm herd and we tagged along to head down to the bottom!

The hike down Engstligen is well known for steep steps and windy paths down. So there we were in the back of a cow herd. It seemed as if the cows had no trouble at all descending to the bottom. And there we were – out of breath and ready for a break. There was only one problem, not only was there a herd in front of us but also already behind us. We tried to stay calm looking for an escape. After we finally found a corner to hide / get out of the way of the coming cows, we could finally catch our breaths. The farmers jumped down like mountain goats, the cows ran down without a problem and we, not knowing if we make it down alive or if we would end up being hit be the next herd. After the herd has passed we decide to start again to gain some time to the next herd. One more time we had to hide behind a bench to let a herd pass because we were just not fast enough. After 1:10hr we eventually made it to the bottom of the gondola station. Finally we could catch our breaths again and starting laughing at our ridiculous idea to hike down a mountain in between 500 cows.
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We then decided to walk all the way back to Our Chalet, we managed to get back by 9:40, just as all the staff that were working that day came out of morning meeting. As we only had a quick breakfast before we left and we already had walked 15.000 steps we decided on a big breakfast for the day before we dropped onto the sofa and watched a movie.

During the afternoon, after my nap, my heart started to beat faster and faster. I started to run around our staff house searching all my hiking equipment. I made packing lists and kept asking all the vollies if I was well-equipped for the Bunderspitz hike. As my backpack was completely full I considered myself ready. I quickly decided my five layers of clothing proved to be the right choice. During dinner my excitement level was raising constantly. It probably did not help that I had two big servings of apple crumble and custard – I get hyperactive with too much sugar in my blood.

19:30 the program bell rings and Jenn and I gather with the guests to check equipment and the plan for the evening/night. And off we are. We have a group of 5 inspiring young women from 5 different countries with us as well as Jackie, an autumn vollie from the US.

After the first hour we finally have to turn on our head lamps as it was pretty dark by now as we hiked through the woods. My heart was beating heavily and I was so curious for everything to come. When Jenn announced that we were about 20mins away from our sleeping spot I was surprised by how quickly we had made it to that point. When we 2arrived at the Cheesemakers-Hut, the farmer welcomed us with hot chocolate. We finished it fast and chatted a bit before we headed to the shed where the mattresses were. Bundled up in sheets and wool blankets, hats and fluffy socks everyone fell asleep fast, except me of course. I laid there for what felt hours trying to get comfortable but when I am excited I just can’t sleep.

At 3:15 when the alarm rang I felt like a just have fallen asleep – but oh well, we were about to climb a peak in the dark!!! Half asleep I put on all my layers of clothing, tied my shoes and went brush my teeth and wash my face. At 3:45 we were off, heading closer to the peak. Our next destination was a cow hut – our breakfast spot.

Looking back to this 1:30hrs hike now, I cannot really recall the first 30mins, I guess I was sleepwalking. The hike did not feel challenging at all because I just could not see a thing and only went step after step. At our breakfast spot we enjoyed our packed lunch, but even better was the sky full of stars. It was such a clear night we could even see the Milky Way. So we were sitting there and I slowly started to realise that this is probably not the only magical moment of the morning. As it got colder and colder we started heading 1towards the peak again to keep our bodies moving. The dawn slowly broke the darkness and we could finally turn off our head lamps. And then it was only 30mins towards the peak, my excitement rose and rose and the last steps felt like an accomplishment. There we were on top of Bunderspitz on 2546m waiting for the sunrise. We put on our last layers of clothing and ate the last bit of our breakfast before we got ready to see a magical moment.

image1When the sun rose over Eiger and Jungfrau I felt accomplished and thankful. I would have not imagined myself on top of a mountain watching such a beautiful sunrise with inspiring people around the world. I felt content and blessed to have sat there.

Looking back those were the most amazing 26hrs so far of my internship here at Our Chalet. Even though I was exhausted for the whole next day and a slight cold for the next week I would do both, the Alpabzug Hike with cows and the Bunderspitz overnight hike again, anytime, because those are the once in a lifetime experience that make the stay at Our Chalet so special.

Lisa Pfeiffer – Programme Intern, Autumn 2016

Get to know the Summer Vollies 2016 – Liv (Australia)

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Hi! I’m Liv, from Australia, and I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be an Our Chalet Summer Assistant in 2016! Sadly, Summer has come to an end, and so has my time at the Chalet. I have done so many amazing things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve hiked mountains, cooked meals for well over 80 people, and visited many places, all whilst living in the most beautiful place in the world! The thing that has impacted me most though, are the people that I have been lucky enough to call friends and work-mates for the past three months, my fellow volunteers! Not only are they unique and incredible people, but they have been like family to me at my time at the Chalet.

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Get to know my friends : The Vollies

Mary Ofure (Ofure means peace), (26) is from Nigeria and at home she is a teacher.

She has an infectious laugh and a wicked sense of humour. Mary is an amazing story teller and I have spent many nights listening to her stories and laughing so hard that I’ve started crying. She is also very caring and thoughtful and I have often joked that she was like my ‘Chalet Mum’.

Megan (19) is from Canada and at home she is studying bio-chemistry at university.

Megan is caring, hard working, focused, and is fantastic to work with. She is also hilarious, and so easy to get along with. Something you might not know about Megan is that she’s an incredible singer, and one of my fondest memory of her is when she (reluctantly) sang a Grace before dinner, and impressed both guests and staff with her beautiful voice.

Setavya (23) is from Sri-Lanka and at home she is studying business in university in India.

She has the most beautiful smile and her bright, positive personality lights up every room she is in. Seth (her Chalet nickname) is incredibly intelligent and hard-working. She is so friendly and caring, and is always offering to help. Something you might not know about Seth is that she plays the Oriental Flute, and gave us a performance on International Night.

Laura (18) is from the USA and at home she studying psychology at university.

Laura is outgoing and always smiling. She has a great sense of humour and loves to laugh. She is great to work with because she makes work fun and there’s never a dull moment when she’s around. Something that you might not know about Laura is that she’s studying to become a teacher, and she is amazing at giving directions and helping people.

Virginia (23) is from Mexico and at home, she has just graduated with a degree in business.

 She is so easy to talk to and always knows how to cheer you up and make you smile. She loves to travel and I have been lucky enough to be able to go on many adventures with her. Together we have visited many places including Gruyere (cheese and chocolate!), Bern, Zurich and Basel. I can’t wait to go on more adventures with her in the future.

Chloe (21) is from the USA and is going into her final year at university, studying film.

Chloe is very creative and is amazing at photography and film-making. It has been very handy having her around! As well as being talented, Chloe is very thoughtful and is always smiling and willing to help out. Something you might not know about Chloe is that she is a master Pokemon catcher, and has caught all the Pokemon in the Adelboden valley!

Tinashe (21) is from Malawi and is studying journalism in university.

She is incredibly warm and has an amazing smile. Tinashe also has a great sense of humour and always knows how to make you laugh. Something you might not know about Tinashe is that she is a guest services expert, and is amazing at cleaning dishes, bathrooms and common areas! She has also grown into an amazing leader during her time at the Chalet.

Kelly (19) is from the USA and is studying science at university.

Kelly has an amazing personality and is always positive and ready to help. She always has a smile on her face and is very approachable and easy to talk to. Something you might not know about Kelly is that she knows every campfire song ever written and is never afraid to share them with you!

Lindsay (19) is from the USA and is studying science at university.

Lindsay is incredibly loud and has a great sense of humour. Not only was she my roommate, but she was like a sister to me at the Chalet. She is great at listening, giving advice and making you laugh when you are feeling down. One of my fondest memories of her was when we travelled to Milan together. I can’t wait to have more adventures with her in the future!

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I have had the most unbelievable Summer at Our Chalet, and it wouldn’t have been the same without the incredible staff and volunteers that I have been lucky enough to live and work with. It is hard to leave people who have made somewhere on the other side of the world, far away from where you are from, feel like home.

I just want to say thanks, to each and every one of you, and remember:

‘This is goodnight and not goodbye’.

Olivia Dye – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2016

Guest : Swiss Challenge fun with Troop 508.

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The following blog is a day by day account (slightly edited for this Chatter page) by the troop of their fun, tribulations and adventures whilst taking part in the Our Chalet Swiss Challenge event 2016.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

The Seed for this trip was planted 7 years ago.
Scene: Thinking Day activity, February 2009, learning about WAGGGS World Centres.
Girls: “Can WE go to Switzerland?”
Leaders: “If you stay in Girl Scouting until you get to high school, we will go to Switzerland.”
[5 years of fundraising and planning]
Flash Forward August 2016:
WE MADE IT!!!!

1. Troop 508 Zurich
Leader Note : So proud of these girls and their commitment and perseverance! And to our troop mates who could not join us, but whose efforts helped us get here, you are with us in spirit!

Day One

Good Morning from Our Chalet! This is one of our first views from Our Chalet. The vistas are breathtaking everywhere you turn! Looking forward to a great day!

7. Mountains day 1

Our first day was onsite day with a BBQ lunch and activities including lighting a campfire Swiss style, environmental issues and recycling.

In the evening the programming was International Night. Each country was asked to give a presentation about their country. We gave a musical performance in our awesome trip T-shirts. We also spoke of the international diversity of the US reflected in our own cultural diversity by giving our heritages that have arrived on our shores in the last 2-4 generations. Then we shared Tootsie Rolls, celebrating their 120th birthday this year, giving the history of this American treat. Afterwards, we had a chance to mingle with the other girls and trade SWAPS (small tokens representing their locale). We had made up tiny bottles of sand from Jones Beach, tied with red, white and blue ribbons and labeled with our troop number and “Long Island, NY”. Then we learned about our new friends’ countries of Canada, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Day Two

Today was our first bus trip. This morning’s programming was at the Schuh Chocolatier in Interlaken, with Sandra the chocolatier. We learned how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean through to the finished products. Then we sampled different kinds of chocolate and bonbons and learned how one becomes a chocolatier! And of course, there was an opportunity to buy chocolates. Not sure if any of it will make it home !

10. Lollipops

The afternoon programme was whitewater rafting on a glacial river in Interlaken. We all donned full wet suits and set off with the able guides. We ran both Level III & Level IV rapids, before ending the run in Lake Brienz.

Tonight’s programme was a Twilight Hike to Bonder Falls. We set out just before sunset for the 1 hour trek up to the Falls.

Unfortunately, our trail was blocked at the last kilometer or so by cows returning home. The views were still spectacular!
We returned to the Chalet by moonlight for a well deserved rest. All will sleep well tonight!!

Day Three

Today was a “Free Day” in that there was no scheduled programming. Our Chalet has a variety of self-guided hikes and the staff were all in agreement that the Engstligen Falls hike was the most rewarding. Given that the hike last night to the Bonder Falls was aborted midway due to bovine traffic, we were all game to try another waterfall hike, especially since the Engstligen Falls are the second largest in Switzerland! We left the Chalet @ 10 am and arrived at the base of the falls just after 12 noon. We ate our packed lunch at a picnic area and then boarded the gondola for a quick ride to the top of the waterfall. We spent a good hour up there taking phenomenal pictures and soaking in the beauty of it all. We returned to the base of the falls and enjoyed an ice cream break before beginning the trek back to Our Chalet. We arrived back at the Chalet @ 5 pm, after taking a short detour to see the “Magic Tree,” part of the Chalet Challenge.


No scheduled programming tonight, so we hung around the Chalet, as tomorrow is another big hiking day.

Day Four

Today (Sunday) was another spectacular, sunny day, with a high of 87 degrees. We hiked up Elsigenalp to a lake. The distance was a little shorter than yesterday at 6 miles, but the elevation and steepness of the trail was more grueling @ the equivalent of 101 flights of stairs. The Chalet staff did an awesome job, leading the group on the ascent. At the top, we were rewarded with a dip in the lake, which was very cold, but refreshing. We are participating in the “Our Chalet Challenge” and one of the requirements was to submerge in a lake or river for 5 seconds. We all completed this element of the challenge, which sounds much easier then it was! We were able relax by the lake for a couple of hours, before catching a gondola back to base and taking the bus back to Our Chalet. We had a prayer service before dinner, as we were unable to get to a Mass for today (or tomorrow for the Solemnity of the Assumption).

27. Fritz and Group

 

Sunday night’s programming was “Swiss Night”. We were treated to an alpenhorn performance by Fritz, who first started coming to the Chalet as a 5 year old, delivering produce, 80 years ago. Then we played Jeopardy with all the other guests, testing our knowledge of Switzerland and Our Chalet. Afterwards we enjoyed a treat of Swiss chocolate fondue!

While we are on the topic of food, a sampling of our meals:
Breakfast: a buffet with cereal, yogurt, fruit and bread (or toast) with jam
Lunch: we pack ham/salami/cheese/tuna or egg sandwiches, with salad, fruit and a snack to eat out and about on our excursions
Dinner: Family style dining with one girl as “runner”. We have had pasta bolognese & carbonara, chilli and rosti (a typical Swiss dish with potatoes – we loved this one!)

Day Five

Is it really possible that each day can be better that the last? We had yet another incredible day of adventure at Our Chalet today! We started off on a 2 hour hike. Our “easiest” hiking day so far. While the distance was about 8 miles, the terrain was mostly “Swiss flat.” Swiss flats are slowly undulating roads or paths, as you meander horizontally across the lower portion of the mountains. After 2 hours, we arrived at the charming Woodcarver’s Shop. Our Chalet has had a relationship with with this family for years, going back 3 generations of woodcarvers. The business collects patches from the different groups who pass through and they tape them to the ceiling. We gave the woodcarver a patch from Girl Scouts of Nassau County, Long Island, NY to commemorate our visit. Afterwards, we had a quick break to sit and enjoy a slice of the most delicious lemon cake from the neighbors who ran a little “cafe.” After that brief respite, we hiked on to a stream for lunch. There in the middle of nowhere, was a covered picnic table where we could enjoy our lunch. We have encountered such tables or benches along all of our hiking paths, an indication of the Swiss’ love and appreciation of the outdoors. After lunch, we headed to the Choleren Gorge for our afternoon activity: abseiling, or as we know it, rapelling. We got into the harnesses and helmets and did a practice run on a little ledge and then climbed partway into the gorge to begin the aerial descent. There were 2 different sections, the first being a 15 meter drop and the second was 40 meters. For much of the descents, we were not able to use our feet against the rock, but were rather rapelling down while suspended in midair. While this activity might have been outside of some of our comfort zones, we all dropped off the platforms without hesitation. “Courageous and Strong,” a point of the Girl Scout Law, were the operative words of the day! We hiked back to the Chalet and had a couple of hours rest before duties and dinner.

Day Six

Today (Tuesday) was an “excursion” day, so there was very little hiking. We took a bus to the base of Niesen, also known as the “Swiss Pyramid.” On the bus ride, we learned about the legend of the Niesen fox. We took the funicular up to the peak at 2336 meters, our highest elevation yet, and were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Jungfrau, as well as the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz on either side of Interlaken. We returned to the base by return funicular and enjoyed our lunch at the lakeside town of Speiz. After lunch, we took a ferry across Lake Thun to the Oberhofen Castle, which was the inspiration for the Disney’s animators when they created the village of Arrandale for the movie “Frozen.” We participated in a scavenger hunt around the castle and explored the grounds. At the end of the afternoon, we returned to Our Chalet by bus. I think the best aspect of the day was traveling with our new friends from Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland group are the same age as us and seem to have the same sense of adventure and fun. We have been paired with this group often and are truly enjoying each other’s company, getting to know one another and learn about life in our respective countries. This is so much of what the Our Chalet experience is supposed to be!

Day Seven

Well, they did it again! The staff and programme here at Our Chalet have provided an even better day than the days so far! Despite setting out on an 1 hour 15 min hike to the Adventure Park in a light drizzle, the skies were clear and the sun was shining by the time we arrived at the park. We hiked up to the morning’s activity of rock climbing, but this was no day trip to Island Rock! We were taught how to find foot holds and hand holds on the rock face and how to belay for one another. We worked in teams of 3 (1 climber and 2 belayers) utilizing 8 different climbing routes on the rock face, so everyone was doing something at the same time, with no standing and waiting. Most of us scaled 3-4 different routes up the wall. After 2 hours of climbing, we then hiked down to main part of the adventure park for lunch.


After our lunch break, we were ready to take on the main portion of the adventure park with zip lining, a high ropes bridge and more abseiling. There were 10 different ziplines that allowed us to zip back and forth across the gorge at all different heights. We spent the afternoon zipping all over place!

Some of the us also took on the high ropes bridge. This bridge is very similar to the rope bridge we do every year on our Greenkill trip, except Greenkill’s bridge is about 6 feet off the creek bed. This rope bridge was about 40 meters is the air!

44. Rope Bridge

The final challenge at the adventure park was abseiling off the bridge. (Please note that this was NOT bungee jumping (a GSNC prohibited activity), despite us telling our leaders we were “jumping off the bridge.”). We stepped off the platform and had a controlled descent. That doesn’t mean it didn’t require a deep breath before taking the plunge!

Tonight we said Goodbye over our final activity of campfire. Goodbye, to the simple peace and beauty of Our Chalet and to the incredible staff. To our new friends, especially those from Northern Ireland, and to the camaraderie that comes from shared challenges and accomplishments. We are leaving this place changed for the better, so blessed and thankful. May all our fellow Girl Guides and Our Chalet staff who shared this adventure with us treasure our shared memories always. We know we will. And until we meet again, auf wiedersehen…..au revoir……arrivederci…….farewell, Adelboden.

48. Campfire

 

A Summer spent in paradise – Lindsay (USA)

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The past three months have been a whirlwind of excitement, emotion and adventure as I took on my first summer away from home. Coming to Our Chalet I truly didn’t know what to expect, I just knew that I wanted to spend my time here exploring the beauty of the Swiss Alps. Little did I know that I would walk away with so much more than just some pretty pictures and cool souvenirs.
Summer Team

Working at Our Chalet has been my first true job. Although I introduce myself as a “Summer Volunteer,” working here has been exactly that: work. Coming out of training, I feared all the hours I would be scrubbing toilets, cooking meals and giving tours. But it has truly taught me the importance of teamwork, efficiency and a positive attitude. Of course there were moments where tempers were high, sleep was deprived and we were all tired of doing the same jobs as yesterday and the day before, but as a team we always pulled through. Service with a smile was natural most times because, although on some days we had to clean and fold over 100 towels as well as set all 74 beds, just looking outside and reminding myself that I am living in paradise was enough.

Lindsay

Not every day seemed like work, however. When on program, we had the opportunity to lead girls on so many adventures from canyoning to zip lining to an overnight hike to see the sunrise from atop a mountain. I expected to love program purely because of the exciting activities we lead, but what I actually enjoyed the most was getting to know the guests on these long excursion days. Talking to the girls about their interests and seeing their passions was inspiring to me, and their humor just added to the fun. Every group was different, with unique personalities, fears and strengths. For me, helping others conquer their fears and encouraging them to push themselves was the most rewarding part of program. A common phrase throughout the past three months has been “I never thought I could do that.” It is truly one of the best feelings to see someone accomplish something that they never thought was in their sights.

Hiking

Throughout my time at Our Chalet, I was able to go on some incredible excursions on my days off. I traveled around to different Swiss Cities such as Bern, Lucerne, Geneva and Zermatt to see the Matterhorn (with my parents!). Hiking was also a very popular activity. I had the chance to hike six of the Alps in our valley, even competing in a race to the top of one with another volunteer (no level of training would prepare one for that). I also traveled to four of the five neighboring countries to Switzerland. I went on an excursion early on in the summer to Milan with my roommate, I met a friend who is from Spain in Paris for my three days off and went on a hiking trip through Liechtenstein to Austria with a fellow volunteer. Of course, with each of these trips there were complications and lessons learned, but that’s what this summer was all about. Being able to plan and explore in an unfamiliar land was empowering, now I fell as though I could go anywhere and do anything.

Silleren Run

But lastly, I am so thankful for the memories I have made with my new and unforgettable Chalet family. Living with twelve other people from seven different countries sounded completely overwhelming at first, with the possible culture clashes, but these humans have taught me more than I could ever read about in a travel book. Without even leaving the staff house, I have felt the generous nature of Sri Lanka, tasted the hot spices of Mexico and laughed with the sarcasm of Nigeria.  My roommate was from Australia and although we are from opposite sides of the planet we quickly found out that we have a lot more in common than just our messiness. We were definitely the loudest in the house, and being roomed together did not particularly help those who wished to go to bed at an early hour. We loved the same TV shows, had the same sense of humor and really understood when the other was stressed out. It was crazy to think that I found someone so similar from so far away. I never hesitated to go to anyone in the house for advice, it was really interesting to hear how other cultures handled different situations. But although there were so many differences in all of our lives and cultures, we thrived by embracing them and learning from each other.

July 4th

Basically what I am trying to say is, I never knew I could feel so at home while being almost 4500 miles (7000 km) away. The landscape is breathtaking and the people adventurous. It is crazy to think that I have already spent three months in my own little paradise; travelling, hiking and exploring on my days off. I know I will never forget my summer spent in the Swiss Alps, but more importantly I will never forget the bond that I have created with the rest of the staff here. I could not be more thankful for my time here and I will definitely return some day.

Lindsay Schwartz – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2016

Adventure and Peace in the Skies (Virginia USA)

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IMG_0225There is so much that Our Chalet offers to its guests and staff; of course this includes the peace for the soul and the challenge and adventure that founders Helen Storrow and Falk dreamed of. One activity that I think (surprisingly!) encompassed both was tandem paragliding on a day off with another spring intern: Joanne.

We took the train to Interlaken and sat outside the train station while waiting for our guides. We could see a bunch of paragliders soaring over us and the butterflies in our stomachs flapped harder and harder. We finally met our guides, Werner and Hans, who drove us up to the village of Beatenberg above Interlaken and Thunersee (Lake Thun). After a short walk, they put us in backpack-like harnesses as they unravelled the wings near a cliff’s edge. Werner, my pilot, gave me brief instructions and then we practiced running while clipped together. Then before I could think too much, we were clipped to the wing and running, running, step, step – air! Soaring!

We lean to the left to swoop up a little higher and I heard an instrument begin beeping. “That is a good noise!” Werner assures me and explains that it is his altimeter, or variometer, and that the faster it beeps, the faster we are ascending- maybe several meters per second! We wheel like birds, kettling higher and higher with other paragliders and hang-gliders. We swing in wide loops and climb through the wind and cold air on the sun-powered thermals. Pretty soon Werner and I are higher than all the other wings. His estimate was about 1800 meters or 5900 feet up! Almost as high as the Neiderhorn nearby!

The amazing thing was that you couldn’t feel yourself rising, dropping, or moving sideways as quickly as it was happening. It was interesting to look around and see other gliders in our thermal, or to hear Werner say something like “Oh it looks like he has some air over there,” and we would head for another glider who was looping up and up and up.

Looking down you could see chalets and fields with cows, the different blues of Thunersee, the train and the city of Interlaken. Further out you could see Niesen and the Jungfrau massif. Patches of sun lit the valley and beckoned our sail and our souls.

Virginia ParaglidingThe sun retreated a bit over the city, leaving us searching for the exciting updrafts. We drifted a bit lower as we neared Harder Kulm and the rocky cliffs above Interlaken, doing slow wide circles above a wind sock in the trees. We caught a small updraft before lazily drifting over Thunersee and town. Then it was decision time- do I want to do the “crazy flying?” The “rollercoaster?” as Werner called it.

My stomach seems ok- so I give a hesitant yes. Werner hands me the selfie stick that we are using and suddenly we begin to pitch and roll, wheeling through the sky like a joyful raven as I shriek with fear and glee.

Laughing I finally hand the selfie stick back to Werner as we swoop closer to Joanne and Hans. When I see her practicing running in the air, I realize that we are nearing the landing field in the middle of town. We begin dropping and stretch our feet towards the ground. The grass flies up to meet my boots, and I take a couple of steps before getting whipped around by the wing. We manage to keep our balance as Werner whips the wing down onto the grass.

I am grinning madly as Joanne lands nearby. Hugs, handshakes and thank yous before our pilots are off to pick up another pair of adventurers, and Joanne and I are left laughing and grinning, ready to take back to the skies.

Can you find peace for the soul through adventure? Of course! Because while I doubted it before we got in the air, I soon felt at peace soaring through the sky with the buzzards and the kites. But paragliding was nothing if not an adventure! I think both Helen Storrow and Falk would have been proud.

Virginia Miller – Programme Intern Spring 2016

A Day in the Life of a Guest Services Intern (Georgiie UK)

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6I applied to Our Chalet on a bit of a whim, I wanted to do something different in my year out of studying and wanted to travel and explore somewhere new. I’m not too sure how I ended up on the Our Chalet website browsing volunteer opportunities, but the role of Guest Services Intern caught my eye and I applied. The rest of the application process was pretty quick and at the beginning of February 2015 I found out that I would be the Spring Guest Services Intern starting on Thinking Day 2016 (I leaped with joy, made a little excited sound and cried slightly).

And now here I am I cannot believe how quickly this whole experience has gone. I was incredibly nervous coming here, simply because I was going into the unknown but it has been an amazingly beautiful adventure and I’ll probably shed a tear when I leave.
7The title of this post is perhaps a bit misleading, simply because there’s no way I can describe a standard day being GSI. There are certain things I have to do, but the beauty of the role is that I get to potter about the grounds, take on random requests and interact with all of our guests and visitors. Apart from the first day or two of the month when I close myself away in the shop and count up all the stock I can confidently say I never know what I’m going to be doing each day. I’ll always check and respond to my emails, but after that it really depends on what’s been going on in the Chalet.

If we have recently said goodbye to some visitors I take the time to analyse their evaluation forms and see how wonderful everyone thinks we are, and if we have guests arriving throughout the day I check them in and welcome them to Our Chalet. The one place where I am largely responsible for is the shop; I make sure it’s looking neat and tidy, keep it restocked and when deliveries arrive I have to count it and find a home for it.
062015_Switzerland_new stock at the shopMy job isn’t just counting though; throughout my time here I’ve been a bit creative. I’ve made a Grace Booklet with some traditional and some modern graces, a welcome booklet for vollies and interns, redone some of the signs around the Chalet and I’m currently creating a new poster about volunteering for the WAGGGS room. I’ve also worked towards my staff challenge which has been lots of fun and included jumping in the bins, lighting a fire with only one match and lots more.
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My most favourite random job that I’ve had to do so far is help Stelios (the Grounds and Maintenance Assistant) with the snow BBQ at Engstligenalp. If I were a guest I would find that experience truly magical, and would really encourage anyone visiting in winter on programme to opt for that if they can. On the way back from the BBQ site I got to sit on the large white sledge and get pushed through the snowy forests by Stelios, our grounds and maintenance assistant, whilst I screamed, laughed and felt like a child again.
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I think I’ve covered the big main elements of my job, there are lots of other little things I do and sometimes I muck in with the Vollies and help keep Chalet looking sparkly and clean. There’s no typical day for me and that makes the job even more enjoyable, I get to throw myself at lots of random tasks. If you’re sat there reading this thinking you would enjoy the role then stop reading and go and apply!

Georgina Smith – Our Chalet Guest Services Intern Spring 2016