STAFF: Rising to the Challenge – Danielle (UK)

Standard

Whilst I’m a Winter vollie I’m completing the Our Chalet staff challenge – and one of the challenges is to write a blog for the website. I thought it would be good to explain what I have done so far for my challenge and the activities I plan to complete.  To earn your Staff Challenge badge you need 80 points from a number of different challenges; each is worth a different number of points from 1 to 5.

IMG_1574 The coldest challenge was standing knee-high in a river for 5 seconds – it was freezing!  There must be something about Our Chalet and water – as I also climbed the fountain in town for a photo. The craziest so far has been tobogganing from the top of Hohliebeweg at night – but it was lots of fun!  I think the strangest has been climbing around one of the dining room tables.  You start on the top of the table, climb underneath and then back on to the top or you can start underneath the table and complete the challenge in reverse. After a lot of advice on where to hold onto and where to put my feet I managed to complete the challenge.

IMG_2127

On a more practical note, I cleaned the staff house, cooked fajitas for dinner for 16 people by myself and have also made tiffin (a traditional dish from the UK) and cooked two traditional Swiss dishes of rosti and Alpine macaroni. I visited the recycling centre and can explain the process of what happens at the centre and jumped on the rubbish in the big silver bin. I have developed my Guiding knowledge too – making a poster explaining the current work of WAGGGS and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and my knotting skills by making a pioneering structure (a washing up stand) using 4 different knots and lashings. I am now able to light a campfire using natural materials and only one match. Writing a blog for the website is a first too.

IMG_1565

I have enjoyed getting out and about – I made a wish at the magic tree and taken a day trip to Kandersteg to visit the Scout centre with Rachael.  I’ve completed 5 fun things on my days off;  skiing, sledging, visiting other towns and cities such as Thun, geocaching and completing parts of my staff challenge. Adelboden has a large ski resort and I have had the opportunity to ski a number of blue, red and black runs on my days off. I have hiked to town and back on my own at midnight.

Some other challenges I’ve completed include:  singing  “Happy Birthday” in 3 languages including Spanish, French and Faroese,  learning a fact about Switzerland (, the Swiss didn’t want to use ‘danke’ as ‘thank you’ to prove they weren’t German, but they sounded French when using ‘merci’ so they added ‘vilmal’, a Swiss-German ending to say ‘thank you very much’) and completing 20 press ups and 20 sit ups. I am now able to explain what 5 Swiss hiking/ski signs mean, including the different types (walking trails, snow shoe trails and cross country skiing trails) and the difficulty (hiking, mountain and alpine). I have learnt 10 Swiss German words and read a historical Guiding book called ‘How the Girl Guides won the war’. I enjoyed getting to drive Boris the snow plough! I also introduced the other staff to armpit fudge which is one of my favourite camp activities!

IMG_2758

A challenge I still need to complete is to, make a presentation about my season as a vollie at Our Chalet, so that I can show my Rainbows what I have been up to over the past 3 months.

And finally, I have created two personal challenges, choosing to learn 100 Spanish words with the help of Ana – and I still need to master this one! As well as walking down and back up the Chalet hill every day in February!

By the time I’ve completed these, thanks to Our Chalet, I really will have challenged myself at many different levels.

Danielle McIver
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-15

STAFF: The little things (English) – Ana (ARG)

Standard

Dear Friends of Our Chalet:

Today I want to share with you my experience as a volunteer in the centre. It’s not an easy job, but I’ll try to summarize in 600 words what I’ve done in these months.

Arriving at Our Chalet was like opening the doors of a new world. After 20 hours of planes, trains, waiting rooms and buses, I got to a small village high in the Alps, with its shiny snow and its chalets scattered around the valley. From that moment, there wasn’t a day in which I did not discover something new. I’m not talking about great scientific discoveries, just little things, simple but different from what I’ve lived up to now.

ana5

The first day, for instance, I got surprised by the crunchy noise of snow when you step on it; I also learnt that my new home in the mountains was surrounded by squirrels and moles, no more cows or plain pampa around me.

With time I got to know not only the place but also its people. And here I have to make a difference between two groups of people: the Swiss, and my workmates, a combination of diverse nationalities. Running the risk of saying nothing new, I would say that Swiss people are extremely respectful, nice and peaceful, all the time willing to help a lost “paisa” like me. I always say that my orientation skills are rather scarce, but here that was never a problem. I’ve asked where I was, where I was going and which platform was correct thousands of times and each time there was a kind person trying to help me.

Now, speaking of the second group, the staff, I should say we are a great team that after the passing of hours and the shared work, living under the same roof, makes up a big family. Each one has something different to share from their country, their food, their songs, their history, and together, we build a special lifestyle that lasts only three months. Then, it will be renewed by new volunteers, new stories and new cultures, all different and special at the same time, tied by something in common: our Law and our Guide Promise.

ana2

Being in Our Chalet not only opened the borders of Guiding to me, but also the doors of Europe, a distant and ancient continent for us, Latin-Americans. From my new little village in the Alps, I made the most of my days off and travelled to “la bella Italia”, my grandfather and my great-grandparents’ land, who decided to cross the ocean and look for new dreams far away from the war, like many other Europeans.

To this travelling list to neighbouring lands, I added Paris and London, key cities in many of the texts I read when I was studying, Zurich, Bern, Geneva and Basel, some of the most important Swiss cities, and a short trip to Germany, too.

Over these months my mates and I have also put lots of energy on our Staff Challenge. Some of you might wonder what this is, here’s the explanation: Lord Baden-Powell stated that we always have to venture, learn new things, and run new risks. Following this idea, we have a list of challenges to fulfil to get points and receive the great prize!!! (A badge we don’t even know). However, maybe because Baden-Powell suggested it, maybe because we want to see who gets more points, we all set off after the same objective; selecting challenges that suit are possibilities. I want to share with you my mate and friend Danielle’s personal challenge: learn and memorize 100 words in Spanish, including useful phrases to introduce herself, order food at a restaurant and ask for help in case she gets lost.

ana4

After many classes in the Spanish workshop, I felt really proud when, two days ago, Danielle went to do a check-in of two guests who arrived late. After some minutes, she came back, really excited, telling me that though they spoke English to her, she heard them talking in Spanish between them, and speaking about “la cuenta” – the bill. The lovely way in which she pronounces “la cuenta, por favor” and the effort she puts into her challenge are priceless.

I am thankful for memories like these, for laughter and knowing looks, for learning new things, for surprises and new people in my life. I am thankful for having the opportunity to live this experience, totally advisable for a Guide.

To each person in my new family in the Alps:
Charlotte, Rachael, Danielle, Sarah S, Sarah W, Mel, Victoria, Chloe, Katrina, Megan, Nikki, Byron, Migue, Jen, Mara, Tanya and Don…

A huge ‘thank you’, for being part of this adventure and worrying every time you thought I was lost in the snow. ☺

Be prepared!

Ana Cimarosti
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-15

STAFF: Son aquellas pequeñas cosas (Español) – Ana (ARG)

Standard

Queridos amigos de Our Chalet:

Hoy quiero compartir con ustedes mi experiencia como voluntaria en el centro. No es tarea fácil, pero voy a tratar de resumir en 600 palabras lo que he vivido en estos meses.

Mi llegada a Our Chalet fue cómo abrir las puertas de un nuevo mundo. Llegué con mi valija después de un viaje de 20 horas entre aviones, esperas, trenes y colectivos, a un pueblito en lo alto de los Alpes, con su nieve brillante y sus chalecitos desparramados por el valle. A partir de ese momento no pasó un solo día sin que descubriera algo nuevo. No digo grandes descubrimientos científicos, simplemente pequeñas cosas, sencillas pero distintas a lo que he vivido a lo largo de mi vida.

ana6

El primer día, por ejemplo, me sorprendí con el ruido crujiente que produce la nieve al pisarla; también supe que mi nuevo hogar en las montañas estaba rodeado de topos y ardillas, ya no más vacas ni pampa a mi alrededor.

Con el correr del tiempo fui conociendo no solo el lugar, sino también su gente. Y aquí tengo que nombrar dos categorías, la gente de Suiza, y mis compañeros de trabajo, una mezcla peculiar de nacionalidades. Corriendo el riesgo de no contar nada novedoso, podría decir que la gente suiza es extremadamente respetuosa, agradable, y tranquila, en todo momento dispuestos a ayudar a una “paisa” perdida como yo. Siempre digo que mis habilidades de orientación son bastante escasas, pero aquí eso nunca fue un problema. He preguntado dónde estaba, a donde iba y cuál era mi plataforma de tren miles y miles de veces y siempre hubo una persona amable tratando de correr en mi auxilio.

Ahora bien, hablando del staff, he de decir que somos un gran equipo, que con el paso de las horas y el trabajo compartido, y cobijados bajo un mismo techo, conformamos una gran familia. Cada cual aporta algo distinto que trajo de su país, su comida, sus canciones, su historia, y juntos creamos este singular estilo de vida que dura tan solo tres meses, y luego se refresca con nuevas voluntarias, nuevas historias y nuevas culturas, todas disímiles y a la vez especiales, unidas por un lazo común: nuestra Ley y nuestra Promesa Guía.

ana3

El estar en Our Chalet no solo abrió las fronteras del Guidismo para mí, sino también las puertas de Europa, ese continente, para nosotros, los latinoamericanos, tan antiguo y lejano. Desde mi pequeño pueblito en los Alpes y aprovechando los días libres, me largué a conocer un poquito de la bella Italia, la tierra de mi abuelo y mis bisabuelos, quienes como tantas familias de inmigrantes europeos decidieron cruzar el océano en busca de nuevos sueños lejos de la guerra.

Y a la lista de viajecitos relámpago a tierras vecinas, se sumaron Londres y Paris, protagonistas de tantos textos leídos durante mis estudios, Zurich, Berna, Ginebra, y Basilea, las ciudades más importantes Suiza, y también una escapada a Alemania.

En estos meses, mis compañeras y yo hemos invertido mucha energía en el Desafío del Staff. Algunos se preguntarán de qué se trata, he aquí la explicación. Lord Baden-Powell sostenía que siempre debemos aventurarnos, aprender nuevas cosas, correr nuevos riegos. Siguiendo esta idea, dentro del staff tenemos una lista de desafíos a cumplir, y con ellos juntamos puntos para llegar al gran premio: una insignia que nunca vimos!!! En fin, ya sea porque lo sugirió Baden-Powell, o porque queremos competir a ver quién suma más puntos, todas nos lanzamos tras el mismo objetivo, eligiendo retos a la medida de nuestras posibilidades. Comparto con ustedes el desafío personal de mi compañera y amiga británica, Danielle: aprender y memorizar 100 palabras en español, incluyendo frases útiles para presentarse, ordenar comida en un restaurant y pedir ayuda en caso de perderse.

ana1

Después de unas cuantas clases en el tallercito de español, me llené de orgullo cuando hace unos días, Danielle fue a atender dos huéspedes que llegaron tarde y tenían que hacer el check-in. Unos minutos más tarde vuelve, feliz, contándome que aunque le hablaron todo el tiempo en inglés, entendió que entre ellos hablaban en español sobre “la cuenta”. El tonito simpático con que dice “la cuenta, por favor” y el empeño que pone en su desafío son impagables.

Por recuerdos como estos, risas y miradas cómplices, aprendizajes, sorpresas y personas nuevas en mi vida, agradezco haber tenido la oportunidad de vivir esta experiencia, absolutamente recomendable para un Guía.
A cada una de las personas en mi nueva familia en los Alpes:
Charlotte, Rachael, Danielle, Sarah S, Sarah W, Mel, Victoria, Chloe, Katrina, Megan, Nikki, Byron, Migue, Jen, Mara, Tanya y Don…

Un enorme GRACIAS por formar parte de esta aventura y preocuparse cada vez que pensaban que estaba perdida en la nieve. ☺

SIEMPRE LISTA PARA SERVIR

Ana Cimarosti (ARG)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-2015

STAFF: 6 Weeks In – Sarah (Aus)

Standard

The snow is coming down!…..Finally! 

winter vollies   What a start to a season we have had with warm weather and sunshine to match. Our six weeks at Our Chalet so far have been filled with Christmas and New Years celebrations that kept us both excited and on our toes with many guests from all over the world coming to join in on the Christmas cheer!

Despite the lack of snow and lush green mountains surrounding us I decided to ski Christmas Eve and had a ball on the thin layer of snow that did somehow coat the runs of the Adeboden ski area.

Christmas Eve was a magical night starting with a huge Christmas dinner followed by a talent show of various cultural performances and Christmas carols. The dining hall was filled with enthusiasm as the Australian ‘Von Trapp’ family visiting us performed the 12 days of Christmas Aussie style…5 KANGAROOS!

We lit the nikki byron brassChristmas tree in the fireplace and sung more carols before heading off to Church or enjoying a reading of The Christmas Carol in the T-bar downstairs.

Santa Claus must of had difficulty getting to us this year due to the lack of snow however he managed to find all the children staying at Our Chalet evidenced by their showcase of new toys at brunch on Christmas day. Brunch was huge as we had 46 guests over the Christmas period, I cooked 100 eggs and we still managed to run out!

We had only a brief period DSC07514of time to recover after our Christmas celebrations before our next lot of guests arrived to stay with us over the New Year, we were both exhausted and excited!

At the Chalet we try and incorporate as many traditions as we can from our diverse range cultures brought by our guests, Christmas and New Years Eve proved to be perfect example of this in action. One new tradition that I experienced this year was the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes on the chime of midnight for good luck in the coming year. Megan, our Kitchen Coordinator proved to us she could fit 12 grapes in her mouth at once!

DSC07509

The very bright full moon lit our path through the snow to the magic tree on New Years Eve when we snow-shoed with guests as part of our evening program. It was a beautifully still night and the guests were so friendly and enthusiastic about joining in on the fun. We also had a campfire to close the night and take us through to the New Year. Sharing reflections and our best moments of 2014 was included in our campfire to fit with our theme of the New Year. At midnight we all gathered by the flagpole to watch the stunning display of Adelboden fireworks in town. Our Chalet’s perfect hillside location gave us the best spot in town.

DSC07557

The Christmas period is in my opinion a fantastic time to visit Our Chalet, you will feel right at home with our traditional family style dinner and friendly atmosphere and enjoy all the joy and activities that come with the snow of the winter season!

We are all currently recovering from the busy festive season and praying for more snow! I am hoping that in the next few weeks I can get in some awesome skiing days with the other vollies and enjoy many more random act of fun….

Tonight we are going to have a party and sleep in a tent in the snow!!

Sarah Schooley (Aus)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-2015

STAFF: Ballad of a Vollie – Rachael (UK)

Standard

Hi blog readers. I’m Rachael, I’m from the UK and I’m here for the winter season as a volunteer. Life as a vollie is varied and challenging, with different things happening every day. I’ve written this poem to give people interested an idea of what we do on a day to day basis.

Sarah Mel Rachael SWC

Sarah, Mel and Rachael at the Ski World Cup

A Day as a Vollie

My alarm goes off at 7 o’clock
I wake up my roomies with a quick knock knock
I shower and put on my uniform necker and hoodie
And say farewell for the day to our staff house Stockli

As vollies our days are rarely the same
If we’re on programme there can be a hike, onsite day or game
Off to the woodcarvers, sledging or even bbq in the snow
Our guests can also give skiing or snowboarding a go

For those on guest services breakfast helps our visitors to start their day
To get it ready in time we put coffee on straight away
A full stomach and caffeine boost is good for our guests
To allow them to enjoy their day of activities to the best

As our guests leave for activities we put things back on the shelves
Next up is morning meeting where we discover today’s plan for ourselves
Sometimes we play games or have a laugh
But mostly it’s a chance to discuss things with all staff

The vollie on duty shares out all jobs and tasks
Whether it’s shovelling snow or finding ski masks
We spend a fair amount of time in the laundry room
Or sweeping the floor with our trusty broom

Cleaning is a well planned task we all do our share of
It can be hard work but it’s a labour of love
There’s red cloths and cleaner for those cleaning the loo
But for everything else the gloves are yellow and the cleaner is blue

It’s very important to clean rooms and make beds
Because it gives our guests and good impression and somewhere to rest their heads
There’s sheets, duvet covers, towels and pillows
We also dust and clean mirrors and windows

It’s our job to prepare lunch for everyone else who working
Usually it’s left-overs or treats that are lurking
We all sit together and discuss our day so far
Or talk about things that to others seem quite bizarre

After lunch we usually have two hours of break time
Where we complete staff challenges like writing poems that barely rhyme
There’s always a chance to play with our cat Skippy
Or if it’s snowed enough we can sledge – yippee!

We prepare dinner which is often an authentic swiss meal
There’s salad to make, meat to cook and veg to peel
We put all the plates, glasses and food in their place
And our guests start the meal by singing a grace

After dinner we may run a campfire with songs or chants
Or an international evening with a variety of stories and dance
Everyone loves a chance to swap badges and pins
Or a games night of challenges where only one team wins

Every day at the Chalet is different and it’s a very special place to be
For 3 months it’s home for the rest of the vollies and me
It can be a challenge but it’s always a laugh
So why haven’t you applied to join our team of staff?

Rachael (UK)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-2015

STAFF: The Ski World Cup – Mel (AUS)

Standard

The World Ski Cup for Slalom and Giant Slalom, is held in Adelboden each year.  The town of Boden, which is right next to Adelboden, during this time, turns into a sea of white marquees, people, and a mix of mud and snow.  Our morning of the 10th of January, the first day of the World Cup was spent doing our mid-term evaluations and general discussions about how our time here was and what we think could be improved and what was already perfect.  We completed all our jobs of cleaning and cooking in record time, and hence we were able to have the afternoon off.  Jen gave us a lift down to the Ski World Cup in the Van, and we spent the afternoon there.  It’s needless to say that we were highly excited by the free hats/beanies… and free sunglasses… and more free beanies… and free flags… you get the idea.  We were able to watch some of the races, and the best places to stand were actually on the hill in the free areas.

IMG_0521v2 We headed back to the Chalet about 3.45, Jen picked us up in the van again.  It was lovely no to have to walk back up the hill, although the hill from Boden is definitely easier than the hill from Adelboden!  We were supposed to be going out for a staff social night, for night sledging, but unfortunately the run was closed due to little snow and bad winds.  So, instead of having an early dinner, we had it at the normal time of 6 pm.  It was leftovers, so it was an easy set up and clear up.  After dinner some of us headed into town to celebrate the one weekend of the year where Adelboden actually has a night life!IMG_0540

The second day of the World Cup it snowed all morning.  It wasn’t until after lunch at about 12.30, Charlotte, Danielle (and Olivia – the Rainbows Mascot), Bryon and I convinced Katrina to drive us down to the World Cup.  We were sent with a list of freebies to acquire… and we did not disappoint!  We wandered around and gathered our freebies, though some were not expected and other we couldn’t aquire.  We had some photos taken at the Co-op tent, and got some free soup, got some free cheese and lip balm from the cheese man, a beanie from some company and a jersey from Oester Sport.  The latter we had signed by some skiers… not entirely sure who they were though!!  Although I do have their names to look them up!

swc bib sign

We only stayed for about an hour, before messaging Katrina very nicely and asking her to come and get us again.  On the way back we passed Sarah and Victoria who were geocaching, although they were wearing their free beanies from the previous day!  When we got home we sorted out our ‘stash’, we had ended up with a lot, I mean a lot of Caffe Latte’s (they are like iced coffee).  It was kind of free Caffe Latte’s for all!

We had also made it back just in time for Chloe’s Sunday Sugar! It was her personal creation… and even though she didn’t trust herself we all trusted her! The closest thing I can liken it to is sticky date pudding without the dates.  She had also whipped cream and made a caramel sauce for topping.  It was extremely yummy and the caramel sauce has been used as toast topping for the couple of days after!

Mel O’Brien (AUS)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-2015

For a link to Mel’s personal blog click here

GUEST : Sixty Years of waiting – Sally (UK)

Standard

Sixty years ago, I was researching information about “Our Chalet” as part of the preparation for my Queen’s Guide Award. I had been a Brownie from the age of eight in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, where I lived with my parents, and moved up into Guides in the same town when I was eleven. This research was to make a booklet about the Girl Guide and Girl Scout Movement as it was at that moment, 1954, and for one section I was writing about the existing Guide Centres, national and international. There was obviously no Internet then, so I found magazines and newspaper cuttings to make up my articles, including some on “Our Chalet”.

Sally 1954

I could not keep my booklet when finished, as it had to be sent to a Girl Guide or Girl Scout in another country, to help promote international relations, particularly within the Movement. Mine went to a South African Girl Guide, Adèle, who sent me a gift for my Company in return; I’m sorry to say I can’t remember after all these years what it was, but the link was really interesting.

What was exciting was that my Guide penfriend, Adèle, wrote to say she had been offered a trip to England, as a reward for her Queen’s Guide Award, and would be visiting London soon! So my Mother and I took a trip to London, and met Adèle in the Girl Guide Headquarters, where we also saw the Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell. We then visited nearby Westminster Cathedral, particularly interesting for Adèle as a Roman Catholic, including climbing up the tower for a splendid view over London. As she already had a busy programme for her few days in our country, we then had to return her to her group at Headquarters. We kept in touch for a while, but with the busyness of life and studies from the age of 16 onwards, our correspondence soon lapsed, which I regret – a continuing link could have been most informative in the subsequent years. I joined our small local Land Ranger Unit, but then went to King’s College, University of London, which meant that I met less often with the others, although we managed to win a Suffolk Trophy!

My particular interest in “Our Chalet” was increased by the fact that I studied for a Degree in French and German. In 1957 I worked as an “au pair” for a few weeks in a family in Fribourg, but I never visited Adelboden or “Our Chalet”, probably not realising how near they were! After University I worked for two years as a Secretary, during which time I served as Brown Owl of a Brownie Pack in North London.

In 1962 Peter and I were married, and we had four sons, so life was busy. We lived near London at first, and then moved to Hertfordshire. Our sons have all been Cub Scouts and Scouts, and both our granddaughters Brownie Guides and Guides. Since 1996 our eldest son, David, has been living and working in Basel, Switzerland; we generally visit him once or twice a year, with walking expeditions in various parts of your beautiful country. For many years I have been a Tutor in French and German – very useful for our family visits to Switzerland! We have often mentioned the idea of visiting you all, and once even passed the end of the road with a large trefoil signpost, which we saw from a Postbus on our way back to Basel. This year as usual, David asked if there was anywhere special we would like to go, so I replied that I would really love to visit “Our Chalet” before I get any older. David said we could easily visit you, if I would arrange it.

I suddenly realised it was just 60 years since I wrote that article for my Queen’s Guide Award, so we could celebrate my own special Guiding Diamond Jubilee with a visit at last!! One question puzzled me – on arrival should we introduce ourselves in English, French or German? It turned out to be English!

So that is how I came to Our Chalet this summer, with my husband, Peter, and our eldest son, David, when we were all made so very welcome!

Sally Aknai and son David

We had a lovely wander round, and were all really impressed by the whole site, and its facilities, as well as by the two main buildings that we could visit. The friendly atmosphere was great, and it was good to make ourselves tea, and eat our picnic in your dining room, as it was fine and sunny but chilly outside. We then set out on a short circular Alpine walk – in a shower but still attractive!

Sally Aknai and husband Peter

I bought some interesting souvenirs for myself and gifts for our family in your shop. The gifts you have received over the years, including everything from badges to furniture, and the many written messages, are amazing, and truly international, and must contribute significantly to peace in the world – so very necessary now, as always!

Sally Aknai at reception

I do hope this small contribution will be of some interest, after our really enjoyable day with you. Thank you all very much indeed!

Sally Aknai (née Page)

Sally Aknai