A Day in the life….of an Our Chalet Summer Assistant – Aoife, UK

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Summer is a busy month here at Our Chalet with events running throughout the season and Girl Guides and Scouts visiting from all around the world to see Our Chalet. It can be a little daunting to think that people may have been saving for years to visit and now it’s up to you to meet their, sometimes incredibly high, expectations and make this an unforgettable experience. As a Summer Volunteer I get to take guests out on programme as well as completing guest services jobs around the chalet.

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7am is usually the time my alarm sounds when working on programme, giving me time to get up, get ready and make sure I am ready for the day ahead with a full stomach, packed lunch and plenty of snacks, arriving at morning meeting by 8:30am. Everyday begins with a morning meeting where we find out tasks for the day and sometimes even has a theme; Teaching Tuesday, Freaky Friday, Wild Wednesday ! After the meeting one lucky person gets to ring the programme bell, letting guests know that they should be almost ready for programme and need to head down and meet by the flag pole. During the summer months guests take part in the Swiss Challenge event, an 8 day high adventure programme which involves many activities including hiking, rock climbing and town days. Each day we will do an equipment check just to double check nobody has forgotten anything, it’s no fun being caught on top a mountain in the rain without your waterproofs! Once everybody is sorted and accounted for we being our exciting day of activities. One programme that the Chalet has run for many years is a trip to the local Trummer family woodcarver shop. Guests hike down the chalet hill and through the Adelboden valley, arriving at the woodcarvers around 2 hours later. The views from the hike are spectacular and guests enjoy looking back and trying to spot the chalet. After visiting the woodcarvers and buying many handcrafted souvenirs the hike continues, this time in the direction of Adelboden town, stopping off for lunch by the river before heading back to Our Chalet in time for dinner.

Guest services days begin a little later, with morning meeting at 9:30am before tackling the work ahead of us (unless you are on breakfast when you have a nice and early start at 7:30am). Everyday tasks include cleaning bathrooms and any guest areas, if we have arrivals rooms will need to be set and departures means plenty of laundry. Some days we may have to turn around the full chalet in one day, sometimes the laundry may get started as early as 7:30 just so we have enough clean bedding. Season volunteers are responsible for all meals at Our Chalet, under the supervision of the kitchen manager, and dinner is served at 6:30pm. Dinner is served in the dining hall with one sitting for both guests and staff so it can get a bit tight when the chalet is full, sometimes the staff need to sit outside. Then it’s time for evening programme, usually done by those working on guest services that day whilst those on programme transfer to clean up the kitchen. International Night is always a night the vollies look forward to as guests share their culture with the rest of the group and this often involves food!

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Working at Our Chalet is a brilliant and varied experience, you will never get bored and meeting guests from around the world and hearing their stories is what makes this experience even more amazing.

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Aoife Smith (UK) – Our Chalet Assistant, Summer 2017

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Life as a Summer Shortie – Eirian, Scotland

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Being a short term volunteer (shortie) at Our Chalet is an experience to say the least! At times it seems surreal to think I am living and working in Switzerland learning and doing new things daily. Although sometimes life can get tiring and a bit repetitive on guest services. As a short term volunteer I am involved in keeping everywhere clean, feeding everyone and doing day tours occasionally, therefore at times I feel like I am constantly in the kitchen or have cleaned the bathrooms for the thousandth time. It is all worth it though for the opportunity to be here, especially when you do it with an amazing group of people who make it fun.

I have loved meeting and making friends with people from all over the world that are also volunteering and working here, hopefully the friendships will last. It has been interesting learning about the different cultures and funny at times when learning different phrases for example. I have been here for the season change over meaning I am very lucky as I got to know and work with the summer and autumn volunteer teams, however I am not looking forward to having to say goodbye to two groups as the first time wasn’t fun.

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Working at Our Chalet can be challenging, which is good as that is part of the reason why I wanted to come here. I wanted a challenge, adventure and a condensed dose of Girl Guiding to help my withdrawal due to being away from the world whilst at university. Although I can cook and make a lot of things from scratch, cooking here is completely different to at home, mainly due to having to cook for such a large number of people. It hasn’t been easy but I think I am more used to cooking for the masses. I have also learned how to make different things which I might try to use at home. These are mainly the traditional Swiss dishes that we offer; Rosti and Alpine Maccaroni. One thing about cooking here that came as a surprise is that I am apparently  good at cooking tofu according to one of the interns. I have never cooked with it until coming here and although I nearly destroyed the pan the first time I cooked it, the tofu was greatly enjoyed. I’m not comfortable doing presentations which is practically what the day tours are as I’m giving a lot of information on the tour to a large group of people and therefore found this challenging as well. I hope I got a bit better at it during my time here.

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On my days off I managed to have a lot of adventures!! I have tagged along on programme to the wood carvers, hiked to the magic tree and Bunderfalls, had an interesting camping experience at the Scout World Centre in Kandersteg, seen the beautifully amazing sights of Blausee and the view from the top of Niesen, been swimming in the lake at Speiz, got up at stupid o’clock to see the cows coming down from Engstligenalp for the autumn / winter, then rode in a gondola and hiked in snow!!!

The whole experience of being a shortie at Our Chalet is one I will never forget! It has been amazing being here although I haven’t quite managed to fit in all the adventures I wanted to, it looks like I’ll need to come back!

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Eirian McKelvie (Scotland) Our Chalet Short Term Volunteer Summer & Autumn 

Staff Challenge Chronicles – Audrey (USA)

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The guests at Our Chalet have the opportunity to earn the Our Chalet Guest Challenge, which includes elements such as going on a hike, learning the history of the Chalet, and talking to a Swiss person. The staff and volunteers, who are here for considerably longer, have the Our Chalet Staff Challenge. This rather zany tradition involves earning a total of 80 points, each item being worth between one and five points. I’m writing here to document my efforts so far to earn the Staff Challenge.
(Full disclosure: I’m also getting points for writing this blog post [Write a blog (600 words) for the Our Chalet website, 3 points.] )

Sleep outside overnight in a bivouac that you made yourself, 3 points: Tarp, rope, and a dozen rocks served me as a shelter, set up on the front lawn of Main Chalet. It held up nicely to the wind, but I am honestly a little glad I didn’t have to test it against the rain.

Audrey Bivouac

Prepare a traditional dish from your own country, 2 points: What is a traditional dish from the United States? Hamburgers? Apple pie? I was flummoxed. Finally I realized that the Europeans around me had no idea what cornbread was, so I made honey cornmeal muffins.

Perform a play in costume for the Staff, 3 points: Rachel and I had a grand time, raiding the costume cupboard and putting on a skit at campfire.

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Make an outdoor picnic for the staff, 3 points: When the 4th of July came around, we had a outside lunch, complete with hamburgers. I put up a giant obnoxious American flag.

Audrey July 4th

Hike 3 mountains (at least 6000 metres in total), 5 points: During training, we all hiked most of the way up Bunderspitz, before being stopped by snow. That counted to about 2400 meters. I hiked Schwändflspitz (2026 meters) on a day off by myself, and Tschingellochtighorn (2735 meters) with other staff on another day off. So that comes to total of 7161 meters, well above what I needed.

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Take an overnight trip somewhere in Switzerland by yourself, 3 points: I modified this to somewhere in Europe, because I really wanted to visit Italy. I had three days off and traveled to Florence. The buildings were amazing, the weather was scorching, my hostel was an old convent, and the people-watching was first class. Nerd that I am, I avoided all art museums but went to the Galileo Museum, which includes lots of old scientific and mathematical devices, as well as two of Galileo’s preserved fingers.

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As of today, I have earned 60 out of 80 points. Other tasks completed, such as Light a fire with only natural items and one match, 3 points; Learn a fact about Switzerland no on else knows, 1 points; and Read one historical Guiding or Scout book, 3 points have contributed to this total. Here is how I’m going to finish my challenge.

Camp overnight in a tent somewhere not on Our Chalet grounds, 5 points; Hike to Kandersteg (one-way), 5 points; Experience a sun/moonrise or sunset from the top of a mountain, 4 points; Try a new sport or activity you have never done before, 4 points: Hopefully I will do all of the this within 48 hours. The grand plan involves camping on a mountain, hiking over a pass, staying at the neighbouring Kandersteg International Scout Centre, and sliding down an alpine slide. If I can pull this off (and get the points from this blog post) I will have completed my challenge. (Editor says she’s happy to sign for the blog).

What do I get for finishing this challenge? Well, besides External Glory and Everlasting Satisfaction, I get a patch. Patches are the real reason I do things in Girl Scouts. (Editor update : Patch achieved).

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Audrey Spaeth (USA) – Our Chalet Assistant Summer 2017     

Climb Every Mountain – Rachel (USA)

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To put it simply, the Swiss Alps are TALL. From Our Chalet, you can see many different mountains, each of them beautiful and most of them with long names. It’s lovely to look at mountains from the comfort of a bench, holding a cup of tea or a bar of delicious Swiss chocolate; but something even better waits at the top of the mountains.

At the top of a mountain, like Bunderspitz or Elsigen which we hike on guest programme days, you can see everything; for that moment, you are on top of the world. Maybe climbing that mountain was a personal challenge; maybe you’re just stunned by the beautiful view down into the valley from the peak you have reached.

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After fifteen years of Girl Scouts in the US, I have been lucky to travel from Ohio to Adelboden to work at Our Chalet (which is quite an increase in elevation!). Being surrounded by cows isn’t new for me; watching those cows climb mountains though, is amongst the coolest things I have done through Girl Scouts.

This past Saturday, Adelboden celebrated Alpaufzug, the day when the cows are moved from the Adelboden valley to Engstligenalp for the summer.

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Along with several fellow staff members (Audrey and Sarah from the US, Aoife from the U.K., Simone from Germany, and Rachel from Canada), I hiked up to Engstligenalp amongst cows and their herders. From there, we continued to Tschingellochtighorn (2,735m), a huge increase in height from Engstligenalp (1,964m), and an even bigger increase from where we started the morning at Our Chalet (1,350m).

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Honestly I didn’t think I would make it up. At one point, I stopped to let the group go ahead, and sat on a rock for a bit. The view from my rock was lovely, but I couldn’t help wondering about the view I was missing from the top. So I slowly made my way up higher (sometimes really slowly, when the path was less than a foot wide).

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I met up with my group as they were headed down; I never actually made it to the peak of Tschingellochtighorn, but I made it farther than I ever thought I could, which is the important part. Thanks to Girl Scouting, I spent my afternoon on top of the world instead of sitting on my couch at home, and that’s pretty awesome.
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So climb every mountain… even if you don’t reach the peak, you’ve gone far, and that’s something to be proud of.

Rachel Sauder (USA) : Our Chalet Assistant, Summer 2017

My Personal Project at Our Chalet – Lizzie (UK)

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I am a final year University student studying Primary Education, specialising in Special Educational Needs and Inclusion at the University of Cumbria. It has always been my dream since visiting Our Chalet on a day tour in 2012 to return as a volunteer. So here I am…. a summer vollie 2017!

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During my final months at University before coming to Our Chalet for the summer I was working on an idea for my dissertation. I decided that Our Chalet would be a great opportunity to complete my project on. Therefore, I am looking at the influence that the opportunities provided by Our Chalet has on members of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting. I have begun by interviewing some of the long term staff about their opinions and experiences here. Also, I am giving questionnaires out to all leaders that visit Our Chalet this summer to gain their opinions and thoughts too. My main hope is that I will get opinions from all around the world.

All of the responses I have had so far are super positive about the influence of Our Chalet. Many have described some of its main attributes to be gaining leadership skills, lifelong international friendships and some have explained that it is an environment that accepts everybody.  During my time at Our Chalet I have been lucky enough to have experienced all of these things!

During my time so far I have seen and done so many amazing new things that I hope many more people will get the opportunity to experience. Here are a few pictures to show the diversity of my experiences so far :

The Adventure park where we zip lined across the river so many times I lost count and abseiled off the bridge!

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Swimming and being fully submerged for five seconds in a Glacier lake for my staff challenge. I enjoyed the swim after a while.

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I’ve climbed many mountains to see the stunning views.

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I have seen many cows including waking up at 5am to watch the cows go onto the alp for the summer.

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And by the end of the season I will have hopefully achieved many more new things as well as having my dissertation research completed!

Elizabeth Nutbrown, United Kingdom : Our Chalet Assistant, Summer 2017.