STAFF: Rising to the Challenge – Danielle (UK)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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