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.
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.
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.
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. ☺
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2014-15