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

 

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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