Two months ago, I arrived fresh-faced and excited to be at Our Chalet. It was the start of the most fulfilling, life changing experiences I have ever had: being an Autumn Assistant at Our Chalet.
The first two weeks were spent in training, and I’ve never learnt so much in such a short period of time! As an Autumn Assistant, our days are split up into programme services and guest services. In programme service training, we learnt how to take guests on hikes, give tours to visitors, lead songs around the campfire and so much more. Guest service training can seem more mundane at first… toilet cleaning, cooking dinner and folding laundry are just some of the daily tasks that we have to make sure are completed. However, as me and the rest of the Autumn team scrubbed toilets and folded towels together, I learnt what a great team I was surrounded by. I made friends for life during those first few weeks, living together in a small attic space and working together for upwards of fourteen hours a day, sharing each others successes as well as homesick tears.
At the end of our two weeks training, the Summer Assistants finished their season, and, as if the mountains knew a change of seasonal staff was underway, the weather suddenly got colder and the first snow landed. At campfire on our final night of training, we received our staff neckerchiefs. Standing in front of the embers of the fire, I turned and shared a grin with my fellow Autumn Assistant, Marina, and I couldn’t help but think of the history and friendship that surrounded me. I’m lucky enough to be at Our Chalet during the 85th birthday celebrations, and 85 years of guiding and scouting friendship, laughter and love is something I am always thinking about high up on our mountain, and never more so than during that campfire, with my newly earned scarf around my neck.
The weeks since our training finished and our season started have been just as much of a whirlwind! I’ve done things I never thought I would; I took a gondola to Engstligen and the weather made it seem like we were in the clouds. I’ve held a tea party in Baby Chalet, just like Helen Storrow did, cooking traditional Cornish foods and teaching all the staff about my Cornish culture. I’ve slept on Falk’s bed, taken too many day trips to count, had a party with around two dozen staff members in one of our tents (it was a squeeze!) and tried traditional Swiss dishes. Not only have I learnt more about the WAGGGS programme and the history of guiding and scouting, but I have also tried so many exciting and challenging new things, I’ve learnt so much about myself as well.
As cliche as it sounds, over the past few months, I’ve have been able to see myself change more as a person than I have done in years. I can see it in the way I hold myself a little taller, talk to guests with more confidence and catch myself smiling at the simple parts of chalet life (whether that is a shared joke with the other Autumn Assistants whilst cooking dinner or sitting alone underneath the stars with a cup of tea, after a long working day).
We had a twilight hike to Bonderfalls during our training, and as the sun set I can remember looking over the Adelboden valley. Sarah, the Deputy World Centre Manager for Programme came over to me and I told her how didn’t think I was ever going to get used to living somewhere as magical as Our Chalet. She told me that when she first arrived, someone had spoken to her and said that there’s just ‘something in the air’ in this part of the world. I couldn’t agree more. I have one month left living at Our Chalet, and I can’t wait to see how much I continue to grow as a person.
Louise (Lowie) Trevena (UK) – Our Chalet Autumn Assistant 2017