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Our Chalet – 2015

ourchalet 1In August 2015 I had the opportunity of a lifetime when 3 Leaders and 10 Guides and Senior Section members were chosen to go on a NEE. We decided to undertake the Swiss Challenge, staying at Our Chalet in Switzerland. Once the forms and paperwork were completed, the journey could begin and we all met and set off from York train station.

The journey to Bern was challenging to say the least and after many train and bus journeys we finally arrived at the Youth Hostel in Bern at 02.00. Not once did anyone complain about our extended journey and we were still singing on the final train into Bern in the early hours.

This spirit remained with the girls throughout the trip and after another train and a bus and a very long, soaking wet walk up a mountain we finally arrived at Our Chalet.

Almost immediately a group of Japanese Girl Scouts arrived and straight away the girls were teaching each other how to count, talk and say their names in Japanese and English and were chatting away as if they had known each other for years. They showed what the family of Guiding was truly about. Very soon the girls met the two Canadian groups and true International friendships began to flourish!!

Our first day staying at Our Chalet was a familiarisation day getting to know our surroundings and we began to do some of the challenges for the Our Chalet Challenge badge. Due to the rain and low cloud we could not see any mountains although we were assured they were there! We then took part in the International Night and our version of “I’m a Little Teapot” went down very well.

On the Monday we visited the famous chocolate factory at Interlaken and enjoyed some of their samples. In the afternoon the group split for a while and one half went to the Trumelbach Falls to see this area of outstanding beauty. The rest of us went to the Lütschine River to participate in White Water Rafting! What an amazing, exhilarating experience!

our chalet 2On Monday night some of the groups went on a night hike to the Bunderspitz falls while the more hardy of the group set off to hike up Elsigen Mountain to reach the peak at sunrise and watch the dawn break over the mountains. Unfortunately due to the rain and low cloud they were not able to get to the peak, so instead the group spent a night sleeping in the loft of a cow barn. The girls claimed that they were lulled to sleep by the sound of the cow bells, but all I know is that they absorbed the atmosphere of that place and came home smelling strongly of Swiss cow!

Tuesday was our free day so we spent the morning looking at some of the photos from the rafting and the visit to the falls then set off to walk into Adelboden village to do the scavenger hunt. The sun shone briefly, then the rain came and we returned to Our Chalet to take part in a surprise Japanese Hen night for Hiromi, the leader of the Japanese Girl Scouts taking part in the Challenge with us. It was interesting watching the girls eat chocolate cake with chop sticks to say the least!

Wednesday we set off on a “flat walk” to the Choleren Gorge. A flat walk in Switzerland means you hike along the Mountain, rather than going straight up it, but in reality it is not flat!! There are many hills to go up and down so the name is rather misleading!! We arrived at the Gorge to take part in an abseil. As Leader of the group I insisted that I would hold the bags but the girls were more insistent that I took part in the activity so I quickly found myself roped up, lowering myself down a 15 Meter abseil then attaching my safety rope onto the cliff to go along and then wait to take my turn on the 30 meter abseil down towards the raging river at the bottom of the Gorge!! This second abseil seemed to take forever and as I was turning in a circle I did manage to get a glimpse of the amazing water as it rushed through the gorge before I fixed my gaze once more on the rope and lowered myself with trepidation the rest of the way down! After my feet touched solid ground once more I looked back up to where I had come from and was amazed how far I had come! If I had known what I was doing beforehand I never would have done it as I am scared of heights. However, I was very proud of myself and all the girls who completed the abseil. Sometimes, ignorance is definitely bliss!

our chalet 3On Thursday morning we woke to see blue skies and MOUNTAINS!! The sun definitely had his hat on and stayed with us for the remaining 3 days we were at Our Chalet. We had a trip up the “Swiss Pyramid” aka Mount Niesen and went up to 2362 metres above sea level on a funicular to be greeted by the most amazing views! Then we went on a boat across the beautiful Lake Thun into Thun town where we spent some free time enjoying this medieval town. Thursday night the girls took part in a Free Being Me session while the Leaders had an hour off.

Friday morning saw another flat walk to Elsigenalp. We climbed this mountain by cable car and had a picnic lunch with our feet dangling in the cool water of a glacier lake, while beautiful majestic eagles soared overhead. Some of the group hiked to the peak and sang Edelweiss to the rare national flower growing there, although one of the girls was slightly less enthusiastic and remarked that “it just looked like a weed really!!”

On Saturday another flat hike took us to the adventure park where we did rock climbing and completed the whole of a 1.5km zip wire. Some of the more adventurous then completed a high rope course followed by an abseil down the bridge and then climbed the pole to ring the bell on top. Definitely not for the faint hearted!

Saturday night was the closing camp fire and we were all presented with the Our Chalet Challenge badge. After the final song, there was a mass of weeping girls as everyone said goodbye as we were aware that our time to leave would soon be on us and we would leave these wonderful friends behind.

Not only did the girls get on with the other units, but for a group of girls who had only known each other for such a short space of time, they also got on with each other very well. They helped, encouraged and supported each other throughout the week in such a way as to make the leaders very proud of them. The volunteers and staff also told me how much they have enjoyed having all the groups and as this was the final week of the Summer programme, they feel it has ended on a high!! So much so that most of the volunteers came and saw us off, even walking down the mountain part of the way and singing us off as we went.

ourchalet 4Throughout the week we have laughed together, cried together, and enjoyed every single moment. Even when they have been so tired, I have never heard a complaint or cross word from any of the girls. We comforted them when they have been sad to see their friends go, plastered their blisters and even blown their noses for them! In return they have provided us with fun, encouraged us to do crazy things we might not have otherwise done, sang to us from outside the toilet, made us laugh and given us confirmation that this is what Guiding is all about! It has certainly refreshed my enthusiasm for Guiding!!

If anyone else would like to have a similar experience I would really recommend going for International Selection at either a County or Regional level. The support you get is outstanding and the experience you get is amazing. I came back as second Mum to 20 girls from England, Canada and Japan and new Facebook friends from around the world! Where else could you get that, but in Guiding?

Senior Section Thailand Trip – July 18 – August 10 2015

 

A group of 12 senior section members aged 16-18 years along with 4 leaders spent just over three weeks in Thailand. Flying from Manchester via Amsterdam and onto Bangkok, where an overnight stay was provided at the Girl Guide Association of Thailand Headquarters in the heart of the city. The following day was spent on the “sprinter train” to Chaing Mai in northern Thailand – the sprint took over 12hours!

THailand 1Again the accommodation was provided by GGAT and during our stay they provided and accompanied the team on a variety of excursions which included many shrines and temples, palaces, botanical gardens, canyons, the golden triangle, a host of shopping experiences including walking markets, night markets, and later in Bangkok we experienced the floating markets.

The community projects during the trip also provided a range of experiences, the girls shared activities and crafts with guides in colleges and bluebirds (Brownies) in schools. These experiences gave all involved the chance to share each other’s cultures and customs.

Thailand 2The group travelled to Wiang Pa Pao, where they again shared some activities, but also taught some essential skills to a project called “Valuing Girls” aimed at giving girls from the hill tribe’s, skills and talents to provide them with an income and opportunity to remain with their families and prevent them from being drawn into prostitution.

The service element of the trip was to paint and decorate a toilet block the disabled and lay the pathway to it, this was at the Chuen Bampen campsite, the creativity was amazing and the end results thrilled the Thai guiders.

Thailand 3Another highlight of the trip was the day at the National Elephant Park where it was a very hands on day, feeding and bathing the rescued elephants.

The trip was completed with three days in Bangkok, with Thai Massages, the Grand Palace, floating markets, museums and art galleries, sightseeing and our final meal at the Hard Rock Café.

 

 

For a day by day account of the trip from the participants point of view then please visit the blog at http://girlguidingneethailand2015.blogspot.co.uk

 

23rd World Scout Jamboree 2015

Jamboree unit 51

jamboree aeroplaneGirlguiding North East England Senior Section with Central Yorkshire Scouts – Home Hospitality

We landed in Osaka Airport on Sunday 26th July at about half past 5 in the evening. After an eventful journey, everyone was tired. We had to queue for about 2 hours to get through immigration. At about 8pm, we finally got outside and it felt like a sauna. We got on a coach and set off to Nara. We met our Home Hospitality families in a car park near Neon Mall. They were all very excited and many of them had posters with our name on. We tried to have a conversation with the family on the way to their house, but we couldn’t understand each other.

That evening we went for a Chinese and saw some other unit members. Our practice of using chopsticks paid off! The next morning we had eggs, kiwi and jelly for breakfast. Afterwards, some Scouts and Guides from our unit met up with Japanese and Italian Scouts. We walked to the Five Stones shrine and took lots of photos of deer! At another shrine we were lucky enough to pray to Buddha, which was a brilliant opportunity. The deer bowed to us when we had food, which was watermelon and biscuits. For lunch, we ate noodles and miso soup. Later in the day, we visted a donut shop and talked about differences between schools and Scouting in the UK and Japan. On 28th July, we said goodbye to our host families and set off to the Jamboree site by bus for the next stage of our adventure.

Jamboree 2015 opening ceremony23rd World Scout Jamboree Opening Ceremony – 28th July 2015

At 6pm, Japan time, our Unit lined up to go to the Opening Ceremony of the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. On the way there we joined a queue that took us all the way to the arena, where the ceremony was being held. The whole way there we were chanting and singing, we were also surrounded by other Scouts and Guides from different countries and different cultures who were also singing. The flags through the parade flew really high as each Country carried their national flags, except us who carried the Yorkshire flag. Once we got to the arena we were directed into the B zone which showed us an amazing view of the stage. At the beginning of the ceremony there was a five piece girl band that started with the Jamboree song and everyone joined in. After that they sang a few of their own songs. Secondly, a group of drummers came on stage and they were amazing. Half way through the performance they brought up one of the Scouts onto the stage for him to drum. Then we heard a speech from the Chairperson of the World Scout Committee who was talking about peace and Scouting across the world. Finally, a Scout representative from each country, was directed to walk onto the stage and wave their flag for a few seconds. Once each country had gone up, there was a speech from the Camp Chief of this Jamboree who was handing over the Scout flag from the last Jamboree, which was held in Sweden. After they handed it over, they raised the flag and the ceremony came to a close. The whole experience was amazing!

Yorkshire PuddingsWorld Culture Day – 2nd August 2015

I had an amazing time at the Jamboree. I especially enjoyed the Culture Day in which the site was almost transformed into a microcosmic world. Every Unit had its own stall based as each of our camps to show off our culture. Our Unit, ‘Unitea 51’, slaved away all morning frantically sewing our culture badges on for the afternoon, arranging Pontefract cakes and boxes of Yorkshire tea and of course whisking up some much needed and craved Yorkshire puddings.

Once done Patrol 3 (me) and Patrol 4 were allowed to roam the other campsites for an hour while Patrols 1 and 2 stayed back to look after the stalls. We first went to the America campsite, where we were struck by the familiar smells of what we called ‘normal food’, jelly beans and Smores. The Smores were toasted on a traditional Guiding / Scouting campfire. Tastes and images of home rushed into our mouths.

Yorkshire PhrasesMore further away we next visited India where we were greeted by a range of foods that were supposed to be sweet but actually tasted rather spicy! It was an interesting experience. Korea was next, where we tried Korean cereal, with milk, fruit and sweets on it. It almost tasted like Sugar Puffs. Sadly the hula hoop type looking snacks were not as delightful, turning out to be rather soft.

After these stalls, we needed to go back and help at our stall. Me and another Guide were on ingredients duty to explain what is inside and also to do a demonstration of how to make a Yorkshire Pudding to our customers. We had the busiest stall by far and it was a great experience to see people from other side of the world come and try our cultural dish.

Finally on the evening we went to a cultural ceremony / party. This was amazing. We danced and danced and danced to Japanese singers, one of which to our delight sang an English song!  We then had special guests to speak to us all – the Japanese Crown Prince and the Prime Minister of Japan. What a fab day!

Adult Day Sail 25th April 2015

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The adult leader day sail on the Black Diamond yacht on Saturday started off with huge seas with spray everywhere, force 8 winds and driving rain but some very exciting sailing.  After taking shelter and having a lovely pasta lunch, the wind died down to nothing so the group ended up motor sailing in the large swell that remained, rollercoastering over the waves.  Eventually it stopped raining but the sun struggled to appear.  Everyone P4250275seemed to really enjoy the day and most are keen to have another trip next year.

Rachel Lamond

Outdoor Activites AdviserP4250257