Organizing myself

So I’ve decided I haven’t been particularly strict with this blog, and that is going to change. I’ve made it part of my OBP Award (more on that later), and plan to make this blog truly shine.

In the next few months I will be laying up a plan, researching blogging and generally getting myself organized.

Until then, I’ll be posting about my trip to Switzerland, when I can, hopefully once a week, but no promises just yet!  So stay tuned for a thoroughly Guidey blog!

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Switzerland, Part 3: The Campfire

I remember sitting at dinner on my first night at Our Chalet, with what seemed like, a hundred other people (it was in fact, about 30). These Girl Guides and Scouts were here for the final Youth Event of the summer, and it was their last night. I sat with some nice English Brownie Leaders, I’d met earlier, who had clicked onto why I was there. This duo demanded I tell them about the week ahead, as they’d heard it was VERY demanding (and they were right). I still haven’t done that. Maybe I should, when I have time.

Over dinner (Bratwurst and Mash, I remember thinking about how well I was being fed, for Guide Camp), the ladies invited me to campfire. At the end of every event, the group has a campfire, to commemorate the end of their time at Our Chalet. I was quite astounded at the generoisty, why I don’t know, I would have done the same!! So I crashed a campfire. I think it’s the Guiding equivalent to crashing a house party, except you’re welcome if you do crash a campfire, not so much if you crash the party of someone you don’t know. Ahhhh the joys of Guiding.

And so, after dinner, and a bit more of a relax, we trundled our way, up the path, to the campfire area. I was torchless (of course I was, I was completely unprepared for camp for once), but I didn’t mind so much. It wasn’t all that dark, and there were *hundreds* of people.

This was unlike any campfire I’d ever been too. There were volunteers and participants from all over the world. For once, I actually expereinced people teaching songs native to their land, instead of having to figure out how the damn things went myself!! Summer was blessed with a wonderful volunteer, Agus, from Argentina. I think, I honestly can’t remember. She was (and I imagine still is) a fantastic entertainer, playing guitar, and getting really involved with the action songs. She really had me in stitches. It was an emotional time for everyone, as all the friendships made over the 9 days the participants had been at Our Chalet, were strengthened, by a knowing that people would stay in contact, possibly for many years to come. I was not untouched by this, as I knew that the two friends I had made, only that afternoon, would be leaving in the morning, opening a new avenue for new people to come and enjoy the offerings of the Chalet.

After the campfire, girls and Leaders that had completed the Our Chalet challenge, were presented with their badges, a challenge that I would take on myself over the coming week. On the way back to the Chalet, I was invited to an evening hot chocolate with the two English Leaders, and we exchanged addresses, and badges, and headed up to bed.

Amazingly, I woke up at what must have been almost midday Melbourne time freaking out about having to go to work. Instead, it was 4am in another country, and I’d almost knocked myself out on the slope of the roof (I was in the end room, and the roof sloped ever so sharply over my bed!).

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Lone Guiding: Bringing Girl Guiding to everyone.

When asked what I do as an adult member of Girl Guides Australia, I always respond with the same thing “Primarily, I’m a Leader, but I do a tonne of other stuff too.”  This usually follows with the question, “Which troop?”  My response usually is followed by an awkward pause, then a look of misunderstanding by the person asking.  Why?  Because I’m a Lone Leader.

Lone Guiding is not normal Gudiing by any means.  It is by far, more challenging, and a lot of the time, more rewarding when your girls achieve great things?  And I hear many of you ask why.  So let me tell you….

The beginning of Lone Guiding

Lone Guiding, is in essence, as old as the active movement itself.  Beginning in 1912, and established by Agnes Baden-Powell, members of the troop were from all corners of the UK, and kept in contact via postsal service.  Some history taught in my old Brownie Unit denotes that one of their pre-promise challenges was to skin a rabbit, and to send some of the skin (or rabbit? I really should check this with my old Leaders!), to their troop leader, who subsequently had lovely roses.

Purpose of Lone Guiding

Guiding is not an elitist or an exclusive movement, and therefore, must be available to all girls, to the best of the State and National organisations (not to mention on a world stage), abilities.  In Australia, attending meetings weekly can be difficult for various reasons.  These can include, but aren’t limited to: distance to meeting halls, illness, religious and cultural issues, parental reasons, time clashes with other activities and many others.   For me, at 15, I was the only person in my district my age, who wanted to participate as a Girl Guide, and so I joined a (back then) Lone Ranger Guide Unit.  It was through this uni that I completed my Queen’s Guide Award.  Meetings can be held in any format girls want, as long as within the Leaders capabilities, and these include, through monthly magazines, on the internet, and over radio.

My Work with Lone Guiding

At the moment, because of Uni and work, I’ve had to back off on a fair bit of my work with my Unit.  I work with another Leader, who on a monthly basis rolls out a magazine with a particular theme, to a group of 10-14 yr olds.  This magazine includes acitivities, challenges, and information, not too mention anything sent in by the girls, including updates on what they’ve been doing.  I assist by writing a letter for the magazine, and trying to put together some pages on the month’s theme, when time allows.  Hopefuly one day we can go back to rotating the responsibility of the magazine.

As you can probably already tell, Guiding via this method can be quite challenging not only for the Leaders, but for the girls.  Without regular meetings to see each other face to face, it can make knowing each other, and peer assessing each other, excruciatingly difficult.  It can also mean that on those few chances a year they get to meet at region events, it’s a little bit more special to them.

Overall, despite the challenges I’ve faced being a Lone Guide and Leader over the past ten years, it is very rewarding.  The girls who are involved really want to be there, and are always challenging themselves to higher and more intense standards.  Meanwhile, as Leaders, we are always trying to help our girls achieve their goals, and while we don’t see them every week, and watch them grow up, we can “hear” them grow up through their letters and challenges every month.

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Switzerland: My afternoon of adventure, before the real adventure began!

Upon my arrival to Our Chalet, I was greeted by one of the Winter Volunteers (affectionately known as Vollies), Lesley.   A lovely woman, her duties for the day were guest services.  She introduced me to Maegan, and let me know which room I would be staying in.  It just so happened that the first night I spent at the Chalet, I spent in the Bonderspitz room, the exact mountain I had decided would be my peak, only days earlier.  (A peak means that you reach the very top of the mountain, Bonderspitz being just over 2500m high.)

After settling into my temporary overnight abode, having a shower, and getting changed, I decided it would be a good chance to adventure into the valley town that is known as Adelboden.  This in itself was very much so a challenge, as being on one side of the valley, meant that you had to climb down the valley, and back up the other side to get into town, and the other way round on the way back.

However, it was a nice walk into the valley (despite getting slightly “lost” on the way), and obtaining some postcards and stamps, I was all set.  I decided to head back to the Chalet, to *shock horror* go on the net and let people back home know I was safe.  It was here, in the T-Bar (where everyone at the Chalet could chill, have a hot chocolate and browse the net) I met Sally, an Australian Autumn Vollie, who had only arrived a few days earlier.  At this time, the summer vollies were finishing their time at the Chalet, and the Autumn vollies were taking over, and there were FAR more vollies than guests the entire week I was at the Chalet.  Sally then took me around and introduced me to the rest of the Autumn vollies that were currently living at the Chalet, Mackenzie, Mette, Aisling, and of course Maegan. 

During this afternoon I saw some wonderful views, met some people (locals and visitors alike) during my solitary adventure, and learnt my way a little around Adelboden, a magnificent little area, that would be my home for just over a week.

Hiking back up to Our Chalet

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Switzerland (Part 1)

Seeing as my Swiss adventure was a week-long escapade, and, in all honesty one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life thus far, I don’t think I could possibly put it all in one post, I’m just a little too impatient to do that.  

My adventure started on the Monday of my departure.  I woke up, feeling fine, still needing to pack, and with a couple of hours up my sleeve till my trip to the airport.  As the day wore on, I started to feel mighty crook, and put it down to partying that weekend.  Little did I know, I pretty much had either the WORST hay fever I could get before an international flight, or a head cold that would make my trip hell if gotten out of control.

After checking in, discovering my baggage was waaay under allowance, and going through those formidable doors to the international customs, security, passport control and terminals I realised I’d need at least some Panadol.  I can honestly say, next time, I’ll be buying it before I leave.

Upon boarding my flight I was delighted to discover not only was the seat next to me empty, but we were given hot towels by our airline.   I don’t think I expected this kind of awesome in an economy class, but you know, don’t hold high expectations and you won’t be disappointed.  I managed to sleep for most of the flight, waking only for food, and landing.

Arriving at Singapore airport, at 9:40 pm their time, and feeling a little worse for wear, and with 3 hours to kill, my first stop was the chemist.  I’m still not 100% sure what it was I bought there, but it worked!!  The whole time I was waiting I kept nodding off, only to wake, paranoid someone would steal my stuff.  Before I carry on, Changai airport is amazing.  The humidity is high, but that’s to keep the amazing display of orchids alive.  I really wish it was something I could photograph, but alas, thankyou terrorism, I can no longer take photos in airports like I did when I was ten.  Maybe I couldn’t then either, but who would suspect a blonde haired Anglo-Saxon child of anything other than “WOW! I’m OVERSEAS!”

Needless to say, at just before 3am my time I was boarding my flight to Zürich.  This was when the excitement really kicked in.  No it wasn’t because I was finally well on my way to my destination.  It was because I saw the A380 I was about to board, and the engineer in me got all happy and joyous.  For anyone interested in machinery and transport, these are amazing aircraft, and look truly… majestic, and yet intimidating at the same time.

During this flight I was surrounded by either a) people speaking various forms of Malaysian, Mandarin etc, and b) those speaking German.  Obviously not the staff, but one noted thing, on both flights announcements were made in English, but on the first flight, it was then repeated in Mandarin, and on the second in German.  It was rather odd.  On this flight I wasn’t lucky enough to have an empty seat beside me, instead I was seated in the aisle, with two blonde haired, blue-eyed Swiss children in the seats next to me.  After I fell asleep, all I remember is those two children, clambering over me, unsure of how to wake me up, when they wanted to go to the toilet or walk around.

Landing at your final destination is always a truly bizarre experience when travelling internationally, especially when you think “wtf, why am I in Canada?” for no apparent reason at all.  It probably had a lot to do with all the trees that are surround the airport.  damn Lumberjacks.

And again, during my whole stay in Switzerland, on public transport, everything was repeated at least three times, in English, German, and I think French, I really can’t remember.  One thing about arriving in Switzerland, even if you do go through the “I have something to declare” door, they tend to just… wave you on.

Catching the train was the next part of my challenge.  Finding the right train to the right place, in a place organised as well as Switzerland, when you are used to the substandard organisation of the Melbourne train system can be quite daunting.  Especially when even their regional trains were organised.  And had two levels.  That’s right, a double-decker train.  Not gonna lie, double-decker trains are pretty fun.  And even in economy, you have a little table to do work on, and LEG ROOM!  So organised.  Even the graffiti along the tracks was nice.  It said things like “Welcome to our hood” and that kind of thing, random F-bombs were sprayed here and there, but obviously by the few delinquents that got through the system.  The graffiti, I wish I had photos, but the train moved to fast, was actually really good, and didn’t look…  dirty.   Even swapping trains, then catching a bus was easy.  I asked for a ticket to Adelboden, not realising there were several Adelboden stops, and the driver looked at my shirt and instantly knew where I was going.

Now, on arrival to Our Chalet, it is traditional for guests to walk up the hill from the bus stop.  I get many questions of “how did you know where you were going?” etc.  The answer is this:  All members of WAGGGS have a homing beacon that tells us exactly where to go when we need to get there and its Scout or Guide related.  True story.

Actually.  This is how:

Yes that’s right, the route to Our Chalet is signed.  It makes life much easier, especially when you realise how tough that walk can be, when you’ve just travelled for over 24 hours.

After hiking up the path, and thinking I’d never make it, or somehow get lost, I found another sign, and the last tiny leg of my uphill battle.  That hill seems like such an easy climb now, after I did it every day for a week.  The first thing you see on your way up the small path to Our Chalet is Spycher:

And so my swiss adventure began….

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In 1907 the Boy Scout movement was born. This new concept was created by a man known as Lord Robert Baden-Powell, affectionately known as BP to the millions who are involved in the Guiding and Scouting movements. Scouting was created based on military training, however had a much more fun and exciting delivery, allowing boys to learn survival, tracking and camping skills in a safe environment.

Because of all the fun the boys were having, the girls wanted to join in. On the 4th September 1909 was the first Boy Scout Rally, organised by BP, at the Crystal Palace. This was to be a historic event, not only for Boy Scouts, but as BP found out, many generations of girls as well. At the end of the rally were a number of girls dressed in Scouting uniform, and calling themselves “Girl Scouts”. After the rally BP spoke to them, and they asked him to let them be Scouts to.

BP decided it was necessary to offer the girls similar opportunities as he’d offered the boys, and set about with his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell, creating a program that began in 1910 known as Girl Guides, running parallel with the Boy Scouts. Girl Guiding (and Boy Scouting) spread across the world, with troops and units being created in countries everywhere.

The centenary of Guiding is lasting for three years as Guiding was first introduced in 1910 in England, and Girl scouting in the USA (one of the largest Girl Guiding and Scouting movements worldwide) wasn’t introduced until 1912.

 And there you have it, our very beginnings. Where the Girl Scouting and Girl Guiding movement began. All it took was some young women to stand up for what they wanted and believed in…

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7 months on…

And I’m only writing my second post.  Not for lack of trying of course. But due to time, both with work, and with Girl Guides.

Since February my personal Guiding adventure has been a whirlwind of excitement, having done so many more things since attending the Girls Celebrate 2009 camp.

I have in fact started attending a second unit, as a Helper/Leader, in addition to the Lone Guiding Unit I help run. (More about Lone Guiding later).  I’ve also been assigned the Training Coordinator role for my region, which takes up *a bit* of time but not as much as one would initially expect.

I also had the fantastic opportunity to attend the High Adventure Lead Your Way challenge week, at Our Chalet in Switzerland.  An amazing experience, that I will be writing about for this blog over the next few weeks, I’d much like to get some background about Guiding and Scouting up before I do this though, so readers have a good feel for what the Association is all about, and why this was a fantastic experience, besides the opportunity to see another country.

And so I will leave you for now, and if you would like to here more about my Swiss adventure, you’d better stay tuned.

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It’s the Centenary Year

So it’s the Centenary Year for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.  The celebrations started in Queensland, in September 2009, with the event Girl’s Celebrate.  The official Centenary Event occurred in Victoria, in January.  ACE, a week-long event was home to 2500 girls and Leaders, and what a home I hear it was!

The celebrations, in true Australian Guiding style, will finish in 2013, at FanTAStic, of course, the celebrations and fun won’t stop there, and we’ll begin working towards an even bigger 200 years!

As a young Leader I often get asked the question, “Oh, Girl Guides, does that still exist?” followed by a statement about once being a Brownie Guide.  These statements were far more abundant in the days when there was what seemed to be a lull, in the membership of girls, or it seemed that way in my hometown.  As time moved on, so did the trends, and the cyclic trends are true even in Guiding.  Membership is increasing, and so is media coverage, and I’m hearing the dreaded question less and less.  I am still being told that we’re just like Scouts however.  This is just not true. 

And so the reasoning behind my Blog has come about.  As a young Leader I want to acknowledge our history, traditions, founders and Movement as a whole.  I also want to give everyone a glimpse of exactly what a young Leader experiences in her journey as a young Leader, Olave, mentor or all three.

Feel free to kick along for the ride, like most girls, leaders, family and friends, it could be an experience you’ll never forget.

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