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Connecting with Sister Girl Scouts and Girl Guides Around the World
By Annie Mueller
Pax Lodge volunteer, May-July 2006
"Is this really going to be my home for the next few weeks?" I thought to myself as my eyes widened while staring out the window of the train. In just an hour, I was taken from an industrial Italian city to the endless snowcapped mountains, green valleys and rushing waterfalls of the Swiss Alps.
I was sitting by myself on a train in a bundle of nervous excitement. Nervous because I was traveling alone into a foreign country with 100 pounds of luggage. Excited because I knew I was about to embark on a long-anticipated adventure that had been a dream for many years.
My time in Switzerland was the extension of a wonderful semester of study in Rome. I had fallen in love with the idea of working at a World Center during a previous trip to Pax Lodge. Soon after applying to volunteer at Our Chalet that year, I received an e-mail saying that they had a summer position for me.
During the first few weeks in May, I participated in the “Ready Steady Go” program, where I joined a dozen volunteers from places such as England, New Zealand, Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia in preparing the buildings for the busy summer sessions. Day-to-day work included moving boxes, gardening, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning! Although the work was endless and at times exhausting, I had a great time.
The beauty of Switzerland is incomprehensible. Even after many months in Adelboden, I was blown away every time I stepped outside or looked out the window. I felt like I was standing in a post card or a painting. The landscape invigorated me even during those times when I became tired or frustrated.
During that summer, I worked with volunteers, who stayed for as little as two weeks or as long as four months. The girls (and one boy) were from every corner of the world: Denmark, Honduras, Mexico, Poland, Finland, and Argentina ... to name a few.
I cannot pinpoint the moment it happened, but I emerged from that summer in the mountains a changed woman. Days consumed with cooking and cleaning were followed by days off (two per week) spent resting, hiking up mountains and around the valley solo, or observing local interactions and daily life. The experience transformed me.
Now I am not afraid to immerse myself into new or uncomfortable situations. I know that I am capable of planning and making a meal for 120 people and hiking up a Level seven mountain at 2 a.m. to catch the sunrise. I have adapted a much healthier, active lifestyle, inspired by uphill climb to Our Chalet and being on my feet from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Now I have a much more focused knowledge of what it means to be a Girl Scout and why that is an integral part of my identity.
If you have ever considered working at or visiting one of the four World Centers, go for it! It all starts with a dream. In Switzerland, I learned that dreams really do come true.
More Girl Scout Stories From Around the World