Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky

Our group shot in Männlichen
Last year, as a new staff member to NJC, I was assigned to the second leg of orientation week, two days in Locarno near the Italian border. This year, I was part of the crew who welcomed the students upon their arrival in Switzerland. This was an opportunity to meet the class of 2016 as early as possible.
Students congregate at the airport
At 5:45 a.m. on the Wednesday after Labour Day, I travelled by bus with other staff members and one student, who had arrived early, to the airport in Zurich. There we met 67 other students, most of whom had made their way here on the red-eye from Toronto. That put us all on equal footing: sleep deprived but excited to begin the upcoming adventure.
Most of our group gathered below the Swiss flag at Trümmelbach Falls.
Our bus then headed for the hills, or to be more precise, the mountains. The first part of orientation takes place in the Swiss-German part of the country, in the Alps. On the way to our hotel, we made a stop at the Trümmelbach Falls in the Lauterbrunen, a unique spot where glacier waterfalls run inside the mountain. We walked through caverns to see this very interesting geological feature.
The rushing waters at the Falls

Alanna, Jared and Nicole in front of a section of the Tümmelbach Falls
By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Grindelwald, a picture-postcard village in the Interlaken region. A ski resort in the winter, this town is nestled below the imposing Eiger Mountain. What a beautiful spot!
This is the view of Grindelwald from my hotel window.
For the jet-lagged students, the first day was mercifully free of organized activities; we were left to our own devices to explore the town or to use the facilities at our hotel.
Edelweiss flowers
The bridge walk. 
The next morning, we were met by local guides who led us to a meadow where some of us competed in Alpine games, while others climbed to a glacier gorge where the challenge was to cross a narrow metal bridge. I did not have the nerve (or the balance) to attempt this feat, but the majority of the students did it. Of course, they were carefully harnessed before they attempted the crossing, so there was no real danger, but the prospect of dangling over a fifty meter gorge was too intimidating for me.
Learning to play the Alpenhorn
Using pulleys and a tennis ball, Maddie and Sydney climb the Eiger board.
I was more in my element during the Alpine games. These were great fun! In teams of 6 or 7, we competed in five events. I was keen to participate, but I may have cost my team second place, since I did poorly on my leg of the driving challenge. I think I made up for my failings in milk-stool curling though, and I was a passable alpenhorn player. All in all, these were great ways for the students to break the ice. They were also wonderful team building games, as we had to work together and encourage each other through each activity..
Six person skiing – my team: Graham, Thunder, Malcolm,  Chloe, Sydney and Maddie
Terry's team at milk-stool curling.
Just as the teams were completing their final part of the rotation, rain started to fall, but fortunately, we had shelter nearby where we could enjoy our picnic lunches.

The rest of the day was filled with meetings – with other staff, with our advisee groups, and with the entire student body, as well as some free time. There is a great deal to learn for all of us!
Happy to be on top of the world
That is Kleine Scheidegg in the distance.
The following day started off rather dull and rainy, but to my delight, the weather cleared shortly after we ascended by cable car to Männlichen, where we posed for a group shot before heading on a hike to Kleine Scheidegg. This was a spectacular experience. I will let my pictures tell the story.
The view towards Grindelwald nestled in the valley below.

My advisee group pose with me in front of the Eiger. 
In Kleine Scheidegg, we had lunch beneath the three mountains that dominate the skyline: the Jungfrau, the Mönch, and the Eiger. These names can be translated to the virgin, the monk and the ogre. According to local lore, the monk stands between the other two to protect the virgin from the ogre.
The mountain landscape at Kleine Scheidegg
After lunch, the students were led down to Grindelwald by our guide. To protect my gimpy knee, I chose to travel by train instead. This left me with sufficient energy to accept Lyn's challenge to play mini-golf. If I had known that she was going to clean my clock, I might have declined, but how could I mind losing with such a view behind me!
Golf below the mountain

The cement course threw off my game.
That evening we had more meetings before and after dinner. The next morning, it was time for Lyn, Terry and me to return to Neuchâtel by train while the students moved on to Locarno with Bill, Louise and Carmela to continue their orientation week and to meet the rest of the staff.
Goodbye to beautiful Grindelwald

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful kiss to Grindelwald. The pictures tell it all!