Monday, 18 April 2016

Reflections: Helen Storrow Seminar 2015


Exactly a year ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the Helen Storrow Seminar held at Our Chalet, the oldest Girl Guiding World Center. Hitting off my Swiss journey after arriving at the Zurich International Airport, a 3-hour long train ride to Adelboden was one gloomy ride accompanied by a missed train connection and an exceptionally cold, foggy and frosty day. Like any Girl Guiding event, the familiar sight of the Girl Guide trefoil is always a great relieve.

Putting the Malaysian flag up
Helen Storrow Seminar 2015 :D
Malaysians at HSS2015
With a focus on environmental issues, empowering youth and women and fostering leadership skills in youth leaders, it was a week filled with tonnes of activities aimed at self-development. Throughout the week, I was kept occupied with activities like a breathtaking hike to the Magic Tree, leadership skills development sessions, environmental sustainability discussions, advocacy activities, a mini campfire, Swiss Night and International Night.

Hiking to the Magic Tree
Getting inside a magical tree
Legend has it that the Magic Tree grants wishes
Hiking to the Magic Tree!
The valley of Adelboden
Exchanging ideas and discussions were definitely my favourite moments
Environmental Project Panel :)
Advocacy session calls for an English Parliamentary Debate

Amazing to be with these girls in our tiny patrol, Grey Wolves
Grey Wolves :D
Asia Pacific representatives!
However, nothing beats our day out at the Adelboden Adventure Park. Starting off with over an hour hike, together with the rest, we were guided through slush and ice to the Adventure Park deep in the valley of the Alps. The adventure circuit was no child’s play with 6 zip lines, each higher than another; tight rope walks over 50 meters high; abseiling off a bridge and a heart stopping pendulum swing. With acrophobia, the adventure park more than just a physical challenge to me. I’ve never been a fan of heights and free falling. So, the entire adventure circuit felt like a scary devil out to get me.

Starting off on the gentle zip lines, bringing me higher as I continue on was pretty exhilarating. By the time I’m done with all 6 zip lines, it was time for a high rope course. Tight wires pinned into pillars of a bridge set at hundreds of feet above ground was a scary sight. Imagine having to walk across the entire course! My feet felt like marshmallows and I actually resorted to chanting prayers all the way to get to the end. By the time I got to the top of the bridge, my adrenaline was gushing through every single cell in my body.

After abseiling off the bridge, it was time for an optional challenge, a pendulum swing off the very same bridge. Though I’m never up for such adventures, I had an extremely supportive group of facilitators and participants which made me break through every self-made inhibitions. A year on, I am thankful I took the leap of faith; jumping off (I think I was pushed off the platform though) the bridge into the valley leaving me dangling only on ropes; screaming like a mad woman.

Pretty successful at pulling off a smile on the zip line
Zip lining across the valley
Panic smile - Nothing is more torturing that waiting to be sent down a bridge
Sometimes holding on is better than letting go
Here's my ultimate fear expression - seconds after this shot, I was pushed off this tiny platform
Off into a free fall and endless screaming
Dangling on ropes was no joke
Ropes were life saver
On our last day, a video recapping our journey throughout the week left us feeling bittersweet and our eyes teary. On 26th April, with exchange of hugs and tight embrace, it was time to bid farewell. With some time to spare before hopping onto the flight out of Switzerland, with a few others, we took the opportunity to explore the town of Bern. Great times always pass by in a wink and finally, I was on my train ride to Zurich International Airport. On the final train journey, the great memories and reluctance to bid farewell to such an amazing guiding experience was extremely overwhelming and left tears rolling down my check on the train. The old lady sitting next to me on the train couldn’t help to steal glances at a crazy Asian girl crying all by herself.

Federal Palace of Switzerland
Blue skies and Swiss heritage
Roaming in Bern

A year on, looking back, it was a short 8 days seminar packed with tons of memories and immense learning opportunities. It was more than just a blend of cultural exchange. Rather, it was a platform for self-development, an opportunity to overcome mental challenge and fear, a chance to explore ideas and definitely a path to form strong guiding friendship across the globe. On a personal note, it gave me a chance to strike off the jumping off a bridge in my bucket list and made friends with a bunch of amazing people.

Starry night from Our Chalet