Why am I smiling this week? Maybe people have noticed this crazy joy I seem to get when I am at KISC. It comes out in little moments -- listening to the rumbling of the river outside the Chalet, or the hum-gurgle noise that means warm milk is coming out of the coffee machine, clipping into the top of a climb, or watching para-sailers’ colorful kites as they drift down from Allmenalp. Here, I wake up every morning and go running in the most beautiful valley I know. For about an hour my world is still. The sun promises to crest the mountains about the same time I do; while my head is rushing and my lungs are gasping, it glides on auto-pilot. The evenings are full with campfires, be these screaming with Swiss German children, popping with sparks and sausage skins, or serenaded by staff strumming ukelles. Or we have kitchen parties because there is chocolate coconut mousse in the fridge that we decide tastes like air. Chocolate air. Sunshine air. All day these breaths that open my lungs so deeply sometimes it feels like my heart may be exploding too. I am being completely literal here. Bear with me.
When I left KISC as a short term staff a little under three years ago, I was crying. Much of the Program team team woke up in an overcrowded staff room in the Upper Hut to my alarm. Many stayed wrapped in blankets as we hugged goodbye. And my first night here, I was crying again. I had messaged my former roommate when I arrived in a room the same model as the one we’d shared. The jist was: “Where the heck are you? This room is way too clean and empty. Please visit.” She messaged back, “send me a photo.” I did, and she replied, “Welcome home.”
After two VISA rejections in the past three years, at a very practical level it’s absurd to call this place home. And that is part of the initial confusion I felt at arriving -- I really did not ever think I would be permitted to be back as staff. Yet despite the limited duration of the time I have been and will be permitted to stay here, this place feels like home, and it’s not memories of a messy room in the New Chalet, or a morning running routine, or even the extraordinary mountains and chocolate that make it such. These are nice facets of living that with a bit of dillegence I could conjure up many places. In this first week, in that first day, I felt and feel at home because I have been welcomed so unconditionally by this new group of strangers who already feels like friends. We laugh and smile and are silly and serious and it is amazing to be so in sync with people who love one another simply because we are Scouts, and we are here. It is the same feeling I get looking at the mountains from the valley floor: sheltered, humbled, and wowed all at once. Or, just like the best kind of exploding heart.
In working life, the last week has been mostly training, and as long term staff there is much more talk of long term goals. What are we all here for? What can we accomplish? I think most of what we are here to do is already happening, and our work is to include others in this way of being genuinely interested in one another’s differences, thinking rationally, speaking openly, listen genuinely, and caring about our work and each other.
So, summer has not yet even started, the huts are still snowed in, and all this wonder is only a germination of long days, endless Scout groups, ceaseless cow bells, and whatever more is to come. What I’m really trying to articulate about why I’ve been smiling at KISC may be better summed up in a couple of my favorite phrases for wordlessness. If you know me, you may be familiar with them -- “good grief,” and “what the heck.” Or perhaps smiling has already articulated this more universally than all this English.