Wir haben ein grosses Problem

As a teenager I went each summer on youth camps and when I had turned 17 I took some courses and became a youth leader in the same organisation. Most of my camps went to Switserland with a group of 14-year olds. As I already wrote here the highlight of that trip was a 2 day hike while staying overnight in a cabin on top of the mountains.

All the children have to carry the backpack with some change of clothes and carry in their picknick for the first lunch. Then the food for the evening and next day had to be divided over the group and carried as well. All groups gather in front of the building in the morning while for each group a leader comes with a big box out of the kitchen with all the food that has to get divided. Everyone gets a bit of the load: a loaf of bread, a bag of pasta, ....

The hike itself only happens after a couple of easier smaller hikes that are slowly built up. After all, you can't expect all these 14 year olds to be athletes when they arrive....neither are the leaders. My first time happened to be on a very hot day. We had to climb 1000 meters up to the hut on a day of about 38C. The kids were already demotivated before we started as it seemed an impossible thing to do for them.

Slowly step by step, with a lot of stops to drink and rest a bit (preferably without sitting down), we got higher and higher up the mountain. And we enjoyed the fabulous views, ..

Around 5 PM we finally got the cabin in sight where we'd stay overnight. We were already welcomed by the responsible of the cabin who came and greet us on our way already and guided the last bit. We got a little tour of the cabin: this room was filled with bunkbeds, this was the tiny kitchen and here we could have our meals at long tables....we had to brush our teeth and wash ourselves in the cold water basin outside that got permanently filled with cold mountain water. Brrrrr... 100 meters from the hut there was still a little patch of snow.

All the kids chose a bunkbed to sleep and dropped their backpacks there and then gathered outside a bit to sing some songs. In the mean time we asked all those who carried food along, to come and bring it into the kitchen. Usually the give us spaghetti or rösti (lots of carbohydrates after our hike in the mountains)...but this time we had carried in some vacuum packaged meat, dried mashed potatoes, bread and cacao powder. When double checking, we did not find any vegetables...the portions of meat was insufficient for everybody and the cabin responsible told us that the mashed patotoes were really not mashed potatoes but the mild powder for breakfast to mix with the cacao for the hot chocolate milk. We were a bit surprised that tha cacao didn't solve in water only, but the cabin responsible told us it was allways like that. We didn't go into discussion since he was welcoming groups each day.

So that meant we had some meat...and breakfast for the next day. But really not enough food for our evening meal for all of us. If we ate our breakfast tonight, we had a problem the next morning. After all they also needed to make their picnick for the next lunch as well.

I really started to worry...I didn't know what solutions were available. The cabin guy started to panic. He kept saying that there was unsufficient food, that this was abnormal and he kept asking where the other food was. His panic started to be contageous and I must honestly say that I experienced a big black-out when trying to think what to do.

The other leaders looked at each other and uttered the solution I did not want to think about. "We must go down to the valley again or find other houses on our way and search for extra food". My feet hurt...my shoulders were sore from the backpack...I did not want to go down again. I couldn't...I was too tired. And yet there was no other option. Other leaders had marks on their shoulders and well, we all had blisters, ....

So three of us put our hiking boots back on whereas another leader and the cabin guy stayed up with the teenagers, trying to keep them entertained without getting them worried. I don't remember the conversations that went on, I was too tired. In the end we were just walking in an automatic mode while worrying when and how we'd find extra food. Step by step we went down for an hour when we finally reached a house. An older man was standing outside when we approached the house.

"Guten abend....wir haben ein grosses Problem (good evening, we have a big problem)" my colleague leader started while waving her arms in a big circle to stress the big problem."wir haben fiele Kinder und kein Essen" (we have many kids and no food)". He went inside and came out with a loaf of bread and some cheese and pointed a bit further were we could see another home.So off we went again.

"Guten abend. Wir haben ein grosses Problem . Viele Kinder und kein Essen" we started off again in our best German we could dig up. Our arms waved in a big circle again and made a flat line when stating there was no food. Fortunately we had more luck here. The woman who came out really pitied us and while we could have a rest, her husband took his little scooter out and went down the road towards the village.

An hour later he came back on his scooter with big backs full of bread. The good man had gone to the 2 village bakeries and taken all left-over bread for us. With the bread and the cheese we could start climbing up the mountain again. Fortunately we had rested , because I don't think we could have done it otherwise. But knowing that we were hiking the needed food up the hill gave us power as well. And we could already smile at our catch phrase "viel Kinder, keine Essen".

That evening we did not move anymore. We had a big bread meal with some baked pork chops that were shared. Not the ideal meal but we were not hungry anymore.

Lesson learned: always triple check the food supply before you go on a big hike and how it gets divided. It might end up in anothers group supply if they are packing their backpacks next to you as well.

Second lesson learned: never trust a cabin guy when he claims that milk powder is milk powder. Or you might end up with a big pan of mashed potatoes at breakfast for the hot chocolate!!!!! Argh!!


anno said…
Blisters, bad food (and not enough of it), exhaustion, and poor organization... oh my! I'm glad your adventure ended well, but I fear you've hit all the reasons I much prefer to stay at hotels!
Wow, I had a feeling you'd end up with cocoa mashed potatoes. I'm glad you survived!
Goofball said…
Ok I need to admit something here: this didn't happen in my group but in one of my fellow groups. For the soap opera, I've presented as my own story, but fortunately it wasn't!!

This was my first leader experience...gosh I would have panicked if it had happened to me. But we had good and sufficient food!

I just heard the "wir haben ein grosses Problem" being told when we all got back! And it was very funny afterwards :p
Betsy said…
Whew! It was probably a whole lot funnier to hear about it second hand and not to have to experience it yourself! :-)
charrette said…
This actually happened to my son this past weekend at a youth conference. His cabin ended up with nothing. (He was especially upset about not getting any m&ms and potato chips, being a teenage boy).

Glad yours worked out better!

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