Homesickness Epidemic

Usually the clientele for the ski camp I have spent my season working for are teenagers. Loud, moody, mostly annoying adolescents who venture out from whichever corner of the world for a week in the Swiss alps. However, this week, a school from down the valley have brought with them a mini assembly of younger individuals ready to terrorise the resort. Ranging from seven years of age to nine, this platoon of youths will enjoy a few days on the slopes as well as various other activities and at first glance you’d think that these enthusiastic and widely imaginative balls of energy would be a welcome change from the glum, sulky juveniles we are accustomed to taking care of.

On the slopes they are. They are so thrilled to be playing on the snow and light up every-time a flake drops from the sky. Any drill disguised as a game they love and they’re just extraordinarily happy to not be at school. This adventurous euphoria lasts all day on the mountain and it’s galvanised by their ability which is derived from them skiing every weekend enabling them to shred almost any piste I throw at them. Leaving the slopes all smiles before refilling on hot chocolate and cake back at the hotel, it seems like they couldn’t be having a better time. And then it gets to dinner time.

Despite being insanely good skiers and remarkably happy as they do it, when it comes around to the evening the joyous young critters are replaced by tired, inept ones. They can ski an advanced ski run and carry all their kit but when it comes to serving themselves food or pouring a glass of water, it’s a disaster. The table becomes a reservoir complete with chips and peas sailing it’s unwanted chaotic waters as streams flow from the heavy jugs over the small glasses splashing down off the side of a plate. All the napkins in Europe wouldn’t be enough to soak up the floods and the careless sheets that are strewn into the mix pathetically disintegrate whilst pushing water onto another child’s lap.

If the kids aren’t distracted by spraying food off their plates then they become suddenly aware that they are on a vacation and not at home with their parents, which is an immediately terrifying revelation. This dinner time ritual starts off with a gradual sniffling from a quieter, tireder looking individual before a few smothered tears slowly fall. At first, obviously, you show concern and ask what’s wrong and try and rationally quell the worry, reminding them they would see their parents in just a few days. Completely ignoring any comforting advice, the situation spirals. The sniffles start to grow and tears flow faster. Homesickness is apparently contagious as after one little child starts, it has a knock on effect to the next kid. Suddenly, there will be three of four rounds of sorrowful sniffles around the table, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to enjoy your food. By the time the starter has been served and cleared and you’ve failed multiple attempts to calm the cries, you begin to lose hope. The kids can sense this and reflect the downturn by stepping up the whinging. A river of tears adds to the already puddled table and their personal doses of tomato sauce even get diluted. Eventually, one of the sniffles becomes a full sob complete with a breathless gasp for air before the next cry. This sets of a call and response between the two biggest blubberers, echoing one another’s call out for help across the table. By this point it was becoming quite a distraction from a tasty chicken schnitzel and it became tough to know what was spilt water and what was the collection of whimpered tears. As the meal went on the endless bawling continued with tears streaming onto the floor spreading the puddles further so even the house staff had to wade through the chaos. At this point I couldn’t be sure if they were crying because they missed their mums or because they were now severely dehydrated due to the strong flow from their tear ducts.

Despite a delicious meal the ambience had slightly tainted the dining experience, especially all the sniffling runny noses trying to drown out the loud sobs and even I began to feel my eyes welling up as I began to miss the moody, annoying teens- at least they didn’t cry over the food.

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