She Works Hard for the Money

I got the call on Saturday morning. A language camp in Arosa, Graubünden, was in desperate need of an English teacher available to start immediately and take over a class of intermediate students. The gig would last only one week, with free room and board, as many students would be leaving by the week's end and I would no longer be needed. Never one to turn down a legitimate work opportunity, I quickly discussed the pros and cons with my husband.

Pros: Our visitors had been with us at that point since Tuesday and would be leaving Monday morning to head to Geneva, so I wouldn't really be abandoning them. Plus, I didn't need to arrive at the camp until later Sunday evening, which would still allow us to take our guests for a quick overnight stay in the Locarno area. Plus, the camp's host institution is a boarding school in St. Gallen for which I'd like to be a full-time teacher. Taking this job would really be a foot in the door!

Cons: I'd have to be away from Isaiah for the entire week. Also, the work hours are long: 7:30 am until 10 pm.

Despite the cons, I returned the director's call and accepted the position, then we hopped into the car for our drive down to Locarno.

While laying out on the beach Sunday afternoon, I got a call from the camp's director of studies, "Have you got a pair of proper trousers with you? It snowed yesterday and it may get chilly again during the week."

"Um, no, just a pair of blue jeans."

"Oh, well, I'm sure that will do since you are arriving on such short notice."

Yeah, it hadn't occurred to me that there might be some sort of dress code at camp. I had thrown just a few blouses and a sun dress into a duffel bag hoping that would do for the week. Just a few hours after that call, we were on the road heading north to drop me off at the camp. There would be no time to stop at home first to pack a pair of slacks. I already had a feeling that I was in for a very long week.

Long week it was. So long that I have been recovering from it since I returned this past Saturday evening, mostly because I woke up that morning with a tickle in my throat, which has now manifested itself as a full-fledged summer cold. To top it off, it turns out that extreme exhaustion seriously impairs my ability to walk down a flight of steps, so I somehow managed to fall down the staircase in my apartment building and sprain my ankle, pretty badly. It's black and blue and I'm wearing an ankle brace.

In the long run, was it all worth the mere CHF 600 cash that I earned? It's too soon to tell. But I will tell you this, I'm glad to have had such a unique experience working with some bright students and friendly colleagues in one of Switzerland's most beautiful settings. In wintertime, Arosa (30 km/45 min. outside of Chur) is a hot spot ski resort town, comparable to St. Moritz. During the summer, the town features hiking, sun bathing, and other leisure activities amidst rocky mountains and pine forests at 1800 meters above sea level.

Highlights from the week:
  • International flair of the camp included students and staff from Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, Monaco, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
  • An afternoon of shopping in Chur, kid-free, during which I purchased a CHF 99 skirt from United Colours of Benetton for only CHF 25. I love the July sales! I then proceeded to wear said skirt every day for the rest of camp so I wouldn't appear to be a slob.
  • We had two BBQs that week, during which I stuffed my face with salads, sausages, and Paprika chips.
  • Lunch and Dinner were served to us in the hotel's dining hall in three courses: salad, main dish, and dessert. No dish-washing duty at this camp.
  • Since 90% of my students were Russian, I picked up how to say yes ("da"), no ("niet"), and what ("shto").
  • My 9-year-old little buddy from Mexico City would often tag along with me during free time and speak in lists. "Amanda, can you answer three questions for me? Number one..." "Amanda, I have three reasons why you should stay at camp. First, you're the only one of the teachers who speaks good Spanish, next ...."
  • I played UNO in German with a Russian-born German-language teacher, a Spanish kid, and my little Mexican buddy.
  • I played beach volleyball at the Strandbad (small lake, pictured above, with grass area and sandy beach).
  • I went small bore target shooting and I wasn't half bad for a first-timer.
  • Many students spoke 3-4 languages and would alternate between them quite freely.
  • Disco-night. Children dancing to hip-hop is seriously entertaining.
Views from Hotel Eden, my home for the week


  1. 600.- for a week, 7:30 am to 10 pm? I hope you'll make more if you get to work there regularly...

  2. Us teachers do work hard for our money! But in the end we have good memories and more interesting news to tell than those sitting in the same office every day! But those are seriously long working hours you had, I can believe you that you needed a week to recover!!

  3. Wow, sounds like quite the experience. Good for stories though. Not that writers make any better money than teachers...

  4. You fell down the stairs!!!! OMG! I actually said "Oh No!" out loud when I read that! You poor thing!

    Sounds like you got a ton of experience packed into one little week. Feel better chica!

  5. wow - that sounds like a lot of work and I am sorry that you are sick and bruised from it all... but I would love to mix it up from time to time and do something like that. I am glad you took a chance and had fun in the process. :)

  6. I'm sorry about your ankle!
    Soon your cold will be gone, your ankle will recover it's normal color and you will still have the best stories to tell about this crazy week :-)

  7. M'dame Jo - Yes, I hope so too! Keep your fingers crossed!

    Anneliese - Yes! Preach it sista! I feel kind of like a wimp, though, because all the other teachers worked at least 3 weeks of camp and I only had to work one.

    Chantal - I definitely noticed that about freelance writing. Starting out, you really get paid pennies! Well, teaching and writing aren't careers that you go into for the money, right? You do it for the love of the craft - and to pay the bills.

    Tina - Thanks for the well wishes. Yeah, mostly I feel like a big idiot. People have been staring at me like they've never seen someone with a slight limp!

    Jessica - I too am glad I took a chance. You know, you could always teach at the camp next summer during your holidays... I have the contact info if you're interested! ;)

    Carla - thanks for the positivity. My ankle is starting to feel a lot better!

  8. You're little Mexican buddy sounds absolutely adorable.

    Sorry about your ankle! Hope you get well soon!

  9. Sounds like CVLCC on steroids. Love it!

  10. Arosa is my favorite place in all of Switzerland! Did you get to get out and enjoy it at all?? Sounds like LONG work days!

  11. Marianne - Thanks! Yes, he was too cute. He gave me bubbles as a parting gift :)

    Katie - definitely a lot like CVLCC, complete with no set curriculum, so after the kids went to bed, I stayed up to plan my lessons for the next day. All too familiar...

    Jennifer - Unfortunately, no, I didn't get to see much of Arosa. I did chaperone the kids during shopping excursions, but they just wanted to go to the toy store near the hotel. I will have to go back for some serious hiking.


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