The Words of the Quispe Family

RYS Youth Service Initiative

Amy Quispe
January 2, 2009

In September, I uprooted myself from New York City and started my journey on Youth Service Initiative (YSI). Although home base was in Germany, I had spent the last few months in several different countries in Europe. I already felt like I had entered an entirely different world -- and then I went to India.

I had been interested in helping YSI organize an RYS project in the future. I had hoped to get some kind of RYS training ahead of time or perhaps attend a project, but it definitely never occurred to me that I would leave Western Europe, much less the West. This could be the most exciting week of my life, and my only hope was that I could absorb as much as possible in the short time that I'd have.

I never remember being able to keep a journal in the past. However, throughout the course of this project I found myself writing all the time, simply trying to capture everything that was going on around me. I hadn't before found value in the process of putting my thoughts on paper, but I realize how much my ability to perceive the world as it is had changed.

I found that a "somewhat strict schedule" is not in line with the standard of time in Tripura. There were regular morning meditations and evening education, and regular meals - but when we started working, we didn't know when we would stop, or if a break would mean we were done for the day. I figured that it had something to do with the sun being unbearably hot at midday... I remember arriving early one morning to find people hard at work, even before morning meditation or breakfast had begun.

During our down time, I played cards with people from all over India. I waltzed with the Kokborok girls from the Don Bosco site. I had all sorts of conversations over a cup of Indian tea, tea unlike anything I could order in an Indian restaurant in Europe or America, and created an ambiance of ease to share with the others. The time was free for us to get to know each other in a very natural way.

The fluidity of time actually reflected on a more fluid attitude towards everything in life. Religious Youth Service of course promotes interfaith work - but interfaith people? I saw people that practiced both Christianity and Hinduism. I never thought about religious traditions as a way of life, and wouldn't have believed that devout Catholics would still follow Hindu traditions. Since I personally met these people, I found that not only was it not bizarre, but it was actually rather inspiring. This was an attitude that I felt I could bring back to the world I had come from -- not one of confused, mixed devotion, but of a very clear standard, that happened to bridge religious cultural traditions.

Mine was a very valuable experience. I hope it won't be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; it is definitely something that I will take through my life. I learned a lot about myself, how to personally reflect, and how much I am grounded in my own concepts about the way things should be done. In the end, RYS truly expanded my horizons and I will always be grateful for this opportunity. 

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