BY VIRGINIA OFER

After sixth months on Rotary Exchange in India I have learned many life lessons, some of which I feel important enough to share with you every month.

The first three things I learned in India were to look both ways before crossing the street, how to say no, and conversely, how to say yes. The fourth thing was that the aspects of another culture might suit you better than your own.

However, among the most important of the lessons I have learned is to never take anything for granted.

This lesson is probably learned by most people who are placed in a culture other than their own, but I feel that it is exaggerated because I am an American in India.

Someone from the birthplace of instant gratification in a land where nothing is prepackaged. There are no cell phone plans and no bottles of milk in the store.

There are no cake mixes and you can’t use eggs for baking. There is no toilet paper, and all the clothes are washed by hand.

This makes everything much more of a hassle, less sanitary and much more work for the hired help.

So instead of a washer and dryer, dishwasher and vacuum cleaner, you have some people. It is not as nice as it sounds.

Doing no work because you are paying someone else to do it every day does get boring after awhile. But finding myself in this vastly different society has taught me that living without the things we call the basic necessities is very possible and in some ways enjoyable.

I know that I will never take any aspect of the easy American way of life for granted. I know now how the other half of the world lives, and know that in their minds it is the best way of life.

I appreciate more than ever the amazing history America has had and I understand that we have extremely stable foundations already laid to continue our leaps and bounds of advancement. So if anything, being in India has made me realize just how proud I am of America.

It has opened my eyes to my own close-mindedness and given me the ability to focus on the important things in my life, even when the surroundings are less than comfortable.

I feel as if I am a different person, because now I have fully realized that it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have, it just matters what you do with your time.

And Rotary has shown me that a little productivity can really change the world, one life at a time.

VIRGINIA OFER is a Cooperstown Rotary Exchange student in India. She can be reached via e-mal at vigi@stny. rr.com. She is willing to send biweekly updates about her exchange to anyone who is interested.

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