We have arrived, but have we truly arrived? What does it even mean to arrive? We have reached the physical destination of the Y-TOP Gathering 2017, but what and where is our true destination? The Y-TOP flag has been hoisted, but we are only just beginning to lift the essences and goals of the Y-TOP into the air. From today, we are starting to project our ideas and passions into the sky, just like the flag that is happily waving under the Portuguese sun. This day was all about settling, (re)meeting each other, and laying the foundations of every Y-TOP Gathering, most importantly: The Agreements.
However unquestionable it is that we are in one of the hottest, driest places in Europe, the beginning of Y-TOP Gatherings is always in need of some ice-breaking activities. After the first Country Meetings take place, and some warming-up games are played, we find ourselves under the sun to melt the ice. We find that one can get to know a stranger in better ways than just asking about their name and their country. Questions like “What is your favourite smell?” and “If you could invite three people for dinner (regardless of if they are long deceased, fictional, or yet-to-be-born), who would it be and why?” are great starters for interesting conversations.
Through several games, we go through the Agreements of Y-TOP. Our Agreements are not sets of rules, nor restrictions that are imposed upon the participants. They are concepts and mutual agreements that apply to everybody (participant, Youth Assistant or guest), and are natural, respectful and considerate. Above all, they are ever-present and extremely important in every Y-TOP Gathering. They range from quite practical ones (such as: having travel insurance), to understandings of community and peaceful co-existence (such as: respect one another). Just as the participants, activities and locations of the Y-TOP are dynamic, so are the Agreements. Gently changing from year to year.
Afterwards, the four Service Families are introduced. The Feeling, Sensing, Seeing and Listening Teams will be rotating along different services that are unmissable in any gathering or youth camp (such as cleaning and cooking, but also having the task of Family of the Day, which means being responsible for the day’s program).
That evening, the first official Y-TOP dinner is a culinary highlight straight away: just as they do every year, the Israelis provide us with a dinner that feeds the body and the soul. It sets a good start for the evening, which is full of familiar Y-TOP family-time: games, music and laughter make it seem like the last Y-TOP Gathering was only a week ago.