#photographicmemory is a feature in which we ask someone to write about a nostalgic photo of themselves. It was created because sometimes you can find out more about a person by asking them to describe a photo than by asking them a ton of questions. It was also created because it’s nice to look at pretty photos.
I remember being incredibly content. We had spent the morning building benches for a local park that we were also creating. I remember everything feeling so complete. The previous week I was part of a group that had gone to the huge steel factory out of town to collect their waste materials. From this we picked up a load of crates that we dismantled to make the benches. After some instruction from one of the more experienced guys we set about sanding, sawing and nailing the wood together.
Happiness is such an intangible thing, it’s like a current you’re being swept away with and you’re just cruising along thinking this is normal and that everyone else must also be feeling the same thing but it’s only when you are out of the current and stranded motionless in the water that you realise how special and unique it was before. Maybe we lose some of the detail when we look back in hindsight and tend to paint larger pictures with the same label even if within that large space there were hundreds of fluctuations. Like zooming out on Google maps as all the little places get collected under bigger and bigger places.
I was volunteering for a little organisation called Pisco Sin Fronteras. We were a random assortment of people from all around the world who were helping to rebuild the town of Pisco. It had been hit by an earthquake a few years previous and our projects ranged from building modular houses, making biodiesel to teaching English to the locals. The four weeks I spent within the community were probably the highlight of my gap year. Everything felt so real, it couldn’t have been further away from a cosy classroom in Chester.
One of my favourite TED talks from the inimitable Rick Warren makes the claim that we find meaning in our lives when we give our lives away. That made most sense to me when I was in Peru. It also might be why I often felt and feel lost back in the normal UK student routine. Altruism can potentially seem like a distant concept when doing something so individualistic as a degree. I guess we can combat this by focussing on the little things we can do in our current environments, wherever they are.
The next day we took our finished benches to the park, and after a bit of digging together and some pouring of concrete they were set in the ground and the park was soon complete. I remember walking back one night after work had finished with some of the volunteers. Some children were playing on the homemade swings while their parents watched on sitting on the benches that we built.
I made some great friends during the time I spent there, I even caught up with one in Rome last week. It’s cool to think that there is a little community of people spread out all around the world who all shared something special in that little, dusty Peruvian town.
Tim is an Italian and Philosophy student currently living in Rome. Usually found equipped with pizza and gelato, he likes to read, drink wine and play lacrosse – currently playing for Roma in the Italian league. He occasionally writes thoughts on timpemberton.blogspot.com.
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