The Power of Norma

by Sahana, Civic Semester Participant

When visiting Paru Paru, we were constantly surrounded by kids. They became our source of joy while facing the cold and illnesses. We would braid hair, dance together, and play football. But what was most memorable, was scrolling through everyone’s camera rolls. Norma and Andrea, two sisters aged 11 and 8, would avidly look through our photos and ask questions about the people and locations they were seeing. When I explained some photos of Malta (where the country was and its culture), their father came closer and started looking at the photos too. In that moment, I realised that Norma’s, Andrea’s, and their family’s way of seeing the world, was dependent on the visitors staying in Paru Paru. They learned about our experiences and knowledge, just as we learned about their culture. Even small things, like writing 1-10 in our various languages was valuable.

I was reminded of a quote from The Shape Of Water: “Time is but a river flowing from our past” and our world is but an amalgamation of our experiences.

Our languages, families, cultures, friends are all so different, but they shape the individual. We often go through experiences, gain knowledge from them, and then apply it, but the impact those experiences have on our perspectives and realities can sometimes be lost. It’s easy to forget that each and every one of our memories have an impact. Be it rainy afternoons, lazy Sundays, or disastrous boat rides (boys, that one’s for you). Everything we’ve done, whether it’s forgotten or not, is a piece in the puzzle of what makes us, us.

The way the girls viewed our photos and lives, made those experiences more meaningful. To see the impact that our everyday life could have on someone else’s perspective of the world was something all of us had never encountered. Looking at images with Norma and Andrea allowed me to see my camera roll in a different light. Instead of it being a collection of 4,000 photos, most of which is spam, it’s 4,000 experiences that took me across the globe and created the person I am today. Now, these photos are not only mine, they are a part of Norma’s and Andrea’s view of the world. Their curiosity was both profound and humbling and definitely something I’m still wrapping my head around. So, to Norma and Andrea, if you ever read this, know that I am incredibly grateful for the time we had together. And to anyone headed to Peru in need of adorable hair stylists, there are two wise, little prodigies in the mountains of Paru Paru.

Originally posted here