Xristina Antonelli worked with us from January to July 2014, at the SAFE Project. Here are her thoughts on life at SAFE camp.
“I had the chance to work as an intern for the SAFE project for about 6 months this year. I spent most of my time on site and only few weeks at the Arkitrek office in KK. The site is located in the rainforest, about 3 hours drive from Tawau, the nearest city. It is a beautiful place surrounded by several hills and small rivers-streams with all sorts of creatures from the animal and plant kingdom present everywhere.
The first impression you get is that the site itself has a unique power of creating extreme feelings in the people living there. In days of heavy rainstorms you feel that you are in a tiny place of the earth and totally forgotten by the world, whereas in days of incredible sky colours at dawns and dusks you may feel that you are in the epicentre of this world with all this beauty just above your head.
After a few days in the camp you start realising that you are not living in a city any more. You know it when you are woken up in the morning by animal calls instead of crazy traffic sounds. When the time that you spent in your favourite café is now being replaced by laying down at your favourite rock at the river for your afternoon siesta. When you start forgetting how the buildings of your neighbourhood look, but you remember details of all the trees around the camp. Even when your notebooks are full with spots of dead mosquitoes, tiny ants, spiders, rather than those of spilled coffee.
Life in the forest may seem static, slow and calm. It is only when you experience it for a long period that you get to understand that the flows of life and movement in the landscape are uncountable compared to the ones of a city. It is a whole ecosystem that you start to observe, sometimes having the guilty feeling of an invader, and sometimes having the exciting feeling of the luckiest spy ever.
A beautiful place full of secrets that can reveal some of them to you if you are lucky enough and open to discover them. That’s how I remember this place. After some years it might all fade into a distant memory but everything that I gained on a personal level will keep following me, and this is how I value my experience there. That’s also the point where the community of the people at SAFE comes into the picture. Living together with around 30-40 people and have daily interaction with all of them is a way of living that many people could not withstand easily. Yet, being part of such a community can change you positively as a person in so many ways.
What this experience made me realise is that everyone has several abilities, sometimes hidden, sometimes not. You can always learn from the others. Sharing skills and knowledge with people regardless their age, cultural or educational background is beyond any educational course you could ever take. Everyone at SAFE always exuded an aura of creativity, enthusiasm and a positive attitude on everything, from which there was no escape. Eventually everyone was touched in one or another way.
The camp, even temporary, was in permanent change. There was constantly something being created which made you start noticing everything around you and observe more of the details. Somehow the simple daily life of the camp was the greatest inspiration for a desire to experiment and try to make stuff with your hands. Buat apa hari ini? (what do you make today?) was the most common question by the locals after asking you how are you. And in addition to this I will never forget how everyone on the camp was asking about the new buildings and when they will be ready with the same craving as of kids who ask their mum when food will be ready. This experience was for me one of the best live examples of a motivational phrase of my favourite Greek architect which is always in my mind “Trying to give even greater the joy of life, that what architecture is”, by Aris Konstantinidis.
Keeping my experience as a guide I will try to continue my ”adventcure” (architecture+adventure) journey in the footsteps of Arkitrek!”