Ecuador ’14 Week 8: KA Kids, Baños and Final Goodbyes

Having finally stuffed 95% of my belongings into a suitcase, I’m lounging on the living room sofa enjoying the sounds of my last Ecuadorian thunderstorm. Here’s the final blogpost from the Ecuador team. It’s time to say goodbye to beautiful Quito and all our friends at TECHO – our home and family for the past two months.

This past week, we’ve tied up all our loose ends, had a debrief meeting with TECHO, and paid some last visits to TECHO’s suppliers and the Museum of Interactive Science.

KA Kids

On Thursday morning, we met six schoolchildren at Quito’s Interactive Museum of Science, to follow up our Raspberry Pi presentation and get direct feedback from the children we’re designing the systems for. We started up the computer and showed them how to use Scratch and Khan Academy Lite – the children crowded around the screen and shouted out answers (“ocho!” “quince!”) to the addition and multiplication problems which popped up, and cheered themselves on as they racked up their KA points  (“cuarenta puntos! setenta puntos!”).

Afterwards, we asked the children to design a website interface for the Pi, to write down their favourite game of the day, and to think about what other activities they’d like to see in the future. Ideas ranged from a construction game to a language-learning app, and overall, the feedback we received was fantastic. The children hugely enjoyed the game-like KA points system and Scratch, and we’re excited about fully developing the interface in Cambridge before implementing it on a wider scale in Ecuador next summer. We’re currently drawing up an action plan alongside Infodesarrollo, SENESCYT and the Museum Directors, so stay tuned for more updates on this from the society throughout the next few months.

From left to right: Karan and Alex setting up the Raspberry Pi as the children wait expectantly; A mandatory selfie with four of the children at the museum; The children play maths games on KA Lite on the Raspberry Pi; The children sit around a table brainstorming and designing ideas for a Pi interface.

On Friday, we visited the Novopan factory – where panel materials are bought from and the design for a new TECHO Ecuador house has been developed and prototype – and TECHO’s panel, wood and foundations suppliers. We’ve chopped up samples for us to take back to Cambridge along with various wood treatment options, so that we can test them and choose the best to use for the Oriente jungle house we’re designing.

From left to right: Two photos from our visit at the Novopan factory and prototype of the new TECHO Ecuador design, and two photos from the panel suppliers’ factory.

 

Braving Baños

Over the weekend, we took one last trip down to Baños, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador famous for various extreme sports. We got up at 7:30am, spent three hours canyoning (essentially, absailing down waterfalls), another three hours walking up to a viewpoint over Baños called Bellavista, while Sarah visited the local zoos and came pack with sketches of pumas, Galápagos turtles and colourful birds. I then braved the infamous Baños puenting (bridge-jump), which involves getting strapped into two harnesses, attaching yourself to a long rope and leaping 70 metres off a bridge into the roaring river below – the rope catches you about a third of the way and pulls you backwards, and you end up swinging back and forth while taking in the breathtaking view of the waterfall.

From left to right: View of the river from the bridge in Baños where puenting takes place; The town of Baños from the Bellavista viewpoint above; One of countless waterfalls we saw while exploring the area; Sampling grilled guinea pig in a local restaurant.

 

ciao, ecuador

These past eight weeks have been the most incredible experience for all of us. We’ve spent an unforgettable six days out on the field, constructing dozens of houses alongside local volunteers; we’ve got to know Danno, Alexis, Gaby, Paúl, Mika, and many other amazing people who have dedicated their lives to fighting poverty and injustice in Ecuador and Latin America; and we’ve spent dozens of long days in the homely blue-and-white TECHO office doing EcoHouse design and communications work. We’ve cooked almost sixty dinners, ranging from English Sunday roasts, to Greek mousakka, to Kenyan-Indian salads and Chinese-Italian homemade pizzas. We’ve spent time on Ecuador’s breathtaking coastline – which looks like something taken out of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary – in the sierra, in the Amazon jungle and in the Andean highlands. We’ve sampled countless delicious ceviches, encebollados, locally-made chocolate and coffee, churrascos, Ecuadorian and Chilean wines, Argentinian mate, and many other local delicacies whose names we can no longer recall. We’ve tried dozens more new things in the past eight weeks than we have in years – absailing and canyoning, puenting and bridge-jumping, rock-climbing and surfing, mountain-climbing and volcano-summiting.

This trip has been eventful, valuable, and unforgettable. We hope you’ve enjoyed our onslaught of silly blogposts and Facebook/Twitter updates over the past two months, and I assure you I’ve hugely enjoyed writing them. We’ll see you back in Cambridge. That’s it from the EcoHouse Ecuador Placement 2014 Team – over and out.

– Eleni Courea

P.S. Another ‘obligatory selfie’, this time from the team10548702_10204359955414391_4726051967155389230_o