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July 2, 2021

Hi everyone!

This week, we traveled to Kinti Wasi, an indigenous community nestled in the green mountains and fog of Canar in the South of Ecuador. Three indigenous women, Veronica, Jacoba, and Carmen, started Kinti Wasi in 2016 to resist emigration by reinvigorating indigenous Ecuadorian tradition. On our first day here, the people of Kinti Wasi welcomed us with a traditional musical greeting, and that night indigenous people from across the region hosted a cultural night with musical storytelling. During our stay here, we have danced in the rain, practiced salsa and merengue, learned Kichwa (the indigenous language), planted trees, and visited the neighboring town of Suscal.

On Wednesday, we plastered homes with barra, a mixture of grass, clay, and caca de caballo. To the rhythm of music, we mixed the barra with our feet, threw it at the wall, created a smooth surface, and then molded a sun pattern and a hummingbird for decoration. The barra creates natural insulation between the house and outside elements. This process is part of bioconstruction, using materials from the land to avoid the negative health impacts and pollution of mainstream construction methods. Our teacher, Juan Pablo, taught us to reset our energies by absorbing new energy through the sun and letting the old out through the mud.

We have connected with nature in so many more ways as well – our hill has become the favorite place to hang out and take in the breathtaking vistas. We’ve found ourselves cutting it close to lights out each night while we are mesmerized by the most incredible night sky we’ve ever seen.

As our trip comes to a close, we are struck by how much we have learned on this trip. We’ve gotten to know people from across the US, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Ecuador — mountains and coast. We can’t wait to carry forward our design-thinking skills and cultural understanding to create positive change in our home communities.

Nos vemos pronto (see you soon!),

Abigail, Maguire, and Joe

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