Saturday, September 26, 2015

Balsa Gliders In Puerto Cabuyal, Ecuador

While at Shantí, the owner Mauricio introduced us to Alba, a volunteer teacher at a small and remote fishing village. This village, Puerto Cabuyal, is located about 18 miles from Canoa. For the last 6 miles, the road is gravel and dirt; no big deal during the dry season, but it gets dicey when it rains.
Puerto Cabuyal
Puerto Cabuyal, Ecuador
Twelve families live in Puerto Cabuyal, mostly from subsistence fishing. There neither is internet nor cellular service, not even running water. Drinking water comes by hose from a spring about 3/4 mile away.
fishing boats
Power was brought in a few years back, but not all houses have it; Alba’s house has none. An Ecuadorian benefactor financed the building of a school in the village, and this is where Alba and her colleague Felipe are teaching.
Alba's house
Alba and her house/Alba und ihr Haus/Alba y su casa
Mauricio, Alba, and Felipe wondered if we were willing to hold a workshop with the kids about building and flying a model airplane. Of course we agreed, we welcome such a great opportunity and experience! For just this purpose, I designed a simple balsa glider a few years ago, and I brought along the templates.
Puerto Cabuyal school
Puerto Cabuyal School/Schule/Escuela
My first thought was to get some balsa wood. Given that most of the world’s balsa for modeling comes from Ecuador, it’ll be as easy as finding beer in Bavaria... right?? -- WRONG!! -- Not in Canoa nor San Vincente or Bahia de Caraquez was there a shred of balsa to be had. This was another one of those “who would have thought” moments...
Classrooms/Klassenzimmer/Salones de clase
Now what? Drive the 50 miles to the port city of Manta in hopes of finding balsa there? Oscar, Mauricio’s excellent worker, had a better idea: He knew where some wild-growing balsa trees had been cut recently. We went there with him, and sure enough found a branch about six inches in diameter.
Oscar chopped off a sort-of-straight piece of the branch with his machete, threw it in the back of the pickup, and off we went to Don Diego’s wood shop in Canoa. Don Diego “milled” the branch into boards as thin as he could with his table saw, and he did it for free. “It’s for the children” he said...
ocean view
View from school/Blick aus der Schule/Vista desde la escuela
This balsa certainly is the crudest I have ever used to build models. But the way we obtained it and the whole situation in which we used it, easily made this a very gratifying experience building with balsa.

In Puerto Cabuyal, 19 children and two teachers waited for us... nineteen! Alba thought there might be five or seven. But the more, the merrier, and after a good two hours of measuring, cutting, headscratching, and gluing, every girl and boy ended up with their own little glider made from material found “just outside the door.”

1 comment:

DuckGeek said...

Aww. That's a wonderful experience! Those kids will remember that forever. :)

Chris Butler