Craziness in South Ecuador

Hey again!
This week I’m posting from a hostel in the city of Loja, in Southern Ecuador. These past two weeks have been unbelievably crazy— in a hectic, frenetic, and chaotic sort of way. Therefore, we’ve had a wildly different set of experiences than the last group of interns to journey to the South.
My first week was spent in the perpetually-idyllic Cuenca: the city of tourists, modernity, and many an American comfort (I’m looking at you, burgers and fries). It was vastly different from our simple, modest life in Pulingi; the return to hot showers and wifi brought also an appreciation for the many luxuries we take for granted at home in the States. With all the interns brought together again, we began to discuss best practices, information, insights, and further steps: the paradigmatic “reflection week.”
Having first gone to Pulingi and the bitterly cold North, my team headed down to the sunny South for Timbara. A small rural village near the town of Zamora, Timbara was shockingly different from Pulingi. Gone were the fields of subsistence crops and animals in favor of sugar cane, a relative cash crop. Gone also was the condemning stigma upon drinking; Don Juan, possibly the most powerful member of the town, ran a hugely populated bar out of his house (some started to drink around 10-11 AM— although I do suppose it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere).
The beginning of our stay in Timbara was wonderful. Forced to double up because of the lack of available housing for males, Aaron (a fellow rising sophomore from Georgetown) and I roomed with a family running a tourist hostel. The food and especially the people were simply superb— our host father Manuel, cognizant of our interest in daily village life, took us for a small tour on our first morning. Manuel in particular was a gem of our stay; in blunt comparison to the visible machismo culture of the South, he would often wake up with his wife to cook early breakfasts for us. Sadly, after but a week in Timbara, we were forced to evacuate to the nearby city of Loja because of major rain-based landslides that had previously knocked out water in the town. The hostel here is ridiculously luxurious compared to the two towns, but I’ve enjoyed the increased independence; by virtue of having no host families and living so close together, we interns have formed stronger and more personable bonds.

-Sree

Live from Berlin!

Live from Berlin! Hello! I am alive and well in Germany and it has been an unbelievable experience so far!

I’m Austin Hunt, a rising Junior in the Mendoza College of Business studying Finance and Film, Television, and Theatre. I have the incredible privilege and pleasure to be working abroad in Berlin, Germany this summer. It is a city of immense importance—from kings and empires, to wars and destruction, and, finally, to an amazing rebirth and prosperous stability.

I am working as a business analyst intern with a venture capital firm at the city’s center and I am having a great time researching different projects for my supervisors to invest in. I have the opportunity to learn about startups, series funding, and investments.

I have international coworkers from France, Spain, Russia, Poland, Italy and Germany who all already speak English as a common language. I have learned about my new friends’ political views, customs, and even words in their respective languages. I have learned that “prom,” a completely American event, will trigger some interesting questions from some curious coworkers!

But anyway, there was never a better time to be in Berlin! The World Cup is at full force, the sun is shining, and I am excited! I have already been to the Brandenburg Gate, on a boat trip down the Spree river, on top of the Victory Column, and to some famous museums. And, of course, I have randomly met Domers abroad along the way!

My horizons are definitely broadening, which is exactly why I committed to living and working abroad for the summer. I am experiencing a different language, lifestyle, customs, and ideas. So far, I would like to thank SIBC for all of their help and generosity to grant me this wonderful opportunity! I am ecstatic to go explore Germany and report back here to ND and all of my family and friends!

Auf Wiedersehen!

–Austin Hunt

 

 

World Cup insanity at the Berlin FIFA Fan Mile

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My new friends and I at the Palace Sans Souci in Potsdam

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The Charlottenburg Schloss

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The Berlin TV Tower

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A preserved section of the Berlin Wall

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Update from Staffordshire!

Hey everybody! I’ve been working at the Mobell/Krizevac internship in England for a while now, and quite a bit has happened since I last posted, so I’ll start with the work-related developments.

Up until a few weeks ago our main duty as interns at the company was to help manage the launch of a new phone service called Cascaid. The founder of our phone company had worked out a deal with John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile, and was hoping to re-sell their phone service in America. As it turns out, there are problems with the contract and the negotiations with T-Mobile, so we may not have the same deal as originally thought. Although the hope was to launch the service before we left, Cascaid will be put on the backburners for now and in the meantime we will work on a couple other projects focusing on marketing the company’s satellite phones and data sim cards. We have also started working for two days every week in a warehouse that manages sending goods to Africa that the Krizevac Project runs. It’s stacked full with thousands of bikes, books, and sewing machines that we sort and either sell or pack for shipping. I’ve enjoyed doing some more hands on work.

As far as travel goes, I went back to London and this time was able to meet up with other Notre Dame students studying abroad. I met my good friend Pat Myron who was there with other freshman engineering students taking classes, and he showed me around their dorms, the school building right next to Trafalgar square, and the other people he was abroad with. It was really nice seeing some familiar faces after being more or less on my own for the past six weeks.  After spending a night out on the town, we went to the Olympic Village and Abbey Road before I caught the train back to Staffordshire.

Last Sunday Helen, Eric, and I went to the Wireless music festival in Birmingham. Some of the performers were Iggy Azalea, Pharrell, and Kanye West. Kanye West put on a great show, and although he had been in the news for a fifteen-minute rant he went on the day before, he cleared all that up with another little rant. We also met some fellow Americans traveling while serving in the Navy and became fast friends.

Other notable happenings:
• While in London I stumbled upon a massive protest with fifty thousand people protesting new austerity measures. It was on my way so I joined in for a mile or two
• Went to see a Shakespeare play on a hill next to a medieval castle
• Visited the small town of Lichfield where the man who wrote the dictionary resided
• I will be visiting Amsterdam for a couple days next weekend
• Disappointed I did not predict Germany winning the world cup, in which case I would have booked a trip there to watch

 

Pictures!

The Stafford Castle.

The Stafford Castle.

Representing America from the Wireless Music Festival

Representing America from the Wireless Music Festival

 

The warehouse full of bikes going to Africa we have been working at.

The warehouse full of bikes going to Africa.

 

Protesting on my way to see ND students in London.  Still not sure what the protest was for.

Protesting on my way to see ND students in London. Still not sure what the protest was for.

 

 

Nice cathedral in Lichfield.

Nice cathedral in Lichfield.

Red, White, and Blue Runs Deep- Even in England

Helen Sheng here, on the four week mark of the Mobell/Krizevac internship in England!

The Office

Now, even though corporate betrayal [*cough* T-Mobile] has caused our original project, the launching of the charity phone CascAID, to be delayed indefinitely, there is always work to do in the office. Recently, we’ve been working on updating (and upgrading) the marketing strategy for their satellite phones and international sim cards. We’ll begin implementing our plan next week–with measures from upping their SEO game to scheduling regular expert review and travel advice posts on their much neglected blogs. So, if you’re planning on traveling abroad and you need international data, or a satphone, you know who to call!

Not the Office

In addition to working on existing products at Mobell, we’ve also started to spend a few days a week in the main Krizevac charity warehouse in Uttoxeter. This has been a completely different experience (and atmosphere) from the office–somehow more laid back, but even busier. It has been a fantastic way to see how an international charity works from behind the scenes. Our always cheerful and enthusiastic leader, Zoe, has collected 7 warehouses (and counting) of generosity from around England, with over 19,000 bikes, thousands of boxes of books, and rooms full of technical and office equipment. And just in the Uttox warehouse, there’s always work to do–collections, prepping the bikes for shipment, sorting and boxing books, and selling what we can on the internet to generate revenue for shipping costs to Malawi and acquisition of more warehouses. 

England

So, I’ve mentioned before that there’s not much in Hednesford, but England is pretty small country with LOTS to see. This past Thursday, I attended the annual Shakespeare festival, with a performance of As You Like It, held right in front of Stafford castle. There’s something about watching Shakespeare in a small campsite at night, in Will’s home country, with a castle in the background….

Stafford Castle

Stafford Castle

As You Like It at the Shakespeare Festival

As You Like It at the Shakespeare Festival

Last weekend, we attended the Wireless festival in Birmingham, where we listened to some (meehhhhh) music, but also met some great people (two of whom were part of the American Navy, stationed in Italy). Our colors really do run deep hear (though partially because red, white, and blue are also their colors). 

Putting some USA pride into the Wireless Festival!

Putting some USA pride into the Wireless Festival!

And lastly, I also visited the great city of Manchester this weekend. Most famous for their football team (and for David Beckham formerly of Manchester United), there’s also several impressive museums and large shopping districts. I spent nearly 5 hours in the Museum of Science and Industry, which consists of 5 buildings of knowledge, and even saw a very impressive Hadron Collider exhibit. 

A park in Manchester

A park in Manchester

Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester--I love old planes

Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester–I love old planes

All in all, a very eventful 2 weeks. Tune in again in another fortnight!

El Oriente

In the beginning of July, my travel group (ten interns) went to the Zamora region to do field work. The journey to Zamora took 12 hours, instead of six, because there were landslides on the only paved road that connected Cuenca to Zamora. We stayed in a town called Timbara, which was a 15-minute bus ride from the city of Zamora. Similar to Cuenca, all of the interns were placed in homestay families for the two weeks. I stayed with Dona Panchita, an Asesora Comunitaria who works with Community Enterprise Solutions and Social Entrepreneur Corps. She was a mother of seven children and a grandmother to others, all living under her roof. Her daughter Diayna had a four year old daughter, Nidia, that loved pretending she was ice skating on the kitchen floor since that was the closest she would get to an ice rink in the Oriente (rainforest region). My host mom, also known as Maria, owned a Tienda located in the front of the first floor of the house. She sold drinks, snacks, her own chickens, and other household goods that her local barrio would need. Her older daughters often helped her manage the store when she was busy cooking or taking care of the house. She explained to me that because education is so expensive, their family could not afford to send all of their children to the University, so only some of her children were studying in Zamora while others worked at home.

 photo1 (1)    The main road in Timbara.

Timbara was a town of about 800 people that were close knit and community-focused. The Zamora region is famous for its waterfalls, which the people of Timbara loved to talk about and show us. Don Manuel, one of the host dads, took us on a trek through several rivers in the mountains to show us one of the many waterfalls in Zamora. The city of Zamora was small and had a few restaurants—we mainly visited Zamora to go to either the market to buy bananas or the Bolivian restaurant to get empanadas and batidos (milkshakes).

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Tilapia and un plato tipico.

Part of the Social Entrepreneur Corps work is Publicidad and Campañas. The travel group is split into two smaller project teams, and each is assigned a certain city in which they will work for the week. The work begins on Tuesday or Wednesday when the project team requests permission from the government to hold a campaign (campaña) in the town that weekend. When the government gives the group permission, they begin to fill out afiches (posters) and volantes (flyers) to hand out to the community. This work is done with the Asesora Comunitaria, a woman that works for Soluciones Comunitarias (Community Enterprise Solutions) to sell CES’s products at campaigns and gain extra income. During the publicidad, the project team splits up and walks around the city, approaching pedestrians and talking to store owners, explaining Soluciones Comunitarias and the campaign and handing out afiches and volantes. The AC works with the interns during Publicidad. After the Publicidad is finished in the morning, we returned to Timbara. That Sunday, we then travel to the campaign location, often two or more hours away with early-morning, 5:30am bus rides. The campaigns were held from 9am-3pm. At the campaigns, the interns would perform free close and far eye exams. There were reading glasses for sale should the exam show that the customer needed them. Soluciones Comunitarias also sells water purification systems, solar products, seeds, energy-efficient light bulbs and eye drops. Each of these products is referred to as a “solution.” During our second campaign, we sold over $600 in solutions, and over $200 of that profit was given to the Asesora Comunitaria, Eurelia.

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A school outside of Pangui that we visited during Publicidad.

When we were not working on the campaigns, each project group was working on their VNGO task. My group, Team Impacto, was given the assignment of establishing Tienditas Comunitarias in the Zamora and Riobamba regions that can permanently sell the products of Soluciones Comunitarias. We travelled to different cities in the Zamora region to administer surveys and determine which pre-existing tiendas would be best to sell our products. In addition to the surveys, our team also created a step-by-step plan to establish TCs and an information sheet to give to TCs. We are currently working on a training manual, inventory sheets, price sheets, marketing materials, and a contract to go with our step-by-step plan. We found one tienda in Cumbaratza that we hope to establish as our first Tiendita Comunitiaria. Despite the lack of traffic in the town, this tienda was bustling with people coming to buy corn, chicken, and other goods for their families. Family-run, the son spoke with us while his mother was busy attending to customers. The location and environment of the tienda were exactly what we wanted. While the other travel group is in the Zamora region, we hope to have Soluciones Comunitarias representatives work with this tienda to establish contact and move forward with the process.

In addition to the campaigns and VNGO work, our travel group did Grassroots Consulting work for an organization in Timbara called Amor y Fortaleza. This organization seeks to economically empower the people of Timbara and create a sense of community. First, we prepared and gave a needs analysis for the organization to determine the topics of the workshops we would give them. After the needs analysis, we decided to do the two workshops on networking and organizational dynamics. My project team prepared and gave the networking workshop. We included topics like branding, business cards, making connections with other organizations in Zamora, social media, and goal setting. The other project team did their workshop on group dynamics, trust, accountability, responsibility, cooperation, and other important topics for the stability of an organization.

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Sydney and I in front of our favorite truck in all of Ecuador.

In Zamora, we had two free weekends that we spent exploring the Oriente. The first weekend, we spent time near Zamora at an ecolodge. We ate Chinese food at a restaurant in Zamora, which proceeded to make every one of us sick (we quickly learned you can’t trust Chinese food in Latin American countries). The second weekend, we went on a jungle tour in the Amazon, including boat rides and a hike. Although it was unbelievably muddy, the scenery was beautiful and the history behind this specific part of the jungle was really interesting. The tour guide explained that that jungle had been a war zone beginning in 1995 between Ecuador and Peru over the border—the dispute began over gold mines that rested between the two countries.

 

After the two weeks in the field were over, we spent a week in Cuenca reflecting on our first experience in the field. We talked about the publicidad, campaigns, the workshops, and VNGO work. It was interesting to hear how different the experiences were in the North and the South of Ecuador. We also celebrated Jenny’s birthday (another intern from Notre Dame) at an amazing Italian restaurant—probably the best salmon I have ever tasted. On Sunday, we went to an Incan ruins site in Cuenca where I lost my wallet, driver’s license, and credit cards—yet another lesson in flexibility.

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The Rio Zamora

During my time in Zamora, partially due to many long bus rides through poverty-stricken areas, I thought a lot about the idea of necessity. In the United States, internet, hot water, reliable electricity, paved roads, clean water, cell phones, healthy food, elaborate houses and furniture, and a variety of shoes and clothing are seen simply as needs. In the rural regions of Ecuador, internet is sparse to non-existent, hot water for showers isn’t a consideration, electricity is expensive and spotty, nutrition is expensive and often can’t be provided for—the staples of their diet are yuca and rice, two starches—and clothing and furniture are kept to the bare minimum. Despite the perceived lack of necessary things, the people in the campo live fulfilling, happy lives. It forces you to question whether all of the “necessities” we have are really necessities. Do I need an iPhone, or a car, or hot water and Internet? Or are all of those things desires that have converted into necessities in the wake of the commercialism that often consumes our country? My first two weeks in the field has taught me that simplicity is the only real necessity—if we live simply and really evaluate the idea of necessity as it pertains to actual survival, we are given the opportunity to live focused and centered lives around the things we have come to define as important. Each person shapes his own definition of necessity and importance; being in Timbara allowed me to completely reevaluate and reform my own definition. I look forward to travelling to Riobamba for the next two weeks for more field work and growth!

 

sole mio

 The interns out for Jenny’s birthday at Sole Mio in Cuenca.

By Emily Campbell
Class of 2017

 

UK – Part Two!

Hi all, my name is Eric Liang and I’m currently in Staffordshire, England doing a 2 month internship with Mobell Communications. I’ve been here for a little bit over a month now. Not too much has changed since my first post, but here are some updates on what’s happened in the past few weeks.

1. Things don’t always go as planned
I had originally come to Mobell to work on the new CasCAID service they were planning on launching in the United States, but it unfortunately has been tabled. There were contact issues with T-Mobile, so we were reassigned to work on the international/satellite cell phone services.

I started with rewriting the guides and explanations for the satellite phone pages online. This includes doing reviews of the new Inmersat and Iridium satellite phones, and comparisons between the two. Most of the new work isn’t too hard; a lot of it is just playing around with the satellite phones for a while and writing a few pages of my thoughts on how each phone operates.

We were also reassigned to redo the marketing for their International Data SIM card sales. Currently the market is targeted towards the older 45+ travelers, but we’re working on helping them expand their demographic to the younger travelers or other specific niches.

2. Volunteering!
Starting about two weeks ago, I’ve spent a couple days during the week at the Krizevac warehouse instead of at the office. Krizevac is the charity I talked about in my last post that Mobell sends 90% of their profits to. We help out the charity with collecting bicycles that people donate around the UK and sorting out all the donated books to either sell or ship to Malawi, Africa. The work we do at the warehouse is a nice change of pace to the usual office work done at Mobell.

There are currently about 11,000 bicycles stored in the warehouse, all waiting to eventually be shipped over to Malawi. In addition to bicycles, Krizevac has collected a few hundred sewing machines and thousands of books that they are also planning to ship to Malawi and sell for cheap to the locals so they can start sewing clothes for some sort of income.

3. Traveling
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had opportunities to travel to London and Birmingham. Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to London right before the ND Engineering study abroad students left and meet up with some friends. It was nice seeing more Notre Dame students over the summer, especially somewhere as far away as the UK.

This past weekend was spent in Birmingham for the Wireless 2014 Music Festival. There were over 20 acts including Pharrell, Tinie Tempah, Iggy Azalea, Foxes, Angel Haze, and the headliner, Kanye West. It’s been by far the most fun I’ve had here. During the festival I met fellow Americans who gave me an American flag to wear, and a lot of the British people around us loved it and came up for photos. People surprisingly really love our accents here, just possibly almost as much as we love theirs.

4. Photos!
The biggest highlight of the past few weeks was Wireless Fest, so unfortunately there isn’t really a diversity of photos for me to show aside from the ones from this weekend.

Wireless Festival!

Wireless Festival!

We found some fellow Americans and a few Britons joined in for the photo

We found some fellow Americans and a few Britons joined in for the photo

Angel Haze @ Wireless

Angel Haze @ Wireless

Headliner Kanye West

Headliner, Kanye West

Two of the satellite phones Mobell is selling, the Extreme and IsatPhone 2

Two of the satellite phones Mobell is selling, the Extreme and IsatPhone 2

Out on the Field in Timbara!

Hi, my name is Jenny Ng and I am currently in Ecuador on a two-week internship program in social entrepreneurship. Here is the link to my first post: https://sibcinternational.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/two-weeks-into-ecuador/

Our fieldwork officially started two weeks ago when our group split into two and my half headed south to Zamora. It became clear to me that things don’t often go as planned when our 6 hour bus ride turned into a 12 hour bus ride due to multiple landslides in the region.

While this is true regardless of where you are in the world, it is more apparent in developing countries where the infrastructure or technology is not as reliable. Over the past week, I learned that the key here is to be flexible. If your bus doesn’t show up on time, jump in the back of a pick-up taxi. If you don’t understand Spanish, smile and nod. (This last one doesn’t actually work.)

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After we finally arrived at Zamora on Monday night, I was introduced to my indigenous host-family members who have been wonderful to Emily and me for the past week. Our family lives in Timbara, a small village within the Amazon region and located 20 minutes from the city centre of Zamora. There are plenty of differences between life in Timbara and Cuenca:

1. First of all, the environment here is much more rural than in Cuenca. We have one Wi-Fi hotspot in the entire village, and I no longer need an alarm clock because I am woken up continuously from 4am onwards by the roosters beside my window. Similarly, the absence of hot showers has reduced my total shower time from 40 minutes to 40 seconds.

2. I have much bigger family here in Timbara than I do in Cuenca. In fact, after a week of living here, I still don’t have an exact number of how many people live in my house. (My guess is anywhere between 10 and 15 people.) I’m having a great time getting to know my host brothers and sisters, and we’ve spent plenty of nights laughing at my attempts to explain BS and Spits using broken Spanglish and excessive hand gestures.

3. I’ve noticed there are fewer social boundaries in comparison to Cuenca, and even more so in comparison to the United States. People are not at all hesitant to ask questions about income or how much something costs. This reminds me of the more rural regions I’ve visited in China, and it makes me wonder whether the relative absence of social restrictions allows for people to be more open about personal circumstances.

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4. While Cuenca evidently has a machismo culture from the mere fact that a girl can receive more catcalls during a 20 minute walk to Spanish school than most people have to endure in a lifetime, it seems to be even more of a serious issue in rural communities where some women are forced to stay at home and/or experience physical abuse. It is both uncomfortable and distressing to be made aware of the effects that barely scratch the surface of a much large social issue at hand. I hope that our work with female entrepreneurs will help to progress the way in which these communities view women and their capabilities beyond household duties.

Beyond the physical and cultural differences, our group is also doing a lot more hands-on work here in Zamora than in Cuenca. On Wednesday, we travelled to Nangaritza in preparation for our campaign there on Sunday, during which we will be accompanying our local entrepreneur, Euliria, to sell products to the community. Throughout the week, we have also been conducting a feasibility study of a new solar lamp that will potentially be added to the product line.

From our time travelling around town and to different locations, I’ve noticed that the absence of marketing is a huge barrier to success in many small businesses. For instance, a newly built hostel here in Timbara has virtually no marketing presence, and restaurants that are only a few metres away from a road intersection have no signs at all to capture the attention of potential customers. While the quality of a product of service is inarguably important, having a good product in itself is not going to bring you any customers. Not marketing is equivalent to crossing your fingers and hoping that someone will magically stumble across your product. Instead of leaving it all to chance, prioritising public awareness of your product/service is equally if not more important than having a good product/service. Fortunately, this barrier can easily be overcome with the right tools and access to information.

Here are a few more photos from this week:

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Thanks for reading!