Waking up in a Small Ecuadorian Village called Salinas

Posted on 01 August 2016

After ABURY designer Pam was selected as the very first winner of the ABURY Design Experience in 2015, she lived and worked with a small local handcrafting community in an Ecuadorian village. During this time she created the Non Existent Tribe Collection. All  in all she spent three months in the Salinas village, and she shared shared her first impressions three weeks after her arrival:

Cold feet in Ecuador

My heart was pounding out of my chest as I got off the plane at Quito airport Ecuador. Design Experience, what was I thinking? Suddenly I felt like this was the worst decision I had ever made. Coming to the world of the unknown with no idea where I was going to end up, certainly takes the prize of all terrible decisions I've made so far.

My mind was suddenly filled with all those horror stories about Latin America. Holding on tightly to my satchel I made sure that no one was walking too close to me, or attempted to make a ''drop'' into my bag. I must admit my imagination does run a little wild! I had previously read about some Latin Americans who carried undesirables in their bags and upon reaching the airport switched these ''things'' amongst other peoples hand luggage. If you were successful in going through customs without any notice they would then approach you and tell you they dropped something into your bag "by accident". My worst nightmare was being frog-marched from the airport screaming that I had never seen the ''package'' in my life!


Ecuador landscape

Welcome to a new home

I spoke too soon. I was picked up promptly from the airport embarking on a five hour car drive to my final destination. It got dark quickly, and soon the local mobile I had bought from the airport lost network while I was rapidly texting my husband of how terrified I was of what lay ahead of me. The car drive itself was the most frightening experience ever. The driver evidently had knowledge of every corner of the route, navigating the narrow, zig zag road, where a wrong turn would leave us tumble down the mountain. It felt like it was forever. I was holding on tightly to my seat, praying that we would arrive in one piece.

Finally we arrived. I was introduced to a man and woman. The man told me he was the only person in the village who could speak English and gave me a key and led me to a house and said good night. I looked around the empty house, and headed to the bedroom assigned to me. It was cold and unwelcoming, but too tired to think of my surroundings I fell into a deep sleep.


Fast forward

I have woken up to the most beautiful place I have ever been. A gorgeous village while poor presents every aspect of community love and team work. The little remote village of Salinas has become my home for the last three weeks. I wake up every morning feeling very grateful. There have been days I just cry and days I am stronger. Many challenges, the language, the structure of work ethics, It is an up and down experience. My impression really does not matter. It voices an opinion yes, but this is someone’s life.


Salinas Village

Lama resting

Salinas Family

ADEx has presented me with a life changing opportunity. There is so much to take in, so much to learn from. My mind is set on getting to know the people and the community first. For me this is the first step in my design process. I came here with impressions of what I had read... in the first 10 minutes of seeing everything in my own eyes, my mindset was educated. I have experienced so much warmth around here, my host family treat me like their own daughter. The Salinas village is filled with laughter, children playing, women working and such a creative vibe my heart bursts with joy. While I admit there is lots of work to be done to change some areas of the Salinas which are still very grey, change is a process and cannot be achieved in one day.


Salinas Family

Pam in Salinas


To conclude, I'd like to say: If you ever had a dream to work with artisanal communities, read more on what ADEx is about. You will never regret it! Until next time - Adios!

© All photos by Franziska Uhlmann

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