Sunday, May 27, 2012

¡Quito, Te queremos!

As we begin our final night in Quito, I think about the strange, amazing learning environment that Quito has been. As I discuss my thoughts with Emily, one thing pops up in discussion more and more: unexpected. Before our trip, I imagined Quito as a run-down, dingy, “sketchy,” unfriendly city. This was the part of the trip that we would have to get through to reach the Galapagos, which would be the “prize” for getting through our week in Quito. While the city is polluted, it doesn’t seem all that worse than how a major American city is. Yes, there is graffiti on the walls and most of the buildings would be considered antiquated in the US, but Quito is vibrant nonetheless. And from what we have learned from Milton, our charming Ecuadorian guide, and Adrian, one of the speakers who came to address our class, Quito as a city has made a lot of progress in the past ten years. It’s true that Quito is a developing city, but what city isn’t? As we have learned this week, Quito has come a long way and has a lot of exciting plans for the future. One fact that especially stuck out to me is that there are 450,000 cars in Quito. While I don’t know if this is a lot for the 1 million residents, the air pollution has probably been the worst thing about the city. But if I heard this before the trip, I wouldn’t have expected there to be plans for correcting this problem. However, the Quito government has been encouraging the use of public transportation by subsidizing public transportation ($0.25 for a ride on the tram/buses that have their own lanes, which is highly preferable over the traffic in the city), and has a new initiative called “pico y placa”, which essentially restricts when cars are allowed to travel in the city. I suppose that this surprised me because I was expecting the city to be in a state of disarray or a giant mess that seemed to be spinning uncontrollably towards a near certain doom. Today we had the pleasure of visiting “Parque Metropolitano” in the north of the city, which was an absolutely beautiful urban, green space with trails for walking and a large playground. Because today is a national holiday, there were many families enjoying the fresh air and beautiful weather. Not only this, but I noticed that on many streets there are flower beds planted in the medians and other landscaping in and around the city. While our class may be more focused on the environmental issues in the Galapagos and the Amazon of Ecuador, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that Quito is a very livable city. Although it may not be considered particularly “green”, the city governance still seems to value and care about improving the city. While we did not get to see the whole city, and I’m sure many other problems exist, it is heartening to know that if I come back to the city later, it has the potential to be even better than it is now.

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