While brainstorming for this post earlier today, I was having some trouble coming up with a topic. Everything was feeling a little too dry and routine. Would readers be more captivated by a discussion of what it means to be an international NGO? Or maybe the trials and tribulations of collaborating with numerous partners will do the trick? Standing in front of the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, these were my thoughts exactly as other Recrear colleagues and I piled into a cab to head back to the hostel.
After just a few moments of being on the road, our cab witnessed some horrific driving followed by plastic bottles and litter being thrown out of a neighboring van. Instead of being a solitary act of ignorance as I was begrudgingly expecting, our cab driver actually decided to roll down my passenger side window and berate the driver for such ignorance. From there, I couldn’t help myself from asking question after question. Are there any regulations for littering? What about for limiting automobile exhaust? Eventually, the discussion came to ‘what do you feel is the most significant issue facing Quito at the moment?’ Our cab driver insisted that it was the traffic. Caused by a multitude of factors, one major cause is inefficient bus routes. Often in Quito, 3-4 buses can be seen following one another along the same exact routes, all the while puffing out clouds of dark black exhaust. Not only are these buses slow but they take up more than their share of the narrow Quiteno streets. The congestion of taxis was the second factor to traffic conditions since radio systems, that often help organize the flow of cabs in other big cities, are significantly under-serving. Some organizing centers exist but aren’t nearly extensive enough to cover the vast number of cabs zooming about the city on a daily basis.
This conversation continued eventually, as most cab conversations with foreigners do, to where we were from and what we were doing visiting Quito. While explaining all that, I came to the topic of Recrear and realized that this whole cab conversation was exactly the philosophy that Recrear was founded on. There are few people more experienced in a city’s traffic patterns than a cab driver who experiences them on a daily basis. In taking people from place to place, cab drivers need to know the fastest routes and best methods to avoid traffic. Although the usual process is to consult city planners and civil engineers, these professionals lack the fundamental element of street experience. What is most unfortunate is that if Quito’s government officials were to take serious steps towards resolving traffic issues, there is almost a 100% guarantee that daily drivers such as cab drivers wouldn’t even be included in the picture. From this is where I see the advantage of a ‘youthful’ mindset. Not only are we curious, questioning beings but we also aren’t held down by these professional expectations to act and process problems in a certain manner. This fresh outlook is what fosters “outside the box” thinking. What is often portrayed negatively as “naivety” in youth can also be spun in a positive light as ingenuity. Comparable to the fearlessness of toddlers, this creativity is something most young people are trained to ignore in their gradual acceptance into the sedentary lifestyles as is the norm.
So, what’s the moral of this story?
“Until you spread your wings, you will have no idea how far you can fly,” so stay curious, my friends. Always be open to new perspectives and take that leap of faith. I never thought I could learn so much about a city’s social conditions from a cab driver and definitely hadn’t intended on having such an in depth conversation during the 10 minute ride back to the hostel. It turned out to be a wake-up call and I’m now more motivated than ever before to keep on pushing forward with the inspiration of Recrear’s philosophy behind me.