Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playdate

Mini City Challenge

Today was a glimpse into how the other side lives. Cumbaya, the valley next to Quito, attracts many of the successful Quiteños who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are gated communities with large homes with extensive grounds and swimming pools and tennis courts. Many of the expats live there, as do the well to do Ecuadorians.

Cumbaya is quieter and safer and well heeled. There are fancier stores and gyms and malls and restaurants. A large private university attracts students and professors from other countries. There are private schools scattered all over.

A tunnel separates Quito from Cumbaya, only a ten minute trip without traffic. I take the bus from the Rio Coca bus station, which takes a more circuitous route and avoids the 40 cent Peaje cost of the Guayasamin tunnel. The buses stop frequently but travel at great speed around the curves and hills to Cumbaya. From my apartment, there are only three Ecovia stops to get to a constantly flowing line of buses heading to Cumbaya, Tumbaco, Pifo and El Quinche. It is twenty five cents for the Ecovia and another twenty five for the bus to Cumbaya, which stops right in front of the Supermaxi where I often meet friends whom I am visiting.

Gabriel and Maya had a playdate at 'Mini City', a children's pretend world, which kept them running for several hours. Parents are required to enter (and pay) but are not permitted to enter into the stations that are set up to entertain the children. Maria and I ended up in a coffee shop with carrot cake and Nescafe. Maya and Gabriel received $100 each in play money and were required to pay for certain activities but are also given an opportunity to earn money by accomplishing all sorts of tasks. They get to be firemen, messengers, circus performers, ice cream designers, journalists, TV cameramen, bakers. They earn their driver's license ( Maya was too tall to fit into the cars and could not get her practical test). Gabriel and Maya ran constantly and enjoyed earning and spending their money and were disappointed when it was closing time.

Mini City was lots of fun for Maya and Gabriel and it was good to see them happy and enjoying each other. I did feel a little out of sorts though; the experience was a reminder of the consumer oriented world I am returning to and which has not been part of our lives for the past year. It was fitting that this sort of entertainment would be located in Cumbaya, which reminds me more of the world I know. Living in Quito and taking public transportation and walking everywhere and spending time in the less well kept parts of town certainly has given me a different perspective. Spending the day in Cumbaya took me away from what I have been accustomed to this year and perhaps prepared me more for the world I am returning to.

Earning Money Feels Good

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