Petey looks at the world with eyes open wider than most, he’s wise beyond his years and this week we’re lucky to be featuring his latest story. It’s a snapshot of Quito, in Ecuador, it’s a journey through indecision and a study on following your gut…
Quito, the Plaza, the heart, in which all of life converges in a mismatched mix of old and young, jaded and new, energy and calm. After nine months on the road, and almost a month in solitude, it is exactly what I need.
A pause, and good company. Old men drink whiskey from plastic cups while children chase pigeons and run around a statue at the centre. Boys shine shoes or beg or play football or smoke cigarettes with the men on the church steps. They suck lemons, sugar coated like candy. Tourists herd behind guides in brightly coloured shirts, take photos of anything beautiful and many things that are not. The interested read newspapers and the intellectuals read books about politics and people and the world. Signs reading “free hugs” circle in the hands of giggling teens and even those who decline them walk away smiling. Travel can be a lonely place; this is how I distract myself. This is how I am reminded that company can always be found and that no one is ever really alone.
The streets, the veins. I walk by colonial remnants well preserved. Banks and courts and government palaces sit beside churches whose facades are immaculate and whose interiors are bathed in gold, beautiful enough to leave even the most stubborn of atheists feeling somewhat godly. Inside, statues of saints hold crucifixes in one hand and skulls in the other. Intricate sculptures line the walls. I had thought, hoped even, that travel would somehow dampen my desire for professional vagrancy; it has not. In fact the more I see the more I want to see. Right now amongst such colonial grandeur the allure of all things European has never been stronger. A fleeting glance, a taste, as always is not enough.
The streets. Named after countries or landmarks seem grander for it. Heading out into the suburbs, the further I wander from the plaza the more I feel as though I am leaving behind a very good friend. People run for buses and hail taxis. Street vendors hark their wares in worn voices, faces of pedestrians down-turned. Buildings close in on cracking tarmac and walls are coated and then recoated with graffiti. Here I am the only person without something to do or somewhere to go and it’s easy to feel purposeless. I smoke cigarettes and try to make plans, somehow it feels like making up for not having them. I am no fatalist. I need a plan.
I turn back towards the plaza. Where there’s always someone richer, poorer, happier, sadder, older, younger, lonelier, more in love. Where contentment is found in the happy middle ground. It is a pocket of home. Though it’s at odds with everything that home represents, it somehow feels exactly like it.
I am in some way a part of it, if only because I am doing what everyone else is doing; nothing. The need for plans and itineraries becomes trivial and even pointless and I have come to that most vital travel revelation; that everything is temporary and everything will change, whether I plan for it or not.
By Peter Jorgensen
Find all of Petey’s stories on his blog…Rumshackle.