Climbed the 35 steps to the metro ticket office, bought a ticket, climbed 20 more stairs and hopped on the metro and cruised ever so silently into downtown. Off the metro, descended 50 steps and started to hot foot it.
“You would never see this many steps without an escalator in the U.S.” -Blake
Stoked to finally meet Blake’s friend Marcela, who is from Medellín. They met back in 2012 in Asheville, NC at an alternative education conference. We were running a few minutes late and following google maps and dodging taxis, buses, cars, and motos at every intersection.
“PARE” [stop] is not only painted on the ground at every intersection, there are red and white traffic signs as well. They mean nothing. Cars > Pedestrians. Pedestrians must get the hell out of dodge.
Walking along a skinny sidewalk when Blake turned to me after referencing his iPhone directions:
“Do you think we’re those oblivious tourists right now? Could we be walking through a super sketchy part of the city by unapologetically following google maps? I wonder if—” -Blake
“Ohhhhhh my god! S*^%!! What was that?”
I m p e c c a b l e timing. A crazy loud noise, RIGHT from the door and garage 6 inches to our left, happened just as we passed and it scared us both to pieces.
We made it our destination, unscathed.
Marcela invited us to meet her at this museum so that we could learn more about the history of internal Colombian conflict and then engage with her about it.
It’s location is a little off the beaten path of downtown, but it’s now easily accessible by a light rail system that has a stop 2 blocks away. The public transportation system in this city is up there. (No pun intended…read on for clarity)
Funny, that this museum is seemingly so accessible…according to Marcela,
“How was it? Awesome? Interesting? What do you feel right now? I am glad this museum exists. And I am glad to share it with you. However, half of my friends in Medellin don’t even know this place exists. And that’s the legacy of Medellin.” -Marcela
As we crossed the street towards the light rail system, two men walking by us turned over their shoulder and said,
“Hey! Welcome to Colombia! We’re good people here. Bring your friends when you come back!”
After bantering for 10 minutes with the security guard at one of the stops to the light rail system — it’s a new system, Marcela hadn’t ridden on it before AND the ticket transfer was rather confusing — Marcela looked at our puzzled faces and said to us, in her pretty perfect English,
“I have no idea what he’s talking about either. This system is so confusing. Wow. Ok, we have our tickets, let’s go. Keep your eyes open, apparently some of the best graffiti is on the sides.”
Very true. Absolutely beautiful street art adorned the walls of businesses and houses along the zig zagging light rail course [no photos…as it goes]. Apparently the artists went to the people in the community as well as the owners of the houses to ask what visual art the locals wanted to see everyday. Marcela described it as a genuine community effort.
Light rail last stop. Welcome to the gondola. That’s right, we boarded one of the many public transportation gondolas of Medellín.
We had the gondola all to ourselves! This just so happens to be our second gondola ride of the trip; we rode the gondola up to La Aurora earlier in the week with commuters heading home from work. This time we rode the gondola up to Villa Sierra and just stayed on while we rode back down to the light rail, gazing at the views and catching up with Marcela.
In 2013, Medellín was named The Most Innovative City of the Year by the Wall Street Journal. It’s 2017, and there are 4 functioning gondolas, known as the “MetroCable,” in the city right now. A fifth one is close to completion too!
According to the media and the entire 60 Minutes Interview with the Mayor of Medellín, these gondolas were built to serve the poorer parts of the city and decrease the lengthy and physically exhausting commute. People walk up steps that are woven into these vertical hillsides to get to their homes. The MetroCable not only connects these barrios to the downtown of Medellín, it also brings tourism to lesser known parts of the city [some safer than others]. I definitely think that some people use the MetroCable to commute and I also hear truth in Marcela’s statement that it is hard for people to adapt and change their habit through transportation innovation.
“Some people look at the MetroCable and wonder what the point of it is. It takes a long time for people to adjust to change here. I think some of the momentum to achieve ‘Innovative City of the Year’ is totally not about the poor people of the city. They ask for certain things that they need, like a road here or an electrical connection here. And they get a MetroCable. Weird, isn’t it?” – Marcela
Marcela’s perspective is a breath of fresh air. Her perspective is unique as she has traveled to 52 countries involving herself in alternative education projects and Peace movements. She has engaged with people all over the far fetched regions of her country as well as other individuals around the world. Lots of questions to ask, lots of conversation to yet be had. So cool that she invited us to go with her to her family finca [farm] outside of Medellín this weekend!