Sustainable Urban Development in Ecuador
by Rebecca Froese
From January 13th to February 9th I had the opportunity to do a field research stay as part of my doctorate with the support of the MINGS Graduate School International. After the scoping trip in September/October 2018, this was my second field research stay in Ecuador. The fact that I already knew the local conditions and had many contacts facilitated the preparation and the entry into this field research. As I did not receive a salary like last time, I did not need a visa or any other medical documents. Also the travel vaccinations were still all valid, so that he was relatively small preparation expenditure. Since I speak Spanish, it was also no problem to find my way on site.
On the very first day I met with my core contacts on site to plan the cooperation for the coming weeks. Also this time I spontaneously received the invitation to participate in two workshops on "Sustainable Urban Development", one in Quito, the other in Cuenca. The participation in these events was not only interesting for me in terms of content, but above all, these workshops were places where I met people who were potentially interesting interview partners for me. And so I was able to add to the long list of contacts I built up during the scoping trip and start interviewing them with semi-structured interviews as planned.
I had to get used to the spontaneity on site, because many of my interview partners spontaneously suggested to do the interview, so that I usually had appointments 2-3 days in advance, and had to fear not being able to conduct an interview on some days. However, it was always the case that the people I wrote to always suggested appointments in the next 2-3 days, so that I could conduct several interviews almost every day. The University of FLACSO Ecuador (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales - Sede Ecuador) also provided me with a workplace in their rooms, which was very central and well located, and could reach the meeting points with my interview partners very quickly. After a short familiarization I felt at home again in the language and had no problems to conduct the interviews in a professional way.
Outside the professional context I was able to develop some friendships. What was special was that I was able to celebrate my birthday with the local people. It had been planned for some time that I could participate in a singing workshop led by a professional Ecuadorian singer with a few friends exactly on my birthday (a Saturday). So on my birthday I was able to spend 4 hours with one of my favourite hobbies - singing. Another great experience was my participation in a bicycle tour, to which all participants of the workshop on "Sustainable Urban Development" were invited and that was designed like one of the "Critical mass" events. From the conference site we rode our bikes through the city centre to a construction site for the almost completed metro. There we had a warm reception with music and a tour of the "still empty" tubes of the metro, which will be completed this year.
Looking back, I can say that I enjoyed this second field research stay. I was able to do a lot of interviews with different people and got to know new people at various events. It was also particularly valuable to meet people from the city administration, with whom I am planning further interviews in order to interview other actors who play a role in my research. Spontaneously I was invited for April to organize a parallel event together with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) at the annual conference of Latin American geographers in Quito in April 2020 and to present my first results there. I have the feeling that I can give something back from my results to my interview partners and I am already looking forward to the event.
Thanks to MINGS for making me feel at home again, I had no problems doing the interviews in a professional way.