By Angie Washington
COCHAMBA, BOLIVIA -- Imagine a smog-free world. The sky becomes bluer. The grass becomes greener. The air is finally breathable once again. That is the goal of the annual Pedestrian Day in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
On the first Sunday of September every year this city of 800,000 people nestled in the mountains at 8,500 ft. (2,600 mt) clears the air by prohibiting the use of all motor
Aside from the few emergency vehicles on the road the streets are filled with citizens enjoying the fresh air. It's called El DÃa del PeatÃ³n.
All ages get out walking or riding their bikes, skateboards, tricycles and scooters. Even the dogs and horses join in on the fun. Booths are set up on the curbs selling refreshments like mocochinchi, coconuts with straws, and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Venders also make available outdoor toys such as kites, balloons and rubber balls. This regional holiday has become a family favorite. A great sense of community is gained as you see people standing under the palm trees talking and laughing in the breeze and sunshine.
Various groups and clubs organize events that take place in the streets as well. The government is highly involved with awareness efforts encouraging people to participate.
Clowns, athletes, musicians and other performers entertain those walking about on the pavement. Leading up to the day banners are hung about the city announcing the different fun that can be had.
News outlets of all kinds have lists of El DÃa del PeatÃ³n activities. Most look for things happening close to their homes; others walk for over an hour to get to where they want to be.
One church has a special service on this Sunday every year. People come from near and far to sing songs of worship, hear an uplifting message and then have a chance to win a bicycles in a drawing. The pastor says, "You may have come walking but with some faith you can leave riding on a bike."
After the bicycles and other prizes are given away the congregants leisurely hang around the coffee stand munching on snacks and getting cool drinks before heading out on foot again to return to their neighborhoods.
In a short interview with a child about Pedestrian Day she said, "Pedestrian Day is my third favorite holiday. Christmas first, of course, then comes Carnaval and then Pedestrian Day." When asked why she liked it so much she said, "Because I get to take a long walk outside with my family." By the looks on their faces it is evident that this same sentiment is shared by all the people out on this fun day.
Aside from the obvious benefits to the environment, the secondary message is that of personal well-being through physical activity. Exercise becomes fun when everybody is doing it.
Incorporating holidays meant to promote movement outside of the ordinary helps society to adopt healthier lifestyles. Some dedicated sorts even make it a point to utilize the bike trail (el ciclovia) that wraps around the city all the way from the Southern Laguna de Alalay, past the Eastern mount of El Cristo de la Concordia up to the Northern neighborhood of Cala Cala. The trail covers roughly 15 miles (24 km).
It is spectacular how much difference just one smog free day can make to the environment. The Monday following is crisp and clear. Hopefully the lessons learned on Pedestrian Day will have far reaching effects helping us all to do our part to care for nature.
Learn more about Angie
Angie Washington lives with her husband and five kids in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the heart of South America. This has been her home since 2010. They run an orphanage called the House of Dreams and have a church called Christ Nation.
She believes faith without coffee is dead, enjoys laughing out loud, and collects cacti and kaleidoscopes.
Angie not only lives life to the fullest but it would probably be an understatement to say her life is full -- full of children, full of love and full of the unpredictability that goes with living in another country.