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‘I like how we roll’

Mother and son ride scooter to school and home again in the Philippines

Deborah Froese
By Deborah Froese, Mennonite Church Canada
Apr 05, 2017

Christina Bartel Barkman and her son Cody ride non-motorized scooters to Cody’s school each morning to avoid heavy Manila traffic. (Mennonite Church Canada photo)

For Christina Bartel Barkman and her son Cody, switching from a car to scooters has pumped new energy and insights into their morning commute.

Mother and son used to endure an hour-long, stress-filled drive through “crazy” Manila traffic to cover the 1.3 kilometre distance between home and school. They tried walking, but it was equally agonizing. Cody wasn’t keen on it, and they had to travel along C5, one of Manila’s main thoroughfares, with eight lanes of traffic and loads of dust and noise—so much noise, in fact, that they couldn’t carry on a conversation.

And then Christina suggested that they take their scooters. “Not the motorized type,” she says, “but the push-with-your-foot type, the kind that gives you a workout, especially up hills. So much better than sitting in stressful traffic every morning!”

Cody was pumped about the idea—and he still is.

One of the best discoveries about riding scooters to school is making new friends. Tito Sunny sits in the same spot every day, without fail, and he gives Cody an “approve” each time they pass—a greeting Filipina kids share, in which thumbs go up and then they touch.

They also see homeless people along the way, often sleeping on the sidewalk or benches. “What we see connects us to the streets, to this city, and makes us even more aware of others’ realities,” Christina says.

One morning they were greeted by a man walking into the school who seemed impressed by their alternate form of transportation, as most students arrive by car. “We chatted about it a bit and he introduced himself as the owner of the school,” Christina says. “I think we’ve made an impression!”

“It takes about 12 minutes each way and we get good exercise and have fun, too,” Christina says, adding that Cody is teaching her how to jump and do tricks on the scooter.

On her way back home without Cody, Christina notices quite a few stares and comments. “I know people are wondering what this crazy white lady is doing on a scooter along C5. But I like how we roll and I’m glad Cody does too.”

Christina Bartel Barkman and her husband Darnell Barkman are giving pastoral leadership to Peace Church Philippines, a new Anabaptist church in Metro Manila. They have also been invited by the Integrated Mennonite Churches of the Philippines to serve as mentors and provide regular resources for the youth programs of Mennonite churches in Luzon.


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