Ho, Earthling!,  Whole New World

El Camino

Here in my new city, when I want to go somewhere there is only one method: my own feet.

Yes, from time to time I summon a taxi, or more specifically an Uber (or DiDi, more common here), but those times are generally reserved for something special. A movie at a theater in the south part of the city, too far to walk, especially at night. A welcome ride home after a particularly nasty fall on the cobblestone street that resulted in a sprained ankle. Moving from one house to another laden with two heavy felines jammed together in a cat crate.

All other times, I walk.

I like walking. I’ve been an on-purpose walker most of my adult life. I’ve savored the hushed quiet of new-fallen snow amid the scrape-scrape of shovels clearing walkways and driveways. I’ve trundled various children through charming green-leafed streets in a jogging stroller while they happily consumed free bakery cookies. I’ve walked through the streets of Paris, London, Galway, Munich, and many more cities, not just as means of getting from one place to another but to feel the city’s heartbeat.

To me, walking is the means by which I experience a place. I see, hear, and smell things by walking that I would not by faster means.

Sidewalks here are … charming. And by charming I mean uneven, rough, bumpy, often treacherous, and generally littered with unsavory things such as mysterious wet spots (I avoid these) or dog poo.

The main street that runs through El Centro (the center portion of the city) sports sidewalks that can accommodate generally two people across, sometimes three: these sidewalks are fairly narrow, and the width shifts from time to time as one walks depending on factors I know nothing about.

I like to walk quickly. I feel more alive when I feel my body moving through space at a brisk pace. Most people here, however, walk much more slowly. Couple crowded narrow sidewalks with slow-moving people, and it becomes a strategic endeavor to always assess the potential for getting past these blocks to my quick egress. It’s part game, part annoyance.

I’ve come to know where I am in certain parts of the city I traverse regularly just by the sounds: the squeak of the tortilla machines in the various tortillerías, the thwok-thwok of the butchers, unmistakable kitchen sounds of restaurants prepping for lunchtime. Not to mention the gas cylinder guy who yells “Gaaaaaas!”, the water garrafón guy’s cry, or the melodic whistle of someone selling something I’ve yet to decipher in my callejón. In the evenings the streets resound with bass beats leaking through open windows and doors from seemingly every restaurant and bar in Centro.

I walk to Spanish class. I walk to take my garbage to big metal chutes that lead to the level below. I walk to the grocery store. I walk to the mercado. I walk for exercise. I walk to see new parts of the city. I walk to meet friends. I walk to symphony concerts. I walk to restaurants. I walk to get a massage. I walk to buy a new backpack.

After living in this place where I must walk everywhere, I do not want to return to a place where I can not walk to get places.

Walking slows me down and lets me see and feel this place I now call my home. Walking connects me to this place in a way I could not if I did not walk. Walking helps me feel alive and a part of life here. I am grateful to live in a place where I walk everywhere.

Talk to me!

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