Walking Lessons

By Kelly McKinnon, KF9 Leon Nicaragua

The Sidewalks of Leon

I fell off the sidewalk tonight. It was bound to happen.

The sidewalks here are raised and tiled and narrow. No extra room is allotted for lamp posts or stoops or two-way traffic, all must exist in no more than four feet dedicated to pedestrian passages.

The rules to walking in Leon are thus: a gentleman passes on the outside, there is plenty of room, and greet passersby with a smile and an “Adiooos.”

My days begin with these passages. Rather, as I, dedicated tom-boy, wobble to work in high heels, these passages are the best things about beginning my days: I wave to the tour office and the guards outside the mill. I strut until I see Yader, he greets me with my daily kiss (on the cheek). On Yader’s corner, across from the park of poets, at the intersection with the stoplight, is the lady who grills corn. Every day she does something wonderful like wearing aprons with row upon row of frills. We bottle neck at her grill.

At night the sky is green with blue clouds and lightening. Again tonight, my walk home is cluttered with political statements, fireworks and flags and a man yelling into a microphone. It makes me nervous. Not its political nature, I come from a political city. It makes me nervous because I don’t understand it. Coming from a political city, I know what it means not to understand—it is a careless thing.

The uniformed school girls roll their eyes. It’s because of the reelections, pues. They step off the curb and walk on, blue pleats bounce knowingly after them. They leave me tottering on the sidewalk.

Lenin waves to me. Of course I remember him, he works nearby and offered to cut my hair. We chat, he offers to walk with me. I decline, I don’t yet know how to walk two by two.

It is as the buses pass and the fireworks burst, that I am nervous and stumble backwards. Lenin reaches for my wrist and gently chastises. Be more careful, he says. And the buses grind pass. I am fine, though still nervous. I wobble back towards the lady grilling corn.

I walk home wishing for more stability: for the school girls, for our clients, for the lady who grills corn, for this country. But who am I, sidewalk nemesis in high heels, to wish for such things? I seem to be the only with having difficulties with balance.

Kelly McKinnon is a Kiva Fellow currently working with Fundacíon Leon 2000 in Leon, Nicaragua.


About the author