Walking

I am one of those people who absolutely enjoys walking. Although it is a wonderful exercise for my body, I walk because walking takes me outside of my physical world. It forces me to be aware and present. In the moment, each moment. I can live in my introverted world for days on end without any human contact. I love my solitude. So walking becomes a way of pushing my senses, taking in more sights, sounds, smells and tastes than are available in my home. Walking the streets in El Centro forces me to interact with people, forces me to engage in a language with which I am still unfamiliar, and gives me a better sense of community. A greater feel of belonging.

The streets in El Centro are old and narrow as are the sidewalks. Most of the streets are one way and there are very few lights or stop signs. Cars and people seem to move along in unison. Most of the time during the day, people walking move faster than the cars. The streets are one lane wide so when a taxi stops to pick up or to let off a customer or a truck stops for a delivery all traffic behind them stops also. Everyone blows their horns but no one moves any faster. The streets are empty of traffic at night because most of the traffic apparently comes from the outskirts of the town center. A part of the city I have yet to explore. I feel as safe walking at night as I do walking during the day. Loja and Cuenca are both safe environments.

The other advantage of walking is I get to see where things are, but then I usually forget and have to go looking all over again. Many of the stores in El Centro are small family operations without signage of any kind. When the doors are closed, they become the family home and not longer a store. So a store or restaurant during the day is impossible to find in the evenings or on Sundays when most stores are closed.

Walking to the farmers market, grocery store, or just strolling through town gives me more opportunities to interact with the citizens of this wonderful town. I have already made a few friends this way. Walking helps me to be more aware of everything around me and that is important because in Loja and Cuenca, the pedestrian does not have the right of way. Even in the cross walks.