Last monday a friend of mine who had to go up to Chinandega for work agreed to drop me at the crossroads to Leon. I was especially excited to walk the streets of Leon again after so much time because it there isnīt any google-earth coverage of the city.

As I walked down the raod westward into the city the people that I passed and greeted responded not with an "Hola" nor an "Adios", rather the vast majority seemed more interested in asking me for money than in being friendly. Not all of them, but a surprizing percentage compared to the other cities that Iīve visited in Nicaragua.

I figured that this was probably just a fluke or because of the part of the city so I just pressed on into Leon with my cheerful countenance. The road ran past a disco and a university and then stopped at the "T". I turned north there and continued into the heart of the city.

The begging if anything increased in frequency as I got closer to the famous Cathedral in the center of Leon. Once I got there I spent some time enjoying the ancient building and the lion gargoyle statues out front before I continued on. I walked around the center in concentric circle for awhile to get to know what else might be hidding there.

I found a couple other old churches, another university, several hotels, lots of shops, and many public buildings, all with that great colonial style. Once I had my fill there I decided to get my fill at a cafeī that I used to eat at every morning when I had lived in Leon 9 years ago. The cafeī was in a supermarket called "Salmon".

I overshot my mark by a couple of blocks before I found it because I was a street to far to the north. Still, because of my mistake I got to see another beautiful old church near Salmon. When I got the the supermarket I was amazed to find that it hadnīt changed a bit. The paint was the same, the layout inside was the same, the cafeī was the same, even the tables and chairs looked the same.

It was like the entire place had just lept out of my memory. I order a chicken sandwhich and a fruit drink at the cafeī and then sat for a good long while after finishing my food just soaking up my memories and watching the college girls cycle in and out of the cafeī for lunch. Leon is a beautiful city. . .

When I finally left Salmon I headed west/southwest looking for the main westward road the heads to Ponoloya. As I headed out I noticed that for some reasn there were a couple of cops at almost every street corner in that part of the city near the supermarket Salmon. I have no idea why but I must admit that I made me feel safe.

Once I found the road to Ponoloya I followed it through the city until just passd a Texaco gas station. Right past there lives an older couple and their children that I had befriended 9 years ago. He works driving big rigs and she worked odd jobs. I overshot their house by one door as when I was last there it was just a door, and now itīs a libreria; I realized my mistake when I got to the gates that open for the big rigs.

I as able to spend a good long while catching up with them and talking politics. They were kind enough to feed me and talk to me until after 4:00pm when the hotest time of the day had passed. At this point I took my leave and headed into the northwest corner of Leon to walk those streets that I had know so well so long ago. For the next two hours I crisscrossed that section of the city reveling in all of the familiar sights and smells and sounds.

Around 6:00pm I headed eastward in order to get to the bus terminal that was in the far northeast corner of the city near the mercado. I wasnīt sure when the last bus would leave for managua and I wanted to make sure that I was on it. At this point I was sweaty and tired but I continued to greet everyone I passed on my way there.

Still, a surprizing number of people just responded to my salutations by asking for money. I admit that this was starting to grate on my nerves. These people just saw me as a walking ATM instead of as a person. As I was crossing close to the center of the city a short excitable fellow walked up next to me and started talking to me.

He seemed a bit odd, but at least he seemed sincerely interested in getting to know me instead of just getting money from me so I chatted with him as I continued to walk. He seemed content to walk along with me.

Now, Iīm a fairly open inded guy. I donīt like to assign labels to people. I prefer to get to know a person for awhile and than accept that as the norm for that person instead of trying to force everyone I meet into preconcieved molds. Because of this fact it took me awhile to realize that this little guy was gay.

As far as I know I donīt often get hit on by gay guys. Sure because of how I am it may have happened in the past, and I probably just would have assumed that the guy was friendly. But, because of my inexperience I didnīt have any idea how to let this guy down easy.

I tried obviously noticing the cute women that crossed our path, and I tried stearing the conversation towards how beautiful the woman in Nicaragua are, but Iīm not sure that this tactic worked. The little guy was crazy glue. I couldnīt unstick him until I had arrived at the bus terminal.

Because of this distraction I donīt remember much of the those last ten blocks exept that we passed by the mercado just before the terminal. The experience left me feeling violated. So, word to the wise you guys (both homo and hetero). When you flirt try not to come on so strong; itīs creepy.

At the terminal I asked a guy near the big buses if the little ones were still leaving for Managua and he flat out lied to me. So, then I went over to the little buses and asked until what time they left and he flat out lied to me. So then I asked a random person that looked like they were there to catch a bus and they told me the truth.

This was par for the course for me this day in Leon. The bus that I wanted to take wasnīt going to leave for another 10 minutes and I was thirsty so I walked over to the shops in the terminal. Seeing my interest a woman in one shop said, " Hey Gringo Lindo what can I do for you?" Her attitude was not friendly, rather she was looking at me like a mark.

Another shop owner must have noticed a look of annoyance on my face at being treated this way yet again and misinterpreted the reason. She said, "Look the chele doesnīt like it when you call him a Gringo." I told her, "Iīm looking for something to drink". At which point she offered to sell me a gaseosa for only twice what it was worth.

Nobody enjoys being treated like an object, or an idiot. I had spent most of that day being treated like a commodity instead of a person; for what I could givem not for who I was, despite my best efforts to be courteous and friendly. The people in the street saw me as an ATM. The shop owners and bus workers saw me as a mark. And, the gay guy probably just saw me naked.

Iīm gonna give Leon another shot. My guess is that it was just a fluke day. Iīm too much of an optomist to accept that the entire city (In Nicaragua!) has become so cold and jaded, as to only see their fellow man for what they can get of them. The last time I was here I made some great friends, those people are still there. Iīll keep you all posted after Iīve visted again.

Saludos!