Moonset on the Meseta

Moonset on the Meseta

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Spiritual Lessons of the Camino

The following piece was written almost one year ago, and presented at one of our local chapter events.  I realized I should save it and share it somewhere, so here it is:



Spiritual lessons of the Camino

Camino Sanabres, November 2016

With the death of my husband two and a half years before I departed on my first Camino in 2010, a light had gone out of my life.  I had lost the person who loved me best of all, and with whom I had shared everything for 30 years.  What was the meaning of life without him?  Ed had been my anchor, my best friend, my life’s companion, my center, and my rock. 

My Camino was both a good-bye and a beginning.  I set out alone to walk on the relatively untraveled route from Le-Puy-en-Velay in France, and I set out on a new life.  There would be no Ed to bail me out in times of trouble. No Ed to share my joys, my sorrows and my frustrations.  Who would care if I never came back?  My children and friends would miss me, sure, but they had their own lives that would go on quite well without me.

Despite my fears and sometimes panic, I trusted that God would take care of me.  Whatever was going to happen would happen.  Much was out of my control: ATM machines did not work, the train didn’t go through, I arrived in the dark and couldn’t find the hostel, my trekking poles would not lock into place, and I missed a turn on my first day of walking.  I was alone, and not everyone was friendly.   But sometimes strangers — camino angels — came to my rescue.  Despite my fear, there was freedom in being on my own, setting out in an unknown land, with everything I would need for the next six weeks on my back.  I was a self-contained entity, reliant, however, as Blanche du Bois would say, "on the kindness of strangers," and on the grace of God. I was a pilgrim, as so many had been before me.  I walked in the footsteps of those long gone.  I had already lost so much that was important to me.  What more did I have to lose?

As I walked, forgotten French words and phrases surfaced from buried recesses within me.  Memories awakened by sights, smells, and sounds along the trail, came to me unbidden.  I found myself remembering people, events, and places from my entire life.  I would sometimes find myself in tears, and sometimes laughing out loud and singing at the joy and freedom of walking, of feeling the earth beneath my feet, the sun, wind, rain, and snow on my face, and beauty all around me, never knowing what I would encounter around the next bend or over the next hill.  Life was so simple.  No dithering over what I should do, and whether I was meeting my responsibilities or the expectations of others.  All I needed to do was put one foot in front of the other, keep my body going, and find something to eat and a place to sleep at the end of the day.

I feared I might find walking drudgery, and indeed sometimes the last miles of the day seemed so long and hard, that I thought I might expire before they did.  However, as exhausted and sore as I might be in the evening, each morning I woke refreshed, full of energy and anticipation after a much longer sleep than I ever had at home, eager to put on my boots and see where my feet would take me that day.

What did I learn?

Let go. There is only so much I can control.
Take it one step, one day at a time.
Rejoice in the moment.
Know that the hard times, the moments of sadness, and the times of panic are opportunities for growth.
Sometimes I have to be at the end of my rope, with hope extinguished, before I can recognize that an angel has been sent to help me, and I am not really alone.

Back home again, I try to remember to live as a pilgrim, but it is hard to do.  The pilgrim is both in the world and outside of the world, but at home the world is too much with us.  That is why many of us are called to return to the pilgrim path again, and why i continue to reflect on that time apart long after my walk is over.

Did I find a new life?  I did.  My pilgrimage continues to have a presence in my daily life.  There are constant reminders, and when I have doubts about my path and whether I can do something, I remind myself of what I accomplished as a pilgrim.

I have since walked Caminos with my new husband, and learned that walking day by day with a loved one presents different challenges than walking alone. We bring some of the safety and some of the responsibility of home with us when we walk with another, and we need to negotiate between I and we, and us and me.

What did I learn?

Be patient.
Compromise.
Communicate.
Love.
We walk alone even when together.  No companion can walk for us.

The pilgrim constantly walks through new landscapes.  When we stay at home, it is an illusion that nothing changes.  Everything changes all the time, even though we stay put.  Pilgrimage helps us recognize that sometimes we are the tree standing by the water, and sometimes the passing stream.  What remains forever?

Linnea Hendrickson
January 17, 2016
Martin Luther King Day

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Week Two as Hospitaleros

October 25

Yesterday was one of our wilder days.  We had:
1 rain all day
2 a Hungarian woman who was sure we had bedbugs.  When I visited her later in the bar where she was waiting to get the bus to Leon, she started to cry, thanking me for my concern.  I am quite sure we have no bedbugs in our albergue, but they could arrive at any time.
3 Argentinian and Spanish couple, lovely, but very loud, celebrating a wedding anniversary -- cooked two large meals with friends, and I played Parcheesi with them, which was fun
4 electricity went out
5 an Irish woman wanted to sing, and then while she was teaching all of us the song, we heard a loud crash
6 young Hungarian man walking with wife or girlfriend had fallen out if a top bunk while trying to unzip his sleeping bag
7 he was bleeding profusely from a deep gash over his left eye. many rushed to his aide, some more helpful than others
8 we got him patched up, phone call to emergency, ambulance came, another pilgrim who for some reason had a car (very mysterious) went with him, and they came back in the night from a doctor in Mansilla 20 km away who gave him 5 stitches.  They took off walking this morning.  The man with the car also departed -- I guess with his car.

I told him he looked like Rocky, and he laughed.  We had 28 wet pilgrims last night who set off in rain again the morning.

It is the pilgrims that make it worth it.  I think we will be here at least 17 days before anyone relieves us, and we are already tired.  So 7 more days before to we go walking.

Tuesday, October 25

I didn't write today, other than the account of the previous day.  After we had sent the pilgrims out into the rain, after we finished cleaning, and after coffee in the Peregrino, the sun came out and it warmed up.  I was feeling a bit of cabin fever, so took the rickety bike and set out to find Las Graneras, a small village part of the El Burgo district.  I could see the effect of transportation improvements, as again I had to go up over the freeway and another railroad track -- this one for the high speed train that took us to Leon and by-passes both El Burgo and Sahagun.    I had to dismount the bike to get over the top, and could see where all the traditional routes had been blocked on both sides by train and highway.  The pilgrim route to Bercianos turned to the east before the tracks and highway.

The first living creature I encountered in Las Graneras was a friendly, fly-covered donkey.  Then a few old men walking.  There were many old houses, a few fixed up, and a few just wasting, roofless adobe walls.  There was a lavandera which was protected by a roof, water covered by green scum, with a historical plaque telling of the days when the women of the village gathered there to do their laundry.  I have always found these structures and plaques fascinating, and many villages, especially in France, but apparently also in Spain, proudly preserve these.

There was a church, with records daring from the 943, but it was not open.  It did proudly sport one stork nest,  but storks are not nesting now, and must have gone to Africa for the winter.  I think I explored every street in the town -- there were not many -- then took a muddy dirt track a short distance to an Ermita (Santo Cristo del Amparo) -- a small chapel.  From there I could see back toward El Burgo, over broad fields.  I met a few more people including one woman and a workman I was sure I had seen in El Burgo on his bicycle.

The ride back was uneventful, and I made it over the overpass in one go -- it was less steep coming back.  People were already here, even though it was a fine day.

It was another day in which people came singly or in pairs or trips throughout the afternoon.

By 7:30 p.m. and sunset, we had filled 24 beds, and Kent and I hurried to the pond to catch the sunset.  It was the warmest evening we had had, and I thought unlikely we would get more pilgrims.  But when we returned there were 4 young Korean women waiting for us.  They were well-organized.  One had already purchased groceries, one went to collect packs at the bar.  We found beds for all of them, and two started cooking.  But they wanted to wash their clothes in the washing machine.  They were quite upset when we told them it was too late, and nothing would get dry afterwards, as it was already after 8 p.m.  They wanted to find another place in town. But we told them there was nowhere -- perhaps the hotel -- but I didn't think so. They would have to wait until tomorrow.

I went to the tienda about 8:15 and 4 Italian fellows were purchasing lots of wine and groceries.  By 8:30 the kitchen was jammed and I couldn't even find a sink in which to wash an apple.  I inwardly groaned, anticipating another long loud evening, but the Italian fellows soon had their huge salad, pot of pasta, wine,and loaves of bread on the table and talked quietly while they ate.  Kent even reported that they swept under the table afterwards.  The Korean women likewise, ate quietly and quickly, and cleaned up after themselves.  I took a break, and when I came back at 9:45 to help Kent close up, everything was fairly quiet.

October 26 Wednesday

The stars were brilliant this morning.  Orion and the Pleiades shine in the south, the Dippers to the north,  and the crescent moon in the east.  The pilgrims were pretty much all up, too.

Thursday, 27 October

No big surprises yesterday.  Twenty beds full.  A beautiful day, and I was able to make reservations for us to go to Rome to meet Saad and Psyche and Saad's sisters from November 24-27.  It will be a short time for Italy, then back to Madrid before we fly home on November 30.  For some reason the Alitalia site would not accept our credit cards, but we were finally able to make it work through Expedia.  We are thinking about where we will go when we are able to walk out of El Burgo on either Monday or Tuesday.  Perhaps to Burgos by train from Sahagun, then back to Leon to walk toward Santiago.

People were at the door at 1 and the last pilgrim came by bicycle at 8 p.m. In almost dark.

2 p.m. On Thursday 27  0ctober.

It is another beautiful day.  I am sitting in the sun.  We had two pilgrims already.  A German woman who said she has had cancer and was too exhausted to keep walking.  She came just from Bercianos, 7-8 km away. Then a petite Korean woman arrived in a taxi from Sahagun with an enormous plastic-wrapped pack.  She took out several jackets and a poncho, which she hung on the clothesline.  I tried lifting the pack and could barely do so.  She says she started walking in St. Jean, but she could scarcely have carried that pack from there.  That is it for the first hour of opening.  Peaceful here except for noisy vehicles, loud voices from the bar, and a huge John Deere tractor that was parked in front of the albergue, but just took off with a deafening roar.

Later:  I spoke too soon about the peaceful day.  I'd gone to take a nap when Kent announced that five Italian pilgrims had arrived, including a middle-aged man who came by taxi with his wife and who seemed to be the group leader, and told us that that fifteen more were on the way -- would we save beds for them?  No, we couldn't do that, although we had plenty of beds at the moment.  So, I got up to wait for the onslaught--but no one came.  We had a French group, and assorted others, including a few from the Italian group who came in one and two at a time.  I concluded that the rest must have gone elsewhere, although the group leader kept pacing the street, communicating with his cell phone. Then about 7 p.m. Another 10 or so began trickling in, interspersed with other pilgrims.  The Italian men wouldn't take the last beds, saving them for two "chicas" who were limping.  They arrived, and we checked them in, and then a man from Uruguay took the last bed.  The "chicas" didn't go to their beds or head to the showers, however, but stayed outside with the men.

We told the group leader that our rules did not allow us to put extra pilgrims on the floor, and that there were rooms available that could be shared in the hotels across the street. But he said no to that.  No money.  Well, although our pay for the night is by donation, that doesn't mean people should pay nothing.  We also said they were welcome to camp in the park next to us, and use our facilities.  One man insisted on putting his pack inside, although we finally told him he could not leave it here.  He seemed well-equipped with camping gear with a metal grill, a sleeping pad, and several metal utensils attached to his pack.

They filled the benches outside, and even spread out their sleeping bags on the sidewalk.  One of them wanted the phone number for the parish priest, which we did not have, and I suggested they ask in he bar.  We put up the Completo sign and walked to the laguna to see the sunset.  When we came back about 8 p.m. The two girls came with bags of clothes and wanted to wash them in the washing machine.  We told them it was too late -- that the machine took more than one hour and things wouldn't dry as our dryer did not work -- partly true, as it will hold on,y part of a washer load at a time because the door is damaged and held together by a bungee cord.

Another British lad arrived, and we turned him away, referring him to the hotels,while the remaining Italians still waited outside.  The leader of the large group was cooking a big pot of soup, and the entire kitchen and all the stove burners were in use, so Kent and I walked over to El Peregrino, where several other pilgrims were enjoying "Menu Peregrino" in the dining room.  While we were eating there was a commotion at the door, and the there appeared three familiar members of the community in costume (a military man brandishing a gun, a woman with a suitcase, and someone in a long white gown) who put on a short crazy skit -- we had no idea what was going on -- but it was all quite hilarious with laughter and cheers all around.

When we arrived back in the albergue, things were pretty quiet.  The group leader informed us he'd saved some soup for us, and the others had gone to sleep in the church.  But inside 3 complete strangers who had arrived after 8 p.m. had spread out their sleeping bags on the floor.  One woman spoke English, and we explained that we could not let them stay, and that there were rooms across the street.  She understood, and said she would convince the men to go with her.

After all this, it was quite quiet as the regular pilgrims seemed to have retired early, probably grateful to have their beds.  It was a beautiful, warm evening, so sleeping outside would not have been a great hardship for those with sleeping mats and sleeping bags. Although we felt hard-hearted, we also felt pressured and imposed upon.  These very late arriving pilgrims did have other options, and we also felt it was not fair to the thirty pilgrims who were already with us to have to share their already limited space with improvident latecomers.

We'll see how it all looks in the morning, and how many will be hopping on the bus to Leon.

Morning: Friday 28 0ctober

Piles of our blankets were outside the door on the bench this morning.  Someone left an unwashed soup pot and bowl in the sink, and a coffee pot full of grounds.  There were huge quantities of trash, including paper on the bedroom floors.  The Korean woman put her large and small backpacks back in the plastic bags, and I assume delivered them to one of the bats across the street where they would be picked up by a luggage carrying service.  I did not see how she left.

It is another beautiful day, despite the fact that someone scrawled "culo" across an entire page of our guestbook, which Kent says means asshole in Spanish.  We did our best, but obviously couldn't keep everyone happy in this situation, which we found quite stressful.







Friday, October 21, 2016

One Week!

One week finished and one more to go
Wednesday, October 19

I went to mass this morning. It is at 11 a.m. every day but Sunday.  There were 5-6 people besides me.  I waited to talk to the priest, but he didn't come out afterwards, so I went down the street and found two cafes open to serve pilgrims in the mornings and at noon.

The surprise today was the arrival of a young German mother with a very large stroller and a five-year-old daughter.

I began to be bored in the afternoon.  Few pilgrims.  What would we do for the next dozen days?  Then, sun came out and Kent and I sat outside drinking vino tinto, visiting
with a pair of Australian sisters.  We went to dinner at Las Piedras Blancas and immediately two pilgrims showed up -- one on bicycle.  I ran over to check them in, then we ate, peas and ham for Kent and meatballs for me.  Kent went back, and I stayed, reading emails and news and playing Words with Friends and drinking too much wine.  We talked with Sechio, who said he would accompany me by bike tomorrow morning to Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos to visit Mary Lynn, a Canadian Hospitalera.

I posted to Facebook.

Thursday, October 20

A chilly, cloudy morning.  We did not wash sheets today, as I felt we have changed all the sheets once since we arrived and we could take a day off, especially since we have been only half full or less.

Sechio could not go with me on the bike, but he drew me a map, and after a spin around El Burgo, I took off. One speed bike with only back wheel brakes working.  It was about 7 km each way.  I had to walk a bit up two not very big hills -- one the railroad overpass.  On the way back I took a shortcut and dragged the bike across the tracks.  Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos was bigger than I expected, and it took a bit of wandering and asking to find the albergue.  Mary Lynn and I talked Hospitalero "shop" for a bit.

We thought we'd have another slow day.  I took a nap during the afternoon, then Kent woke me to say a group of 11 had arrived!  He'd checked them all in.  We are now waiting for the last two of 30 to arrive, which their friends have assured us are on the way.  It is 6:30 p.m.  It probably not going to be a quiet evening.

Friday, October 21 (one week since we arrived)

It was not a quiet evening.  The last two awaited pilgrims (a couple from New Zealand) arrived, and on their heels were two from Spain whom we had to turn away.  They did not seem terribly upset -- we learned that a double room across the street would be 45 euros for two -- about 3-4 times what a couple would pay in the albergues.  One man asked if we had a towel for him.  He seemed to expect we would have one.  I said no, and referrred him to the free box.  He grabbed a couple of knit shirts which were still on the clothesline this morning. Then, this morning in the tienda I noticed there were towels, socks, umbrellas and even one pair of pink crocs in just my size, so peregrinos are well-catered for here.

Last night's group included those who had encountered bed bugs, and quite a few with injuries, bites or swellings of some kind.  The farmacia must have had a brisk businesss.  One man asked this morning if he could stay another night because of pain in his leg, but we told him no.  I suggested bus, farmacia and the hotel across the street as options.

At 10 p.m. It was pretty quiet, but when I opened the door to take down the Completo sign and lock up, a group of 5 came running across from the bar.

It turned very cold overnight, perhaps one reason we were so inundated with houseflies yesterday.  It took longer to clean this morning, as things were much dirtier with 30 pilgrims than with 14.  One group left a big pot of soup.  They had made way too much.  We will probably eat it this afternoon.  (We did -- too much bland over-cooked pasta -- even a bit of spicy sauce and some salami couldn't quite redeem it).

Our morning adventure was an encounter with a man named Lucas who was pounding on a large old wine barrel.  He invited us into to his extensive yard and a room full of antiques that also contained a table with drinks, a wood stove, and a television.  He turned on very loud music and talked a mile a minute to Kent.  I kept asking Kent what he said, and told him questions to ask, including whether perhaps he could sharpen our knives, but Kent told me he couldn't understand anything. There were small grapes on  vines in the courtyard, boxes of tomatoes, and delicious pears spread out on the floor to ripen.  He gave us four.

Then we went to the street that runs past the church, but has no cross streets connecting it to the rest of the village except at each end.  I wonder if the streets were laid out this way so that livestock could more easily be driven through them.  We stopped at a little cafe where we had a delicious tortilla, a Leonese version of French toast, and two freshly squeezed glasses of sumo de naranja -- very nice place with many pilgrims stopping -- ones we never see, as they take that street through the village and out the other end.


The streets

look a bit like this:

It looks like my drawing doesn't transfer.

Very quiet this afternoon, again.  3 Koreans, 5 Spaniards, and 1 Russian woman.  After our big cleaning this morning we bundled up, turned on our heater, and cuddled together on one narrow bed for an hour's heavenly nap.

Linnea

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Settling in as Hospitaleros

Monday, October 17

After a quiet start yesterday, despite some rather wild times in the kitchen for Kent and me before the pilgrims arrived (he left the bar to start cooking (just for us-- we don't cook for the pilgrims), and cooked the whole pound of pasta instead of just a cup), I ran to the church for the Sunday service, then came back to finish the goulash, and we started greeting pilgrims.  By about 6 p.m. We had 29 pilgrims, but couldn't find an empty bed.  We put up the Completo sign and turned away one young man.  Then as it was getting dark a petite young woman arrived.  Paddy from Ireland offered to give up his bed for her, then accompanied her to the Laguna Hostal.  However the only space they had was a private room that cost 30 Euros, so she returned to stay with us.  Before lights out at 10 p.m., we found the missing bed.  She was warmly welcomed by a group that included Spanish, Dutch, German, Korean, and Italian pilgrims.  They cooked, ate and visited together.  I got tearful watching them, and told them that this was what I love about the Camino -- people from so many countries sharing and enjoying each others' company.  What if the leaders of the world walked together, staying together in dormitories and sharing bathrooms?  Perhaps we could have peace?

The Korean pilgrim gave Kent and me a pin and necklace with a yellow ribbon commemorating the deaths of Korean students in a boating accident in 2014 that many feel the government did not adequately address.

Today has been a quieter day.  Cold again, and cloudy, with just a few minutes of sunshine.  22 pilgrims have arrived by 7:20 p.m., the last one from Belgium just a few minutes ago.  Nationalities represented today:  Belgium, Spain, Italy, Canada, Korea, Poland, France, Czech Republic, Australia, and Russia.

 We got candles at the tienda, which add a bit of warmth and color, although we are mostly out of wood, and don't have a fire tonight. The washer and dryer have been going, and pilgrims are now cooking in the kitchen, which also helps.

Tuesday, 18 October.

We ended up having a fire after all last night, and the usual lively groups around two tables.  One older man was alone, so I joined him, and soon there was a lively group sharing life and Camino experiences.  Kent came in from a long nap, then I went to bed early (a bit after 9).  It is exhausting interacting with so many people speaking English and Spanish in so many accents for 9 hours per day.  Kent closed down the house at 10 p.m.

Today it feels like we have finally hit our stride.  Done with cleaning by about 10, we went across the street for napolitanas and coffee, then I put on my boots and we both went for a walk.  My right foot has been hurting, and I think it is because I have been running up and down stairs and around the village in my crocs.  Much better in boots.  We found the train station, about a 15-minute walk away, trains twice a day, morning and evening in each direction.  Everything closed up at the station.

The station area was mostly abandoned.
A Bibliobus (bookmobile) was parked by the school next door to us.

We had sunshine this morning.  It is the first time since the day we arrived that the sun has shone in our windows.

The music I put on my iPhone seems to be a success.  One man arrived yesterday to Marian Anderson singing Ave Maria, and he was amazed.  He said he'd been singing it all day while walking.  He must have known he'd come to the right place.

So far today our arrivals have included two couples, starry-eyed young lovers who met on the Camino, from Israel, Hungary, Lithuania, and Ireland.

Wednesday, Oct 19

Only 14 peregrinos last night.  Our first dog (not allowed).  One pilgrim arrived complaining of bed bug bites, which had us a bit worried.  Others wanted to stay out after 10 to watch a football match.  They arranged for one pilgrim to let hem in, so we locked the door and went to bed.  It is dark in the mornings until 8 a.m. when pilgrims have to be out so we can clean, so it is hard to get them all going.  The music helps -- lively music for morning.  Hit the Road, Jack,  Zorba's Dance, Morning has Broken, Heavenly Day, And Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah are in the Playlist.

We got a load of wood, with more to come today, and Kent got a ride to Sahagun to the ATM machine so we won't run out of cash.  So, we are settling in.  It was even warm enough to sit outside without our jackets yesterday afternoon, and the little heater took the chill off our room.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Difficult Beginning

A Difficult Beginning: Spain 2016

October 11

At last today, everything went smoothly after a difficult beginning to our trip.

Almost losing the phone by leaving it in the charging station in Dallas was traumatic.  I was forbidden to exit the plane to get it, even though passengers were still boarding.  I was informed that leaving a plane was not allowed once one has boarded an international flight.  So an airline employee was sent to look.  She was gone a long time while I nervously waited, but came back empty-handed.  "All the phones are being used," she said, which didn't make sense.  I begged her to go back and look one more time, but no.  At least it wasn't your passport one flight attendant said.

However, the plane continued to sit at the gate.  After about 20 minutes of silently fretting and fuming and trying to be accepting, I had to give it one last try.    I prayed, "God help this unfortunate pilgrim and give me courage and faith."  This time, the attendant realized it was my PHONE, not just the charger that I'd left behind, and she talked to the attendant guarding the exit, who suddenly sprang to life.

She called the person at the desk to let me off the plane.  I didn't have my passport or boarding pass, and I'd taken off my boots and was wearing yellow throw-away slippers from a Chinese train.  She said, "Never mind.  It's OK.  I sprinted up the long passageway, through a couple of "authorized personnel only" doors and the woman at the desk let me into the terminal.  I dashed to the charging station, only a few feet away, and immediately saw the phone in its banged up old white and fake wood case, stilled plugged in.  It was fully charged.  I grabbed phone and charger, overwhelmed with gratitude, and was let back in through the locked doors.  I hugged the attendant who'd let me out, and weak with relief and a bit unbelieving of my success, made my way back to Kent at the back of the plane.  I thought of Sunday's reading of the ten lepers Jesus had healed, and how only one came back to thank him.  "Thank you!  Thank you!"  I said over and over in my heart.

When we finally departed, it was a very uncomfortable, sometimes rough, flight.  Although we had two empty seats beside us in the middle five-seat section, they were so tight, it was hard to get comfortable.  Laurin, our friend from Hospitalero training, headed to volunteer in Estella, was on our plane in in the row just ahead of us.  When we were under way and had been served fairly large glasses of wine, he turned and raised his glass to us.  Despite our cramped space, we had a lot to celebrate.

While walking in the twilight above the Aqueduct in Segovia on our first night, I tripped over a curb and fell, bruising my left knee, but caused no more serious damage.

Then last night after a very long time figuring out how to buy a train ticket online, I realized that I had accidentally picked the wrong time and a slower train, so we will try change it tomorrow.  Worst of all, Kent was impatient with me for even trying to book online, and accused me of never listening to him.  Obviously, despite a short nap, we were both pretty tired.

Segovia is charming and beautiful.  This trip has to get better!

Next day:  Wednesday October 12.

It did get better!  Despite rain, we had a perfect day, enjoying the Alcazar in peace just before a mob of students on tour arrived.   We then walked down a long series of steps to the Church of the True Cross, then to a Church devoted to the counter-reformation mystic St.John of the Cross.  We had an invigorating trek back up to our Plaza Hostal, where we picked up our packs and headed to the train station.  Kent did well with his Spanish with the lovely clerk at the train station, who refunded our tickets and got us the correct ones, and got us senior tarjetas dorados also, so we will save Euros on future trips.  We celebrated with croissants and coffee, and arrived In Leon a bit after 5 p.m.

We found this lovely residence run by the Hermanas de Las Trinitarias, where we received a warm welcome from the nuns, and our own room with bath for 26 Euros, which will include breakfast.  We've enjoyed a lovely evening walking around Leon, inspecting the facade of the cathedral and enjoying wine and tapas.

At the first bar we encountered a couple conversing animatedly in sign language.  We ended up visiting with them for quite awhile, writing on napkins and mouthing words in English and Spanish, and finally taking our pictures together.

All is well in our quiet room, but the wifi code did not work, so this will go out tomorrow.  I am still not sleeping. Awake at two after 3 hours of sleep, but happy tonight.  Six years ago in September, Leon is where I fell apart after watching a young couple with a fussy baby eating while I lunched in the lovely plaza near the Benedictine Convent in which I was staying.  Memories of a life now gone had flooded through me.  I was alone, and I didn't know where my life was headed.  I walked around fighting tears the entire afternoon.  Adding to my melancholy, the hot water had run out in the Convent, so I had to settle for a cold shower.  Today I walked here with my dear Kent.  Look where my Camino led!

Tomorrow we'll visit the Cathedral and and then head toward El Burgo Ranero either on foot or by bus.  We need to be there on Friday, and will take up our duties on Saturday -- vacation over for the next two weeks!

Thursday, 13 October.

All is well today.  After touring the magnificent cathedral, we took a bus to Villamoros, where we were let out in pouring rain.  Under a tiny overhang we struggled to get our pack covers on and hats and ponchos out.  We walked the 4 long km to Mansilla de las Mulas, where the rain stopped.  We had lunch, then continued in bright sunshine another 6.8  to Reliegos where we are in the charming Hostal Ada, in a room for just the two of us, bath down the hall, and where we had a delicious home-cooked vegetarian supper prepared by Pedro and his daughter Ada.  Lovely conversations with other walkers, German and Australian, and now for bed.  Wifi not working again.  Tomorrow to El Burgo Ranero and our Hospitalero assignment.  Black clouds loomed as we neared Reliegos, and shortly after our arrival another storm crashed through.

Friday, 14 October.  After walking 12.5 km to El Burgo Ranero this morning, we were enthusiastically greeted by the two departing Spanish hospitaleros, who introduced us to essential personnel in the village, showed some of the basic operations of the Albergue, and then after the first 3 or 4 of the 24 peregrinos we have welcomed so far arrived, joyfully departed in their colorfully painted van to their home in Malaga. It is now 8:15 p.m., and we are ready to go to bed, but most of the pilgrims are still going strong, some cooking quite elaborate meals in the kitchen.  We have French, German, Danish, Brazilian, Dutch, Italian, Australian, New Zealand, Spanish, British, and one Filipino American here tonight, most speaking English with each other, the new "Lingua Franca."  As we walked this morning and yesterday heading "backwards" away from Santiago, we got many questions and puzzled looks.  Despite reports of crowding on the Camino Frances, and meeting large numbers of pilgrims, the albergues have not been full.  We have room for another 6 here tonight, and there several empty beds last night.


A Difficult Beginning

A Difficult Beginning: Spain 2016

October 11

At last today, everything went smoothly after a difficult beginning to our trip.

Almost losing the phone by leaving it in the charging station in Dallas was traumatic.  I was forbidden to exit the plane to get it, even though passengers were still boarding.  I was informed that leaving a plane was not allowed once one has boarded an international flight.  So an airline employee was sent to look.  She was gone a long time while I nervously waited, but came back empty-handed.  "All the phones are being used," she said, which didn't make sense.  I begged her to go back and look one more time, but no.  At least it wasn't your passport one flight attendant said.

However, the plane continued to sit at the gate.  After about 20 minutes of silently fretting and fuming and trying to be accepting, I had to give it one last try.    I prayed, "God help this unfortunate pilgrim and give me courage and faith."  This time, the attendant realized it was my PHONE, not just the charger that I'd left behind, and she talked to the attendant guarding the exit, who suddenly sprang to life.

She called the person at the desk to let me off the plane.  I didn't have my passport or boarding pass, and I'd taken off my boots and was wearing yellow throw-away slippers from a Chinese train.  She said, "Never mind.  It's OK.  I sprinted up the long passageway, through a couple of "authorized personnel only" doors and the woman at the desk let me into the terminal.  I dashed to the charging station, only a few feet away, and immediately saw the phone in its banged up old white and fake wood case, stilled plugged in.  It was fully charged.  I grabbed phone and charger, overwhelmed with gratitude, and was let back in through the locked doors.  I hugged the attendant who'd let me out, and weak with relief and a bit unbelieving of my success, made my way back to Kent at the back of the plane.  I thought of Sunday's reading of the ten lepers Jesus had healed, and how only one came back to thank him.  "Thank you!  Thank you!"  I said over and over in my heart.

When we finally departed, it was a very uncomfortable, sometimes rough, flight.  Although we had two empty seats beside us in the middle five-seat section, they were so tight, it was hard to get comfortable.  Laurin, our friend from Hospitalero training, headed to volunteer in Estella, was on our plane in in the row just ahead of us.  When we were under way and had been served fairly large glasses of wine, he turned and raised his glass to us.  Despite our cramped space, we had a lot to celebrate.

While walking in the twilight above the Aqueduct in Segovia on our first night, I tripped over a curb and fell, bruising my left knee, but caused no more serious damage.

Then last night after a very long time figuring out how to buy a train ticket online, I realized that I had accidentally picked the wrong time and a slower train, so we will try change it tomorrow.  Worst of all, Kent was impatient with me for even trying to book online, and accused me of never listening to him.  Obviously, despite a short nap, we were both pretty tired.

Segovia is charming and beautiful.  This trip has to get better!

Next day:  Wednesday October 12.

It did get better!  Despite rain, we had a perfect day, enjoying the Alcazar in peace just before a mob of students on tour arrived.   We then walked down a long series of steps to the Church of the True Cross, then to a Church devoted to the counter-reformation mystic St.John of the Cross.  We had an invigorating trek back up to our Plaza Hostal, where we picked up our packs and headed to the train station.  Kent did well with his Spanish with the lovely clerk at the train station, who refunded our tickets and got us the correct ones, and got us senior tarjetas dorados also, so we will save Euros on future trips.  We celebrated with croissants and coffee, and arrived In Leon a bit after 5 p.m.

We found this lovely residence run by the Hermanas de Las Trinitarias, where we received a warm welcome from the nuns, and our own room with bath for 26 Euros, which will include breakfast.  We've enjoyed a lovely evening walking around Leon, inspecting the facade of the cathedral and enjoying wine and tapas.

At the first bar we encountered a couple conversing animatedly in sign language.  We ended up visiting with them for quite awhile, writing on napkins and mouthing words in English and Spanish, and finally taking our pictures together.

All is well in our quiet room, but the wifi code did not work, so this will go out tomorrow.  I am still not sleeping. Awake at two after 3 hours of sleep, but happy tonight.  Six years ago in September, Leon is where I fell apart after watching a young couple with a fussy baby eating while I lunched in the lovely plaza near the Benedictine Convent in which I was staying.  Memories of a life now gone had flooded through me.  I was alone, and I didn't know where my life was headed.  I walked around fighting tears the entire afternoon.  Adding to my melancholy, the hot water had run out in the Convent, so I had to settle for a cold shower.  Today I walked here with my dear Kent.  Look where my Camino led!

Tomorrow we'll visit the Cathedral and and then head toward El Burgo Ranero either on foot or by bus.  We need to be there on Friday, and will take up our duties on Saturday -- vacation over for the next two weeks!

Thursday, 13 October.

All is well today.  After touring the magnificent cathedral, we took a bus to Villamoros, where we were let out in pouring rain.  Under a tiny overhang we struggled to get our pack covers on and hats and ponchos out.  We walked the 4 long km to Mansilla de las Mulas, where the rain stopped.  We had lunch, then continued in bright sunshine another 6.8  to Reliegos where we are in the charming Hostal Ada, in a room for just the two of us, bath down the hall, and where we had a delicious home-cooked vegetarian supper prepared by Pedro and his daughter Ada.  Lovely conversations with other walkers, German and Australian, and now for bed.  Wifi not working again.  Tomorrow to El Burgo Ranero and our Hospitalero assignment.  Black clouds loomed as we neared Reliegos, and shortly after our arrival another storm crashed through.

Friday, 14 October.  After walking 12.5 km to El Burgo Ranero this morning, we were enthusiastically greeted by the two departing Spanish hospitaleros, who introduced us to essential personnel in the village, showed some of the basic operations of the Albergue, and then after the first 3 or 4 of the 24 peregrinos we have welcomed so far arrived, joyfully departed in their colorfully painted van to their home in Malaga. It is now 8:15 p.m., and we are ready to go to bed, but most of the pilgrims are still going strong, some cooking quite elaborate meals in the kitchen.  We have French, German, Danish, Brazilian, Dutch, Italian, Australian, New Zealand, Spanish, British, and one Filipino American here tonight, most speaking English with each other, the new "Lingua Franca."  As we walked this morning and yesterday heading "backwards" away from Santiago, we got many questions and puzzled looks.  Despite reports of crowding on the Camino Frances, and meeting large numbers of pilgrims, the albergues have not been full.  We have room for another 6 here tonight, and there several empty beds last night.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Back to the Camino Again

Back to the Camino Again

From October 15-31, 2016, Kent and I will be serving as hospitaleros voluntarios at El Burgo Ranero, a small villlage about a two day walk east of Leon on the Camino Franc├ęs.  For now, we are enjoying the last days of summer at home in Albuquerque, preparing for our role as hospitaleros, thinking about what we will take with us on this camino that will be unlike our previous ones.

I stayed in the municipal albergue in El Burgo Ranero on September 27, 2010, and I have vivid memories of my stay (including a shortage of hot water). I had thought I might walk farther that day, day, but when I stopped to visit with camino acquaintances who were sitting on benches in front of the albergue that afternoon, the peaceful atmosphere of the village diminished my desire to walk further.  While I sat on a bench overlooking the pond at the end of the town's main (perhaps only) street, I again met fast walker Antonio, a Barcelona banker taking a year off, whom I had met a few days earlier when he was just starting out, and whom I would meet again on the walk to Finisterre. That day, Antonio criticized my snack of potato chips (a salty snack always tastes so good after a hot few hours of walking), saying I should be eating Spanish food while in Spain, but he would soften later.  He also limping -- his fast pace at the start had taken a toll.  I shared a communal meal with Mario from Canada and Patricia from Hungary that evening, and  I was able to check my email in the city hall.

Here is the page of my credential from that time:


I didn't remember getting all the way to Leon that day, but perhaps I did, as I took a bus.  Ah my notes say I left about six after getting coffee in a cafe across the street, walked to Reliegos, then to Mansilla de las Mulas, where I'd intended to stop, but it was still only about noon, so I continued walking, probably to Puente de Villarente, where, tired of the busy highway, I took the bus which took only fifteen minutes to reach Leon, where I stayed at the Convento Santa Maria.


Here are two photos from my stay in El Burgo Ranero.  It will be interesting to compare my memories as a pilgrim to the actualities of work as a hospitalero.


El Burgo Ranero


Dinner with Mario (from Canada), Patricia (from Hungary) and others. Patricia cooked.



Leaving early in the morning.  Watching the light come into the world was always a favorite time. Dawn arrives late in Spain in September and October.