Moonset on the Meseta

Moonset on the Meseta

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.

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