Sunday, September 22, 2013

St. Francis Was HERE!!!

It is hard to see in this picture, since using a flash wasn't allowed, but this is the pillar underneath a statue of St. James in the Porto de Gloria.  So many pilgrims have touched the pillar that a hand print has been worn into the pillar.  However, the pillar has been cordoned off and pilgrims can no longer touch the same spot.  I was saddened by that.

So, as I was going through the museum of the Cathedral, I noticed that there were a lot of pictures of St. Francis.  So, the next time I was in the Tourist Information office, I asked if St. Francis had done the Camino.  HE HAD! She went on to tell me that he actually started a monastery here in the city, and asked the order founded by St. Martin if he could have some of their land to build upon.  They allowed him to rent a portion, and the rent was a basket of fish.  She went on to tell me that the museum of sacred art has a picture of St. Francis giving St. Martin a basket of fish, and that the Franciscans here in the city still rent their monastery from the other order, and once a year, there is a ceremonial giving of a basket of fish from one monastery to the other.  I am sure the rent has gone up since then, though! (Or maybe the deed has changed hands long ago--who knows!).  It is still kind of neat to be someplace where one of my personal heroes has been.  I plan to visit that museum with the painting tomorrow, as well as the church attached to the Franciscan monastery.  I am hoping to hear more of the story behind St. Francis being here.

 There is a museum near the Cathedral that has a scale model of the Cathedral in it, and it tells who has been instrumental in building what part, when and by whose plans.  Quite fascinating, since some of the renovations meant tearing down or tearing out the masterworks of famous artists.  For instance, Master Mateo created the original facade and a stone choir area that was torn out when the current facade was created.  They incorporated much of the statuary elsewhere, but the work was destroyed in the process.  As much as possible, it has been reconstructed in the Cathedral museum, but a lot has been lost.

One of the best things about being a pilgrim is that I get reduced rates into most museums, but I like to read everything, so I am a bit of a slowpoke when going through a museum.  Today I was kicked out of the above museum at 2:00 pm, since almost everything closes from either 2-4 or 2-5.  I will be going back at 5:00pm in order to see the rest of it.  I only hope that I can see the rest before it closes sometime around 7:00!

This is the lovely sister who has been the cantor at both pilgrim's masses that I have attended at the Cathedral.  She has taught us the music for all of the sung parts of the mass before it starts, and then leads us in the Angelus right before Mass starts.

On another note, I think I am getting a cold.  About noon today, my throat started feeling scratchy.  I am hoping that some good sleep and a lot of tea will nip it in the bud, but it is hard to tell.  Worst case scenario, I will end up staying in my room tomorrow instead of visiting the Franciscan monastery and the Museum of sacred art.  I am also hoping that eating yogurt for breakfast these next few days will help. When I went grocery shopping for the next couple of days, I also made sure that I had lots of vegetables to add to dinner, since veggies are few and far between on the pilgrim's menus!

My dinner from last night: rice, ham, bell peppers, carrots, and squash.  I garnished it with a little grated parmesan cheese.  

The next day, about 4:00pm

It is official...I have bedbugs again.  I am currently waiting for the Hospitalera to come up here with the  disinfectant spray, and then I will be moving to another room.  All of my clothes have been in individual baggies, so I don't think they are infected, but I also don't have time between now and heading home to wash everything in very hot water.  It will have to wait until I am back in the states...I don't plan to unpack anything at home, but will do so some evening next week at the Laundromat.  I will probably drag Amber or Tabitha along to double check all the pockets of my backpack before I throw it in the wash.  

I didn't realize it until last night, but I have been using the last existing part of the wall around Santiago ever since I got here.  The rest of it has been torn down to make room for more buildings/roads.

I don't know which I dislike about their stupid bites more, the fact that they itch so much, or the fact that they become little tiny blisters that weep incessantly if you accidentally pop them.  They grow when they are scratched, too!  All I know is that I will never, EVER forget what bedbug bites look or feel like.  The next time I do the Camino, I will be staying at higher priced Albergues, since they seem to have less issue with Chinchos (chinxos? Xinxos? It is the name given to bedbugs in Spanish, but I have noticed that x usually is used instead of either the ch or the J sound we usually see in Mexican Spanish, so I have no idea how to spell it!). I met one pilgrim that kept his backpack in a huge industrial strength plastic bag whenever he stopped--it seemed like a lot of hassle, but it worked for him, since he never got bedbugs, even when some of his friends did!  I have also heard of people bringing Tyvek sheets that are treated with permethrin.  That also might be worth looking into... Although, who knows?  Maybe bedbugs will be stamped out from the Albergues by the time I get to do this again!

A monument outside the Franciscan monastery.  They didn't have a whole lot to see, since a portion of the monastery has been turned into a 4 star hotel.  They seem to be a working monastery as, well, though, since I saw a Franciscan monk walking down the street and talking on his cell phone... It felt very anachronistic, and I was tempted to take a picture!

Of course, it also means that I will likely not be seeing any more of Santiago this evening, since I still have to spray down my room and my backpack, as well as to move this evening, not to mention make dinner.  I am sad about that, but I am also getting excited about coming home.  I went to the Cathedral for the last time this morning, and I am glad that I was able to attend one of the "Chapter Masses" of the order that takes care of the Cathedral.  I didn't understand most of the sermon, but the chant done by the monks was very beautiful.

In one of the museums I visited, they had an exhibit about the use of wine and food in sacred ceremonies.  This picture of Jesus in a wine press is both a little surreal, and an interesting way to explain what the Eucharist is.

And, I was right last night--I definitely have a cold.  I have been blowing my nose incessantly, and have begun to cough, probably due to post-nasal drip.  I am just thankful that this didn't happen while I was walking!  I actually have a lot to be thankful for.  I am still walking on my own two feet, I already have a place on the bus to Madrid, and I get to head toward home in less than 24 hours.  I have my Compostela.  I have a clearer head and a lighter heart.  While I still haven't gotten any clear direction about my future, I DO know the next step.  I am abundantly blessed!

I went to the museum of modern art here in Santiago, and this is one of the sculptures there.  This particular artist had a thing for potatoes, so many of his sculptures incorporated them.  I'm afraid I can't remember his name at the moment...

And, tomorrow, I will leave my Albergue with the single room, go to Mass, and then head for the bus station.  I will then be traveling the first leg of going home--the trip to Madrid.  In just a little over 48 hours, I will be heading back to my normal life.  It is a little weird to think that my trip is basically over, and that it is time to turn toward home.  I will miss this, and I won't.  Just like I carried all of you with me, I will be carrying the Camino with me.  I hope I never quit being a pilgrim.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I left my shoes in Santiago...

Monte de Gozo to Santiago, 5 km

So, I ended my Camino as I started it... Walking in the dark by myself by the light of the moon and the street lamps, although thankfully, I didn't get lost this time!  

Today has been a very emotional day for me, with a lot of tears.  The whole time I was walking toward Santiago, I was telling God how I didn't want it to end--so I made the decision to remain a pilgrim as long as I could today, even if I technically wasn't anymore.  I knew that I needed to wait until at least 1:30 pm to check in at my Albergue, so I made the decision to hang around the Cathedral all day until I could check in.

My first glimpse of the Cathedral... The spires in the far background that you can barely see over the cloud cover are the spires of the Cathedral.  I was about 2-3 km out, and dodging early morning traffic.

So, at first, all I did was follow the arrows to the Cathedral, then wandered around the center of the city until I found the pilgrim's office.  The volunteers there were very nice, especially when I burst into tears while there.  I was both happy to have gotten my Compostela, and very much not wanting it to end.  One of the gentlemen there gave me his handkerchief, which I will be washing tomorrow in order to give it back.  And, as I left, one of the volunteers ran after me to make sure that I was alright.  In spite of my roller coaster emotions, it was so nice to be taken care of, and to know that there was someone who understood the feelings I was feeling--all of the volunteers at the pilgrim's office have been pilgrims themselves.

The Camino goes right by this small church on the way to the Camino...I think the name is San Anton...and the first thing I saw on my left was a statue of St. Rita, my patron saint.  So, I stayed and prayed a little bit before heading further.  It was with a bit of melancholy that I would no longer be collecting sellos, or stamps, of the various places I went to.

Next, I went to a place where they will hold your back pack for 2 euros, since there has been some issues with theft at the Cathedral, and several people have recommended that we not bring our backpacks in to the Pilgrim's Mass.  The people there were very nice, and even let me get things out of my pack several times when I realized that I had forgot something.  Normally, a pilgrim just goes to their accommodations, but since mine doesn't open until 1:30, it was well worth the money.  When I left, I kept my boots and the stones I took from all of you with me.  Originally, I wanted to leave the stones at Cruz de Ferro, but since I had to skip it, I felt that there was no better place than leaving them with the apostle.  I did the same with my boots, and left them at the crypt of he apostle as well.  I have heard that the Cathedral donates such things to the poor when they are left for the Apostle, and I couldn't think of any better place to leave them.  So, that is exactly what I did.

The Porto de Gloria of the Cathedral. When I first got there, these doors were shut because Mass was going on, but they opened as soon as Mass was over.  This is a Cruciform church, so these doors basically sit at the bottom of the Cross.

There were more crowds than I thought there would be, and it was a little sad because many of the visitors weren't incredibly reverent.  I had really hoped to have a few moments in quiet and solitude to contemplate my journey, but as soon as I stepped foot in the Cathedral, I was part of the throng.  Once I left my boots in the Crypt, I then went to "embrace the Apostle" or to hug the Statue of St. James which is part of the altar piece of the Cathedral.   It used to be that this statue used to have a crown as well, which Pilgrims would put on, but it is lost in the annals of time.  Later, it was popular to put your hat on the Statue, but the lines were so long that there really isn't time for that.

It is kind of hard to tell, since I was so far away from it, but the center figure is the statue of St. James I embraced.

Then, I was able to go to confession and then found a seat for the Pilgrim's Mass, which is at noon.  Words cannot express how I was feeling during the Mass, although there was this beautiful nun that spent the 10 minutes before Mass started to teach us the songs we would be singing during Mass.  Then, much to my surprise, they used the Botafumiero.  As the censer was being lit, the presiding priest explained that incense is a beautiful symbol of what our prayers do--waft up to Heaven.  When it started swinging, that is when I really lost it.

 This is where the Botafumiero was being lit and they were just about to get it swinging. This is quite a feat, since it is one of the largest censers in existence, weighing in at over 300 lbs.  If you were to stand it on the ground, it would reach a little over waist high on me.  I was actually kind of surprised that it wasn't bigger, but it does the job quite nicely!

One of the other things I was surprised about is that there is Adoration daily in one of the chapels in the Cathedral, so, after Mass, I popped over and spent some time in Adoration.  I hope to do the same thing tomorrow as well. Even though I will be here for 2 more days, because of the price hike of being in a tourist town, I probably won't see much of the city's museums, etc.  Instead, I plan to spend a lot of time enjoying the city's wonderful parks, and looking for places that let you in for free (there is a tourist's office, so I will start there--I hope that they have some good information!).  I also expect to sleep in and maybe read a little bit, since I haven't had a chance to do so my whole time here in Spain.

Tonight while I was walking around with friends made on the Camino, I saw this.  I know the picture isn't very good, but the moon was rising behind the Cathedral, and it was so incredibly beautiful.  It is times like these that I wish I owned a better digital camera!

One of the things that has been the most pleasant surprise is that there are a lot of street artists here in Santiago.  Just in walking around, I saw 2 harpists, 4 living statues, a bagpipe player, and two different troubadour bands, one of which were wearing the elizabethan pants and hose, as well as capes bedecked with ribbons and patches (no collars, though), and other musicians as well.  Not surprising is the fact that there are several people begging all around the center of the city as well.  With close to 25% unemployment, I have to say that I'm actually surprised that there aren't more beggars around.

My friends Holger and Annette from Germany.  We had dinner together tonight, as they will be going to Finisterre tomorrow, and I probably won't see them again.  I was blessed to walk with them at the beginning of my trip, and now to see them at the end.  I hope to see some of the other friends that I met along the Way, although I know many of them have already flown home... It is the perils of being a slowpoke!

So, my pilgrimage is now ended, and it is time to think about coming home.  God has been very good to me, and I will cherish this trip always, even if it is to gross my friends out by talking about bedbugs!

Wishing Tomorrow Doesn't Come

Pedrouza to Monte De Gozo, 16 km

Today has been a day of contradictory feelings and emotions... It started with an email from work mentioning that a position I was wanting to apply for had already been filled, and then progressed to seeing planes fly overhead all day, and then I started crying when I saw the map here in the Albergue that indicated that there is only 5 km left.  

The church last night at Mass.  It was only built in the 1950's on the site of a pilgrim's graveyard, but I thought the shell behind the altar piece was neat! 

I think the problem is that my head is already at home, while my heart wants to be walking the Camino for forever... I know it isn't prudent for me to stay here for forever, but my heart is also telling me that there is some unfinished business for me here on the Camino, so I am pretty sure that I will be doing this again--maybe for the next holy year, which is 2021; possibly as a gift to me for my 40th birthday; maybe even as a treat for myself when I am finally debt free.  I just know that another Camino is in my future, because me and St. James have some more things to hash out, and I have some more lessons to learn.  As Jennifer Fulweiler says (well, she quoted her husband), "your priorities are the things you plan for," so I will be adding a Camino fund to my budget.  I may not be able to put much in there each month, but even a few dollars each month will grow!

Soon after seeing this, the km markers disappeared, at least in part because they are close to 5 km off.  I was really hoping for a 10 k and a 5 k picture, too!

What has been really fun has been seeing some of the people that I started with showing up here in Monte de Gozo.  I am debating about whether I should go spend time with them and hear about their camino or going to Mass... I think that friends will win tonight!  

All of the fences along the Camino on this leg have been enhanced with crosses woven into them like this.  A few pilgrims got rather creative by using shirts, socks, or scarves to fashion a cross on the fence!

Later, same night.

I actually opted for time with friends rather than Mass tonight.  Part of it is that I haven't seen these friends since Fromista, and part of it is that I will be going to Mass and Confession tomorrow in Santiago.  There is joy in seeing each other after such a long time, and I think that is part of the Camino experience.  There is a lot of joy for me in going to Mass as well, but my love for Jesus and the sacraments are not diminished by my love of good company and good wine.  I would actually argue that being physically present with my friends enhances my love for the sacraments, but I also know that choosing friends over Jesus can be a dangerous precedent.  

This is the spring in Lavacolla.  At the height of the use of the Camino in the middle ages, it was required that you clean your private parts in the spring here (colla is the latin term for scrotum, according to one of my books, and lava means wash in latin--the spanish term is lavar).  I just took a picture and saved my ablutions until I stopped in Monte de Gozo.

I suppose that my skipping of the pilgrim's mass makes me a bad pilgrim--but then, I'm still not sure what it means to be a good pilgrim.  I do know that the only requirements for my Compostela is walking the last 100 km (or riding the last 200 km, whether by horse or by bicycle).  For the most part, I have attempted to attend Mass every evening as well, when it was offered, and I have been praying for all of you and your intentions as I walk... But, if I were completely honest, I could have done that at home (and I try to do so, but I don't always succeed).

This monument was erected at Monte de Gozo when Pope John Paul II visited in the nineties.  One of the more unfortunate ideas was to plant trees between Monte de Gozo and Santiago in order to beautify the area.  Because of them, you can no longer see the spires of the Cathedral from Monte de Gozo, or Mountain of Joy, which got its name because it was the first point where pilgrims could see the Cathedral of Santiago.  However, this was still a place of joy for me, as I got to stop for the night, I got to reconnect with friends, and I got to meet some new ones as well.

Whatever it means to be a good pilgrim, all I know is that I will be arriving in Santiago tomorrow, and that this adventure will be coming to a close.  My greatest question at this point is how to retain the changes and shifts in my own personal being?  Every time I have gone on a trip like this, I have returned home different in some way... And in a month, six months, a year, I feel that I have slid back into my old self again.  I am not the only one who notices this, and this is why I believe there are so many who repeat the Camino.  Last night in the Albergue, I met a Dutch man who was about to finish his 7th Camino, in spite of the neuropathy he suffers from.  If we don't seek constant conversion, we end up stagnant, and sometimes even worse than we started off to begin with.

The Albergue I am staying at has over 800 beds in somewhere between 10 and 30 dormitories.  Because of this, the laundry facilities are in a central location.  Without a laundry basket, I found another use for my bandana--laundry carrier! (And, yes, that is all of my dirty laundry--it is also almost every stitch of clothing I have with me excluding the clothes I have on!)

So, my night comes to a close, and I will begin my last 5 km tomorrow morning.  When I get there, it wouldn't surprise me if I shed some tears, as tears seem to be my most constant of companions.  Even so, whether I want to or not, my Camino will be finished by this time tomorrow.  This makes me incredibly sad as well as incredibly excited.  What will the next stage hold?

What I saw of sunrise this morning.  I love it when Nature frames the shot so beautifully!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walking Packless

Melide to Arzua, 15.5 km
Arzua to Pedrouzo, 19 km

The view of Melide from a little park around one of the two churches in town.  Everything is closed on Sunday after about 2pm, so I wasn't able to go to the museum here or buy toothpaste... I got in about noon, and instead of going shopping, etc., I took a nap...

So, I have finally broken down and sent my pack on today, as all of the hills in the area have been wreaking havoc with my ankles.  While they don't hurt that badly, they are swollen, so it just seemed prudent to remove most of the weight of a pack in order to make it easier, especially since I will be doing around 19 km today.  I decided to go a little further today so that I never have a 20 km means only 16 km tomorrow, and I will probably send my pack on then as well.  

My favorite part of the altar piece at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Melide.  I know that people get used to the art around them, but it has been such a priveledge to worship surrounded by such beautiful art... It all just draws you in to Worship, or it does for me anyway!

However, I will definitely carry my pack the last 5 km on Thursday into Santiago.  I hate not carrying my own pack, but Ice is sometimes hard to find.  Honestly,  I wouldn't have made it today if it weren't for the fact that I wasn't carrying my pack.  My ankles were hurting at the 10 km mark, and by the last 5 km, I was limping pretty badly.  If it weren't for the fact that I'm gimping along like a hundred year old granny, I would seriously consider just toughing it out and getting to Santiago tomorrow.  However, if my ankles hurt this bad without my pack, there is no chance that I would make it these last 21 km in one stage.  I think the real issue is the hills, since they are giving my tendons a workout--I'm not really gaining or losing any altitude, but towns tend to be in valleys, and the hills are in between.  It makes for some pretty scenery, but not great on already swollen tendons.

Yesterday, at a picnic area along the trail, this little creek was wandering by.  I was sorely tempted to soak my feet for a while, but didn't because the idea of retaping my feet seemed more trouble than it was worth.  I should have, though, since I think I would have arrived in better shape if I had.

I am also finding that I am taking less pictures as I go along.  Some of it is that there are really only so many picturesque views of nature that one can be interested in.  I think it is also that I am beginning to really focus on getting to Santiago.  

One of the most common sayings/graffiti that one sees on the Camino is the phrase, "the path is the goal." ( and in just about every language, too!). When I first started my Camino, I could at least see some truth in the phrase, as my greatest worry was where my next yellow arrow would be, not how far I am from Santiago. It was enough to be on the road, on the Camino, and headed to Santiago.  Now, As I get closer to Santiago, I find that I'm not so sure this is absolutely true any more.  Even though we often get caught up in the path God has for us from day to day, we really should keep our eye on the destination. If we don't, we could end up lost or worse, on an entirely different path altogether--one of my favorite stories by another pilgrim is of her following ANY arrows she found (blue, black, green... it didn't matter.), and in the process, she ended up having to walk through someone's vinyard to get back on track.  I also read a sign today reminding us pilgrims that we should be following the yellow arrows, not other markings in yellow, as they might be pointing to a local bike path, not the Camino.

Arrows on anything that moves make me nervous!  Thankfully, that stone pillar on the other side of the road is a way-marker pointing in the same direction!

 One of my fellow pilgrims said that walking the Camino was basically life writ small, and I think I replied that life shouldn't be full of tendonitis, blisters, and bedbugs!  All kidding aside, I can see how the lessons learned as I am walking could be applied to every part of my life, even if some lessons are unique to the Camino, like remembering to wash everything early enough that it dries by the next morning.  And, I have to say that I learned from each of the above situations: learn from people who have gone before (blisters and bedbugs); problems are rarely insurmountable--cry a little, regroup, gather strength from your friends, and change our plans accordingly (tendonitis); prevention is always easier than dealing with consequences (blisters and tendonitis).  There are others, but I won't bore you.  

Someone knew I was coming!

So, I am now only 21 km away from Santiago, and I will have one more night on the trail after tonight.  The km markers say that we are only about 18 km away, so they are about 3 km off.  I am hoping that they get more accurate the closer we get to Santiago, but I'm not holding my breath.  Even so, I couldn't resist taking this picture:

I had really hoped that they were more accurate than they are, since my feet and ankles had already started hurting by this point.  

I am blessed to be here, and blessed that all of you have been praying for me as I continue my journey.  I know that arriving in Santiago doesn't really make me no longer a pilgrim, but puts me in the category of "pilgrim of life's journey."  So, in that respect, whoever coined the phrase is right, the path IS the destination. And, that is at least part of the reason that I chose the name of Perpetual Peregrino for this blog.  Heading toward the end game is incredibly bittersweet, but I am trying to cherish every moment.

I saw this on the road today... Someone had lined their field with rose bushes, and the blooms were quite beautiful against the backdrop of the field of corn.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inane Observations

Ventes de Naron to Palas de Rei, 12 km
Palas de Rei to Melide, 15.5 km

As I was walking today, I realized that I only have 4 more days of walking, and only 56 km to go before Santiago.  That being the case, I have started to think about what I have learned about Spain, about myself, and about the Camino.  So far, most of them are pretty pedestrian, so I will just list them as bullets.

More fog yesterday on the way to Palas de Rei.  I felt a little like I was stepping into the Lord of the Rings!

*I don't mind the smell of cow dung so much... You get used to it after a km or two, and it adds to the It is the flies that come with the dung that I have a hard time dealing with.

*Eucalyptus really doesn't smell that bad in the wild--I actually found it quite pleasant while walking today. It is only in the flower section of Hobby Lobby that it is overpowering and headache inducing.

This particular yellow really concerned me, as it can be picked up and moved!

*If you ask for green tea here in Spain, most of the time it is mixed with mint.  I like the combination.

*I think that I am getting sick of my hiking clothes.  For the last 2 evenings, I have put on my skirt rather than one of my hiking outfits, and I am enjoying wearing something other than running clothes.

My dinner last night.  I never thought of mixing sweet potato fries and regular fries with bell peppers before--very tasty!

*I am seriously thinking about chucking my hiking shoes in Santiago.  They are smelly and dusty, and the thought of packing them usually evokes a response of, "eeeewwwwww!"

*I hope that we never go to strictly one dollar coins like they have with makes spending them that much easier.

Today I passed into Coruna, the province where Santiago is. Every step gets me closer!

*As I lay here in my Albergue in the center of Melide, I have to say that I really miss the quiet of the trail.  I don't know what I am going to do when I get home, as I have gotten used to living in quietude.  The fact that it is directly beside a hopping night spot means that I will be listening to the base line of the techno music all night.  It is a good thing I tend to sleep like the dead!

Me at the hundred km marker. The mile markers aren't very accurate, since they have moved the trail since they were erected, but I am glad for at least a ballpark figure!

*Speaking of quiet, my iPod nano has become a really expensive watch.  In the whole time I have been in Spain, I have listened to a sum total of 2 hours of music, and ditched my earphones in Leon because I lost the earpieces someplace along the way.  I haven't even really used the mileage tracker, since my guide has a more accurate reckoning.  Next time, it stays home!

*Many of the things that I used to think of as necessities are really wants.  I have come to value tea with sugar, although honey in my tea is still my preference.

A little Roman bridge on the way to Melide today.  Right after crossing it, I saw the awesomest Crucifix in the Church there in Furelos.

*The hotter the water, the faster your tea will steep.  All of the bars use the steam function on the espresso machine to pour water over my teabags, and I get a nice, strong cup in about 2-3 minutes rather than having to wait 6-8 minutes or more.

* Even though I grew up in a city, I think I'm a small town girl at heart.  I prefer the quiet of the small towns I have walked through to the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities.

This just says it all, doesn't it?  They were giving away prayer cards with a picture of this at the church, and if I could have, I would have gotten one for all of you.  However, they were giving them away for free, and I didn't want to be greedy...I only took 2.

I am sure there will be more as time goes on, but that is what I have been thinking about while walking today!

Friday, September 13, 2013


Barbadelo to Portomarin, 18 km
Portomarin to Ventas de Naron, 13.3 km

So, yesterday when I arrived in Portomarin, it was apparent to me that I had overdone it over the last two days, since my feet were hurting, and my tendons were swollen and tender.  So, in spite of it meaning that I would lose the people I was walking with again, I knew that I needed to do a short day today.  Of course, the nice thing about a short day is that I get to make a late start of it, so I actually didn't start walking until about 8:00 am.  I didn't look at my watch when I started, but I actually got out of bed at 7:30, so it is pretty close to that.  

My last breakfast with MaryAnn.  She needed to do 27 km yesterday, and I was only supposed to do around 12.  I was still waiting for my backpack to dry, so she left about 1.5-2 hours before I did.

I actually opted not to see the church in Portomarin, as it is another vertical city, and my feet just couldn't handle the climb last night.  I saw pictures of it, and the story behind the church seems more interesting than the church... When they built the reservoir that I walked over on the way in and out of town,  they dismantled the church stone by stone first, then moved it to the center of town and put it back together the way it was in the old town.

The bridge into Portomarin.  Jillian, my companion for the day, and I were excited to see that we were close to our stopping point... That is, until we saw this:
The camino goes up those stairs, through the arch at the top...
Where you go up even MORE stairs.  The whole town was like this, and that is why I went to my albergue, and then to the restaurant beside it, and not much further!

Then, this morning was another day covered in fog/mist, so there was an ethereal quality to the walk.  As we go down in altitude toward the sea, we seem to be dropping out of fall back into late summer, as I am seeing less fallen leaves, and more fields about ready to harvest, rather than already harvested.  Even so, I'm really glad for my fleece jacket most mornings.  I'm not sure exactly when, but it shrunk in the wash at some point, so the sleeves are now about an inch too short--it is warm and helpful on days like today though.

This is a picture of both the old and the new bridge out of Portomarin.  The one closest to you used to be the footbridge pilgrims used, although it is now blocked off.  Instead, we had to walk on the sidewalk of the far bridge, sharing it with traffic.

Today, I wasn't very Christlike, though.  I kind of yelled at a poor harried server because I asked for an omelette without bread, and she brought it to me with bread anyway.  I feel kind of bad about that since I don't think there was evil intent. I think it was more an issue of differences in my terrible Spanish and the fact that there seems to be a dialect of sorts here in Galicia.  For instance, instead of signs saying Iglesia when pointing to a Church, they say Igrexa.  Normally, there is at least some understanding when it comes to food, but today it just didn't work.  I think I reinforced all of her thoughts about how terrible pilgrims are.

I crossed the highway no less than 5 times today, the first 3 of which were in the fog. By the fourth time of seeing this sign, I was beginning to wonder if the powers that be wanted to cull the pilgrims a little bit, since the highway was relatively busy.  

As I walk, I am finding that I am seeing my heart soften to the needs of others, since I spent so much of the last 11 years protecting myself--I couldn't open myself up for fear of the repercussions within my marriage, and I was the poorer because of it. In the process, I am finding that I can bless others, and in the process be blessed by them as well.  Please be praying for Cindy, Paula, and Chantal.  This is a trio of pilgrims who are two sisters and their granddaughter/great-niece.  Chantal is carrying a pack that is probably 2-3x what she should so that her granny (Cindy) and great-aunt (Paula) don't have to carry as much. At the same time, Paula is pushing for them to finish, when Cindy is really struggling to do half of the km they plan to walk each day.  I worry about the whole trio, since they seem to not listen to one another, and Cindy truly has some medical issues.  Chantal seems to be stuck in the middle between them, which is a decidedly uncomfortable place to be, and yet she is incredibly patient with both of them.

Paula and I at a small brook we walked beside.  I left them at Morgade (about 10-12 km before Portomarin) and I hope that they stopped for the day soon after that. Chantal had to go back 2-3 km and get Cindy in order to carry her pack for a while.  I watched Chantal's backpack while she did so, then walked on with Jillian a little bit after they finally got to Morgade.

So, two rather uneventful days... A lot of walking up and down hills under the shade of some pretty trees.  I remember reading that pilgrims spend time walking through some eucalyptus forests, but don't know if I inadvertantly skipped that or if it is still ahead.  Either way, with only 6-7 days until Santiago, I find myself thinking more about home than I probably should.  Some pieces have fallen into place in my head, and some are still at large, so I hope to work on living more in the moment in order to give God space to make me more into the person He wants me to be.  

I want to be like the graffiti on this sign--to be given wings so that I can transcend the person I am, and to become more like Christ daily!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bedbugs, Bags, and Bungles

Samos to Barbadelo, 19.5 km

Well, this morning started with someone telling me that my hives were actually bedbugs.  At the time, I was sure that she was wrong, since I am so susceptible to any kind of skin reaction, but when I got to Barbadelo this evening, the "hives" on my ankles were looking more and more like bug bites on steroids.  So, to keep from passing bedbugs on to the next place, I am currently in the process of washing every stitch of clothing I own except that which I am wearing, as well as my sleeping bag, travel pillow, and backpack. I only hope that everything is dry before time for bed. 

See what I considered to be hives around my ankle, since they were weeping?  They actually got worse and look like a bunch of little blisters the size of a pinhead on the back of my right ankle, and are even more red and angry on my left ankle than you see in the picture, which I took last night. If it weren't for the fact that they were weeping, I probably would have recognized them as bites...

So, if you have noticed the km at the top of the page, you are probably wondering why I walked more than I was planning...  Two nights ago at the Mass in Triacastela, I met a nice pilgrim from South Africa, and we hit it off and began to talk.  I figured I wouldn't see her again, since I'm doing such short sections.  Then, in Samos, I ran into her again, and we continued the conversation, and when we left the Albergue this morning, we walked together. Neither of us wanted to part ways in Sarria, and MaryAnn has to be in Santiago by next Monday.  Since she was only going to go another 4.5 km, and my ankles were feeling ok, I decided to walk a little further.  I might be regretting it tomorrow, but I am glad that she was with me when I found my huge mistake.

When I emptied out my backpack to wash it, I forgot to check the pocket where the water bladder goes.  In the process, I ended up washing EVERY SINGLE POSTCARD I had bought to date.  All of the pictures of Our Lady of Hope from Leon are no longer flat, and some of them are peeling off of their cardboard backing.  On top of that, my receipt from the doctor that I need for my claim is also wet.  And, a whole bunch of pamphlets and papers I got from different churches were ruined completely.  All I could think was that I had ruined the one thing I wanted to give to everyone when I got back.

Once again, I cried.  There is something about the Camino that seems to pull my emotions to the surface, making me more susceptible for waterworks.  I can't say that I like that aspect of my pilgrimage, but I can't seem to change it either.  Every time I feel like I have found some sort of equilibrium emotionally, something happens to draw out the tears once more.  The people I meet here must think that I am a total emotional basket case, and there are moments when I wonder that about myself as well.  

This is MaryAnn beside a statue of Santiago Peregrino as we were leaving Samos this morning.  

At the same time, MaryAnn has been carrying 10 kilos on her back for her Camino, so on the way in to Sarria, we stopped at a picnic area and went through her pack.  We then sent a package ahead to Santiago of some of her things--we were able to eliminate 3.35 kg... She was carrying three toothbrushes, among other thing!

MaryAnn and the bag of elimination... I did something similar in Leon, but had less to get rid of, since I had less to begin with.

My bag of elimination... Rather than send it on, I just abandoned it for the maids.

I am not sure why, but MaryAnn seems to think I am a wizard at this process, so I will be helping another pilgrim do the same thing shortly.  Helping people is better than moping, so, on with the evening.