Life Isn’t as We Know It

50 days of transformation

50 days of transformation

Life Goes On

July 14, 2014

We leave Muxia tomorrow. After having spent the last week here, relaxing on the empty beaches, having 3 hour naps, going to bed late ( due to watching the World Cup games that don’t start in Spain until 10pm) and sleeping in even later than my 5 am get up time, we leave the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage with many thoughts, experiences and memories.

We leave with tan/ sunburnt skin, bleached hair, smelly clothes, dirt encrusted shoes, bug bites on our bodies, hairy arm pits and legs (we vouched we wouldn’t shave until we arrived home), less weight on our bodies and in our backpacks than what we started with. Less weighty thoughts in our hearts and in our heads. I can speak to this subject directly. My body and spirit are rejuvenated. Not filled with dead weight. I have learned a new slogan to live by; “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” I have renewed hope to let things go. Just let go…let go of stress, of material stuff, of job issues…let them go, cut the strings and focus on the here and now instead of the past and the future. Live life to its fullest in the Now State of Being ( my own term).

And impart the things I have learned onto my children. They are all adults now in their 20′s. I can now be their friend and not the parent full of weighted advise. They are independent, critical thinkers who are in full charge of being responsible for their choices. I am on the sideline, cheering them on and am no longer the coach directing the plays.

I am a firm believer in traveling outside one’s own comfort zone and expose yourself to other cultures, countries, thoughts, ideas, experiences. All those years of classes I took in Sociology, Anthropology, Human Development, Psychology…all that book learning, would be for naught, if I don’t put it into practice. You can be the couch traveler. The travel book learner. The college course expert, but until you get off your butt and put yourself out there in the world, all your book smarts are just random thoughts and theories that are waiting to be put into practice.

I have found out that stereotypes and generalizations are in place for a reason. It isn’t a negative or a bad thing either. We all have our own societal norms, values, morals, traditions that we have been raised with. We have our own culture norms that are ingrained based on where we have been raised. There are plenty of things that we do that are typical to one’s culture. How we talk, interact, show respect, eat, sleep, clean…we are all different and yet in the culture that we have been raised with in the country, town, village that we reside in, there are similarities that we share with our own “tribe.”

The only way you discover this is by traveling and interacting with others on an intimate level, not as a tourist drive-by superficial top layer. And as frustrating as it has been sleeping in rooms with mass amounts of people from different countries who have different ways of living and doing things from myself, I can say that it has been a great experience in human observation. I have found that what I was raised with, the things I believe to be the norm in doing things, is not the same for others. I can not place my norms onto others, anymore than they can do the same with theirs. Being aware that there are differences, which doesn’t make it wrong ( as in stripping in front of others, picking of the nose in public, belching freely, sleeping with the windows shut…) but acknowledging that they exist just like the similarities and common ground that we share with our fellow human beings.

This can’t be discovered until one goes through it first hand. Oh yes…reading about the social norms in multi- cultural classes provides insight, but until one experiences it first hand, than one hasn’t lived it.

And so life goes on after the Camino, but with it comes a greater sense of insight and a peace and a calm and the desire to do more and to be a better human being.

Son of a Beach

Going to the beach, we think

Going to the beach, we think

 

 

Son of a Beach

 

July 10, 2014

 

We woke up around 8 am, rolled out of bed, ate some egg grub and got ready for the beach. Life is difficult when you are in beach bum mode…NOT!

 

The owner of the hostel, Joseph, asked us if we were going to the playa ( that means “beach” in Spanish). His English is non existent and our Spanish is poco- poco, but we are able to communicate. He offered to take us to the beach instead of having us walk. We quickly said yes and took off in his Mercedes SUV (super nice car…I want one). Well, we thought we were going to one beach and he ended up taking us to another one (turns out it was the same beach, but we were confused with the direction). He drove us 4km away, through a secluded jungle like road and dropped us off on the side of a trail and told us to follow the path. Uh…ok.

 

We walked on a wood plank, tree covered path alongside a river. The path dead ended into an over- grown trail which opened up onto a river bank which met the ocean. We were walking through the river to reach the other side of the sandy beach when we heard deep barking. We saw the trees and shrubs shaking and heard massive barking and then appeared three huge white dogs, all about the size of bear cubs weighing close to 200lbs. They came pounding down the side of the hill heading straight for Abby. Ahhhh! I’m freaking out. I’m half- way in the water, surrounded by rocks and Abby is 20 feet ahead of me about to get torn apart by these massive bear dogs. Should I videotape the proceedings or start to throw rocks? My mind was torn. Abby was looking at them running towards her and at me and she was telling me to remain calm as I’m going to a) pee my pants b) close my eyes so I don’t have to see her pulled apart c) gather my momma bear courage and go after them. Ya…all of these thoughts were going off in my head at once.

 

Abby talks calmly to the dogs as they rush her. And then they stop. Look at her. Wag their tails. Want their heads- the size of boulders- to be scratched and then turn and bark at me!
The two smaller calf size ones are puppies and the mom is watching both her pups and us suspiciously.

 

Well we make our way onto the beach flanked by the welcoming committee. They escorted us down to the water and then watch as we continue to walk away. We were super happy that we were left intact.

 

The beach is beautiful. Thousands of shells lay on top of the sand. We have a mile of white sand to ourselves. We found a cove that protected us from the wind and we laid out on the beach to enjoy the sun. Two hours later, a mom, grandma and two little girls came. They laid their towels right next to ours. A mile of empty sand and they are right next to us. I could have held hands with the grandma if I chose to.

 

Time for us to go. But first I went to the waters edge. I looked down and found a beautiful shiny black shell. My perfect unique Camino shell that I will turn into a necklace. Then we set off to find our way out. We walked and walked and walked through over- grown trails and up and down tree root paths. It took us almost a hour to walk back the 4km.

 

But who cares? We are beach bums. We have nothing but time on our hands and a large bottle of sunscreen to use up. We like this Camino adventure.

image image

 

Life is a Beach

Beach Day!

Beach Day!

Beach Day

July 9, 2014

Yesterday, we took the bus from Santiago back to Muxie to stay for the week on the coast. The beach is beautiful. White sand, clear blue water. Perfect. We also found a hostel to stay at for 22 € a night x 7 equals 154€. About $200 U.S. ( less than what I would pay for camping on the beach in the U.S.) It has a full kitchen a TV and a washer/ dryer. Plus it is a new place that a family owns. They are very friendly and helpful and they speak English. We like it.

We ate at a bar/ cafe a couple of hamburgers. I thought I had paid with a 20€ bill! but the man gave me change like I had paid with a 50€ bill! which was about $60 in return change. Neither Abby nor I speak enough Spanish to get it straightened out, but we had determined that I had paid with a 20€ bill and that he had given us the wrong change. We went to the counter to explain and lucky for us a woman sitting there was able to translate our concern. Both looked at us and upon hearing the story they both shook their heads in disbelief that we would return the money. No one would have done this if they had been locals they agreed and yet here we American tourists are doing it. We told them that we were very honest and did the right thing. We know what is the right thing to do. This man would have lost a lot of money and he could have lost his job over this missing amount.

We are taking the bus from here to the main bus station in Santiago in order to catch the over night bus that will take us to Madrid to fly out on July 16. It should all work like clock work. We ride the bus down from Muxie and arrive at 5 pm, in time to catch the 9:30 pm- 6:30 am bus to Madrid and from that bus station, catch a bus to the airport and have plenty of time to make our 12:30 pm flight. Well, I got to thinking that I should figure out the bus situation and make sure time wise we would have enough time to catch the bus to connect to an airport bus upon arrival in Madrid. I have enough time in advance just in case I need to rearrange plans. I put my questions out on American Pilgrims on the Camino seeking advice from others who had done so. I received a whole lot of information. More information than what was told to me from the one bus agent. Turns out that there is a bus that goes directly to the Madrid Airport and I won’t have to unload and find another bus. Great! This should work out. But then I found out that I need to reserve my seat in advance just in case it is sold out. Uh-oh.

This morning I went on the computer to the ALSA website, filled in the information, found the bus I needed, completed the form, typed in my credit card amount and nothing happened. So I did it again and still it didn’t go through. I remembered someone had said they could pay using PayPal. So I completed the form again and put in my passport number for id purposes and once again it wouldn’t go through!
I’m getting frustrated. There are only 10 seats left on the bus. I am going to have to go back to Santiago in order to book directly at the bus counter and turn around and come back. I was thinking of the bus schedule to Santiago and trying to determine if I should just take a taxi there this morning and catch a return bus late tonight. Ahhhh!

Then Javier, the employee who was helping us out last night with our laundry came in. He said no problem that he could figure out the website and get my tickets booked. Well…long 2 hour and call to the main ALSA office later, it was determined that my Visa card did NOT go through, even though the seats showed that they were taken ( the seats are placed on hold for 10-30 minutes in order for transaction to occur) AND since I had a foreign card I was directed to another bus site ( http://www.movelia.es) to pay there. So we went to that site, selected the seats, completed the form, paid with Visa, only for a message to come up from my credit union wanting my password. I put it in. Nothing. Access denied. I put in my other code. Access denied. Javier and I look at each other. He says, ” no problem, I pay with my card and you pay me” well…3 attempts later- meaning filling out the forms again, and again and again- it finally went through! We printed the tickets. I received an e-mail confirming the purchase and Javier and I jumped and shouted with joy. We had a bonding moment.

In the end, I booked the remainder of the week with him to stay at the hostel. He even gave us two large towels to use at the beach.

Which is where we are sitting at now. In the wind. With the sand blasting us. But we don’t care, because we are at the beach on vacation and letting the waves wash our stress away.

“See mom. I told you it would all work out,” said Abby.

When I’m on the plane heading back to the States, THAN, I will totally relax. Until then…I’m trying not to think of all the little things that could still go wrong and screw us up to have us miss our flight. I am NOT going to project my unspoken fears, just in case the fates are listening and think it would be fun to mess with the end of our trip just as much as what occurred in the beginning.

Please send good karma and thoughts and prayers our way that NOTHING goes wrong to interfere with this current arrangement. And keep reading, cause you all know there is going to be more to this adventure.

 

 

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been

We Did It

We Did It

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been

July 5, 2014

We got started late on the morning of July 2, 2014. Later than we usually do, but it was our last day of walking and Abby’s feet were burning with the rash. The pharmacy wouldn’t open until 9:30, so why hurry. Plus it was raining. A drizzle, not rain, but enough of a mist to get you wet. So at 8 am we set off from Monte do Gozo.
We had to walk across a Fwy overpass. Ahhhh…the semi trucks were whizzing by on my right side of the surface street. The cars below were creating wind turbulence causing to structure to sway. The wooden planks to walk across were wet, soggy and I could see through them to the fwy below. A low railing on the left was all that was supposed to keep one from plummeting over. I kept freezing up as I made my way across the Great Divide.

We kept walking on. A large rainbow welcomed us into the city and appeared to be over the Cathedral. What a welcome mat. We found a pharmacy and picked up creme and pills for Abby’s feet. We ran into Irishman Phillip and had a nice chat with him. We were stopped by another Irish guy who directed us to go to St. Francis church to get our certificate that is issued only every 100 years and they were only opened for a couple of hours at a time. We got lost. We had to ask two elderly men in Spanish where to go, but they kept directing us to the Pilgrim’s Office. We did find the church. It was right in front of us!

Afterwards, we went to the Pilgrim’s Office to collect our Compostela. We only had to wait for a short time in line. That was that. No fan fair. No fireworks. No nothing. And we both looked at each other and wondered what we were going to do now. What is next?

All along the Camino, mass amounts of people walk in unison, being drawn by an unheard song, like Pied Piper leading the children out of the town, to Santiago. I was thinking about the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” where the main character is caught up with a fixation that involves musical notes and the shape of a mountain. He HAS to figure out where this location is in order to be taken up into outer space. Here we all were, walking to this one destination. People drawn to it from all over the world and so focused on the destination that once they reach it, that is it. And then what?

For over a month we/ I, have been walking everyday following the shell and the yellow arrows, directing me forward on a unknown path. I have had a scripted map. I knew each day that I would wake up, pack my bag, strap it on and head towards the next Albergue to unpack, take a shower, hand wash clothes, find food and go to sleep. It was a simple pattern that became a habit. I knew where I was going, how I was going to get there and the reason why.

Now…now that I’m finished…the question Abby and I both asked each other was, “What do we do now?”

That is a big question. It is a loaded one. I have been asked if I will come back and do the Camino or a different route again. Why? I have accomplished what I set out to do. I had a lot of time for self reflection and pondering. I have lots of thoughts, ideas to write many articles about. I didn’t start this pilgrimage with the assumption that I would receive one huge “Ah-ha!” answer or great spiritual enlightenment or a burning in my bosom feeling of a reply to some deep question I have been soul searching for. My Camino was for me. Just for me. Along the way I learned a great many lessons that I will be able to reflect upon and write about. The journey gave me plenty food for thought…a smorgasbord.

My daughter’s and my relationship continues to remain strong and in good standing. We grew to understand more about one another, but nothing earth shattering. We know our differences. We recognize our areas of strength and weakness. Walking the Camino together is just one more thing that we will have in common that we will be able to talk about for the rest of our life. But even though we each walked the Camino together, her experience is different from mine. Her perspective will differ from mine. But the bond of having shared this experience will be there forever.

In answer to the question, “Now what?” Well…we continue. I continue. The pilgrimage didn’t come to an end with the presentation of the Compostella. It continues for one’s life.

 

 

 

The Journey Continues

End of the line

End of the line

Sucking on sea pods

Sucking on sea pods

Peasant wear

Peasant wear

Storm the castle

Storm the castle

The Journey Continues
July 5, 2014
Today we stormed the castle. Well…actually we dressed as peasants, went to the festival in Vimianzo where the town folk dress up in Medieval outfits and reenact the storming of the castle to take it back from the Archbishop of Santiago. We went to the children’s one today. The kids were all into ” killing” the solders-who are played by the police and their school teachers- with these water gun swords.
The solders capture virgin maidens, place them in a cage and haul them off to the castle to hold as ransom. The kids run through the streets and attack the castle. It is/ was fun.

Tonight is when the adults do their reenactment. But…it is real late when they storm the castle and battle (bash down the castle gates with the battering rams) the actors hired to “kill” the town folk with water balloons as well as pour water on top of them. Mmm…it is cold and rainy and the party starts at 11 pm and goes till 5 am. No thanks. We will remain at the house. Tempting as this is, my back has been hurting going on four days now, why push my luck?

We also reached Finisterre yesterday, July 4. The end of the line. 0000km to the light house. People burn their clothes or an item that they have carried with them during their Camino at this site. We then went onto the Little a Fox House where Tracy ( owner) took us to the beach to eat a typical meal of these types of barnacles. I know. They look disgusting. But they are very tasty. The meat is inside the “toe” part. You twist the top and suck the meat out. No wonder why birds and other creatures of the sea work to break them apart.

 

Hills, Rain and Pain (just another normal day)

Almost there

Almost there

It’ Raining, It’s Pouring, the Men in the Albergue Are Snoring

July 1, 2014

No wifi yesterday. It wasn’t working at the bar. So we sat and ate our eggs, salad and peach and watched the World Cup. We were rooting for Nigeria, while others were cheering the French on.
When we got back to our bunkbed we discovered that Abby’s feet had developed some reddish looking small bumps. Laundry detergent reaction? Walked to long that day? We didn’t know.
The Albergue room was stuffed full of weird people. The group of older Germans that wanted everything their way. When we were napping they talked loud. When they were napping, they glared at others for making noise. And so it went all night long with them. The Spanish guy who was on his cell phone. And when he wasn’t, he was sitting on his bed farting-loud and proud. Two un identifiable country of origin people- an older guy with a much younger woman. They were in the bunkbeds above us. They stunk. They reeked of human waste smell. His backpack should have grown legs and ran away it smelled so bad under our bed. When he came back from the bar I asked him to move it further away from us because of the stink. He smelled it and was surprised at how stinky it was. He dug through it to find the source of the smell- a large mass of unwashed clothes- and he acted so surprised that this was the cause of the smell. But like I said,” It’s the Camino. It happens.”

But, those two love birds just couldn’t keep their clothes on and their hands and body parts to themselves. What a night. And then this morning when I got up, this time I was surprised with a woman’s naked butt hanging off the top bunk. Did she care? Nope. She just swung her legs over on top of the naked smelly guy. I will not miss surprises like this in the morning or evening.

Oh and to top it off, a Spanish couple came in late. The woman turned her music on until 11 pm. It was great. The German group were having a fit. Of course they came in at 10 pm making lots of noise while others were sleeping, but they didn’t care. When I saw the look on their face with regards to her music playing, I yelled out to her, “Muy bueno musica!” And gave her a thumbs up. She turned it up louder.
Ya…I was stirring the pot.

We patched Abby’s foot up this morning. Still lightly red. Her tummy still bumbly and we set off. In the rain. And it rained almost all the time we walked today. Ponchos sticky with sweat on the inside are not fun to wear. But we remained dry.

The Camino was very crowded with a large group of youth walking, about 75. Very crowded in the cafés. The older guys ( 18 yr olds) were buying shots and drinking beer at each cafe, starting at 9 am. I don’t know how they were able to keep on going, but they did.

We were planning on walking into Santiago. Figured we could do it. Well…Abby’s body wasn’t cooperating. She was in pain. Her feet were on fire. Her tummy throwing fits. It was raining. It was 2 pm. We had walked 20Km. It was time to stop. So here we are, just a couple of miles shy of Santiago. We are staying at Monte do Gozo. This place is a HUGE complex for camps. Holds about 400 people spread out in many different dorm barracks. Has a cafe, laundry, 24 hr self- service bar. And only 20 people are here. The host gave us our own room. He also said he would take Abby to the pharmacia in his car (but it got a little busy and he hasn’t been able too). But he gave her a pair of his own brand new clean socks for her to wear out in the rain since we were coming to the cafe to eat and it was raining. How nice is that?

Anyway, I have given Abby, Benadryl and Neosporin for her feet. Could be a reaction to walking in poo water. Who knows? We will go to the pharmacia in Santiago if it doesn’t clear up tonight. It is looking nasty.

Oh! And we heard from one of the guys we see every so often, that other people were having stomach issues after eating octopus in the same town we had eaten it at! Mmmm…perhaps this IS the source of our stomach problems after all.

And we continue on our journey with one adventure after another.

 

Walking and Walking and…More Walking

Silly girls

Silly girls

Just Keep on Walking

June 30, 2014

We thought we would walk about 4 miles today. I woke up very rested. I slept through the whole night and didn’t wake until 7 am. We are usually out the door by this time. Guess my body had another idea. I blame it on having a shot of the Irishman’s golden elixir. Worked better and tasted a lot smoother than the nasty NyQuil. Abby is still teasing me about having shots with the Irish.

Poor Abby. She spent the night in the bathroom with the porcelain throne goddess. Not quite as bad as what I had, but anytime you have to spend with a gassy, turbulent stomach that will not allow you to leave is not fun at all.

So we got up this morning not sure as to how far we would make it. Our legs, knee joints, hip joints were protesting. My stomach and back muscles hurt from all the heaving. Neither of us could think of food, let alone stand the smell of food wafting through the air. We just kept drinking…water, Aquarius…no more shots.

And we kept walking and walking. Slowly. But we saw friends we had met over the time we have been on the Camino. They would stop us to say hi, catch up with what has gone on and then they too, would walk ahead. It is never, “Good- bye” here on the trail, it is a ” See ya later Alligator” way.

We came to the one little place to stay, and it looked ratty. We decided to press on. Half- way to the next place, our bodies decided that they had, had enough. Tummy rumbling. Hips hurting. Feet growing tired. We were done. But we had to go on. No choice. As we walked by a bar, a group of women on the opposite side of the street at another bar saw us. A couple of them jumped up and took our picture. In fact one woman video taped us! Who were they and why were we singled out to be photographed? No idea.

We finally made it to Santa Irena or is it Ileana?. If we were in better condition we could have gone just 3Km more to the large town, but Abby was done. We stopped at the Xuntra (a government ran hostel with the basics- washer/dryer, hot shower, bunkbeds, a kitchen with no pots or pans) for 6€ each.

When we headed out this morning our goal was to walk 4 miles. We walked 17Km. Quite a distance. Way more than 4 miles. So we will rest up. Go to the bar next door for dinner (scrambled eggs and toast…if we can figure out how to say it in Spanish). Tomorrow, July 1, we will walk to the outskirts of Santiago and on July 2, we will descend to the end of the line.

Pictures are of us laying in our double bunkbed. I am hating bunkbeds. Can’t sit up straight. Waiting for the top one to collapse on us due to the two people above us doing things…ya…no manners here.