September 2011


In honor of finding my old journal, in honor of the very recent second anniversary of (my) Camino, in honor of the movie about Camino releasing next month, and mostly in honor of seeing that I am still walking it in my heart – I present to you the finale of mi caminar a través de España (here’s part 1 and part 2). And here‘s my pictures.

Day 10: Portomarín
The race is on: there over 300 beds in this town, and TONS of people are sleeping in the streets. The next town has a little over 100 beds, so we are getting concerned about finding places.
The walk today wound through peaceful countryside, which was a nice change of pace from being next to busy roads. It is amazing that with so many people walking, you can still be completely alone, unable to see anyone either in front of or behind you. If that happens in a patch where the yellow arrows are scarce, it can make you very nervous that you are lost.

There was a long line for the laundry sinks, so Jake & I went in with Jeanette & Esther to get a washer (rentable washers, like at a laundromat), but the piece of junk ate our money. Esther was hilarious.
My feet are healing from the blisters, although they still hurt really bad when walking. My hip, which mostly healed the day we went to O Cebreiro, chafed again from the Band-Aid so today I didn’t put anything on it.

Day 11: Palas de Rei
We booked it to make it here in time to get a spot in the municipal, which most of us did. We left half an hour earlier than normal, and the distance and number of beds are almost exactly the same as today, so I think we will do the same tomorrow. Some of us ate lunch with a French lady who is a swimsuit designer. Jake & I are not getting along at all.
I am ready to go home.

Day 12: Ribadoso
6 of us made it to the albergue in time to get a spot; everyone else was planning to go further. Then the albergue kicked out the first 15 people in line because they were a group – kids with chaperones. I hope they were able to find some other place to stay; that had to be stressful for the chaperones. But, they didn’t walk very far at all so I didn’t feel sorry for them having to walk more. This albergue is nice, actually (for an albergue) – our new definition of luxury. There are plenty of laundry sinks and more than enough space on the clotheslines. And, THE SHOWERS HAVE DOORS! The buildings are stone lodge style; there’s a lot of land, and it’s next to a little creek. So, even though the town doesn’t have much, we are glad we’re staying here. And, our little group of 6 is great – no whiners.
While walking up a hill with Esther today, she said, “I’m glad the guy with short shorts isn’t here.” About a minute later, I heard someone speaking Spanish to her behind me and then passing her. She squeaked, “Suzanne!” and I knew who it was. Sure enough, he came alongside me and I could see his white thighs out of the corner of my eye before he passed; then all that was left were his scrawny butt cheeks propelling him up the hill. We cracked up.

Things I am looking forward to:
1. not sleeping in a sports bra
2. paper towels, or any towels, in the bathroom
3. privacy while showering
4. not sleeping in a room full of snorers
5. wearing clean clothes
6. getting a full night’s sleep
“There is a vast, rich reality of obedience beneath the feet of disciples. They are not the first persons to ascend these slopes on their way of obedience to God, and they will not be the last.” – Eugene Peterson
This is the most striking thing about Camino for me – I am not the first to walk this, and I am not the last. We have been walking this path for thousands of years, all in our own way walking to God.

Day 13: O Pino (Arca)
It was overcast this morning and misting when we left. The last hour or so it rained on us. It was cold and wet and miserable waiting on the albergue to open, and it opened late because a girl collapsed or something right in front of the door.
The restaurant we ate lunch at was really good – prices were low, portions huge, food genuinely good, and waitress nice. Oh! and the bathroom had hot water, AND soap, AND paper towels. We are all really looking forward to arriving tomorrow and being FINISHED.
On Psalm 133 and community: “How great to have everyone sharing a common purpose, traveling a common path, striving toward a common goal, that path and purpose and goal being God…Living together means seeing the oil flow over the head, down the face, through the beard, onto the shoulders of the other – and when I see that I know that my brother, my sister, is my priest. When we see the other as God’s anointed, our relationships are profoundly affected…we are set apart for service to one another. We meditate to one another the mysteries of God. We represent to one another the address of God.” – Eugene Peterson
This chapter [from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction] really hit home for me. I love the idea of community but tend to shrink back from the reality. I want to pick and choose who my community is, but that’s not the way it works. In fact I have been intentionally avoiding relationship with some of the people God has given me to be my community. And even though I’m convicted about it now, I’m still not sure I want to do anything about it.

Day 14: Santiago
We got into Santiago around 11. There was no particular sense of celebration, because the walk here was itself celebratory. Our band of 6 walked more or less together the whole way, talking and laughing and taking our time. (Maybe this is how we should have walked most days?) We waited in line for about 2 hours for our compostelas, then ate lunch at Burger King. While we were waiting in line, an old lady came up to us and said we could stay at her house, so we did. This is not something I would have considered a few weeks ago, but seems perfectly normal now.

And there you have it: 2 weeks that changed how I think about God, my views on luxury and comfort, the way I give (and possibly more importantly, receive) hospitality, my approach to friendship, how I make it through hardship, my feelings toward seashells and yellow arrows. I was miserable almost the entire time, yet I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

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On Monday I went to the fitness center, which is just a small room with a treadmill, elliptical, and bike. And some weights. I really prefer to run outside but since my knees are like 30 years older than the rest of my body I just can’t do that as my sole exercise. Ellipticals are perfect: full body, weight bearing, no impact. And I’m not picky on quality so when the complex said they had a fitness center, and I observed on our tour that there was in fact an elliptical, I was thrilled with the idea of saving a gym fee every month.

The only problem was, I couldn’t get my key in the lock. At all. When the office opened I walked to the office with Asher in the Ergo and met the really nice lady who is the manager and she just fawned all over Asher. (I have noticed that tends to happen with him. He is handy like that if we want/need something done.) Anyway she said that lock has issues sometimes and they would look at it. I tried my key later in the day, still to no avail, and returned to the office. I talked to the same lady – I kept it super nice, by the way, I know there’s no point to getting all huffy about it – just to see if they’d had a chance to look at it, so I would know if it was my key that was the problem. She said they were going to have to re-key it and that would happen either before the maintenance guys went home or very first thing the next morning. Tuesday morning I went, same problem. Same thing again Wednesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon Jake took Asher swimming in the pool just next to the fitness center so I asked him to try the key another time before I went back to the office. Later:

Jake: Your key to the fitness center works just fine.
me: Really? Did they fix the lock?
Jake: I don’t know. Which door were you putting the key in?
me: the fitness center door.
Jake: There’s 2 doors near each other, which one were you trying?
me: (describe door)
Jake: Yeah…that’s the door to the community center. Your key to the fitness center works fine.

Oops. Possibly the worst part of it is, when I went on Thursday (and successfully entered the fitness center) it turns out the A/C is broken. Like someone set the thermostat on 50 but the temperature is reading 85. And I obviously can’t go report that after being such an idiot.

I love driving with the windows down. Today the weather was perfect for such a venture so I packed up the little guy and we headed out, The Legend of Chin* turned up loud enough to hear over street noise but not so loud as to damage little ears. We were on a quest to procure rations for our bare larder, so we went to Ft. Worth to check out what my friend Paige affectionately calls “the poor people’s grocery store.” It’s a surplus/dented can place called Town Talk, and it’s sort of a gamble on what they have when you go. I particularly needed staple items such as flour and spices and Paige assured me that they always have that stuff, although maybe not exactly what you’re looking for.

Both of the guest houses we stayed in had spices so we didn’t purchase many. (Actually, the first house had a HUGE pantry that was crammed full – in a neatly organized fashion – with nonperishables. So, so awesome. The second house had a few spices; I took the liberty of throwing away ones that were purchased from a now-defunct pharmacy and expired in ’94. I bought a few to fill in the gaps.) Spices can be quite pricey, especially if you need to buy a bunch all at once. They ranged between .88 and $2.99 for a normal-sized bottle (although you can also buy in bulk), so it’s not too painful to stock up; my spice rack is now full, along with my pantry and freezer. The kitchen is back in business!

And, I just want to say that Asher did so well at the store, even though it was a marathon grocery run and I normally try to do grocery runs of any distance solo. He ate his snacks and charmed anyone around us with his smile and “HI!” and only got loud once. He’s such a great kid, even if people do keep calling him a “she.”

*In my opinion this is one of the best driving-with-the-windows-down albums of all time.

So, we moved. Apparently God cleaned out His inbox or something and Jake got 4 job offers within 24 hours. We promptly found an apartment – we got a GREAT deal – and waited an extra week for the carpet to be replaced. And then, we moved. 90% of our stuff was in a storage unit, and had been for 3 years. We have been living with other people’s stuff for 3 years and really, when it’s been that long since you’ve seen things that technically belong to you, it sorta feels like getting someone else’s stuff again. (Except my stoneware. That was never far from my heart.)

Anyway, we got a lot more help than we anticipated, which made the actual transfer of Stuff much more speedy than we anticipated. (After we got the moving truck. The place we rented the truck from sort of forgot to open that morning so we thought we were basically going to have to move in a pickup and the Yaris but fortunately they remembered about us after the first trip. I believe we will be getting a discount for the inconvenience.) I am so impressed with how nice people can be. Moving totally sucks but for some reason people are willing to help you with it. And, we are friends with a couple who live in this complex and they have been the most awesome neighbors. Michele kept Asher the morning of the move, then she spent the rest of her weekend washing dishes and getting my kitchen set up. She is probably actually an ANGEL because I would be sitting catatonic in the floor if I had to do it myself. AND she keeps taking loads of laundry away and bringing back baskets of clean, neatly folded towels. It’s like magic. Oh, AND they had us over for dinner the night after the move. Oh, AND Brian is also a voracious reader like me but is also the spender of the pair unlike me which means he has an AMAZING book/music/movie collection and he said I can borrow whatever I want. I don’t think it can get much better. I love having people we know nearby to do stuff with. We anticipate many dinners ensemble and game nights and fun stuff like that.

All that to say – we’re not homeless anymore.