Gear video

This is just a little video about the gear I’m taking on the Ouachita Trail.

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The adventures continue

I had all the wrong gear on the Camino and I didn’t realize it until a few months ago. I met many people and had many conversations about gear but to me, it really didn’t matter. Everything I needed was on my back, and even stuff I didn’t need. Heading north from Madrid with a pack that was too big for me at 27.5lbs (12.5 kilos). I had a ridiculous amount of stuff, I finally will admit. At the time I had a really nice journal I wanted to take. I didn’t care that it weighed 12.5oz (354g). In fact I didn’t even know how much it weighed till just now! I borrowed a synthetic sleeping bag from a friend that was rated to freezing temps and was too heavy for what the hike was. I brought four shirts when I really only needed two. I carried 4 liters of water but the truth was that was probably double the amount I needed! I also was quite oblivious to being potentially the only peligrino with cotton underwear. I can’t remember everything else I had but after doing research now that I should have done then… I’ll just say, I had a pretty impressively heavy camino!

And even though I look back and laugh at myself for the ridiculousness I carry, I still smile because of what I was able to accomplish. I learned a lot about myself – that no weight on my back would slow me down, no blister or pain in my body would stop me, and that when faced with anything that life should throw at me, I have the ability to stand strong.

With all that being said, I am grateful now that I have done research, because the trips I am doing this summer would not be possible with my camino packing mentality! I’m literally counting ounces and while I still have a few luxury items I think are necessary, I’ve got a pack weighing the same as I did on the camino – including a tent, stove, and food for 6-8 days.

This weekend I will attempt a 2 week thru hike on the Ouachita Trail. I say attempt because I’m aware of the weather they’ve been having in Oklahoma and Arkansas and it’s possible there will be some rivers and streams that are impassible.  But I’m going to attempt it and see how it goes. It’s a good thing I don’t mind the rain. This trip is really a practice run for the Colorado Trail which will be a little over twice the distance and I plan to start that one on my birthday in June.

When I get the final touches put on my pack, I might do a blog about what I’m taking if that is of interest to anyone. I’m no expert here – just a girl crazy about the outdoors and doing what I need to get there.

**And a note to those who have been following me the past few years – you may have noticed that I didn’t start this post with a picture of Cuddles.  Sadly, she passed away last August but she lived a long life, filling me with happiness for 16 years.

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El Camino de Santiago

 

This blog strays from my usual format.  I’m not reflecting on something or looking forward to a change in my future.  I have sat with my reflections on the Camino for awhile and after reading my journal a few times, I felt it was time to share it.  This is me, one girls journey, across the North of Spain.

 

31/8/13       16:21                     Pamplona

Hi, I’m Sarah. And I’ve decided to walk the Camino de Santiago. It hasn’t really set in yet, 30 days is a long time to walk. I gave up coffee once, for 40 days. And I thought that was hard. I do love a good challenge and I feel this one isn’t so bad. It will make me better physically, emotionally, and most importantly – spiritually. As if walking for 30 days isn’t enough, I’ve also committed to journaling all 30 days. I don’t know who will read this or if I’ll even share it with anyone. Even if I don’t feel different at the end, it will be amazing to hold a book of experiences.

Why am I walking? I suppose I’ve struggled with this question since it was first asked of me. I decided I wanted to do it before really knowing what it was. It began as an adventure. How cool would it be to finish something so great?! And while I was deciding for fun, God had something else in mind. The Camino was entered on to my bucket list 10.5 months ago. Since then I have been on a spiritual journey. My desire-thirst-hunger for God has multiplied tremendously. People call The Camino a spiritual walk. How perfect then, that it has fallen into my timeline at this moment in my life. Thirty days is a long time walking… but to develop a constant and continuous communion with God… hopefully it’s long enough. I would love to come out of this so strong in faith, so committed, so in love with God – that no worldly thing could distract me. As for the rest, I’m excited about the experiences. The people I will meet. The stores I’ll hear.

It still hasn’t sunk in. I’ve been preparing for a very long time… almost a year. A large portion of my equipment was gifted to me by friends and family. I was given a last-minute “how-to-pack-your-pack” demo from my brother. And all the sudden, here I am. Only managed four hours of sleep last night. Nervous excitement – brain wouldn’t stop, nerves wouldn’t calm… On the way to the train station, I finalized my bet with Host Daddy. He thinks I’ll be on his doorstep on 15 Sept. But I’ll be collecting the €20 on 2 Oct. The train ride was sleepless. My body is already tired, I’m hoping for sleep tonight.

I’m sitting in Pamplona, waiting for the bus to St. Jean Pied de Port, France – where I’ll begin the 789.1km journey to Santiago de Compostela. I weigh 70.2kg. My pack weighs 12.5 kg. Not gonna lie, it’s kinda heavy. I walked around Pamplona a bit and really felt the weight. But it’ll really be just good incentive to drink water. I’m starting the walk alone. I have been so confident coming into this. And then today as I started seeing other pilgrims, I started to shy up a bit. They all look so professional – like they know what they’re doing. But it’s only a matter of time before my routine develops and becomes my life. And I’ve got prayer – I’ll always have that. Bus should be here soon. And then ready or not, the moment will be here. Time to start El Camino de Santiago!

 

31/8/13      23:17                     St. Jean Pied de Port

It started in the bus. I sat next to an older man and his two friends behind us. A 1 hr 45 min bus ride – up and down the Pyrenees… the whole time they were talking about how hard it will be to climb. A bit strange to think about. Paying €20 for a ride over the Pyrenees just so we can walk it the next day. We arrived and I was lost, of course. So I followed other pilgrims. We ended up being one of the first ones to get our stamp. I asked about a room. He asked if I was alone. There was another guy there alone and he said, “You guys, together, this albergue.” So I began looking for this place with my new friend from Madrid. On the way we saw a cheaper place – only €10. We checked it out and it’s basically a house. This lady has 15 beds and a whole list of crazy rules. Number 1 being – “Don’t stress” and “No shoes.” She won’t even allow sandals inside her house in backpacks. Literally five minutes after we agreed to it, the place filled up. The entire city really. Too many people – not enough beds. Pepe and I started walking around and found two other guys we had seen at our albergue. Needless to say, we already started our “Camino family.” We all want to finish in about the same time – give or take a day. There is an older guy from Germany who lives in Mallorca, his birthday is 27 Sept. A guy from Brazil – looks to be in his 20s. And Pepe who is 31, with a girlfriend. Ha. Glad I found out early! It’s amazing how quickly we all fell together. I mean, the French guys working at the desk “assigned” Pepe and I together! And in a matter of minutes – my confidence returned, shyness gone, nervousness peaced… God had this planned long before I knew I was coming. I’m looking forward to what comes of it all. We had a pilgrim’s menu for dinner. We plan to get up at 8am and hopefully will eat and be on the road by 9. A bit later than I wanted – but I trust these guys and I’d rather walk with them. I think it’s about 27-28km to Roncesvalles. The hardest day, yet the most rewarding. Hopefully tonight I can sleep. Oh by the way, Pepe did research on every city and made his own guide book. Insane work! Today I spent: 1.30 – bus, 4.95 – lunch, 10 – albergue, 12.5 – dinner, 28.75 – total. Hopefully it’ll get cheaper. Thank you God for this experience. I’m excited for tomorrow!

PS. I’m a bit unorganized… hopefully it’ll all come together soon.

PSS. One the way home we heard a lady singing – or what sounded like it – coming from a church. We went inside, and a woman was singing opera in a stone-walled church. It was absolutely incredible.

 

 

1/9/13                   20:45                     Roncesvalles                      25.1 km                Day 1

Oh, where do I start… When I think about this morning it feels like it could have been a week ago. So much happened… yet all I did was walk. There was a group of Italians in our room that woke up extremely early this morning. They didn’t respect the “rules.” I actually didn’t mind because I wanted an earlier start. Pepe and I decided to get up at 7:30am and started packing. Hilmar (the German) and Ulissis (the Brazilian) were ready as well and we went looking for lunch for the day – as there wouldn’t be much food along the way. I ordered a vegetarian sandwich, but apparently my French isn’t very good because I got ham and cheese. I ended up giving the meat to Hilmar. Nothing else was open. The guys were wandering around and I started getting anxious to leave. We finally did leave a little before 9. There was no warming up to the climb… It was uphill from the start, 20 freakin kilometers of it! After a while it would start downhill and I thought, “all right – almost there!” But noooo… a steeper and more difficult climb to come.

We stopped for a coffee, later for wine, later for a quick bite, but the rest of the time was steady walking. The guys I’ve adopted are fantastic walkers! We kept a nice steady pace that kept my heart rate up. It felt good. As we climbed, the fog got thicker until we could hardly see 10 ft. ahead. But it was awesome. We saw tons of animals: sheep, horses, and cows – mostly. A herd of cows actually walked by us and I got a picture petting one! But immediately after, I sanitized…

We saw a flock of sheep with a sheep dog and a shepherd – that was actually super cool.

It’s cool what they say about the whole Camino becoming your family… we saw a bunch of people over and over! We finished in about seven hours. Much better than I had thought! My shoulders are sore, my feet are tired (although – blister free!!) and my body is ready to crash.

PS. I just got a bloody nose. While attending to it, I looked around, at this room that holds 120 people and it’s cool to see so many people journaling. While I was getting tissue, I forgot to grab my ear plugs. 😦

We finally got to the top of the mountain and began the downhill descent. Three kilometers of super steep slopes. I don’t know which was harder because my knees were killing me…! We did arrive, stood in a line to get a bed, put our stuff down, and went to make a reservation for dinner. The guys stayed to have a beer. I came back to get in line for the shower. Two showers for all the women… I waited a good 45 min. When it was my turn for the shower, I pressed the button and the water was ice cold. But then, thankfully, it warmed up… to just cold. At that point, I was super thankful because ice cold was too difficult. (PS somebody just took a picture of me writing).

I finished my shower and I saw the guys had just gotten to theirs. They finished 10 min later. Sigh… We went to do laundry – I hand washed my clothes for the first time. 🙂 They had a nice washroom with big sinks. Then we grabbed a beer before dinner. The food was good and filing. Two helpings of pasta, then fish and fries. Flan for dessert, and wine too. Now I’m in bed tired. It’s funny because even though I feel like so much happened today – now I can’t remember it all. Ah, there is a place people leave stuff they brought and don’t want. I grabbed dry shampoo, ha, because my pack doesn’t weight enough already. Oh, I hear a snorer!

4.50 – sandwich, 1 – coffee, 2 – wine, 2.50 – beer, 9 – dinner, 6 – albergue, 25 – total. Time to sleep. Good night!

 

2/9/13                   18:13                     Larrasoaña                          27.4 km                Day 2

You know that feeling when you’re in too much pain to write… well, its good pain, really. It reminds me of the first few days of insanity. Hobbling around like a grandma, but when it’s time to go, you go! I have a bruise on the top of my foot that’s kinda swollen, my knees ache from the downhill parts, and my muscles are simply sore. Some people have said today was harder than yesterday. Difficulty-wise, no way! But while being tired and sore, the bodies are done! I walked most of the way with Hilmar, the German. He walks really fast. In the beginning he left me really far behind – I have to go super slow downhill. We all met up for a coffee and then I kept up. At one point we missed the route and took an extra-long detour. Heh. One thing he brought up was how simple life is for us. Like last night, we had a bed, shelter, a meal… and we were happy! We saw two horses, one looking forward, and the other at its side but turned around looking back. One white, one brown. I thought nothing of it until Hilmar brought it up. I suppose there is an analogy there. Our albergue tonight has four beds in one room. The other couple is from Australia and has been planning this trip for four years. They are older but going strong! I left my dry shampoo there I had picked up the day before. I had a hot shower – which was amazing! – well the temperature was. I didn’t enjoy the act of showering, although it does feel good to be clean. I had a couple beers and relaxed, and now I’m waiting for dinner. Hungry! The bruise on my foot is big. I should take a picture.

Today I started to pray. I have a prayer list of people, some that have asked and others that haven’t. I begin to pray, but I end up going in circles. I’m at a loss for words. How do I pray for people, and what do I say? Especially if I’m asking for God’s will to be done, what good am I doing? I’m basically saying, I want you to do what you already have planned for this person. Cure them of cancer or don’t. Comfort this person, call this person to you, etc. How does my prayer help if God already has his plan? Like, if I pray for someone to develop a thirst for Christ or that people are put in their life… does God say, “Ok, since you’ve asked, now I’ll do it”? I dunno. I know it’s important. And maybe I’ll never know how it truly works. But I’d like to know how to pray… At one point I recited The Lord’s Prayer. That’s how Jesus said to pray.

Hilmar was telling me that he’s pretty into mantras. He has a few that he does, but there is one that he does that is super powerful because somebody taught it to him, which means a lot of people do it, which means there is a lot more energy…

And while prayer is powerful, is 30 people praying more powerful than one? Or is the power in connecting with God? Things to think about anyway…

I’m still enjoying the walk. I haven’t gotten bored yet. But I guess I’m only two real days in… hopefully the swelling goes down in my foot. Well, I’m gonna pee then get to dinner, which I’m sure will be lovely. Oh, by the way, it was soooo quiet last night! I slept like a baby! We left at 7:10, arrived about 3-3:10, a solid eight hours!

2.75 – breakfy, 5.50 – lunch, 1.20 – coffee, 3.40 – beers, 12 – dinner, 25 – total. I can’t believe I’m actually walking across Spain……

PS. The dinner was absolutely incredible! Best meal so far! The guy across from me started to tell me things. He watched people climb a difficult hill, in the hot sun, and knowing this particular hill, I felt the pain, he then told me that in their faces was light – they were smiling. How close are suffering and happiness? The moment the suffering stops – happiness is there. Similar for laughter and crying. I found it very interesting. He also told me, at one point, he realized he was alone – no one in front or behind. He started to freak out, thinking he missed the turn and would have to keep walking. Then he saw a cat (there are lots of strays around here) and he suddenly wanted to give it food, to take care of it. He spent a good five minutes scrounging up some cheese, the cat inhaled it and ran away. The guy stood up happily – taking care of something else took his mind off himself… and then he arrived to the town five minutes later.

 

3/9/13                   17:00                     Cizur Menor                       20.9 km                Day 3

Every muscle aches. My feet are begging for mercy. At one point today, my knee started acting up so much – I had to stop because I couldn’t walk. But later I began to use my walking stick like a cane, and it started feeling much better.

Every day is completely different. Today was extremely beautiful and then we hit a town that was alive with people and it stayed that way all the way through Pamplona. For some reason, it really drained me. We walked around the city, had a few pinchos, and walked to where we are now. It was only 14:00 – but I was ready to stop. Thankfully Pepe was too. Cheapest albergue so far. I waited a long time for the shower and when I finally opened the door, I saw there were two… I got the washing done and went for a snack. Now I’m in bed waiting for dinner. I could sleep now though…

I don’t really have anything to reflect on today. Each day is still exciting and full of adventure. I keep trying to pray but I lose focus. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been walking with people, although a lot of time we aren’t talking. The guys are awesome but are starting to irritate me. It’s probably just because I’m tired. I haven’t felt alone since the first day. I still see other people walking alone and I wonder how different my experience would be.

I’m not quite sure what else to write about now. The breakfy place was awesome, there was a stone oven and she put my bread in to toast. Lol. Pepe is on his phone all the time, texting pics, Facebook, etc. The more I see him use it, the less I want to connect. I’m going to try and stay off the internet the whole time. I’ve just been sending one text a day so my mom will know I’m alright.

Oh, and the number of languages is insane! Sometimes it feels like the tower of babel but yet there is always a way or language we use to understand each other. I saw an overweight woman doing The Camino. Mad props to her! I just wanted to go give her a huge hug! Ok, gonna rest and read The Bible before dinner.

2.70 – breakfy, 3.50 – snack, 6.50 – lunch, 3.60 – snack, 5 – albergue, 10 – dinner, 31.30 – total (oops! It was the pinchos…..)

 

4/9/13                   15:15-30 ish?                      Puenta la Reina                 19 km                    Day 4

This morning as the sun rose, I saw sunflowers come to life. A whole field of them. They had all been looking down and as the sun started to peak, they began to lift their faces, hundreds of them, all facing the same direction, following the sun the whole day, never looking away… I can learn a lot from the sunflowers. To spend every waking moment focused on God, sun up to sun down… never looking away. And in the evening, dreaming about the next day’s sun…

We had a long climb this morning, but the day in itself was so beautiful! Today, I walked mostly by myself. Not intentionally, it’s just kinda how it played out. It actually felt really good being alone. Every once in a while I’d pass somebody. I had two quick convos, one with Margaret from Apple,CO – CA and Michael from Australia. I’ve written the names so I’ll remember for when I see them again. I arrived to where I am now with sore feet and tired legs… and some knees with pain… I was standing in line at the albergue when Pepe started calling my name. He and the other guys were waiting for me across the street. I told them I was staying. He said they were going a bit further. I just couldn’t. So, I said goodbye. I don’t know if I’ll see them again. They do have a pretty quick pace. After I got my bed and sat down, I began to feel alone again. I only knew these people three-ish days but it felt much longer. I started to wish I had continued. But it may not be so bad this way…

I showered, did the washing, and laid down. One hour later… haha. It was a nice and much needed siesta. The room I’m staying in has six beds – and almost everyone is from a different country. The woman below me only speaks French. I just can’t get over how international it is! After the siesta I went for a walk around the village. One lady recognized me and invited me to join them for dinner that night – no longer alone. I found out later that it was this same lady I had helped on the first day to pick the right direction! Earlier today, I stopped for refreshments. A baby kitten, and I assume its mother, were looking at me. Skinny – super skinny. I started sharing my tortilla with them. They must’ve been starving. I made two new friends. 🙂 I felt super bad when I ran out of food. I think I’m gonna go check my laundry and read for a bit before dinner.

1.50 – breakfy, 4.60 – snack, 4.10 – lunch, 10 – dinner, 5 – albergue, 25.20 – total.

PS. I saw people running The Camino today… crazy! Apparently, they send their packs ahead in a car to meet them at their destination.

PSS. Dinner tonight was awesome! I sat at a table with seven other people from Australia, England, and North America. They were all a bit older than me. The same couple Hilmar and I shared a room with in Larrasoaña were there too! They reminded me a lot of grandma and grandpa. I had a really good time with them that night. None of them spoke hardly a word of Spanish so I got to exercise my skill and help them out. One of the guys asked me if I would stay with them the rest of the way!! Unfortunately I want to finish a bit quicker than them. I found it funny that it was only a few hours earlier I was saddened by my loneliness yet with this group I was restored by connection!

 

5/9/13                   22:03                     Los Arcos                             43 km                   Day 5

Yup, I walked 43 km today. For many reasons… First – I got to the original intended destination at 11:45am and second – because I’d love to walk to Finesterre, which means I need to be in Santiago by the 27th. So today, I did two etapas in one day. 🙂 It was a really good day. Four out of the six in my room woke up at 4:30am… not so pleasant, but I did fall asleep again. I walked a majority on my own. And it was perfect. I kept seeing the French woman that slept below me last night. Neither of us spoke a language the other understood but I kept saying “Buen Camino” to her and each time she saw me, she smiled more and more and then I started saying “bon jour.” After starting the second etapa, I found The Camino quite deserted and figured it would be a silent rest of the way. At the last 10 km, I ran into 2 people, German and Australian, man and woman – they included me in their walk, so I stayed with them. I wish I had more time to write about them. They did stop a lot more than I would have – but that entire 10 km stretch was in the middle of nowhere. I would have done it an hour quicker – but the company was more than worth it. Later on, we ran into another woman from New York who asked to join us, so the four of us continued on. About four km from our destination, a man came up and asked for water, I gave him my extra bottle and he continued on. There were no fountains the last 15 km and he hadn’t prepared for it! He also had no idea how much further he had to go, and with seeing no one else on the path, the poor guy was probably worried! We finally arrived and New York lady (Melanie?) took off. The three of us looked for an albergue… but at 6pm they were all full!! We found out later that they were full even at 4, so if I had walked faster, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Oh, I saw Pepe and Ulissis – so I caught up. 🙂 We ran into the boy from before – he’s from Latvia and the four of us found a hotel for €25 each. 😦 But I took advantage of the shower!

I’m sharing a room with the boy that I just met. The Camino does strange things. Ha. We walked into the room and there were two twin beds next to each other. The first thing I did was separate them by a good couple feet so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea. We had a nice dinner and now to bed. I’m extra tired today. Tomorrow (and through Sunday) it will rain. It actually started raining tonight during dinner, pouring rain with thunder! The plan is to walk with Heidi, Michael will take a bus because he needs to get his shoe fixed. Hopefully later I’ll have time to talk about these wonderful people.

1.60 – breakfy, 7.90 – lunch, 11 – dinner, 25 – hotel, 45.50 – total.

 

 

6/9/13                   21:30                     Logroño                               28.6 km                Day 6

After all the rain last night, we were sure it would rain along the way today. But we woke up with clear blue sky! Heidi ended up taking the bus with Michael. 28 km today would push it a bit much for her and her legs were still a bit swollen. She’s also quite a bit older than me and doesn’t have the advantage of my youth! I took off with Latvian Walter. He started reading a book while walking and I left him behind. Before I let him I asked him why he read while walking. He said for him it was great, it was a self-help book and he would read something, then spend the next few minutes meditating on it. It just reminded me how everybody does The Camino differently! Walter was telling us the night before how he started in France like we all had. But he didn’t arrive until 11pm and all the albergues were full… so he slept outside. He was cold and woke up at 4:00am and started walking then. Which means he didn’t get the stamp from SJPP!! He says he’s got the memory and that’s enough for him.

I passed a lot of people – especially on the hills. My right knee still bothers me. In fact, at the moment it’s quite swollen. I may borrow a knee brace from Heidi for tomorrow – if it’ll fit. I walked super-fast and arrived to Logroño at 1:30! I was very lucky because the albergue filled up at 2:00! I met up with Heidi and Michael and we spent the afternoon together. Really great people. I had been to Logroño before so I was able to show them around and took them down the pincho street. It was here that I decided 10 months ago, to do The Camino.

We sat down for dinner and the thunder started. I remembered our clothes were drying outside so Heidi and I ran back to find out that they had brought everything in. Whew. We grabbed our raincoats and headed back out. All the sudden it started hailing so hard! A piece landed on my head and it hurt. I turned around to have my back to the wind. Heidi yelled my name from across the street and I looked and saw she had found a shelter and was telling me to do the same. I found an overhang and there we waited… then tons of water came pouring down. After the rain let up, we headed back to the restaurant where Michael was waiting. It was actually great because the puddles we couldn’t avoid were cold and felt great on the feet. Dinner was lovely – and I said bye to Michael. He was staying at a hotel. He also decided he wanted to walk alone tomorrow. I’ll take off walking with Heidi but I’ll end up going further. I’m praying we will both be able to find beds.

That afternoon we sat inside the cathedral. I kept asking God if He was there – inside that church – inside the glorious buildings and decorations… being raised the way I have, it’s a concept I struggle with. But I concluded that He was there.

PS. I need to remind myself to talk about the white butterflies. Now for sleep…

2:30 – breakfy, 2.70 – lunch, 3.50 – pincho, 7 – albergue, 30.30 – total.

* The white butterflies. At one point, I don’t remember which day, I started noticing the white butterflies. I started thinking about how when Jesus was baptized, the white dove flew and represented the Holy Spirit. I decided that each time I saw a white butterfly, it was my reminder that the Holy Spirit was with me. I saw tons throughout the month…

 

7/9/13                   20:33                     Nájero                                  30.1 km                Day 7

Last night it was a bit difficult to sleep. Twenty-five-ish people in the room and one guy snored – but it was the loudest snore I’ve ever heard. The same guy had been taking a nap in the afternoon which was a nice preview of what his snore would be… but I had actually hoped he wouldn’t need to sleep as much since he had the nap! To be honest, I’m not sure he ever got up between the nap and bedtime! I didn’t want to get up to get my ear plugs… so I still haven’t used any. Ha.

I woke up at 4:30am because other people did. I was in and out of sleep until 6 when I got up. Heidi and I set off about 7. I used her brace and it helped a lot. Although I do think it fits a bit tight. My other knee started to hurt, of course. I had a huge blister on my foot that I popped yesterday. It’s still pretty sore. Other than all of that, I feel great. It was too fast until I had to say bye to Heidi. In fact I even teared up as I began walking away. I don’t know why. She does remind me a lot of grandma though. Hopefully I’ll see her in London on my layover. I kept on – not stopping – the next 10.4 km. I was in a lot of pain but I knew I had to hurry for risk of not having a bed. Oh – it rained for much of the morning. And as I entered Nájero it started again which just added to the rush of finding the albergue. I did make it, eventually, and there were only four beds left! This is one thing I’m not a fan of, I feel like I have to wake up early and rush all morning to make sure I have a bed, then I arrive and prepare to rush again. I don’t know if I should try to start making reservations or what… even if it costs a little more, I would be guaranteed a place and I wouldn’t have to rush. Like tomorrow I’ll probably end up waking up at 5 instead of 6. Earlier in the day I met Carmen, who was walking with her daughter. She’s from Sevilla so we were able to practice my Spanish a bit. She and her daughter arrived shortly after me and took the last two beds!

I had an interesting adventure after dinner. I was looking for my bank but settled on a different one – although later I did end up seeing it around the corner. I stuck my card in the ATM and nothing happened. I kept pressing buttons but I couldn’t get it to work and then I couldn’t get my card out! There was a guy waiting so I asked him to help me call the bank. Long story short, they canceled my card. I have €20 until I find a bank but there won’t be one open until Monday. I started to stress thinking how I’d manage the next two days (at least) without money. I have my US credit card but it doesn’t work in ATMs… then I remembered I had money hidden in my bag! Thank you Jesus. 🙂 Bed time. I’m sleeping next to a French kid who is quite funny. And I think he actually just got his heart broken – he had been walking with a girl who told him she wanted to walk alone the next day. Poor guy.

1.50 – breakfy, 6.20 – lunch, 13.20 – dinner, 1.70 – fruit, 3 – albergue (donativo – I only gave three because at that point I hadn’t remembered my hidden money), 25.60 – total.

 

8/9/13                   written the next day      Redicilla del Camino        32.1 km                Day 8

Today I woke up with the early birds, 5:15am. I was out the door at 6 and only went a minute before I realized I forgot my walking stick. I left wearing my poncho in the dark, all alone on The Camino. My little light didn’t light up the path very well. There were some crossroads where I really spent time searching for that yellow arrow. The feeling when you finally see the yellow arrow – well I just can’t explain it… the assurance of the path. When I stopped for breakfy, it was still quite dark. I finally had a napolitana de chocolate. It was light out when I started again. I had popped a huge blister back in Logroño and it hurt so badly. I had put on a Compeed – not knowing how they worked. Long story short – it was a bad idea. I stopped after a while to rest my feet and my super sore knees. I looked up and saw Pepe passing! After a couple more minutes I got up and walked fast to catch up to him (poor knees). He was so surprised to see me and we caught up on the last few days, and boy what an adventure he had had!

He’d arrived to Nájera at 5:30-6pm with no place to stay. A very long story short, he had friends in Logroño that came, picked him up, and took him to a town about 6 km up the road. Did I mention it was raining?! Poor guy. We walked through Santo Domingo, beautiful city. After a pincho, we continued on. Oh the pain… It felt good to be walking with somebody again, especially after having to say bye to Heidi the day before. We ended up in Redicilla and I could hardly walk. To our surprise, Ulissis was at the same albergue!! In walking through the small town, I had seen a sign for massages, blister cleaning, taping, etc. that was all donativo. I was there right at 4pm when they opened. She was a super nice lady and I kept apologizing for the nastiness of my feet. The Compeed had really messed things up but she did manage to get it all clean. She gave me some gauze and tape to help. It does hurt pretty bad – hopefully it doesn’t impair me for long. She also used KT tape on my knees. Hopefully it will help. The plan was to go 30+ km the next day – I even made a reservation so I could take it easy. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew it would kill my knees – and feet. I met a girl named Jill from Boston. She had started 11 days prior but got blisters on both her pinky toes and it really held her back. We ended up talking until dinner time. Pepe joined us too and then we went to eat. Later Ulissis joined. We had a great meal.

As we finished, a Spanish lady started talking to us. She was on a road trip and had stopped for the night. She started asking us questions – why we were walking The Camino and what our stories were. She summarized all our reasons and started giving us advice. Jill, who is 29, doesn’t speak Spanish so I translated for her – it was really good practice for me. Her main point was, “el espíritu existe, y el espíritu mueve la gente.” It was a powerful conversation – a couple people teared up. It was no coincidence we were all there at the same place and the same time. Mercedes is her name – she actually writes for the Galician Dixital newspaper, and she’s going to write about us on 26 Sept.

We got to bed pretty late that night. There was so much on my mind – so much to think about. I had so much trouble sleeping – the knees hurt so bad – the blister was killing me… Why am I walking? Is it worth all this pain? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Am I running this Camino – sprinting through – just to get to the finish line? Am I missing pieces along the way? Maybe my pain is to slow me down – to start appreciating the small things. Slowing down is not part of the plan – but maybe having the plan is the problem…

2.50 – breakfy, 4.70 – lunch, 5 – albergue, 20 – medic lady, 10 – dinner, 42.20 – total. Eeeek!

 

9/9/13                   18:41                     Belorado                              11.8 km                Day 9

This morning I slept till 7… left at 8. Very late. There were only three of us left. Jill, a biker, and myself. Jill and I left together. We walked very slowly and my knees didn’t hurt. I decided to keep it short today and stop with Jill. It was a hard thing to do – to get behind my plan. But I know it’s just as hard for her, so we are in this together. We had great conversation on the way here – time passed so quickly. Religion – spiritual stuff – inspiration – arrows – miracles – everything… I really enjoyed it a lot. We plan to walk together tomorrow also – leaving at 5:30am. Ha. We need a head start. I just talked to her dad on the phone and he gave me some knee advice. We went to the pharmacy and I got gauze and drugs. I also went to the bank, got €350 in cash, and arranged for my card to be in Leon by Tuesday – so hopefully it’ll be there! One thing Pepe said yesterday is that in the small towns, he feels like a fish swimming in water. In the big towns he feels like an octopus in a garage. I just thought that was great. We found an albergue that was full by 11:30! We found another that filled up soon after we arrived. It has nice showers – six of them with hot water and high pressure. Jill and I split the cost to wash and dry our clothes.

Part of my convo with Jill this morning was about her conversion to Catholicism. I’m beginning to open my mind a little more. Trying to understand what works for other people – how their faith fits them. It’s ok to be different – how could we know what’s right or wrong? Our relationship with God is what’s most important. Time for dinner. I’ll leave space in case I write more later.

Dinner was great! We sat with two other Americans who were a bit older. We talked a lot about The Camino – about faith, about what we’ve been learning, about how substantial our impact can be on humanity. Both were lovely ladies. Then another lady joined us. She spoke English but her native language is French. She lives on a little island near Madagascar called “Reunion Island.” It’s owned by the French. I’m meeting people from everywhere!

2.50 – snack, 2.50 – 2nd snack, 10.50 – pharmacy (credit card), 1.08 – fruit, 5 – albergue, 13 – dinner, 34.58 – total.

 

10/9/13       15:50                     St. Juan de Ortega                           24.3 km                Day 10

Today I was anxious to get walking again. Jill and I were up at 5am getting ready to leave. We were out the door at 6 and had a good hour walking in the dark. It took eight hours to do it all – the pace was good because I really needed to slow down for my knees, although it was hard not to push myself when people passed us… my competitive nature. Poor Jill has the worst blisters. Hopefully they get better soon so we can pick up the pace. Although, the slow speed has me looking around more, soaking up where I am, what I’m doing… We arrived to the albergue about 13:30. Not too many people here, which is nice. A lot of people must have gone on ahead to the next town. It’ll be a shorter distance to Burgos. We will wake up early again and hopefully be able to get a bed somewhere. The population in this town is 30. Ha. Albergue, bar, and church. I may go to mass tonight, if for nothing else then to refocus. I was thinking today, that I remember days that I felt alone/lonely… but after looking back at the number of people I’ve met, and walked with – it’s hard to believe being alone can exist. I think Jill will try and keep up with me from here on. Although if we get a reservation somewhere, maybe I’ll walk faster that day. I dunno.

Why am I walking? What am I learning? Am I satisfied with the experience so far? I’m a third of the way done – already. So much thought goes into planning where I’ll stay, when I’ll arrive to Santiago, what’s the plan after… it’s easy to lose track of the moment. Tomorrow will worry about itself… Why am I so “planorific?”

I was thinking the other day… will this pain ever stop? Will I ever know what it’s like without pain? Can I walk The Camino pain-free? That’s my challenge – the physical. I’ve heard there are three parts to this journey: physical, then emotional, then spiritual. I’m pretty strong mentally – or so I think. I’ve got a great physical base – or so I thought. I figured, this is awesome, I’ll just skip to the spiritual and have a whole month of it. The first few days I was struggling spiritually, walking fast and thinking about everything else, then somehow I get hit – hard – physically. I wasn’t prepared for the setback. And strangely enough, the physical has affected my emotional and strengthened my spiritual. I was saying earlier, how differently would I feel, arriving to Santiago after a sprint without having experienced any pain… and now, I’ve been forced to slow down, face this constricting feeling, and live life in the slow lane. And it’s actually amazing.

It’s dinner time.

Dinner was ok. There were only three options. Morcilla and a tuna empanada, morcilla and salad, or an empanada and salad. Lol. I’m exhausted. Time to get ready for bed. The end.

3.80 – breakfy, 2.70 – lunch, 6.50 – dinner, 5 – albergue, 18 – total.

PS. Showers… there were two, only one with a door.

 

11/9/13       writing the next day                       Burgos                  25.6 km                Day 11

We woke up at 5am – out the door by 6. It was freaking cold. I was very grateful for my beanie and gloves. We walked in the dark for a while – no need for lights. A French guy stopped until we caught up so he could tell us about the constellations of the stars. It’s funny because the big dipper is upside down in this part of the world. We had an amazing breakfy in the next down – Los Agés. Another long walk – sunrise was beautiful. We got to the outskirts of Burgos with another 10km left and it took forever to get to the center. By the time we got there, everything was full. We did find a tiny room in a hostel with three beds, and with another lady Jill knew. It was €20 a piece. After the showers, we tried to find some stuff for Jill and all the sudden it was 7:15pm… which means we didn’t get to see the cathedral. Kinda a bummer – it’s the biggest cathedral in Spain. I did go to mass there, though. It was interesting. They even ran out of communion bread. The bishop was there, I guess that’s a pretty important thing. It was interesting. The first 30 min was the rosary, prayers to the Virgin Mary. Then dinner, then bed. Tired!!

3.70 – breakfy, 1.20 – café, 4.20 – lunch, 20 – room, 9 – dinner, 38.10 – total.

 

12/9/13        one day later                     Hontanas                             31.8 km                Day 12

This day began the great meseta. We left Burgos at 7am and began walking. I knew it would be a long day. I was trying not to get frustrated with the slow pace. To take my mind off it, I started asking Jill questions about the Catholic church – about Sabbath, sins, confessions, The Camino, etc. It was very informative. That got us a good 10k before we stopped for lunch. She had developed another blister. I was worried it would slow us down – we were under a time crunch and had to get to our albergue by 17:00. We caught up with Carmen, the Spanish woman from Sevilla that I had met the day I walked to Nájera. She walks The Camino one week at a time with her daughter. Her daughter walks faster and had gone on ahead. We adopted her into our little group, and for the next 10.5k, we had an English/Spanish lesson for her and Jill. The time passed quickly. Before we knew it, we were in the next town. Also, after looking at the clock, I knew we had to pick up the pace. We started off sluggishly. Jill and I stopped so she could apply a Band-Aid. Later we caught Carmen moving very slowly. I had an extra water bottle (she was out of water) but she would only take half. She told me to go on ahead. So I did. I passed Diane, then Jill, then continued on. At about halfway, with 5k left to go, I stopped to wait for Carmen to give her more water. She was tired and weak but wouldn’t let me walk with her. So I gave her the water, and after she promised she’d make it, I left her. Passed Diane again, then caught Jill with about 1.5k left. The meseta is crazy if you aren’t mentally prepared for it… kilometers of nothing… looking at the horizon makes it feel like it’ll go forever. No towns along the way. It was actually one of my favorite parts. The beauty becomes your thoughts. So the city we were headed towards was strategically placed in a little valley. It was impossible to see until right above it, and all the sudden it appears. You walk down into it, and the closer you get, the louder it gets. The sounds of people talking and laughing. We quickly got our beds. Isa (the lady at the albergue) was awesome and remembered my name the entire evening. As soon as we got our beds, I threw down my stuff and went to purchase a water bottle and went back to get Carmen. She was about 1k away. She was in a lot of pain and moving very slow. When she got close enough to recognize me, she called out my name. I responded that it was me and she asked why I had come. “Para darte agua.” To give you water. Her eyes started watering as she took the water from me. She started walking again, telling me I didn’t need to come back. I told her I knew but I wanted to make sure she was ok and that she would make it. After a while she apologized for not having energy to talk. I told her I didn’t come back to talk. Her eyes started watering again and I started to feel bad for making her cry. As I mentioned before, the town isn’t visible until you’re right above it, so she was understandably discouraged even though I kept telling her she was less than 1k away. I walked her to the edge of town and we saw her daughter walking up the hill to come to her. When she reached us I said bye to the both of them and went on ahead. I heard her daughter asking what happened and if she was ok. Carmen was full on crying at this point, telling her that I brought her water.

I got back and looked for Diane to make sure she had found a bed. When I got back to the albergue I saw Carmen with a huge smile on her face and a large beer in her hand. She offered to buy me a beer but I politely declined as I hadn’t showered yet. She was insisting on getting me one later and I told her I would be back after my shower. I never saw her again.

I was finally able to shower and dress my wounds. The knees had felt pretty good. I found a blister under my toenail. I did some surgery but I may end up losing the nail. At dinner, we sat with a Scottish guy – David. He started the same day as me but spent two days drinking in Pamplona. He made up lost time by doing 52km in one day and another insane amount the next two. I was so tired, I was having trouble speaking. I fell asleep very quickly.

5.70 – breakfy, 3.10 – lunch, 5 – albergue, 1.10 – beer, 9 – dinner, 23.90 – total.

 

13/9/13         21:06                     Frómista                              34.6 km                Day 13

We left behind the adorable town and started off in the dark. A lot of people had head lamps. I had put my mini-flashlight away I began to quicken my pace to get ahead of the lights. It was so peaceful – and the light of the ¼ moon grazed the stones enough so that I didn’t step wrong. It wasn’t long before I realized I had left Jill behind. I was enjoying my pace and didn’t want to slow down. At a bar about 9-10k in, I stopped and had 2nd breakfy. I wasn’t hungry but I wanted to wait for Jill and make sure she was ok. She ended up being about 30 min behind me. Dave the Scot had joined me while waiting. She did arrive and after assuring her final destination matched mine, I left. Almost immediately my left knee started throbbing. I was limping through the whole town, then began a long climb. It was tough because I was alone again and could run-ish up it, but my knee hurt so bad… then the way down… OMG… I felt like it took an hour! ½ steps… very slowly… Pain every step. It was terrible. I limped along for a while. I arrived to a town around 11:30. I wasn’t hungry but I ate because the next town was about 8.6 km out. After my rest, my knee felt perfect! Couldn’t believe it! I started to walk fast again and it felt amazing. I ended up catching Scottish Dave and we walked together the rest of the way. We stopped in a town so he could eat and we could rest – then with 6k left, we set off again in the beating sun. Jill ended up not making it all the way. She texted me to tell me she found Carmen and Carmen told her that yesterday I gave her life. Dave found a bed and he, Tracy from Brooklyn, and I hung out for the evening. A couple glasses of wine and a nice dinner. Tomorrow will be an easy 20.1 but then another 17 which will have nothing… so early to bed, early to rise. Dave will go the distance as well. But we don’t know if we’ll walk together. It could be another day alone. Might be nice. 🙂

2 – 1st breakfy, 2.60 – 2nd breakfy, 5 – lunch, 1.10 – beer, 2.60 – wine, 10 – dinner, 7 – albergue, 30.30 – total.

 

14/9/13       day later              Caldadilla de la Cueza                     37.6 km                Day 14

This was the first morning I was able to see the Milky Way. It was so peaceful and quiet for many kilometers as I let the stars lead me – I even saw two shooting stars! I followed a Spanish couple I had met and we came to an “option” in the path. They suggested we go left – it went along the main road and shaved a couple km. The town had nothing and I was getting pretty hungry. I ended up stopping to have a cliff bar. I think I started at too quick a pace because my left knee and right shin were calling out to me. I eventually got to a café for breakfy. Then I arrived to Carrion de los Condes. The last stop before a 17km stretch. I got a coffee and let my feet rest. I bought a sandwich for the road, and took off. It wasn’t just my legs at this point, both my feet hurt too. I tried to go faster – to get there faster – but every step was painful. Finally, I saw a picnic area off to the side. I stopped to have my bocadillo. It gave me some energy and I let my feet air out. It gave me a good push as I set out again. There was nothing for miles. It was Sabbath and I wanted to be resting. I started singing and worshiping and praying. Swarms of white butterflies kept showing up. The wind always provided. The pain a constant throb. At one point there was a rest area off to the right. I went to see if there were bathrooms – there weren’t – but there were tons of toilet paper scattered around. I wasn’t that desperate. I continued on. Singing. Praying. Fighting the emotional fight. I passed a guy hardly moving. Limping along. Step by step. Randomly, I would be passed. Each step hurt. Eventually in the distance, I saw what looked like a steeple. A building just set in the middle of nowhere. I thought it had to be the albergue. Everything I had in me was set on that building. About 30 min passed as I inched closer. And then I realized – it was just a farm house, a shelter for hay. I was crushed – I felt defeated. There was nothing else for miles and I felt I might have to climb over the mountain. And then, just when I was starting to doubt, I saw the tip of another building. Each step showed more of the small town. It was just like back in Hontanas. The entire town was sunken in to a little valley. I went down a little hill and right at the front was a building that said “albergue.” I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited! All I wanted to do was lay down. But after I got my bed, I showered and went outside to wash. There was Dave! He had just arrived. He barely had enough water to make it. After I washed clothes, I soaked my feet in the pool. I forgot to take a pic. When Dave was ready, we walked to the bar – had a pizza and a few beers. Then dinner. We invited a lady sitting by herself to join us. We already had a table of 8. She was Spanish and didn’t speak English, and after a while asked me, “¿vas a terminar en escocia?” (are you going to finish in Scotland?) I said nooo… We had a great dinner and went back for bed. We had a short day planned so I figured I’d leave a little later and wait for Dave.

2.40 – breakfy, 4.20 – lunch, 6.20 – 2nd lunch, 4.40 – beer, 10 – dinner, 7 – albergue, 34.30 – total.

 

15/9/13         17:30                     Sahagún                               22.7 km                Day 15

Well that was a bad idea. Homeboy didn’t shut up the entire time!! I couldn’t zone out because I had to respond at times. Every time it was quiet, he wouldn’t wait 30 seconds before starting up again. Never ran out of things to talk about either. He really enjoyed today – because apparently talking helps the time pass. For me it dragged. Ha. Sometimes he’d stop to pee and I’d start walking faster so it would take longer for him to catch up. Too funny. The shin hurt the worst today. I put my boots on at first, but I had acquired three new blisters so I could hardly walk. I changed to my sandals and felt much better and finished the day like that. Today I wasn’t really into the walk. I was kinda tired, in a lot of pain, and didn’t have a moment of silence. I was glad I arrived. Finally. Nice short day. We went for a beer and sandwich. Then shower, clothes, and a glorious siesta! My knee hurt the whole time. It was weird. Not much else happened. Oh, at one point a huge tour of old cars passed us. They all honked and waved and gave us thumbs up. It put a huge smile on my face. We also saw the Spanish lady from dinner the night before. Tomorrow I’ll leave before Dave – but we’ll meet up in the evening. I’m gonna go buy fruit for tomorrow and then have dinner.

By the way, we found Pepe!! He was sick in bed. He had vomited for six hours the night before. It was great to see him. He joined us for dinner. I hope he feels better soon.

2.30 – breakfy, 2.70 – 2nd breakfy, 4 – lunch, 5 – albergue, 10 – dinner, 3.24 – fruit, 27.24 – total.

 

16/9/13        20:51                     Reliegos                               31.8 km                Day 16

Everyday feels like it could be a week long… so much happens, yet all I do is walk. I didn’t leave till 7 but I was out before Dave. We had decided to take the “recommended” route from the book. Bad idea. The whole trail was full of stones. I ended up with a nice size blood blister on the side of my left foot. The first town was closed so I had some snacks. I walked on and 8-9 km later I got to the next town. I passed the first bar thinking there would be more but the entire town was empty. I found an older woman and asked her if there was a bar or store, she said that nothing was open that day. I was already tired and my knee and shin were killing me. I sat down thinking I would have to push the next 11k without food. Then when I was ready, I started off, and around the corner I saw a bar! I stopped and had breakfy and got a sandwich for the road. David from Colorado and Paul were there. They left before me and then I set out. Singing and worshiping got me through. At one point I stopped in the shade and then started again after a couple minutes. I saw David and Paul waving from a little rest place, so I stopped and rested with them, then started again with them. I looked up and saw Scottish Dave catching up.

I was like – oh no… haha. But I let up him catch up. He kept his quick pace and passed us only to stop further ahead for a break. I walked with David from CO for a while. Then we stopped to wait for Paul – I ate my bocadillo. Paul and David went on ahead and I waited for Dave. He talked a lot but it wasn’t as bad. The whole night before, we talked about he had talked too much. It kinda became a joke. But it helped pass the time. I was in so much pain. It was such a relief to get to the town. We got a bed then went for a beer. Got talking to an Australian woman who is having a rough time – in pain. The bones in her toes are somehow fused together, so I complain about my pain, but hers is worse… Paul, David, Dave and I had a nice dinner. Then we went to the “Elvis bar” for another drink. Then another so Dave could use WiFi. Then bed. It gets just a little flirty when we drink – otherwise I’m too hard and never give him a shot. He’s a sweet kid though. The idea of walking with him tomorrow isn’t too bad. As long as he doesn’t talk the whole time. BTW – best showers ever. Hot, high pressure, and nobody waiting. It all felt so clean. Good stay.

6 – breakfy/lunch, 2.60 – beer, 6 – room, 9 – meal, 1.80 – wine, 25.40 – total.

 

17/9/13         next day                              León                      24.7 km                Day 17

We woke up around 6:15 and were out the door by 7. Dave was so awesome – in that he didn’t talk too much. In fact, pretty much the whole morning it was quiet. We didn’t see any arrows after a while and hoped we were going the right direction. We arrived to a dead end. The busy road. We managed to cross when it was clear and after a while, we found an arrow. Then a quick stop for breakfy. After that I was in one of my crazy moods. Dave was stoked on it because I was way up for conversation, but after a while, he was so amped, he hardly let me speak – and the next 30 min or so was him telling stores, about people I’ll never meet, and their parents, etc. 24/7 for 5-6 days is intense.

We both felt pretty good and were making decent time. We did finally hit León and it took forever to get in to the center. There were a couple hills – and going down absolutely killed my knees. The shin feels pretty good now, but both knees are having issues. And the blisters of course. Today I walked in sandals to alternate the pressure – although I did pick up a couple more blisters from the experience. The knees had me hobbling for a while, poor Dave just wanted to get there. We did eventually make it but somehow passed the municipal albergue. By this point it was about 13:00 and I was in a huge hurry to get to the bank before 14:00. Oh, BTW, earlier in the day, Dave and I had a spiritual talk. I’ll pray for him. It was good though. Ok, so we managed to find a room in a hostel by the cathedral. A double room with a bathroom and breakfy included. It wasn’t bad at all. Then I raced to the bank, made it by 13:30 only to find out my card hadn’t arrived. They closed at 14:00 but shipments don’t come in till 14:30. Dave and I had a couple beers to kill time, went back, and it still wasn’t there. She said she would try to get it to Santiago. I got €200 more. I’m gonna try and be stingy. I had previously told Dave that after about 4-5 days I start to get irritated with people. And while we were having our beers waiting for the bank, at one point he said, “You know Sarah, it’s been four days… you get sick of people, but after four, I fall in love.” That was a bit of an awkward moment because I wasn’t sure if he was serious. It would make an interesting plot to a movie though! After the bank we went back and showered. Not together. Then went for a nice stroll around the city. Got an ice cream. It was yummy. Sat for an early dinner at 16:00. It was outside, so we sat for a couple hours – people watching and drinking wine. Dave is a fun guy when we’re not walking. I did tell him about Brazilian and it made me miss him quite a bit. We saw two old men walk by, one was short and hunched, holding the other’s hand for support. Cutest thing ever. We sat outside for quite some time playing “yay or nay.” We decided to go back. Dave skyped his mum and I got ready for bed. Only 10 days to Santiago. But the last thing I wanna do tomorrow is walk…

4.10 – breakfy, 1.80 – pincho de tortilla, 3.50 – beer, 15 – hostel, 2 – ice cream, .99 – pharmacy, 11.70 – dinner, 39.29 – total.

 

18/9/13        17:00                     Hospital de Órbigo                           33.7 km                Day 18

I had to snooze… we made it to breakfy around 7 and left about 7:30. It was slow moving at first. I had my boots on again. After a while the pain faded. We walked to a place and stopped for coffee – I got a bocata to go. Starting up again always hurts. It seems like there’s less people on The Camino now – it has spread out quite a bit. More time for solitude. Dave went ahead and left me to my thoughts. All the sudden I got a bloody nose. I stopped for a while to attend to it. It got hot and I got discouraged. But as soon as I could, I pressed on. With about 12k till our destination, I stopped for a quick water break. 1.5k further, I found Dave taking a break. The destination felt attainable. The last 5-10k is always the hardest. I started walking really fast. Dave didn’t keep up for long. It felt like forever before we reached the albergue. But we made it. Less than 300k to go… Paco and Carlos are here too! We didn’t know if we’d see them again, so that was cool to run into them. I think we’ll all get dinner together too. 🙂 Oh, also the Latvian guy is here!! We caught up for a minute then I told Dave all about how I shared a hotel room with him that one night.

So, while waiting for dinner, Dave drank a whole bottle of wine. I came back to get him for dinner and he introduced me to his new friends. We joked about how his stories always last for hours – and then he started to tell them all how amazing I am. I’m not gonna lie, the attention is nice – but he just acts so immature – and he never shuts up. Which slightly impairs his ability to listen. Anyway, we had a great dinner with Paco and Carlos. The wine was phenomenal. Company great. Dave getting drunker. You can’t help but wonder if he likes me because he has spent the last 5-6 days with me constantly or if it’s genuine. He did meet a girl during the first week that he hooked up with but had to leave to be able to get to Santiago on time. Regardless – I can’t deny that the attention is nice. I’ll just keep playing hard to get. Only nine more days with him. Which is actually a long time.

I’m writing this part later – just to say I didn’t sleep very well. Took forever to fall asleep – then I woke up early to pee. At one point, Dave sneezed four times and after each time, spoke in his sleep. Couldn’t understand it though. But I laughed.

4.10 – lunch, 1.60 – aquarius, 5 – albergue, 1 – pringles, .61 – fruit, 10 – dinner, 22.31 – total.

PS. We made a new word. Turigrino – se dice de las personas que no tienen ampollas ni molestias en los pies y los sobros tienen descansados porque el camino lo hacen a cuatro ruedas. A lo cual hacen el camino de broma. – Paco de Málaga

 

19/9/13         17:17                     El Ganso                               31.4 km                Day 19

Woke up at 5:30 because I had to pee so bad. It’s never a good idea to chug a liter of water right before bed. I was actually very surprised at how much energy I ended up having. The first 2.2km was a struggle. The blisters hurt, the knees hurt, I felt like I could’ve crawled faster. But I made it to the bar in the next town. Best breakfy by far. Two minutes upon my arrival, the napolitanas de chocolate came out of the oven. The chocolate was warm and creamy. The coffee also tasted phenomenal! As I left, I couldn’t help showing a huge grin on my face, which actually lasted for a long time. The walk was quiet as I climbed hills and saw new scenery that was pleasing to the eye. At one point I climbed to the top of a mountain and there was a little food stand with healthy breads, crackers, tons of jams and juices, coffee, and fruit. A man and his girlfriend live up there and offer “breakfy” self-serve to the pilgrims only for a donation. I helped myself and a few minutes later, Dave appeared. “Great” I thought sarcastically. We walked together into the town before Astorga. He actually wasn’t so bad. We stopped and had probably the best tortilla – ever! I left him there and continued on. I found Paco and Carlos in Astorga. Dave caught up. Then he and I left Paco and Carlos behind. He was doing so well, in that he respected that I wanted silence, but when we did have convo – it was good. We stopped for a break with 9km to go. It was hot and our feet were killing us. But we pressed on. Five minutes later, Paco called to say he made a reservation for us. Dave relaxed, because the next available place was another 7km. After a while he pointed out a white butterfly… Not gonna lie, today I actually enjoyed his company on the walk. After what seemed like forever, we arrived to the albergue. A young guy runs it out of his house. It’s super cute with a little garden area. Dave put on long pants for the first time. It actually made him look tons better. I made the mistake of telling him. The game is fun. But it has to stay a game. I’m pretty tired tonight… about an hour or so before dinner…

We went to a cowboy bar and then had dinner. Learned a lot more about Paco and Carlos. Dave tried putting his arm around me again. All in all, he’s a fun guy.

2.70 – 1st breakfy, 2 – 2nd breakfy, 3 – tortilla/coffee, 1.50 – laundry, 8 – albergue, 1.40 – beer, 8 – dinner, 26.60 – total.

 

20/9/13       18:00                     Molinaseca                         33.6 km                Day 20

This morning I think my feet were in the worst pain yet. It took me awhile to get going, but after a while I warmed up and the pain subsided a little. I love walking in the light of the moon. It’s still full. David caught up to me and helped me try to make a cross out of sticks to add to the fence. Then he took off. He was going so fast and it was hard to keep up – battling the pain in my knees also. We arrived to the first town and had our 2nd breakfy. (The first was included in the albergue). I went a bit slower when I left. I stopped at one point to take off my jacket and Dave caught up again – then passed me. Meanwhile, my pack fell off the rock and got dirty and a swarm of flies surrounded me. I set off again but I was angry. Angry I was alone, angry I was hot, angry my bag had fallen, angry I was in pain, angry the flies wouldn’t leave me alone, angry about things back home, angry I was carrying a rock in my left hand… And then I thought, if I was to be angry any day – today was the day for it. We were going to Cruz de Ferro where people leave the rocks they brought from home. Some people attribute a problem to their rock that they “leave behind.” I started attributing all my anger to my rock. I realized that the rock I brought was black. A piece of obsidian. It was the only black rock around – and it was weighing me down. The weight, the darkness… at about 2.2km from the cross was another town where I met up with Dave. Every word made me more upset, although we did walk together to the cross and that did make me feel better. We arrived and I placed my rock. And that was it.

We sat down and as I pulled out my guide book, I saw my Bible. I made a comment how he should read to me out of it. He said he would, for me, but usually feels like a hypocrite when he does. We talked about that for a minute, then he read the end of James ch 1. About trials. He told me he’s gonna go home and read the Bible. He also told me he’ll quit smoking. We’ll see. I’ll pray for him. We continued on, pretty decent convo – some good stories too. The downhill hurt but it wasn’t terrible. We met a guy who was coming from Santiago. Six years ago he went to Santiago from SJPP and knew he had to walk back but didn’t have the time. And now he is doing it. The walk is a lot different because you don’t see the same people more than once and usually not more than for a minute. He told us the next part of our journey to Santiago will pass by very quickly. I’m not ready for it to end. :/ We met Carlos in Acebo and had a huge bocadillo. Nine km more to go. It was during this part that Dave said he knew he was in the friend zone and was ok with it. Funny, because I haven’t friend-zoned him, but I couldn’t say that. He said that didn’t mean he’d stop making jokes though – which means it’ll still be fun. Although now I’m playing around more. It almost feels safer because he knows I’m off limits. So we’ll see. It was soooo hot and the trail lasted forever. Paco called and said he reserved us beds – a good 15 min walk at the end of the town. At one point we turned a corner and finally saw the town! Then we lost it again. It felt like forever!! But we did make it – another “cute town!” Gonna go back into town to have dinner soon.

We had a lovely dinner in a nice restaurant. Had some good wine and good conversation. They brought us a shot after dinner – and with these shots, you usually sip them. We cheersed and Dave – being Scottish – shoots the whole thing. I felt bad because I knew I should’ve warned him but it was still hilarious. Paco bought us all another one but in a glass with ice, like they do in Malaga. I walked back with Dave and went to sleep. I tossed and turned. Sleep really isn’t easy when I’m in so much pain. 😦

2.70 – breakfy, 1 – coffee, 8 – lunch, 5 – albergue, 1 – laundry, 8.95 – dinner, 26.65 – total.

 

21/9/13    next day              Villafranca del Bierzo                      30.9 km                Day 21

Just when I thought my feet couldn’t hurt any more, I woke up. Sleeping was a real challenge. My knees and feet. I just can’t win. 😦 Thankfully Paco started really slowly too. I wore my sandals which helped with the pain. David took off quickly but ended up waiting for us where the road split. Then he stayed – even though we were all going very slowly. We got to Ponferrada and had breakfy – then went for a walk around the city. The castle was awesome. Carlos wanted to go inside but it didn’t open until 10 – and it was only 9:30. Dave and I took off. We stopped at a market to get food for lunch and a pharmacy. We took it really slowly getting out of town. And even with our quick pace, we knew we’d arrive late. It got hot. We stopped for lunch at a cute picnic area. I found a hungry kitten and filled her up with turkey and cheese. As we were leaving I was defending a point I was trying to make by saying that good guys are hard to find. Dave turned around, looked me right in the eyes, and with a sort of agitated tone said, “They aren’t as hard as you think and sometimes they’re standing right in front of you.” I knew what he was trying to say, but I didn’t want to let myself accept it. We continued on. Hot hot hot. Our destination seemed like forever away. We did end up arriving, when it seemed like we never would. We found our beds and showered. Dave and I went to put our feet in the river and had a beer with good convo. When the other guys were ready we went for dinner. Paco got us more chupitos. On the way back, we ran into a little band, typical in Spain called La Tuna. It was made up of women and they were hired for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Paco got them to play a couple songs for us, it was amazing! Definitely one of my highlights. Then on the way home, I started talking to Paco about Dave – but Carlos was translating everything for Dave… I told him to stop. Paco reinforced it saying it was personal between him and I. Carlos agreed and said he’d stop. So I continued talking to Paco again, basically telling him my concerns and why I couldn’t like him, all my excuses. I heard Carlos again, translating. I snapped and told him to shut up, it was personal between Paco and I, etc. Carlos apologized and then we arrived to the albergue. Paco and Dave stayed outside to smoke while Carlos and I went in. I got up to the room and could hear voices from the window. Paco was talking to David, I’m not sure how much he understood because it was in Spanish, but he was telling him not to worry. Asked him if he noticed my reaction, how I got defensive, and then upset with Carlos – and that based on my reaction, he didn’t need to worry… everything would be ok. It was then that it hit me. Why did I react like that? I dunno – I think I may like him a little bit… Paco drained all my blisters and it was very painful. So of course, once again, sleep was difficult.

3.30 – breakfy, 3.90 – lunch, 1.50 – coffee, 8 – pharmacy, 3.50 – store, 8 – albergue, 13.30 – dinner, 41.50 – total.

PS. This is the 1st day Dave started calling me Lara – as in Lara Croft. Long socks, short shorts, camo-backpack, and ponytail.

 

22/9/13       next day              O’Cebreiro                          28.6 km                Day 22

I really didn’t believe the pain could get worse. I woke up in the worst agony. I knew I had to start slow because of the blisters. Usually the feet warm up and then I can at least walk. Everybody went ahead and I, very slowly, put one foot in front of the other. Oh – we had a nice breakfy at the albergue before leaving, so that was nice. It didn’t help that we went to bed so late – I was a bit tired. Anyways, I kept trudging on. People kept passing and asking if I was ok… It took a full 90 min before the pain subsided enough to maintain a good pace. My initial problem was that because I avoided putting weight on my left heel, my knee started to act up. I did walk fast as soon as I could and at the next town, I saw Dave’s backpack outside. He had just gotten there – perfect. We had a quick 2nd breakfy and took off – making excellent time. We found Carlos about 2km from the last stop before the big climb. Dave didn’t eat because it was too expensive. He ended up not eating at all till the top – I dunno how he did it. When we left after lunch, my feet started killing again. The mountain got super steep. It was so awesome, except for the pain. We passed tons of super cute towns, surprise! After a wonderful day of climbing, we made it to the top. Around 2:45pm. We found our beds in the municipal. Dave traded his bed with someone so he could be next to me. I actually didn’t mind. This was the first place that had no shower curtains. The men and women were separate though. And nobody came in while I was showering – so that’s cool. Got my clothes washed and hung, then the four of us went for some drinks and chats. Paco had arrived at 1:00pm… At one point Carlos said, “It’s not common for a Brazilian to not want to hang out with other Brazilians but I prefer being with you guys.” I said, “oh is it that we are special, or they aren’t…” or something like that. Paco got on my case and taught me a valuable lesson… well, something he’s been trying to teach me for a few days. “Be you. Be special. Accept the compliments. Don’t think that someone is better or someone is tricking you.” It shut me up but was something I needed to hear. We went for a walk around town and Dave and I went back and played chess. I won. Paco fixed up my feet, he and Carlos went to mass, and then Dave and I joined them for dinner. I had caldo de gallego – or something like that. It was amazing! We were all super tired and came back and went straight to bed. Each day I kinda fancy Dave a little more. I dunno if I just like the attention I’m getting, or it’s actually him… I wouldn’t allow a cuddle though.

2.70 – breakfy, 6.30 – lunch, 2.30 – beer, 6 – albergue, 9 – dinner, 26.30 – total.

 

23/9/13      17:26                     Calvor                                   34.9 km                Day 23

It was an early morning. Up at 5:30. Feet hurt but not as bad. I opted for the sandals. I left with Paco and Carlos around 6:15. Dave was still sleeping. I actually hoped he would catch up eventually. I didn’t have so much pain – it was amazing!! The view was incredible too. Up and down we went. The downs were hard on my knees, but I managed ok. We stopped in Triacastela for lunch. After figuring we averaged about 4 km/hr, I wondered if Dave might catch us soon. I actually began to miss him. We pressed on – crazy uphills – and I zoomed up with ease. It felt amazing! After not seeing Dave, I wondered if he would know where we would stay – if I’d ever see him again. We weren’t able to make a reservation so we didn’t know where we would find a place. That actually mad me quite sad. If that’s how I’m feeling now – it’ll be hella hard saying bye… Paco and Carlos noticed I was quiet and without me saying anything, assured me he would find us. We stopped at a bar about 3km out – still no sign of Dave. Then we walked to the door of the albergue. I looked down at the list of people, saw the name “David Orr” and was very confused. Then I looked up and there he was… he had arrived 10 min earlier! I was trying to hide my happiness. Ha. I have a bed next to him again. I dunno – I like being around him. I met the guys later for a dinner swarmed with flies. Afterwards, we got a bottle of wine and went back and played chess. He won this time. A Spanish guy wanted to play with him after, so I went to bed. I kinda wanted to cuddle but when he finally came to bed, I moved away.

3 – breakfy, 1.50 – coffee, 6.40 – lunch, 1.20 – beer, 6 – albergue, 11 – dinner, 29.10 – total.

PS. Spent the whole day with Paco and Carlos. A couple times I witnessed Carlos, with his arm outstretched and palm on the trunk of the tree, and eyes closed. The second time it happened, Paco asked him what the tree was saying. This 800 year old tree was saying it feels young. David and I talked about it later and said he’s seen Carlos do it before.

 

24/9/13         29/9                       Ventas de Narón                              40.3 km                Day 24

We left early in the morning. Dave did wake up before we left, but of course he didn’t leave while it was still dark out. It started to sprinkle a little bit as we left, but thankfully it didn’t last long. It was dark and there weren’t cars so we stayed on the main road. It was still dark when we stopped for breafky on the outskirts of Sarría. I kept looking out for Dave – even though walking with him isn’t my favorite thing in the world, it’s nice having him around, at least knowing he’s with the group. Before we left the bar, the Brazilian, Sergio, who we had dinner with the night before said he left before Dave. I kept looking over my shoulder, just to check. We got to a church as the sun was coming over the mountain. It was extremely beautiful. And just at the most beautiful point, we saw Dave climbing the hill. He stopped to eat Cheetos and we went on. He caught up soon after. I warned him right away that I didn’t sleep well the night before and that when I’m tired, I’m irritable. It just works out that the day I’m most tired, we had the most kilometers planned. And that’s because there were no beds any place before… Of course the plan was to check to see if there was space along the way. Right, so from Sarría on, it was like a fair. Crazy amount of people, just starting – to do the required 100 km for the compostela. Paco and I took off, we held a great pace and left Dave and Carlos behind. Then we reached the 100km mark – that feeling of having only 100 to go… after having gone some 700… It felt like nothing. And even though Paco and I have 91 more to Finisterre, it was crazy to think about the end in sight. Only a few days… Well, Paco and I were running/walking at a great pace – but we started to go downhill. And I didn’t slow down. My knee started to hurt, I didn’t stop. The pain got worse and I finally yelled at Paco that I had to stop. It was bad. I sat and Carlos and Dave caught up. I tried taking a few steps but couldn’t. Paco took my sleeping bag, Carlos my boots, against my protests. Paco looked me square in the eye and said no matter what it takes he was going to cross that finish line with me, we would all finish together. It did lighten my pack quite a bit. I started again, super slowly. One lesson I’m learning is I need to allow people to help me. I can’t do everything on my own. Even if it’s for me. We got to Portomarin where Paco was waiting for us, with a knee brace for me. We took a long break and left at 3:30pm. My knee was feeling much better and I took off. I just wanted to arrive. And we still had 13km to go. We arrived to Ganzar, no beds. Paco wanted to continue but I knew Dave had no water. And I knew he wouldn’t stop unless we did. I told Paco to go on but he decided to stop. Dave rehydrated and we were off. Legs, feet, bodies, all very tired. Paco and I in front. We arrived to our albergue, finally. We had the beers on the table for when Carlos and Dave arrived. Got showered and stuff. Dave used the shower before me, and when I finished my shower, on the mirror that was fogged up, he had written “Dave ❤ Sarah.” I felt a lot closer to him that night. We had dinner and Paco was in a crazy mood. He would give us a scenario and we had to figure out how the person died, only by asking yes or no questions. I was super exhausted but enjoying the company. I would have like to have had a bed next to David, but it didn’t look like we would have many more opportunities. I asked him for the massage he promised me. He said I had to go to his bed. So I laid down on it – but he really sucked – and I told him. Lol. He said he just wanted a cuddle and laid down next to me with his arm around me. Then I got self-conscious because the other guys were in the room, and so I got up and went to bed. I had boots planned for the next day. Blisters were better and I was optimistic. I ended up not wearing them though. My right foot has had blisters (multiple) on every toe, except the middle one. Including both sides of the heels. If it weren’t for Paco, I dunno what I’d do!

2.20 – breakfy, 5 – David, 4.30 – 2nd breakfy, 3.60 – lunch, 10 – albergue, 11.70 – dinner, 36.70 – total.

 

25/9/13       29/9                       Melide                                  27 km                    Day 25

With a “short” day ahead and an albergue reservation, we didn’t leave until 8-8:15 ish. Our bodies and legs needed the rest. And even then, the 27k were tough. We ate breakfy before we left. Since David was with us, he and I walked together. Paco and Carlos went quite slow. I didn’t mind David talking so much. He is learning that sometimes I need the quiet… it started to rain so we poncho-ed up. We didn’t stop until Palas de Rei where we had a coffee and refreshment. Carlos and Paco joined us soon after and by the time we left, the rain had stopped. We spent some time walking through the city, but not much. I was tired. We stopped again in O Coto for a beer with 6.5k to go, at the border of Lugo and A Coruña. It felt like forever before we arrived. After showers, we went for food. The guys wanted octopus and the place we went didn’t have anything for me on the pilgrim menu, so I had to order a la carte and it was expensive. Tasty though. At one point Carlos pointed out in Spanish that I was a lot happier when David was with us than when he wasn’t. I tried to disagree to no avail. We’ve gone from two to three bottles of wine with our meals. When we got back, Dave and I hung out on the couch in the TV room. Half-cuddly, half-not. I did wonder why he wasn’t making any moves. Found out later that he was just nervous. In any case, it was comfortable sitting with him and watching YouTube vids and drinking cider.

5.50 – breakfy, 3.70 – 2nd breakfy, 3.70 – lunch, 14 – dinner (credit card), 1.30 – cider, 10 – albergue, 2 – laundry, 40.20 – total.

 

26/9/13        29/9                       O Pedrouzo                        32.9 km                Day 26

Today I put on the boots. We left early because we couldn’t reserve a room and we wanted to get there early enough to secure a bed. I woke David up – but he wasn’t ready when we left. I was happy when he did catch us, only 30 min later, and it was still dark. I like walking in the dark, and this morning in particular had a clear sky with bright stars. Even though Dave was with us, I couldn’t handle his morning hype – so I happily walked ahead with Paco. We had a great talk about life – living for happiness. He showed me a couple videos while we walked that I thought were fantastic. One was specifically about leaving your comfort zone. The day started off clear of people but as we got to Arzúa, we found all the people again. So we took off, passing people – turigrinos… stopped in A Calzáda for a break. Dave and Carlos caught up to us. There were tons of people at the bar, it was crazy. I left with Carlos this time and had a nice chat. Paco caught us and later, Dave. Then Dave and I went on ahead. At one point he told me I was walking too fast and I told him to walk with Paco and Carlos. He then said, “but Quiero pier con tu.” He was trying to say he wanted to walk with me. It was too cute to deny. We arrived to the municipal at 13:30, just as I had predicted. As we were paying, Paco called and said there were still four beds at the private albergue. But it was too late. Although it was weird staying at a different place than them, we saved €4 and had privacy. Well, not really because it was a municipal, but we didn’t know anyone. I rested my legs on Dave’s lap and he helped me take my boots off. I decided, sandals for the next day, only 20k to Santiago. We met the guys for food. Octopus and a burger. I ate fries – which did fill me up enough, we decided not to eat dinner. Paco and Carlos would bring wine and a melon to our albergue later. When we got back, Dave laid on my bed and actually cuddled. I’ll say, finally. 🙂 He fell asleep, then Paco called to say they were there. We toasted our wine – enjoying our last night together before Santiago. It’s just crazy to me. I have only been with these people 1-2 weeks, but I feel like we’re family. I don’t want The Camino to end. I don’t want to say goodbye. Paco fixed up my feet. Dave read me a bedtime story. “John’s personal reflections.” And then it was bedtime. One more day till Santiago… 😦

1.20 – coffee, 5 – breakfy, 7.30 – lunch, 6 – albergue, 19.50 – total.

PS. The municipal showers had no doors. There was one at the end with a door and I snagged it.

 

27/9/13        30/9                       Santiago de Compostela               20.1 km                Day 27

I woke up this morning excited for the day. All four of us had planned to stay together the entire way. Only 20km… Short day. Although it did feel like forever before arriving. It started to rain shortly after we left. We were in the middle of the forest and the trees covered the trail well so we didn’t get too wet. When we got to the edge of it, we put on the appropriate covers and ponchos. We stopped soon after for breakfy – our last one where we were all together. We continued on. I told Dave to be quiet. He said, “Awww… even on the last day?” I’m gonna miss that kid. I walked with him mostly, even though we were in the group. I wore my sandals, thinking that 20k would be easy and my feet needed the break. Although it wasn’t the best idea, as my feet were soaked early on and it was quite miserable. The rain was fierce too. Paco at one point said he was glad it was raining. “El sufrimiento hasta el final.” And it’s true. We have suffered. Our legs on the mountains and the days where the kilometers never ended. The blisters that kept coming. Knee pain. Saying goodbye – meeting new people. Discouragement. Heat. The feeling that we couldn’t go on. Being alone. And in all of it – we did continue. Every day we got up and did it again. Every day. And now in the rain. We had been lucky, we’d only had three days of rain the entire month and only one of them was really during the day. Now a day full of rain. We passed the airport and I had a moment of sadness as I thought how Dave would be flying out the next day. At one point we passed Latvian Walter! Always so random. We prepared the birthday song we had been planning for Matt. He kept trying to talk, but I was short with him. I started thinking about every single day I had walked, replaying the steps, the towns, the experiences in order to sort of summarize The Camino. I wanted to feel it all when we reached the end. We climbed Monte del Gozo together, as a family, and took a picture. We also had our last bit of chocolate together – and we cheersed. We had been calling chocolate time, “sex time.” Paco claims that the effects of sex and chocolate are the same. Carlos loved it. We continued on in the rain with wet feet and stopped for a coffee about an hour away. We started off quite quickly afterwards. We wanted to be sure we had a seat for the mass at 12. The closer we got, the more pain I was in. I saw the top of the cathedral. I couldn’t believe it… Another 20 min before we saw it again. We passed someone playing the bagpipes. Then we came upon the cathedral. We stood out front. Dave said he wanted a group hug, I said we didn’t have time and made him come in with me to reserve seats. We managed to get there just in time and he and I saved a bench for the four of us. The cathedral was beautiful, but the mass was quite boring and I was tired. It felt good to sit next to Dave. The four of us all put our hands together… Carlos started crying. I’m tearing up now thinking about it. How our family formed – how we came so far together – how we finished, together. At the end of mass, everybody hugs and kisses everyone. Dave gave me a hug. I didn’t realize till later that it was our first real hug. He told me later how much it meant to him. I got an emotional kiss and hug from Paco and Carlos. We did it.

After that we rushed to get my debit card from the bank, then back to stand in line to get the long-awaited compostela. The lady asked me where I started. She asked me if I walked the whole way. It felt so amazing to answer, “Yes!” That was the end for Dave and Carlos – Paco and I still had 91km to Finisterre. We went to print Dave’s boarding passes. Meanwhile, I found the article Mercedes wrote on the 26th. It’s all in Gallego so I need to find a way to translate it later. Afterwards we went to the albergue. I was quite miserable at this point. My feet were soaked. The albergue was nice and I felt much better after my shower. We went to grab a snack and a couple beers before we went to the center. We took a bus because it was raining quite badly. We stopped and had a glass of wine and a tapa then wandered through the streets. When we got to the cathedral, we recorded the video we had made for Matt. Then we went inside again, saw the remains of Saint James and then were able to hug/touch the gold “form” – whatever they call it. Afterwards, we headed back to the albergue and ate at the restaurant next door. I met a man from South Carolina who was eager to speak English. The latter part of dinner was basically me talking with Dave, soaking up our last night. He bought us all a whisky in celebration of finishing. Afterwards, he and I stayed behind to have another one. We talked a lot – about how at El Ganso he talked with that group of people to give me space but told them he really liked me, etc. I don’t know exactly when I fell for him but I knew at that moment I didn’t want to be with anyone else. We left and sat outside for a minute because I said I forgot the code to get back inside. He didn’t make any moves, so we went inside. Oh, he also didn’t smoke. 🙂 Once inside he asked if he could have a cuddle that night. It kinda surprised me as it was bedtime. He ended up laying on my bed and I let him stay the whole night. He told me to save the kittens – I said no, it’s got to be a different animal. In any case, I did kiss him. Didn’t sleep much at all as I wanted to enjoy every moment I could in his arms.

5 – breakfy, 10 – albergue, 9 – dinner, snack, bus, total? I forgot to write them down…

 

28/9/13         30/9                       Negreira              21.2 km                Day 28

I woke Dave up at 5:15. He packed up his stuff and at 6, I called a taxi for him. When it arrived, I went out to arrange payment with the driver while Dave said bye to Carlos and Paco. When he came outside he had tears in his eyes, he gave me a big hug and then was crying more. It was hard. I kissed him goodbye and went inside – I couldn’t watch him leave. I laid back down for 15 min or so, trying to prepare myself for the rest of The Camino. I eventually got up and packed my stuff. The bed felt empty laying alone. Dave had left behind sardines, Cheetos, his walking stick, and a sock. I laid the stick on my bed and put the sock in my bag – part of him would walk to the end of the world with me. Paco and I set off, Carlos came too – he was going to catch a bus to Finisterre. We had breakfy together. Then we had to say bye to Carlos. He cried as he hugged us both. Too much emotion in one day. Paco and I started our journey. Rain off and on the whole day. I was tired – emotionally and physically drained. I wasn’t much for conversation. We found a 32 year old girl walking alone and Paco talked with her for a while before we took off up the mountain. The rain really started to pour. I felt much better as I had put my boots on, so my feet were dry. It was kinda fun walking in the rain but when we arrived to Negreira, Paco decided we should stay there for the night. We had planned 35 km but the weather was so bad and it was already 2:00pm. Paco hoped we’d do better in the morning. We grabbed some food and I slept – a lot. I woke up and we went for a walk around the town, had dinner, and went back to sleep. It wasn’t till we got to the town that I really started to miss the guys. Paco is awesome – but it wasn’t the same. We were missing the company. During lunch, Paco brought up David – but I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew that I missed him, but I didn’t know how I felt. Is it just his company I miss? The way he gives me attention? How he thinks I’m beautiful with no make-up and in dirty clothes all day? Def miss the dude.

2.80 – breakfy, 4.70 – 2nd breakfy, 6.60 – lunch, 1.50 – dryer that didn’t work, 2.07 – fruit/napolitana, 8 – albergue, 11 – dinner, 36.67 – total.

 

29/9/13      30/9                       Olveiroa               33.2 km                Day 29

I woke up this morning with a lot more energy and enthusiasm. We ate a quick breakfy and left. The rain was lighter and we made our journey onwards. There were no bars for 12-13km so when we finally got our coffee, it was very necessary. It was a much longer day of walking – not much excitement though. Well, except for my knee acting up. With 2-3km left, we stopped for refreshment. Then as soon as we reached the albergue, it started pouring down rain. Paco went to eat. I laid in bed. I was missing Dave – tons. I felt alone. I knew I had to write because I was a few days behind, but I didn’t want to because it would bring up the last few days, which were amazing – and now over. But I’m a fighter. I eventually did write. I couldn’t get Dave off my mind. It was the first time on The Camino that I actually wanted to connect to WiFi. I even got out my iPod to try – but thankfully, I couldn’t get signal where I was. I truly was sad. I didn’t just miss Dave – I missed Carlos too. I missed our group. It didn’t feel right going on without them. At 19:00 I went to find Paco. He was at the bar ordering a whisky and already looked a little tipsy. He ordered me a wine and went outside to sit with his new friend. It was cold so I stayed inside. Forty-five minutes later I went to get him as I was quite hungry. He and his two new friends joined us for dinner. Not gonna lie, Paco was kinda being annoying – only that he’d had a bit to drink and it showed. The convo was all in Spanish, mostly about politics which wasn’t the most interesting, so I just watched futbol. The guy next to me was 23, cute, and Spanish. But I had no interest. Paco mentioned that I looked sad – my response was that I was tired. Even if I see Dave again, the situation will never be the same. It’s one of those things I need to let go. One more day – and that’s it. Although, I was talking with an Italian who was telling me to walk to Muxia. I have the time… One morning of 30k, bus to Santiago that same afternoon… that’s what I fell asleep thinking about.

4.70 – breakfy, 4.60 – lunch, 12 – albergue, 10 – dinner, 31.30 – total.

 

30/9/13       21:21                     Finisterre/Fisterra                           30 km                    Day 30

I woke up this morning knowing it wouldn’t be my last day. Paco and I had breakfy before leaving and within the first five minutes I had told him my plan. I told him he should come along, at least to think about it. We would have to leave early in time for him to catch the bus to Santiago so he could catch a bus to the airport. I felt really good, my body didn’t hurt at all, except minor blister aches. We were climbing the mountain at a great pace. It wasn’t too cold but the fog sat pretty low which restricted the view. I kept getting further ahead of Paco – I waited for him to catch up at one point. He said he was on his phone trying to make more space. Later on I started getting ahead again. It was a bit unnerving walking alone in the thick fog – so I waited for Paco again. He said he was tired, wanted to go a bit slower – as it was his last day. He decided he didn’t want to continue to Muxia, but to enjoy the day in Santiago. It was time to go downhill – after 12km of never-ending trail. It was steep so I had to go slow. Paco sped right on ahead. I got to a clearing and could see the water. Oh my goodness… The Atlantic Ocean!! It became so real that I had walked from one border of Spain, to the ocean… across the entire country! As I was soaking in the site, a guy on a unicycle passed me on the rocky downhill slope. I was so impressed with him and in awe of my surroundings! At the bottom of the hill was a café and Paco was inside. We started off together, soaking up the atmosphere – the waves… water that separated me and my family. We started climbing again and I left Paco behind. He caught up on the downhill and just in time to enter the Province of Fisterra together. Only 7km to go… We opted to stay on the road as it would shave off an hour. At one point, Paco looked out to the left and saw what he thought was “another Camino.” I had no choice but to follow and we made our way through the overgrown bushes to this “camino” which was also overgrown. You couldn’t see where to step, sharp plants and thorns kept grabbing at me, my knee started to hurt a lot from stepping blindly on the uneven ground, my blister on my right foot popped, and there was no end in sight. I wasn’t upset – it was just another adventure on our journey which at one point gave us a most remarkable view of the ocean. We eventually found our way back to the road. Our bodies were even more tired – and full of pain. It wasn’t too much longer before we found the beach. I quickly took my shoes off and stepped into the cold Atlantic Ocean! Oh, the feeling! I had truly reached the end! Paco went all the way in. Then we walked along the beach to get to the town. I collected a few shells – each of us in our own thoughts. I found a bed in the albergue and Paco and I went for our last meal together. I couldn’t believe it was ending. I walked him to the bus stop. He started to wish me well for my future. He told me he believed in me, that I was a fighter. Una luchadora. I started crying. We said bye – and parted. I was the last one. And I had one more day. I felt so alone, my heart so heavy with sadness. I had expected I would be happy when I finished – but I was really missing my boys, especially Dave. After my shower I went for a walk around the town. It was foggy so I didn’t go to kilometer 0 or the lighthouse. It started to rain so I went back to prepare myself for the last day. Oh how my heart ached. What’s the point of meeting people if you have to say goodbye? At least we have heaven to look forward to… Right as I was getting ready for bed, I found the 32 year old girl that we walked with on the first day to Finisterre. Never alone.

3 – breakfy, 2.50 – 2nd breakfy, 11.65 – lunch, 6 – albergue, 7 – laundry, 1.11 – store, .50 – postcard, 31.76 – total.

 

1/10/13       2/10                       Muxia                   30 km                    Day 31

I woke up feeling a lot better than I had the night before. I had one more day to walk. I packed my pack and went to a café for breakfy. I started on my journey at 6:45 and it was still dark. I climbed the first mountain in the dark… I didn’t see anyone till 9:00 when I met a girl coming from the other direction. It was a walk of complete solitude. It was one of the most beautiful walks in the whole Camino. Trees, flowers, wildlife, the sounds of birds, baby snails, crickets, tons of spiders that had to recreate their webs after I walked through… tons of puddles I had to creatively avoid… It was an amazing and beautiful morning. David was on my mind a majority of it. I was trying to find some closure to the long month of walking. About halfway through I stopped in Lires and ate the small lunch I had packed. I was well ahead of schedule and set off again. My feet hurt more and more as I continued. But I pressed on. Just like I had done the 30 days before. At about 10:15 an Englishman came from the other direction and told me I only had two hours more! Wow – two hours till the end. I saw the ocean again – it was a different feeling this time. I really let it sink in. I walked through the town, super cute, and went to kilometer 0. I sat as close as I could to the water, on the rocks, without the wind being able to blow me in. I sat and thanked God for an incredible journey. The waves crashed on the rocks, America called me from across the ocean. It’s time to begin the next Camino. I walked back to town and had lunch while waiting for the bus. Paco called and we arranged to meet one last time when I got back to Santiago. We had a beer together. He was very sad – emotional. It was over for him. For me. I didn’t cry this time, but we left each other with an embrace. After my shower I went to the center and bought jewelry for Judy and a shell necklace for myself. I had dinner by myself in a tiny hole in the wall. Back at the albergue I connected to WiFi – mostly to tell Dave I missed him. And then my eyes closed. El Camino de Santiago ya ha terminado.

3 – breakfy, 10.50 – lunch, 7.70 – bus, 15 – albergue, 14 – dinner, 50.20 – total.

 

If you don’t have facebook but would like to see pictures, here is a link.   https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.554282592775.1073741838.169400205&type=1&l=d52363441e

I am open to comments, questions, discussions, concerns, and any feedback or response.

 

 

 

 

 

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Plan

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Plan

[plan]

“a design or scheme of arrangement”

Life can be funny sometimes. Especially when you think you finally have everything figured out. You make a plan and then start to arrange things to fit in your plan, perfectly if possible. And it just makes me laugh that as I try and put things into place, I start feeling internal resistance. I finally take a step back and ask myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why am I really making this “perfect plan?” Growing up we all hear about the five year, ten year plans… I do agree they are important. But if I stuck to my ten year plan from ten years ago, I wouldn’t be doing half the things I’m doing now. With that being said, I guess I’m having one of those moments where I begin to think.

Initially, when I decided to come home for these two months during the summer, I had intended to begin re-making my life permanent: settling down back in the Napa Valley. That I was drawn back and there was a reason I needed to be here, right now, even though I didn’t know what it was. I suppose that in the back of my mind, I’ve always envisioned coming back to the Napa Valley at some point. And as many times as I said I was moving for good, never coming back, there was always a part of me that knew I’d end up here. And now I’m here. Unintentionally, I have done absolutely nothing to create a new life. I haven’t researched jobs or places to live; I haven’t branched out and started to do things in the community. But what I have been doing – is thinking.

I absolutely love being here. I mean, how could you not? But at the same time, I’m not loving being here. Does that make sense? If I moved back right now, I don’t know that I would feel fulfilled. Would coming back here try and recreate my history? Have I not outgrown it? I am faced with conflicting ideas and I struggle with trying to make it work. And then it occurred to me. What would happen if I didn’t “have” to come back here? What would happen if I let go of this “perfect plan” I had created? I mentioned that I felt I was supposed to come back here, for some unknown reason. What if that reason was so that I would feel what it was like to be back, to quasi live here for a short period of time, to feel that maybe it’s not time to live here. Maybe I needed to get it out of my head that this is where I “had” to end up. Maybe there is more out there. Maybe there is more to think about.

And that’s where I am now. I’ll return to the states in October, but the truth is, I have no idea where I will end up. I can’t honestly say when the next visit to California will be. The feeling is so liberating, knowing that my life is an array of open doors, all so beautifully decorated in their own way, all so inviting and beckoning me through to experience another journey. This isn’t the time to sit down and plan out my life. I have goals, I have a bucket list, and I have a yearning to explore what life has to offer.

Speaking of my bucket list, in just under a month, I will begin my pilgrimage across the north of Spain on a walk called, El Camino de Santiago. I will attempt to do it in 30 days, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to experience what is there waiting for me. People have asked me why I have chosen to do this. I still haven’t been able to formulate an answer that is satisfying to me. Other people do the walk for various reasons – historical, spiritual, in searching for something, etc. But me? Who knows. Maybe it’s all of the above. I can honestly say, that two years ago, I would never have thought about doing something like this. So maybe it is what I’ve learned in these last two years. Maybe I’ve started to see the world outside of a box. Maybe I’ve started to really appreciate people for who they are and where they come from, how their culture and background make them unique, why they think the way they do. I’m going to meet some incredible people on this journey. I’m going to meet my Sergio.  I’m going to learn a lot about a lot of things. I know this because I’m open to it, I’m excited about it, and I’m going without a plan. I’m ready to be changed.

Does that sound like a plan?

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Phase

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Phase

[feyz]

a stage in a process of change or development

A lot has happened in the last few months.  The most substantial is that I’ve made a decision for the next phase of my life.  About two months ago, on a Sunday morning, I woke up feeling a little disconcerted.  I started scrolling through Facebook and saw a bunch of different pictures, some from California, others from Alaska, a few from random parts of the world, and even though most of them weren’t from home, I had this strange feeling that I wanted to be home.  Like it was time to be home.  I began to entertain the thought and wondered what my life would look like if I moved back.  It wasn’t even five minutes before another idea struck me.  Life Coach.  I have always loved helping people, listening to people, being there for people… why not make a profession out of it?  I’ve always said that whatever I do in life, I have to work with people and be able to love them.  I began research immediately and became overwhelmed with the information I found, the possibility of making this a reality!  I was hesitant to share my idea too quickly because I didn’t want this all to come from a feeling of “homesickness.”  Every day that followed, I became more and more excited to the point that I wanted my last few months here to pass quickly!

Since then, I have registered for two courses.  One is a Lifecoach course that will take anywhere from nine months to a year to complete – depending on how much time I can dedicate to it.  The other is a Wellcoach course – specific to health/fitness/wellness… my passion… and is 18 weeks long.  With these classes, I have added five hours of work to my week – not including readings and follow-ups.  I have also added other extracurricular activities that make my time at home very minimal.  Needless to say, these months have been passing quickly.  Too quickly in fact!  Since that day of disconcertment, my mentality has flipped again, 180 degrees.  I’ve fallen in love with everything that I’m doing here, all over again.  It’s possible that this new found appreciation has come knowing that it may all end before I know it.  Hearing my students tell me they will miss me and will cry at the going away part they want to throw for me, almost makes me want to change my mind!  Being with my two little girls has me dreading the day I will have to say goodbye.  Spending time with the friends I met only a short time ago has me wishing I had more time with them.  Sitting on a terrace at 10pm as the sun is beginning to go down, enjoying the warm weather and ambiance of “no pasa nada” felt from the surrounding culture, has me really second guessing if this is what I really want to do.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.  I have always said that I will stay in Spain until the government kicks me out or I feel that it is time to go.  As most of you know, I have had problems with my visa from day one.  Eventually I decided not to care anymore and let it take its own course.  By the way, I finally got approved for my 2nd year visa in April… The same one I applied for last May!  In order to apply for a visa for next year, I would have to again say that I’m a student and find a school willing to say I am studying there… Unfortunately being a student of life doesn’t qualify for a student visa.  I had a conversation with my cousin awhile back about this situation.  He said, Sarah, you should never have to lie to get things done your way.  Look at Abraham.  When he entered into cities he told the people that his wife was his sister so that he would not be killed.  God was like, bro – that was unnecessary.  Where is your faith?  Don’t you know that I will take care of you and provide for you?  Abraham did what he thought he had to do for his safety instead of trusting God to handle the situation.  In a similar way, I have done the same thing with my visa.  And now here is God saying, “Sarah – mah lady, don’t you know that I will take care of you and provide for you?  If I want you to be in Spain, I will make that happen in a legal way so that you will not have to lie or bend the truth.”  So in a roundabout way, the government is “kicking me out” as I also feel it is time to leave…

The love I have for this country and for its people cannot be described with words.  I know that my future here isn’t over.  I am so young with so many years ahead of me.  I still have the travel bug and I promise you all right now that I will continue to live globally, as the world is my best teacher.  There is something I need to do at home, there is a reason I need to be there.  I don’t entirely know what it is at this point, but I am being pulled, so I will go.  As a Lifecoach, I will be able to work from anywhere which is a very comforting thought.

Living in Spain has taught me many things.  One of which, is the significance of family.  The closeness of family here is incredible.  As my Spanish family has adopted me and brought me in to their life, I have been able to witness first hand, the family values and importance of family.  While I love my family, being physically apart from them didn’t faze me too much in the beginning as we have a great tool in technology.  But there is something to be said for physical proximity.  This year my mother was in Alaska, my father in Texas, brother in Afghanistan, family in Colorado, family in California, and me here in Spain.  Typical America… but not ideal – especially now as my outlook on family importance has changed.  It isn’t likely that we will all live in the same place, let alone the same state!  But being in the same country at the same time right now has significantly increased in importance.

What happens next?  To be honest, I’m not completely sure.  But I’m ok with that.  I plan to move home in October.  I’m excited for the next phase of my life.  I’m excited to begin my new career.  And more than anything, I’m excited to see what my future holds.  It’s a new phase… but it’s only the beginning.

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Journey

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Journey

[jur-nee]

“passage or progress from one stage to another”

I think we all know that I’m over here on a journey, living in another country with an intention to actually live the other country: meaning adaptation to culture, language, food, people, etc. But aren’t we all on our own journey? Wherever you are you are progressing from one stage to another, from one starting point to a finish line. Sometimes we don’t know when or where that finish line will be but we continue in faith and determination.

The journey I want to focus on specifically is my spiritual journey. Now if you’re anything like me, after reading that you might say ok… this girl has gotten “spiritual” and boom just like that I’ve lost your interest. I say “just like me” because that is exactly how I used to be. When someone I knew suddenly got a passion for God I would shrug them off, putting them in a special category and they would become “less cool” in my book. I don’t know how or why that started, especially because I’ve been claiming Christianity all my life. Yeah I believed in God and I went to church when I felt like it, put on a good image when necessary, but never lived a good example. When someone would ask me to share what I believed or why I believed what I did, I would become super uncomfortable and try to answer the questions as quickly as possible a lot of times diminishing the reality of it and even turning it into a joke! Coming from a Christian society I was never tested or questioned. It was normal not to eat pork. Everyone at my school either went to church or supported my going without a second thought.

Then I came to Spain. Before I left I had a book and a lot of my friends wrote to me in it with advice, love, words of wisdom, etc. One person in particular advised me saying, “always keep God on a first name basis.” He then shared a bit of his past and how when looking back, the moments he wasn’t “tight” with God were when he was on that road in the opposite direction. Reading his words I was like yeah, I’ve got this. And I really believed I had. I’d heard a lot about people becoming closer to God while oversees, their trials becoming a foundation for their new-found relationship. When I got here I googled a few churches, went to a couple, didn’t like them – mostly because I didn’t understand Spanish at that point, and then stopped. I decided that when I became more fluent, I’d try again. I still shot up a quick prayer before my meals and thought about God sometimes… usually when someone asked why I didn’t eat pork, but that was the extent of my spiritual “growth.” I can count on one hand the number of times I opened my bible last year. As expected, I started to play with temptations… of course always making them justifiable. I never felt that I was really doing anything wrong. The more you play, the easier it gets. Staying out on a Friday night until 6 – 7am made it impossible for me to want to attempt to go to church again. I was living the Spanish dream! And it was a blast! I met a lot of great people and did a lot of fun things. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and maybe if I hadn’t been in that mental state, I wouldn’t have met and become close to certain people – so for that I’m incredibly grateful because those people I met are incredible and have made a huge impact on my life. But my fault was that I didn’t stay true to my morals and values and the things that I believed made me who I was.

In all of that, God never left me. Randomly at the end of the year I started going to church again. It was nice and I always felt better afterwards but nothing really stuck with me. Of course when I was having problems with my visa or where I would be staying when I came back I would pray about it and I felt that God was leading me to come back. And that’s what happened. I went back to the states for a good portion of the summer, showed off that I was a new person – that Spain had changed me. And while it did, in certain aspects, at that moment, I don’t know that it was all for good. My view of the world did change though, and my eyes were opened to the drastic difference in mentality between a majority of Americans and most of the other world. I played that card a lot. I wanted people to truly believe that my year over here had made me a better person, that one of my favorite quotes was actually happening, “every day in every way I am getting better and better.”

I left to come back to Spain for the second round relying on that little faith I did have that everything would work itself out. It did, of course, but it was far from easy. I had decided that I would try going to church again even to a vespers on Friday! I met a few people and they were super friendly and open but I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was still shy about my level of Spanish and to talk about my relationship with God, even in English was a struggle! There was a period where I had no place to live. It was a very stressful week trying to get it all worked out. I ended up finding a place that would be temporary for a month before moving to the place where I am now. It was quite far from the city center so each trip in took up a large chunk of time. But out there in the boonies I started to feel lonely. I had moved out of my family’s house and was with two people who were really nice but I just didn’t know them well. It was there that I first allowed God to speak to me. I had been reading through Jane Austen’s novels like crazy and it got to the point that on Saturday I felt that I should take a break from novels and read something spiritual – my way of Sabbath keeping. I started with the Great Controversy. If you want to read my thoughts and comments on that let me know and I will share them with you, but long story short I went from a state of shock, to fear, to peace and love… all within three chapters. My hunger for God started to grow and turned into a craving. I had never read through the Bible before. A couple times I had started those yearly plans and I think one time made it to Exodus. I decided I needed something quick so I would have no excuse. Sometimes intensive therapy is necessary. I started looking at 90 day plans… 60 day plans… 30 day plans… a 26 day plan… Boom. That was it. The 26 day plan was to read 40 chapters of the OT and 10 of the NT daily…. So that’s 50 chapters a day. I spent enough time on the metro, I decided I would do it. And thus began my challenge. It got tough. There were lots of parts I didn’t understand and I couldn’t stop and explore them because I had so much to read. But there is something to be said when you finish that last word of Revelation and you hold your Bible thinking WOW…. I legitimately just read that whole book! To be fair, I did slow down near the end and ended up finishing in 30 days but with thanks to God, I did finish. That was just the beginning. I had been talking to one of my mentors back home and would ask her things as questions popped up. She offered to begin a bible study with me reading along side Ellen White. My fascination for EGW had increased after starting with the Great Controversy and I readily agreed, excited that I would begin to understand the Bible!

This journey I’ve been on has been such an amazing experience. God is truly working at every point of my life! There was one day I was sitting at home wearing my 49ers t-shirt, 49ers PJ bottoms, wrapped in my 49ers blanket, watching the 49ers play in the NFC championship game, all by myself in my bedroom in the middle of the night. And as we all know and are stoked about…. They won!!! I was literally jumping up and down in my room!! But they were soft jumps, you know, what you do when you don’t want to wake up anyone in your house… I couldn’t scream or shout or cheer out loud, and it was tough!!! I was texting people from home like crazy, trying to share in their excitement, posting facebooks statuses and liking all of them that mentioned the niners. Then my cousin said dude, you should totally fly out here for the Super Bowl, it’d be worth it! Jokingly I responded by saying yeah if you pay for it! He said how much… and I began to look. I found a ticket and told him I’d go halfsies on it with him. He said well that’s kind of a lot of money but if we can get a bunch of people to put down a little bit, we can make it work! He then put it as his facebook status and I followed suit. Needless to say, and I’m sure you’re all aware, we raised enough money to purchase the ticket without it being too expensive for him or I! It was incredible!!! (PS thank you to alllll of you that contributed!!!) I still needed to clear it with my boss and praying the whole way I knew that if my boss said yes, it was a done deal. And sure enough without even a second thought he gave me permission!!! When I went to buy the ticket, the price had dropped $100! I knew God was working. There was a reason He was sending me home. And while I thought it was for the Super Bowl, there was a part of me that knew it was bigger than that.

Less than two weeks later I was on a flight home, for three days packed with love. I didn’t plan on seeing a lot of people because my time would be so short but I spent one day camped out at the coffee shop so I would see as many people as I could that could come. Throughout the weekend I had some incredible conversations, some deep, some fun, some inspiring, some sad… but every single one was a blessing. I was able to surprise my 10am customer crew at the coffee shop! I can still picture the look on everyone’s face as I walked up to say hello. I’d be an idiot to ever doubt I was loved because right there in that moment I felt more love than I can express. I know you guys read this and I want you to know that surprising you guys was one of my highlights of the weekend. I miss serving you more than you know and I appreciate all the love you have shown me over the years. And here is a special shout out to Bill!! ( I promised it to ya 😉 )

I had heard that the new pastor at Elmshaven was pretty good. That he had inspiration, a passion for preaching, and that the church was growing. I couldn’t believe it… Elmshaven growing?? But I wanted to see it for myself so I made plans to go. Willingly go to Elmshaven… mom I know you can’t believe it. I went with three amazing friends and we sat there together, in community, truly blessed by the words we were hearing. I don’t think I had ever felt so many chills during a sermon. The entire day we discussed what he had said and applied it to our lives, reenacting different gestures he had used. It felt so amazing to be able to share it with my people. To share it… to share my thoughts on God, and the entire day. That was a feeling I had never experienced before! And just another shout out… if you guys haven’t heard of this guy or you’re looking for a spark, I encourage you to check him out. He brings the gospel to life!

Needless to say, God had refueled my fire. By the time the Super Bowl came around, I was already so blessed and had had such an incredible couple of days that I didn’t really care who won! As amazing as it would have been to leave in the 49ers victory, I was still glad I got to watch it with the people I was with. And it was such a good feeling waking up the next day to emails and texts from my friends, family, and students in Spain… telling me how sorry they were that my team lost! None of them care about American football, but they all paid a special interest on my behalf! I was leaving the love at home to come back to the love in Spain. And to sum up my weekend, yes, my cousin was right, it was definitely more than worth it to go home for the Super Bowl.

Since coming back, God has continued to work in my life. My hunger for His word continues daily, I’ve found an English speaking church on Saturday evenings that has helped my sense of community and belonging. I feel more at home at my Spanish church in the mornings. I went on a spiritual retreat last weekend and was overwhelmed with God and his presence. I sit here and ask myself why I’m sharing this with all of you. Why now, the first time in my life, have I publically opened up my spirituality? It’s because what I’m learning about God and what I’m feeling from Him is so powerful, I can’t help but share it! My old fear of losing friends because “I’ve gone off the deep end in spirituality” is gone. If this is who I am, why would I hesitate to share? I want you to know me for me. I want to share my passion with you! I’m not perfect – as you all know.. I’m far from it! But what I am is in love with God and on a spiritual journey. Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.

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Christmas

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Christmas

[kris-muh s]

(the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts) – dictionary.com

the season of giving, the season of love – personal application

All the sudden I find myself again amongst the Christmas season, surrounded by love.  I look back at the year at the different struggles, challenges, opportunities, friendships, memories, and growth.  Sometimes you don’t realize how much has happened in your life and how many miracles are continually happening.

In my last update I had just landed a new job and had four days to find a new place to live.  Not gonna lie, it was a difficult position to be in.  But I kept positive and determined because I knew and still know that I’m here for a reason, and whatever happens along the way – good or bad – will be helpful in the long run.  My living situation came down to the wire… I had looked at tons of apartments and nothing felt right.  I had felt so desperate at one point I even signed a contract for a place and only had to go to the bank to get the deposit.  But as I left I got a really sick, uneasy feeling and decided that if I wasn’t happy and excited, it probably wasn’t the place for me.  Everything happens for a reason.  With three days left I saw a place I really liked, the people were really great, the location was perfect, and the rent was affordable.  It was perfect!  But wouldn’t you know, it wouldn’t be available until December.  I was heartbroken.  With two days left, I had to make a decision. I saw another place that was just…ok.  And I said yes because I felt I had to.  But then upon leaving, I got that same sick feeling, like it wasn’t meant to be.  To make a long story short, I decided I wanted the other place that wasn’t available until December and I would find somewhere to live for the month of November.  That evening I remembered somebody I had met about a month before.  I had had a meeting with him to begin recording audio guides for his business and he had casually mentioned he had a third room in his house that at one time he had rented out.  He said he would still like to rent it so he and his roommate could save money but his roommate wasn’t too keen on the idea.  I thought nothing of it at the time, but then in my evening of stress I remembered him and without thinking twice, I called.  “Hey Paco!  Is there any way I could live with you for a month… just a month!”  He responded super nicely saying he had no problem and would need to ask his roommate but to him it was no problem.  Then he asked if it was for me or one of my friends… and I assured him it was for me to which he responded positively and said he would call me back that evening.  I can’t even explain my feelings during the next few minutes.  The stress turned to suspense, the possibility of having everything finally work out was dependent on his phone call.  He finally called with the best news!  His roommate and he were very excited to help me out, the rent would be cheap, and on top of all of it, we’d have great language practice between us!  Two days later I moved.

The month of November flew by as I began my new life.  Traveling to classes all day gave me lots of time to read, in the evenings I would hang out with my new roommates, and every Sunday I had lunch with my family.  Thanksgiving quickly approached and my family took me out to a really nice Brazilian restaurant that offered a Thanksgiving meal and it was absolutely incredible!  Every day I am so thankful for them and the love they continuously give to me.  Having a family on this side of the world has been the difference between me liking where I am and loving where I am.

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December came and I moved into to my new place.  It was a smooth transition and my new roommates are super nice.  There are two girls and one boy and they don’t speak English.  Perfect for me!  Since I live right by the park, I go running 5-6 days a week.  Living closer to the city center makes it possible to come home for lunch a couple days a week.  I’m so happy this is the place that worked out for me although I’m so grateful I was able to live in the other place for November because now I have two new friends as well.  One of whom took me to Toledo last week and showed me the entire city with the best tour.  He was born there and that plus his fascination for knowledge and history had me learning so many things and made it an incredible trip!

My classes continue and on the days I dread going I always give myself a slap in the face at the end of the day because every class I leave, I’m always happy and glad I went.  Sometimes the students would rather talk than learn, sometimes they complain that the grammar is too difficult, sometimes they are too tired and nothing makes sense, but regardless, every single day they greet me with a smile and are excited to be there.  I have a wide range of levels and I can’t decide on a favorite.  The lower levels are great because you get to see a huge improvement in a small period of time.  The higher levels are fun because we can talk about almost anything and the time flies by.  And there might be one whose name I wish was Sergio.  Hahaha.  I’ve definitely been dealt a few difficult students.  One of them has a level much lower than the rest of the class, but since it is the lowest level my company offers, he has to be there.  To be honest, I wouldn’t want anyone else teaching him – but at the same time, it’s difficult to keep the strong students learning while he is struggling.  Another class I have has one student that doesn’t want to do anything but talk.  No grammar, no vocabulary, no learning… just talking.  You can imagine the challenge that gives me.  But like I say, at the end of the day, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be, any other challenges I’d rather have, any other situation I’d rather be in.

I began my vacation this week and have a solid two and a half weeks to celebrate the holidays.  I don’t know if I stressed it enough last year, but Christmas time in Spain is essentially a marathon of food.  Meal after meal, kilo after kilo… This year I’m mixing it up a bit and I’m going to head to England for a week to check another country off my list.  But I will be here for Christmas.  And I am very excited!  There is something very special about Spain during Christmas.  During the rest of the year, the love is apparent all around.  There is happiness despite the crisis and 25% unemployment.  But during Christmas, it’s like a whole new world.  The families come together and unity becomes the most important thing.  And the best part is I really do feel that I’m a part of a family here.

This morning I was thinking about the different Christmases I’ve had in my life.  I thought back to when I was a child and there were a couple years where we had a different style of Christmas.  Because of certain circumstances, we were to have a very small and cheap Christmas with no presents and a small meal, but it was ok because what was important was being together.  One morning my mom went to open the door, and I’ll never forget the moment when she started to cry.  On our front porch was a huge box full of food!  It was unbelievable!  There was more food in that box than in our entire kitchen.  And not only that, there was a present wrapped for both my brother and I!  At the time I was too young to really understand our situation but seeing the emotion in my mother and thinking about it now, it is overwhelming to think about how many people were in our community that loved us and took a little of what they had to make sure we had a real Christmas.  I’ll never forget it, and I think about it often, especially when I complain that I don’t have enough of something… There was a day when I had less and I was still ok and I was still happy.  My point in sharing this is that there are many people around us that don’t have as much as we do.  Here in Spain and everywhere else in the world.  Families are sitting at home curled up in blankets because they can’t afford heat, worrying about where their next meal will come from.  It’s Christmas time.  The season of giving, the season of love.  If it’s in your power, if it’s in your ability, do something for those that can’t do it for themselves.  I promise you, the feeling of those receiving it and the joy it will bring you will be worth more than any other gift.

Merry Christmas!

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