Wednesday, July 27, 2016

walking to reconnect - self-discovery

A solo trip is good for the soul. I was able to walk silently and let my mind rest. My only responsibility was to walk and I had all day to do so.

When I returned, the kids were still alive and well, yet were happy I was home.

To end, here are some other favorite photos.

Thank you, Vanessa, Ashleigh, Wendy, Jennie, David, Vedya, and Jinny. Here we are at 100 km sign.

A special note found on the Camino, which I'm sure was written just for me.

km 0

After we arrived in Santiago de Compostela, I got my certificate of completion (with my name written in Latin), took a shower, got a foot rub, went to mass at the Cathedral de Santiago and went to dinner. In the square in front of the Cathedral is 0 km and the official end of the Camino de Santiago.

Some pilgrims choose to walk to the "end of the earth" at Finisterre, Spain along the western coast of the country. I chose not to finish there, as it is another 86 km and would require another 4-5 days. Jinny and I had a miscommunication out of the gate on the first day in relation to Finisterre/finish there. It pretty much kick-started our friendship.

Instead the trip ended with a fabulous dinner together with my fellow pilgrims and new friends, send-off churros y chocolate with Jinny and a trip to A Coruna, along the northern coast.

I stayed at an Airbnb. I was thrilled to do laundry, sit, read and play with the dogs. The dogs kept stealing the drying laundry.

I did venture to the sea for the afternoon one day, but sat in the shade and read a book. I was done with the sun.

I returned to Santiago two days later, met up with Heidi from Oak Park!

Tapas with some of my favorites was on tap for dinner and then a promise to return someday. I flew to Madrid and then home the next day.

I returned with very little money (less than 1 Euro), and a soul that is in a good place. In a few days, after the dead skin sloughs off, I'll also have the feet of a newborn.

Monday, July 25, 2016

a birthday abroad

While in Spain I turned 50. I was born in Germany at 11:11 am, which shares the same time zone as Spain. At exactly 11:11 on my 50th birthday, I happen to be under this sign while walking along the Camino.

The entire day was perfect. There was a surprise party with signs, cards, balloons, a lemonade stand, a Bloody Mary estacion, a burrito bar, party hats and pins, and a compilation cake. There were a bunch of new friends, as well as other pilgrims ready to celebrate. It was a magical day.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ibuprofen v. Liver Damage

By day 5, we, pilgrims - as we are called, are at our most base/authentic selves. We are sweaty, smelly and damaged.

Blisters had formed on the bottoms of my feet, and in an effort to provide some relief and avoid the tender areas, I began to walk differently, which caused blisters to form on other areas. Additionally, hips, shins, feet and backs are barking. My left lower leg started to feel like it wasn't part of my own body. It felt like the leg of a mannequin. Odd, very odd.

Others in my group had trouble with ankles, knees, sun rashes and chafing. By day 5 we had walked over 60 miles, had washed out our clothes in the sink multiple times, and would continue that routine for the next 7 days.

By day 5, I started my morning taking an ibuprofen. An hour later I was still struggling with body aches. One of my fellow pilgrims asked, "How much did you take?" When I reported I had taken 200 mg, she asked, "From the United States?"

600 additional milligrams and 20 minutes later I felt much better. At 1 pm, another 600 did the trick to get me through the rest of the day.

After 5 days, my body adjusted to its new routine. Once we arrived at our landing spot for the night I would wash out my clothes, bathe, and start addressing parts of my body which were in active revolt. I'd amble off to restorative yoga some days, while others I would have a beer and lay inverted on a lounge chair with my legs elevated enjoying my own meditative practice.

Monday, July 11, 2016

a rabbit, two frogs and an antelope walk into an art gallery

As some of you know, I did not embark on my Camino trip unsupported. I signed up to go with and a small group of people. I am well fed multiple times during the day and have stayed in a bed every night. Not once have I had to catch my own chicken.

Jennie teaches yoga, one session in the morning to help us warm up our muscles and one restorative session in the evening. Jinny, Wendy, David, Vedya, Vanessa and I partake in those sessions as we are willing and able. Today for four of us we had 72 blankets, 6 yoga mats, and numerous blocks. The furniture was flipped up and propped against the hallway wall while we synchronized our legs so we wouldn't grope someone unintentionally.

Every morning I would take a photo of a card and inspirational message from a couple of friends.

We would take a group selfie during the day also.

Jinny is my new Camino bestie and I am really enjoying our time together. We talk, sing, laugh, tease and eat ice cream. Our whole group really works well together but also speaks up to address our individual needs. We walk solo, together or in pairs at various times daily.

We walk all day. I have learned that I am good when I'm up and walking and excellent at sitting and resting, yet the parts in the middle have been tough, such as standing up, sitting down, stairs,... My feet are blistered beyond belief. I finally had to ditch the hiking boots and put on my Keen sandals, as I could not bear to put a shoe back on.  I am swollen, sore and happy.

We have stayed in cities, villages, towns, and farmhouses a few miles from nowhere. My favorite accommodations have been old stone homes. The scenery and the people are diverse and wonderful. We have walked along rivers, roads, across rolling mountains, vineyards, farmland and valleys. I've sung songs from The Sound of Music, I Love Trash from Sesame Street, Indigo Girls, Dona Nobis Pacem, Lyle Lovett, and John Denver (most of them of the duet variety with Jinny). I've discussed books, authenticity, motivation, families, first aid and the weather. I have belly-laughed daily.

Vanessa is excellent at packing suitcases. Luckily she found the right career for her. She is co-owner of Andaspain, has been with us and had been like a pit crew coordinator helping all of us along the way. She and her business partner Kate, coordinate the trips and someone from the company accompany the pilgrims. This two weeks, it's Vanessa. She was raised in South Florida to Spanish and Cuban parents. She speaks English, Spanish and Galician fluently. I'm sure she's also well versed in Pig Latin and Braille, we just haven't gotten there yet. She is personable, talented, accessible, and a problem-solver. She has bought a clothes line to hang damp clothes in the giant grey van, Bruce. She has bought a bucket in which to soak our feet.

She posed as an angel in matching Charlie's Angels clothes.

She has tried to inflate a "fatboy" enough so one's back end doesn't scrape the floor. She has made excellent lunches for the vegetarians, lactose intolerant, gluten free, vegans, and omnivores from the mid-west, and the places we've stayed have been amazing. In some places we get assigned rooms by our height.

There have been so many highlights. I skipped out on a bar bill (temporarily) as the proprietor had just mopped the floor when I ordered so said I could pay later. My fellow travelers said she was looking for "Jill" and assured her I would stop back later, as I was staying across the street and there were only about 25 people in the whole town. I was busy eating dinner in Jaime's house.

I wore a surgical cap as Victor placed a helmet on my head, while smoking a cigarette 5 inches from my face, before I got on a horse to ride into Galicia. I thought I was in the front because I had a good, gentle horse that knew the way. I was really in the front because my horse hates the other horses, which I found out after a small skirmish.

A church, shortly after the cross into Galicia, had bibles written in many languages opened to the same verse.

Yesterday I was 1k from lunch when I saw a sign that listed that in 320 mtrs the opposite way, there was an alchemist, massage, reiki, meditation, and a mineral art gallery. Ninety minutes later, Vanessa, Wendy, Jinny and I had drunk "garden" tea and had had our cards read.

That evening we toured a monastery
and ate at a place with hanging cuts of meat.  

Today we crossed into the last 100k. In the afternoon I had the pleasure of walking with Ashleigh, another partner in crime. This evening we participated in a traditional Galician pagan ceremony to ward off evil spirits. The Conxuro da Quiemada (an incantation/spell was recited while the punch made out of grain alcohol, coffee, lemon and an apple) burned for 45 minutes prior to the recitation of the Conxuro. I made sure to rub a little on one particularly ugly blister, in hopes that the evilness will disappear. One can only hope.