Monday, July 2, 2007

the meaning of the English word "sincere"

I brought only one t-shirt with me to the Camino. I chose an orange t-shirt that I bought last year at Minuteman Pizza in Uyuni Bolivia, the site of an outstanding travel experience. The pizza was tasty, and the salt flats were amazing, but that's not why Uyuni is important to me. I brought it because while I was there I met people there who taught me some things about the world--about having appendicitis in unfortunate circumstances, about bravery, about kindness, about knowing Spanish medical vocabulary, about humor, about local anesthesia. I brought it to remind me that no matter where I travel, the important part is the people. Without them, the places don´t end up mattering quite as much. I travel by myself all of the time, but I have never yet traveled alone.

I remember stopping for a breakfast Cola Cao (hot chocolate to which I am addicted) in Triacastela and striking up a conversation with a German bicyclist named Nils. I was trying to explain to him the meaning of the English word "sincere." I told him that being sincere sometimes sounds kind of silly and embarrassing. Then later on I told him kind of awkwardly that I wished that he were walking so that we could walk together. "Oh. I guess that´s an example of being sincere," I said. He walked his bike with me for awhile, and we kept talking.

Nils, this posting is an example of the word "sincere."

I haven't written many names on the blog up until now because I didn't want readers to get confused, but now that it's done, there are some folks who I want to acknowledge . . .

When I think of Cusco, Peru, I remember a Canadian woman named Carolyn in her green fleece telling me about this thing called the Camino de Santiago. Throughout my walk, she has sent me funny recollections and words of encouragement. I hope that one day I can provide someone with the gift of the Camino in the same way that she has offered it up to me.

LarrasoaƱa is a worthless little town on the edge of the Pyrenees where I helped dry the tears of a lovely Essex girl named Ceri with whom I shared both my first and last dinners on the Camino.

My favorite massage parlor in Spain is located just on the edge of Los Arcos. It was recommended to me by Paul and Rob. That town also has a very nice church.

Najera reminds me of a couple of Americans named Jen and Luke who saved me from a snoring bedmate. This is just the kind of goodwill I would expect from fellow W&M alums.

The highlight of Sahagun was watching the dream team of Canadian ladies cheerfully sing and cluck as they went at my feet with sharp objects and stinging liquids. Actually, it always made me smile when Gwen and Annabel and Jeanine and Adrianna turned up on the trail. Heeeeere weeeee goooooo! Yeeee-haw!

Reliegos, just outside of Leon, is tiny and boring, forgettable. I only remember it because I was there with Sam and Marcus who had also walked 70K in two days. We made dinner. We had our blisters repaired by Spanish pilgrims. We laughed at each other and tried not to get banned from the local store for being careless with garlic bulbs.

The peaceful village of Rabanal reminds me of laundry fights and sunrise dance parties with the singing Gerhard and his lovely Henrietta.

I was surprised to find that the Cruz de Ferro was a memorable experience for me, but I think it made a particularly large impression because when I walked down the pile of rocks with tears in my eyes, there was a big hug from Irish Ali awaiting me.

The walk to Molinaseca was one of the most beautiful of the Camino, but when I got to the end, I was tired and hungry--and Euro-less. Kind Tobias volunteered to lend me some money.

In Cacabelos, I offered some pizza to three tired walkers who wandered into a restaurant at the end of a very long day. The next day, in Villafranco, I happened upon Patsy, Pam, and Franklin just as I was feeling truly crummy and lonely for the first time on the Camino. Of course, once I found them, that mood switched quickly.

The first thing I think about when I recall the beautiful town and famous monastery of Samos will not be the chanting monks. I will think of Luke and Stacie and the monk spotting game, of earning points for spying monks. (Bonus points for nuns.) And when I think about my best meals on the Camino, I will always remember the famous "Completo" of Negreira.

The horreos (pretty raised granaries) that are common in Galicia remind me of my best Spanish teacher, Marta, chiding me for not keeping up with my regional vocabulary.

I'll remember a lot of things about the final long day into Santiago, including the company of Josefina, a pilgrim I had met only two days before. We set out early, squinting in the dark to find the yellow arrows and cheering one another onward in the final push to expunge our sins.

Way back in Burgos, I made Stefan's acquaintance as he slept on the bunk above me; half a country later, on my first night in Santiago, we and I celebrated our birthdays together (thanks to C, G, and A)--with eating and singing and even a little dancing . . .

Santiago's museum exhibit on Lord of the Rings was interesting, but it was really only fun because I was there with Florian. We got to the top floor, looked around stealthily to make sure we weren't going to be caught by other pilgrims, and then we took the elevator down two floors. Triumphant, luxurious wimpiness.

Spotting the sea for the first time was a spectacular moment, but there was no one to help me marvel. I was feeling a bit lost, until I looked down and read a note from Peter, who had placed a rocky note at my feet to welcome me there.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the yobs/Boy Band, Jesus, Purple Man, Silver Fox, Gerard Depardieu, and all of the other nameless folks who made the voyage worthwhile.

My final night in Santiago, I shared a room with Penny. She presented me with a book, an English book, and we talked about how one of the best parts of the Camino is the good company.

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Thank you for the company.

4 comments:

ali said...

shit girl you've just brought a tear to my eye.... wish I could recollect my Camino with such eloquence

Lauren smith said...

I have been thinking about you and reading your blogs for pure entertainment and for the reassurance that you are doing well (no doubt in my mind that you are) seems like more then you could have imagined... which is the point of your journey... been hiking around the sierra's in CA myself (for only a week), but it sure is a reality check to what's important in this life that we lead. The beautiful and untouched land is simple and yet so complex. I can appreciate your adventure!

Penny said...

Hi Bridget!! Beautifully written tale of your camino and the people on it! You left 20Euros under the door to pay your 15Euros hotel bill, so now you will have to come and walk in Australia so I can pay you back!!! You are a special person and it was such a privelege to meet you. Love Penny
PS Hope you are enjoying the book!!

Penny said...

Penny said...
Hi Bridget!! Beautifully written tale of your camino and the people on it! You left 20Euros under the door in Santiago to pay your 15Euros hotel bill, so now you will have to come and walk in Australia so I can pay you back the 5Euros!!! You are a special person and it was such a privelege to meet you. Love Penny
PS Hope you are enjoying the book!!