Monday, July 26, 2010

My last day in Santiago Compestela....

Hello all,

I can´t believe it but today´s my last day in Santiago Compestela. Tomorrow I leave for Italy. I wonder what adventures await in Rome and Florence.
Anyway, here´s a picture of this huge celebration in Santiago Compestela. This was taken on July 24th the day before the big golden anniversary on the el camino de santiago. It only happens once every 11 years.

Cecilia and I hung out at the plaza for several hours to see the festivities but it was totally worth it. They had this huge light show with the cathedral as the backdrop. I loved it!!!! They had all of these images of pilgrims walking, ancient latin scrolls of directions through the camino, images of Saint James and of other apostles. All to the beat of the gaiteros (or bag pipes) which is very Galician since this part of Spain has an affinity with Ireland. Way cool.

Hasta luego,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The end of my camino but more festivities to come (so stayed tuned)

My new friend, Cecilia, from Mar de Plata, Argentina. We met at the alburgue the two nights before I planned on arriving in Santiago. We agreed just to walk 3 kilometers to the next town to have breakfast the next day. Before we knew it we were hanging out all the way to the cathedral of Santiago Compestela. Here we are just enjoying a soda in one of the local cafes that dot the camino.

Here are the married Canadian couple, Marc and Christine, Cecilia and I in front of the Cathedral of Santiago Compestela. We all finished our camino together, giving each other high fives and hugs. Its a great feeling to finish!!!!!

Hereś Cecelia on the road. Sheś a real trouper. In great shape and can walk for miles. Weĺl be hanging out together to share in the big festivities in Santiago tonight at 11:30 (Iĺl explain later in my next blog entry)

Anyway, sheĺl be going on to Finisterra on Sunday the 25th. Finisterra means "the end of the land" in latin. They hadnt discovered the new world yet. Anyway, Finisterra is where many pilgrims end their journey instead of Santiago Compestela. Sheś brave, sheś walking another 90 kilometers. Good for her!!!1

Marc and Christine at the end of their camino

And me. Started in June of 2008 and end in July of 2010. 780 kilometers later, I reached the end of the road. Im very happy to have done it, through the camino, one can meet new friends and explore Spain by foot. But, of course, the greatest discovery is understanding yourself. I loved meeting myself many times on the camino, letting go of past grievances, taking life as it comes, testing myself physically to see if I could go another few kilometers. I loved every step and will always carry with me these memories forever.....

Next blog entry, in a couple of days....

Love, Andrea

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 15 on the road....

Hello all, (Melide, Galicia, Spain)

Today is Sunday, July 15th and still hanging loose in Galicia. As you can see, Galicia is really laid back and tranquil. Very green, very agricultural, lots of farms, sheep, cows. Its beautiful to walk through. Alone with my thoughts I have time to reflect on the beauty of God.
Then I turn on my iphone and blast my tunes.... Hey, gotta keep fill the time somehow. ;)

I was talking to local of Galicia. Talking to the locals is the best way to learn about the history. He was saying that while Galicia is very beautiful they really suffer from a lack of industry. So many of their towns and churches have been abandoned (see picture). Starting from the Spanish Civil War until the present, so many Gallegos have left the area to find work.

Many have emigrated to Cuba, Argentina and to other parts of Europe. Some have simply gone off to Madrid, the big city, to find work. So while it is super pristine and just beautiful to behold there is some sadness to the Gallego culture....

As for me, life has been happily passing by. I´ve been really lucky because I´ve been hanging out for the past couple of days with Christine and Mark, a Canadian couple. And guess what? Mark´s an assistant principal at a high school and Christine has spent a lot of time as an educator. The camino and teachers - well, I guess were the only ones with time on our hands to take on a crazy adventure.
Anyway, they´ve been great. We walk on our own but somehow I always manage to see in the evening at the next town. Always fun to laugh, share a drink and grouse about who´s been snoring in the alburgue....
Hasta pronto!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alive and well with photos

Hi everyone,

Well I guess I was wrong and can post photos after all! That´s great. Anyway, as explained down below in my earlier post, I am walking through the backpart of Galicia. If you are following along in a Spain map, I am now in Portomarin, just outside the city of Sarria in Galicia.

They say the camino is divided up into three parts; The physical (that would be the Pyrraneas) the mental (that would be the mesita because it is all flat, brown and very hot and the view never changes) and the spiritual (that is Galicia).

I can see why Galicia is called the spiritual part of the camino because it is so very green and lovely. The Irish girl that I´ve been walking with says that this looks just like her homeland. Green, rainy and a bit windy. But it also so beautiful!!!!

I´ve been on the camino for 12 days now. Its gone by pretty fast. I should be reaching my destination by the 19th or 20th. Check out my photos with descriptions:

A cow bathing itself in a river in Galicia, Spain. She knows what to do! Stay cool I say!!

The world cup of Spain versus Holland. I was fortunate enough to see it in a small Spanish village of Vega Vallance. The crowd just went wild as you can see. Apparently Spain has never won the world cup. It was great to be part of the celebration!!

More anticipation of the final score of the world cup. As you can see the crowd was definitely in rapt anticipation.....

Me just walking along the camino. Trying to keep cool and keep straight. This is early morning with about 10 more miles to go.

I loved meeting this little old guy. I met him in a little tiny hamlet of 35 people in the wilds of Galicia. The town´s name is Hospital de la condesa. Armando has never left his little village, he has spent his entire life in the little house where he was born. Now he walks the little hamlet and just shares stories of the history of his town and of Galicia.

I loved chatting with him. Its times like this that I am so happy that I learned how to speak Spanish!!!!! And I made sure to use the Usted form the entire time to show him proper respect.

Here we are again, Armando and I. Do you notice how Irish Armando looks? In Galicia, many Irish emigrated to this part of Spain.

Armando spoke to me about the Spanish Civil War and how he was a small boy living in this small village during this time. Galicia was one of the last bastions against the Franco dictatorship but it also fell with time.

This is a typical arburgue or pilgrim hostal. So, when travelling the camino, you can expect to sleep in a room like this with 25 other pilgrims.
The group is mixed, men and women, children alike. Lot of bustling of bags and marking out personal space.

But there´s a charm on the camino. People are kind to each other and make sure that you´re doing alright. Okay, there might be some snoring at night, that´s why you always keep your earplugs handy!

My Irish friend, Aofae (pronounced EE-FA). She´s great. We´ve walked together for the last couple of days talking about our lives and trading stories.

She´s strong and can take long strides (you can see that she´s really tall) but she´ll slow down so that we can talk and laugh the miles away on the camino. She´s a teacher like me and lives in Dublin.

Usually we get into the last town of the camino map, usually about 25 kilometers (15 miles or so). We´re usually getting in there on our knees but with lots of giggles.

And me. Okay, not looking quite like Venus de Milo like old EE-FAA up there but love the picture nonetheless. I love the conch shell in the background which symbolizes the camino and how it reflects the water.

Okay, cheerio y hasta la proxima.


July 15th Alive and well

Hello everyone,

Well, I´d love to publish some pictures but unfortunately this computer that I´m at doesn´t allow me to download. Quite the bummer.

Anyway, just want to report that I am walking through the center of Galicia. Its been rainy and a bit windy but I´ve been carrying forth. I´m lucky because I´m always able to find someone to walk with and talking about our lives melts away the miles.

I´m averaging about 15 miles per day lately and am pretty proud of it. I hope to make it Santiago to Compestela by the 20th.

Anyway, pictures will be coming soon.

Love, Andrea

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A week on the camino and still hanging in.

Hello everyone,
Here I am hanging out with some American women that I´ve met on the camino. We´re all teachers! Can you imagine that. Anyway, we had a lovely time sharing a bottle of wine, some Spanish fish and a nice big salad.
Its always fun to meet new people on the road.
Anyway, so far, I´m doing okay. I´ve been on the road for about a week now. I can already feel a difference, my legs feel stronger and I do feel lighter. The only thing that´s really killing me are my blisters. Various people have looked at them and say that getting blisters is genetic.
Anyway, I´m proud of myself because I´ve been averaging about 12 miles a day. Not alot by Camino standards, but I´m proud of myself nonetheless. I´m heading into Villafranca del Bierzo which I think you could probably make out on the map in the last entry...

These signs with conch shells and yellow arrows mark the way for the pilgrim so you never get lost.

Here´s another example

Here´s a knights of the templar castle in the city of Ponfarada. The knights of the templar, according to the literature that I read, came to the aid of the Catholics in Northern Spain. Then the Catholic church that they were getting to strong and too independant. They were then later punished and then killed (how sad!)

More of the castle in Ponfarada

Pilgrims hanging out at the pilgrim hostal, having breakfast and getting ready to walk for the day. I took this picture about 5:30 am. I´m actually getting up really early to take on the day´s hike. I always try to get to my next destination by 11 am before the noon sun. Hiking in the afternoon is really a killer because it can get over 100 degrees!

Norberto and me hanging out at the hill of penance. As I said in the last entry, pilgrims carry a stone throughout there journey (about 300 miles) prior to getting to this hill. Here, they put down the stone. The stone represents all of the sins that they carry.
Norberto was a Spanish man that I walked with and he was really informative. He told me about his life in Spanish and it has been really hard for him. Of course, I wish him the very best....

As for me, I didn´t have a stone with me. I just picked one up and put it in with the rest. Of course, that´s not to say that I don´t have misdeeds to repent, I do. And, so I found a stone, said a prayer and was on my way.

This I actually took in Burgos, when I was on the trip with my Spanish students. I look so much more put together, don´t I. Not dying with my backpack. Anyway, its a funny picture because I´m sitting with a statue of a camino pilgrim.

Anyway, that´s all for now. My health is fine and I´m in great spirits. I´ve been really lucky to have great conversations with the locals and Spanish speaking pilgrims. They all say that I speak Spanish really well, which is nice to hear but I know is not completely true. But, I can definitely follow any thread of conversation and respond although my grammar can get a little fuzzy in the more sophisticated phrasing. Anyway, I´m having a blast!!!!!

Thanks for following.
Kisses to all,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

These last few days....

Hello everyone,

Well I´m alive and well and still surviving although I have been on the camino for about six days now. Here´s a map of the entire camino. If you enlarge the map you will see a city called Ponferada about three towns to the left of Leon. So far I´ve walked about 100 kilometers, about 62 miles.
i´m hanging in.
This woman is a life saver. She is a hospitalero (the caretaker of the pilgrim hostal) in a town called Rabanel outside of Astorga, Spain. I had walked from Astorga to Rabanel which is a distance of 22 kilometers or about 14 miles. Though it doesn´t seem like a great distance, much of it is uphill and I was carrying my 14 pound backpack.I arrived with these huuuuuge blisters on my feet. I was dying. I really didn´t think I´d make it to the pilgrim hostal. Anyway, she took a look at my feet and started to pierce these huge blisters to take out the serem. Then she inserted some iodine (ouch!). I was limping that evening but by the morning I felt much better. Her name is Angela and she was an angel!!!!

Here are some new friends I met in Rabanal, just outside of Astorga Spain (about 65 miles into my hike through the Camino). The two men to my left and right are from Holland and have walked from their front door in Holland are on their way to Santiago Compestela. (Those Dutch people are really in shape, check out the Dutch family down below)

The man across from me is Greg, 33 year old American from Colorado. He is studying to be a Catholic priest. I had met him the day before and had a great talk about theology and about Catholisism around the world.

It´s not every day that you meet someone so young who has the calling to be a catholic priest in the states.

This family is amazing. The three of them are from Holland and have biked all the way from their home outside of Amsterdam to Santiago Compestela in Spain.

I met them a couple of days ago and they are now on their way back to Compestela by bike. They´re young and fit and have a small daughter who is only two years old They´ve been biking for several months now.

This is a picture of a man who actually walked the camino starting in Jerusalem all the way to Santiago Compestela in Spain. About 3,000 miles. Can you believe it!?

It took him a year to do it. Very impressive.

Is this Dennis Hopper´s twin or what? Anyway he was a nice hospilario ( someone who helps pilgrims at the albergue)

A prayer for the pilgrim in Spanish. Basically it is a prayer that says: "That the tiredness of the camino never makes you think to ever leave it. For you to ask yourself, what is the goal of the camino?
That you are can always find the mountain, the river, the course that you might have lost. With the same that God advises.¨

Spanish fans watching the semi-final game between Spain and Germany. Of course, as you know, Spain won and the crowd went wild!!!!

At a hill where a pilgrim can leave a stone. The stone represents all of the sins that you have committed. And all of the sins that you committed without realizing it. It is a way to symbolically unload your pain and your guilt and know that God loves you. Here are priests saying a prayer and giving communion to the pilgrims.