Saturday, November 06, 2010

Posting Backwards

For the Portugues Route journey, I'm going to post backwards. Starting with my time in Santiago. I love it there and the weather was lovely (until the day I left).

Once arriving in Santiago, one is free to wander around and take in the Cathedral area or the city. I never seem to get out of the Cathedral area as the whole reason I'm there is to be in the presence of St. James. I like to wader the streets or sit on the steps of the plaza and watch new pilgrims stumble-run to to the church or the Pilgrims office.

The pilgrim's whole body tells a story. Darkly tanned and lean muscled, indicates they probably did all or most of Camino Frances. Crying (almost always with smiles) pilgrims tell me they have conquered many fears and perhaps sorrows during their journey. Some stride in with a confidence of having been there before. Some look as disconserted as the day they began their journey, knowing they think this is the end of their path.

Having been a pilgrim twice now, I know there are emotions that unique to each journey and emotions that are common to the pilgrimage itself. I welcome both. I've learned things about myself that I now know I can count on from day to day, pilgrimage to pilgrimage. I know if, no when, I do it again, I'll have a new experience too. The same emotions arise when discomfort presents itself and the unbounding joy of arrival is no less bright. I know the journey does not end in Santiago de Compostela. It is usally the beginning of figuring out how to get back again.

My facination with Spain and the people of the countryside is only growing. The Camino is a place I can shed my material world of professional protocol and verbal tapdancing and immerse myself in the world of universal human interaction. Many times I have encountered people who speak no English and with me barely able to order a sandwich the way I want it, but yet we manage to have a meaningful exchange. I have had tiny bent-over women, when greeted with Buenas Dias, stop and bless me. Which makes me cry, which makes them hug me more. In one of my next posts, I'll describe my arrival into Santiago and the special people who guided my way.

I visited the museum and a few of the many churches that are clustered around the Cathedral Plaza. One I visited at the same time of day that I had the last time, as the woman in the fee booth reminded me of closing time. I feel like I have a race with the clock each time, although I get to see it all. One memorable moment was that after asking permission, I was able to photograph the actual remains of St. James that are housed in the reliquary. I asked if I could as long as I didn't flash. I was allowed to take one. I am there, standing three feet from the remains of one of The Apostles. That Apostle knew and loved Jesus. Kind of like a friend of a friend feeling. It was warm, fuzzy and very overwhelming for me.

Part of my arrival post will also include the story of my first night of housing in Santiago. Some things didn't go as planned and some people I'd met on the Camino let me stay with them. A seemingly nice place to stay, but it gave new meaning to "good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite"!

The remainder of my time in Santiago de Compostela, I stayed in a pension. I thought I would miss staying in the little apartment type place Estella offered me last trip. But folks, I'm going to say that after all that hiking, the extra bucks and the soft sheets and shower with all the hot water I want, is my new treat. I like being near the Cathedral and now have my "place of choice".

Something I did on this trip was totally brilliant.....really. I bought a lapel pin, the Santiago cross.  I pinned it on the front page of my credential. When the alburgues or pilgrim or museum, gave me any paper, I'd stick it on the inside of the credential and secure it with the back side pin. All of my special items are with my credential forever. No more lost stork feathers.

There's my post journey summary.

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