Sunday, August 20, 2006

An entry which is neither quick nor final


Today is August 20th-- more than two weeks since I awkwardly taped my boots to the outside of my backpack in front of a line of impatient Madrid travelers using borrowed packing tape-- two weeks since my departure, and longer still since I assured Annie in Santiago that I would post 'quick final blog.' My delay is without doubt, due in part to my penchant for procrastination. Yet the real problem lies superficially at least, in the realm of semantics.

"Final," to me, is a formidable word. It demands wisdom, perspective, and most of all, it calls for knowing. My trip and my reflections have without doubt brought me modicums of each, yet I can't seem to get myself to issue any final report. If I understand anything about my experience, it is that it was and is one of dynamic and un-ending learning, rather than static knowing. Today I feel as though I am only partially through the learning of my journey, and in this light, I have decided to share a journal entry of mine from midway through the Camino.

With this entry I had planned on creating a cumulative list of things learned, one which I could constantly add to as I saw and understood more about my companions. For many reasons, most trivial, I never continued the list, and today I am left instead with just one set of observations… a foundation put in place for future learning too dynamic and complex to put concisely on a list. The content of this entry still resonates strongly with me to be sure, and its focus on learning is one which I hold more than ever today. Yet most importantly, it strikes me with a sense of incompletion... its observations seem too neat, too simple, too final to be the whole and complete picture, a sense exacerbated in me with a glance at the date of the entry. Ironically, it seems my list’s reach toward finality and complete understanding proved to be the most blatant indicator of its nascence and incompletion.

This exhibition is not one meant engender condescension towards a younger, less-learned past, nor is it aimed to scoff at or devalue observations from a time of ‘not knowing.’ Rather, for me it serves as a celebration of the purity and truth in unfinished learning, and as a reminder that ‘knowing’ is the mark of a stagnant search--an indication that simplifications and modifications have been adopted to make an infinitely dynamic experience conducive to the sorting, indexing, and categorization the human brain depends upon to construct its neat world of generalizations.

So, without further adieu, I give you the truest account I can of the learning I derived from my closest companions on my journey…an incomplete one…

“Wed, July 12
Carrion de los Condes
Paul – Paul has taught me of resilience. Of unfettered spirit and eagerness.
Ti-Yanna – Ti has taught me of fiery strength and of resolute self.
Ryan – Ryan has taught me of quiet wisdom and of profound creative talent.
Caryn – Caryn has taught me of unassuming athleticism and of indiscerning kindness.
Perry – Perry has taught me of unhindered spirit of adventure and of confident independence.
Kate – Kate has taught me of honest, open self-reflection, and of uncompromising acceptance.
Casey – Casey has taught me about the joy of singing, and of radiant kindness.
Allie – Allie has taught me of humble talent and that a smile can outperform 100 years of diplomacy.
Annie & Andy – Annie and Andy have taught me of Zen and the Art of Undergrad Group Leadership.
Holly – Holly has taught me of uncomplaining resolve, and about the zing of a wit so precise and quick you almost didn’t catch it.
Chun Yi – Chun has taught me of easygoing companionship and of disarming confidence.”

Thanks for everything my friends. I may never know what you’ve given me, but I’ll never stop learning about it.
Love,
Alec

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Photos

I've posted my pictures online.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/72598258@N00/sets/

Hope everyone is enjoying the rest of summer.
Caryn

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kate sola o con leche?

Wow, so i am still in this crazy, amazing country. Traveling alone is overwhelming, incredible, scary, and beautiful. Barcelona was a culture shock after small town northern Spain, but by the end it had lived up to all, if not more, of Perry's stories and i left running to catch a bus to Granada. Granada is my favorite city so far, nesteled within the mountians with old stone streets and people that would actually speak Spanish back to me when i spoke to them. After Granada, i was off to the coast, which happened to be the land of Indalo....his cave image was everywhere and so was his name. I spent two days at the beach and learning about cave life and now i am in Sevilla. Today I wandered around in the heat, seeing the palace that Ferdinand and Isabella lived in a one point. Being a lone traveler is nothing like i imagined. Sometimes the lonliness crowds around me in such a way that i hardly feel alone at all and sometimes it is a serene sence of being alone that i love. It was an odd transition from intense group dynamics to being completely on my own. I've had to become my own doctor Allie, my own jefes, my own Pablo reading the paper, my own Chef Chun Yi, my own trooper Holly. I've had to sing Les Mis to myself without Casey and write in my journal more than ever without Alec to talk to. I can't rely on Caryn for toliet paper or principes or Ryan for money. I've had to adopt Ti's turbo get-out of the heat quick mode, and Perry¨s traveler,s spirit. However, i am never that alone unless i choose to be. My hostel mates tend to take some kind of pitty on me and there is always someone to chat with. However, I cannot wait to get home and eat a hamburger...yes a hamburger and i dont even care how terrible that cows life was. I miss you all and cant wait to see you on september 1st. Love, Kate

Sunday, August 06, 2006

There and Back Again, A Pilgrim's Tale

I arrived home on August 4th after a long journey from Madrid via Amsterdam and a 10 hour layover, which was completely my fault and completely unnecessary. But it gave me time to read and think and sleep a little before the airport energized at 3:30 in the morning with bustling international travellers eager to board flights to exotic corners of the globe. In the spirit of Camino camraderie, I was invited to Tenerife by the businessman sitting next to me on the plane. This all was very fitting for the end of a camino that brought me from my home in Jonesville, Michigan, across the Iberian Peninsula, and back again. This was my Camino.

I have one final thought, and I would like to share an idea that I have been entertaining for some time, an idea that is probably quite different than what most others are now thinking. But we all have our own opinions of the Camino, and there are no right or wrong answers. In fact there are probably no answers at all. Therefore, I take the Camino as what is was to me and nothing more; it was an education in untraditional terms, an education I have never had before. It was not a major life-changing revelation or moment of personal insight. It was what it was, and it was very good. Unfortunately, it all had to end on August 3rd as we parted ways and said good-bye. Now we must face our own journeys, but ones that are no longer marked by yellow arrows and guide books. We neither share the same goal nor take the same path. I think we just went parallel for 33 days.

I want to thank everyone in GIEU who made this trip possible, from A.T. Miller and the administrative staff, to all my fellow pilgrims and friends, and especially to Annie and Andy, the Jefes. We know how excellent they are, and I hope they know as well.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Chapter 11/Epilogue. Camino Ellipsis

It comes as no surprise that I've waited 5 days since completing the Camino to post my final blog. As I stand in the same Hostel in the great city of Madrid from which my Spain adventure began, I am able to channel all of the feelings that I felt before even knowing what the Camino would be like, before getting to know my 10 team members as well as I have, and before realizing all that I'd learn about myself.

When we entered Santiago on July 31 a weird feeling crept over me. It was over. No more walking, no more albergues, no more camino. During the two days that we spent in Santiago I heard from more than one of my teammates, comments regarding feeling disconnected from the pilgrimmage and other pilgrims. Indeed it was a strange feeling to recall that the camino was no more. We went out with a bang the night of our arrival with a strangely perfect concert of Beatles covers that saw us singing until two in the morning, the sprit of the camino still deep in our hearts. As long as the Camino remains with us in this way, as long as we don't forget the arrows that pop up in life every now and then to tell us which way to go [some less visible than others], and as long as we remember the feelings of meditative simplicity that we felt for a month as our only objective was to get to Santiago, the Camino will live on in our minds. We went big for 770 kms and now we can go home mentally and physically stronger than we were before...

adios Spain, hola Portugal

In the last 48 hours, I have spent 20 travelling on a train. But, at long last, I have entered the final stage of my trip and arrived quite smelly, but safely in Lisbon, Portugal.

For what will most likely be my final blog, I figured I'd share part of a journal entry I wrote in O Cebrero, also our first day in Galicia:

"I cannot believe my time together with this group is coming to a close, and such a rapid one at that! We have entered Galicia, and with our physical crossing into this region, so is it our metaphysical crossing into the final chapter of our journey. It is always a dark and mysterious moment as you enter the final chapter of a novel, and though the darkness is beckoning, in its enticing ways it is the most beautiful moment of the story: you never wish to see it end, but know it must and with such knowledge, you can only tingle in anticipation as to how the author ends his masterpiece. And so, as I flip the pages of my journal left and look west to St. Jean, Zubiri, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and all the memories each step holds, I can only simply sigh and smile, and then I look east into the valley of Galicia and the empty pages I still have left to write with thoughts, poetry and prose, and giggle to myself, knowing the last chapter of any story worth reading is always the most satisfying."

Our last chapter was indeed the most gratifying. I remember laying on the floor, the cathedral we had been walking towards for 33 days directly in front of me, and feeling as though I was on a mountain pass. Although surrounded by pilgrims and tourists, I was in absolute solitude; though laying on the cold plaza ground, I was thousands of feet up, way above the tree line after a 33 day ascent to the summit. And then, I put my pack on and walked to our hotel, no longer a pilgrim but once again a citizen, thus making the fastest descent of my life, and it was perfect in all its imperfections.

Now its off to the beach I go!!!!!!!!!

peacin' out for the final time,

Perry

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"No place is ever far"

Our camino is over, and we are now back in Madrid. Last night I slept in the very same room, the very same bed that I slept in before we left for St. Jean Pied de Port to begin our walk. Needless to say, there were a lot of thoughts running through my head -- none of them calm or organized. How have 77o-ish kilometers under my feet changed me? I think I am smarter, more experienced, and also more driven. In Santiago, the day after we finished the camino, we were shopping around the historical town and came across an artist selling her paintings on the street. She specialized in cartoon-like drawings of children doing very cute, often inspirational things. She usually included a fitting Spanish quote on the top of the drawing. A painting of a little boy pilgrim skipping along the trail and the accompanying quote translating to "No place is ever far" struck me as the perfect piece for this trip. I think it begins to sum up how the camino has affected my outlook on life... if we can walk across a country, what can't we do?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

So I will be catching my 430 cab in about 5 minutes. Back to the states I go. I'll never forget you Espana. Hasta Pronto Mom and Dad.

Casey

Hail! Hail! To Michigan...

I take a lot of ribbing from students for my loyalty to my alma mater, the University of Kansas, especially during basketball season. Those years in Lawrence had a lasting impact on my life and that institution will always hold a special place in my heart. Having said that, these past 30-plus days have been so rewarding, I must admit humming the tune of The Victors on occasion and feeling quite the sentimental attachment.

Hail! To the victors, valiant,
Hail! To the conquering heroes
Hail! Hail! To Michigan the leaders and best


Yes, we did not conquer anything but our own doubts and the only thing truly valiant about our adventure was our devoring the mystery meat served at the occasional lunch BUT, oh Michigan (and Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Colorado & Singapore) be proud of your sons and daughters. Be proud because they rose to every challenge as a team of 11 individuals with a sincere caring for others both in and outside of our group. In the words of our dear Ryan,¨I´m not gonna lie¨, these 11 students have had (and will continue to have) a lasting impact on my life.

On July 22nd, we set out from Rabanal del Camino on a long and difficult hike very early in the morning. The presence of two high school student groups made our previous night´s sleep less than restful, yet all of the team was ready and waiting for me as I finally (and five minutes late, mind you) made it outside the albergue to start the day´s hike. No second wake up call was needed. There was no need to remind them how much time was left until our departure. No one had to tell them to pick up the trash left behind from breakfast. Quitely, sleepily, they waited. When I passed through the gate to the albergue and saw them huddled, ready to hike 30 km, I said to myself The Leaders and the Best, indeed.





Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the journey itself is home

There are times when the body knows things before the mind does. As we hiked into Santiago my mind was scattered with thoughts...hardly believing that we would shortly be arriving at our destination...but my body sensed the end. It felt the momentum of walking foward in one direction for over a month inside and it was as if my stomach was doing backward summersalts trying to prepare for stopping. Now there are no yellow arrows to point our way, but we will continue to journey and set forth in all kinds of new directions. As a sign painted on the wall at Jesus´s albuergue said, "Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home."

Finally...

I'm here!!! It seems to have taken forever, but I overcame much to get here. I'm just thankful to God for being Almighty and giving me his traveling grace to make it here safe and sound, as well as all the other peregrinos. I am truly blessed not to have incurred any blisters and illnesses and I was also fortunate enough not to cave into the boys antics about urinating outside, lol. When all is said in done, I just know I couldn't have ever made it through this journey without the goodness of my God!!!

Santiago and beyond

Of course, I never thought we had designed a program that students would not be able to finish, but it wasn´t until a plane leaving from the Santiago Airport flew over me yesterday morning that I realized what we had just accomplished. This year we set the bar high and students rose to the challenge. We are, as far as I know, the first university program to walk the entire trail in 30-some days starting from St. Jean Pied de Port.
These last two days have been a wave of emotions and reflection for me.
First I am happy with the fact that we all made it in to Santiago. Repeatedly this group of students amazed me. Each person has brought something unique to our group; yet, collectively grace, kindness, and curiosity is what comes to my mind when I think about the 11 of them. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to share this challenge with them. Too often I forget that many of these students don´t speak Spanish and are unfamiliar with the culture, until I see one of them tied up in a linguistic knot with a local and then I am reminded what this experience must be like for them. Thank you all for being so fantastic and making this trip for me so enjoyable.
Now my thoughts turn to going home. Unlike most of my students, I have been feeling nomadic now for about a year, so home to me is a bit unclear. I have spent the last year living out of my backpack commuting between Paris and Berlin--a great experience, but one I am glad is almost over. A few more days in Berlin and a short trip to Italy will end my time in Europe. Now I have to begin thinking about finding an apartment in Ann Arbor and moving my stuff out of storage.
Lastly, thanks to all the parents who offered their comments. I really enjoyed reading them. I hope to have the chance to get together over lunch or a coffee sometime when you are in town. I would love to meet you all!

The Start of an End

The camino has finally come to an end for us. However I have been constantly thinking about the lessons it has tried to teach us. Thus after a night of fireworks and concert I got it out straight. Just like the camino, we all have a goal in life that we would someday love to reach. Sometimes we have easy days, sometimes we have hard days. Sometimes we like to increase the pace of our life just like being the first on the trail, and sometimes we would like to lay back and enjoy the scenery. Somtimes we get lost in life, but as long as we find our own little yellow arrows, we will know where to go again. Therefore, just like walking the camino, we should never stop walking forward in life.

Monday, July 31, 2006

And they lived happily ever after...

On Monday, July 31, at 11:15 AM, I completed the Camino de Santiago, from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, a distance of 774.7 kilometers (480 miles), in 32 days.

the 100th entry

fittingly with such a monumental mark in the blog we arrive in santiago. did we ever really think we´d get here? probably. but even still, to be here is well, for now, indescribable. waking up this morning seemed like just any other. walking, walking, and more walking. suddenly we had reached our finally destination, descending from the hill with the city in sight, it was hard to believe this was actually the infamous santiago. success. and more.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Final Countdown

Just two more days left before we arrive in Santiago. The entire Camino just seems like a huge blur to me...the details are too numerous to make sense of now. I clearly remember St. Jean, Roncesvalles, and Zubiri, but after that, all of the albergues, all of the towns, all of the hikes become one unforgettable experience. With time running out, I feel prepared to finish. I always thought the finish would be the best part, but the opposite is true. With about 5 or 6 days left, I began counting down, something I had never done before. What made the Camino so great was the rhythm of daily life...waking up early, hiking, eating, napping, journaling, exploring, talking, meeting new people. For the first time in many years, time became irrelevant.

the End, wherever that is

We can feel the end coming. Along the trail we pass ¨mile¨markers that have only two digit numbers. Our talk comes around more and more to questions like, ¨What´s the first thing you´re going to eat when you get back?¨Even more serious are discussions about how we think we´ve changed since our first day back in France when we started this walk. While some of us can articulate specific ways we are different, I can´t really think of any certain except a sense of being wiser... somehow. I think we can be pretty sure, however, that when Santiago appears on the path, no one is going feel like the journey is over. We will stop walking but our answers to ¨how have you changed¨are not going to be fixed for a long time to come -- therefore the end really isn´t in Santiago. It´s coming and we all feel it, but it won´t be here for while yet.

camino fruits

When we first started walking we would pass tight green grapes on leafy vines...toward the middle of the trip Casey and I tasted sour half ripe fruit from the sides of the trail, now the grapes that cross our path are bright almost ripe orbs and the fruit hangs heavy on branches. We too have rippened along the camino. Steeped in sunlight, rain, sweat and dirt we have grown along this crazy fertile trial.

Today it hit me

Today on the trail I felt my course change. In an earlier enterview, Ryan had asked if the Camino was about the journey or the dintination. Without hesitation, I quickly realized that, for me, the Camino is all about the journey. The relationships I will carry for a lifetime, the emotions which seem to be playing on shuffle in my internal Ipod, even the adversities which myself and the group as a whole has had to overcome throughout the trip. All of these things will never be forgotten, and I can honestly say that this has been one of the most rewarding steps I have taken towards personal growth and happiness.
But today, it felt as if someone had switched my internal clockwork, and I finally felt myself moving towards a destination. I´m finding myself running through an emotional gauntlet, and I´m not sure how I will fully be effected by the journey at this time. But perhaps none of this will be truly realized until I have finally reached that point. I´m looking forward to having time to disect what the Camino means to me, and what the Camino may have meant to so many others who have traveled the journey before.
Love you Mom and Dad
Casey

Melide: 2 days to go

Today we made it to Melide. Last year the group was almost bored because we walked such short days and fatigue was no longer an issue by the time we reached this point. This year that is different. Since we walk about double the distance (both in terms of daily distance and overall distance) we walked last trip, we are always more tired. I had expected that after a month of walking, we would all have more energy at the end of these last few days, but that isn´t the case. After lunch, most of us slip away for a 2-hr. siesta to rejuvinate our bodies. What is amazing though, is that after a nap or after an 8-hr sleep, one´s body can feel just about like new. Today for the first time, talking to Kate I began thinking-talking about what it will be like when we stop walking in two days, what happens the day we wake up at say 8, instead of 5.30, and the furthest we have to go is around town? I am already feeling nostagic and we still have two days to go.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chapter 10: Another Brick in the Wall/Sarria Sandwich*

*preface: Today on the trail to Sarria Alec and I were talking about puns and witty blog titles (note his attempts). The title of this blog is a response to a challenge posed by him to create good titles. While I don´t feel that I have suceeded please note the effort.

We all know that the sign of a particularly bad sandwich is when the slices of bread taste better than the contents held between. The past couple days have been very much like that for me. A few days ago I experieced an awesome hike during one of the most visually beautiful days that the camino has offered. I think that everyone that walked that day felt the same way, that the camino was showing some sort of appreciation for all of our hard work thus far. A couple days later I hit the proverbial wall when at the end of our hike we hit a few steep hills. After barreling up the first one I found myself pitifully stumbling up the next two, falling to the very back of the group when I had previously been in the front. The next day I was still out of gas, unable to walk beyond a snail´s pace. Maybe it was only a mental wall, but the more I tried to push myself the more I slowed down. It was an unimpressive day both in terms of my effort and the visuals (we walked along a road for most of it). The next day (yesterday) brought the hike to O Cebreiro, one that saw us hiking uphill for pretty much all day. We got up extremely early (forgoing breakfast) to catch a sunrise that ultimately left us unfulfilled. The pangs of hunger hit me almost immediately once we began to climb at which point I decided to go all out to take my mind of the hunger. The air was cool and it felt good working up a sweat not induced by a persistent sun attack. It was an awesome day to follow the two previously crappy ones. Thus the sorry sandwich was completed as I write to you from Sarria today.

Leon con Leche

I recently understood a little bit of Spanish humor. Not particularly good humor, but it made me feel special nonetheless. First I shall give you the background information:

At one particular point in time, Castilla and Leon were regions of their own. Today they are a province with the ever-so-clever title, ¨Castilla y Leon¨. Throughout the province, there are some individuals who think Leon should be an independent nation. These dorky high-schoolers write in spray paint on the wall, ¨LEON SOLO¨. We´ve seen this often.

Coffee here is simply with milk or with out it. You get a ¨Cafe con Leche¨ (with) or a ¨Cafe Solo¨ (without)

Now, last week we saw the usual ¨LEON SOLO¨ on the wall. Only this time, someone had added underneith, ¨¿O CON LECHE?¨ (Or with milk) Get it? Leon con leche? Ha-ha.

The Worst Breakfast

Several Days Ago: Molinaseca AM


The crossaints were stale. The magdelenas crumbly. The bananas were green as our sick friends who remained in bed. When we heard the news that Allie too had gotten sick overnight, I cringed at the liklihood of it not being the last we saw of that breakfast.


Epilogue: Everyone is okay. Only queezy stomachs remain.

A matter of perspective

The other day we reached a marker that indicated we were 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Santiago. At that point walking our last 160 kilometers seemed like a piece of cake, which is strange because if you were to ask me to walk, much less drive, 100 miles, I would grumble. The truth is I don´t even like walking much, I prefer taking my bike places. But now, after having trekked some 400 miles, suddenly walking another 100 miles more seems like nothing. I guess it is just is a matter of perspective.

confessions of an anti-blooger

so after living in the wilds of Maine for 6 weeks and then rushing off to Spain, i only learned about the concept of BLOG after a few days on the trail and have yet to disocover the various wonders it contains. Before the wrath of Santiago struck i decided that i would venture into this unknown blogging world....and now that i am mostly recovered, that time has arrived.
In every village we come to no matter how small and crumbling or large and busy around 4 o´clock every afternoon old people come out of thier houses and sit on benches in plazas and steetsides and stare off into the distance clutching thier canes and chatting occasionally with one another. Their presence has interested me from the beginning, so a few days ago i decided to join some old women as they sat on a bench in the shade. After a few minutes with them more and more came out of thier houses to chat. At first they were confused by my presense...but then as our conversations progressed i got to get the inside scoop on the secrets that pass along the benches each afternoon on the streetside of Ambosmesetas. They told me stories of each of the villiagers that walked by....stories about thier dead husbands and the houses that lay crumbling on the hillside...but the basic take home message they had for me was that i should learn to speak spanish better so that i can meet spanish boys becuase they are attractive and easy. i thanked them for the advice. later when i journaled about the stories they had told me i wondered how different people in my life would tell my life story.

ok, so i guess blogging isn´t soooooooo bad

Camino rapping???

So...me, Casey, Pablo, Ryan, and Alec have all decided to become rap artists. After I told them my touching story of me coming up in the game of rap at the tender age of 10, they were all inspired. I know they loved my song ¨You Go Girl.¨ So now...we have all decided on our stage names: I am Tenacious, Casey is Castrophe (you have to whisper it), Ryan is Phenom, Paul is P.O.XX and Alec is Trick-A. We haven't decided on a group name today or started our album, but when we hit big...just remember you saw it 1st on the Camino. We are going to go global! Until then...Casey and I will try our best not to get lost again, lol. And...I will be outdoing Master Chef Chun in the kitchen tonite! Oh Chun...it's on! Especially after you hurt my feelings so many times. You know how sensitive I am, lol. (Inside joke, but feel free to laugh). That's TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE!

Sorry to Landis

This blog is way overdue. I just wanted to say that I am sorry for ever doubting Floyd Landis and his abilities to overcome adversity, and I wanted to recognize the perserverance he showed in taking the Tour de France home for America for the 8th year in a row.

The Dangers of Cruise Control

So this is now my third strike with taking the wrong trail to Santiago, and each has occurred with a different group member. So guys take a note, Don´t Hike With Me. It´s bad luck. Quick explaination...
Kate and I took a slight detour about 2 weeks back which extended a 30 K day to about 34. Pablo and I were off walking in the wrong direction when the faint screams of other Pilgrims finally forced us to turn around and find the right track. And then today....Ti-Yanna and I were hauling it today trying to get into Sarria to relax. You´ll have to trust me but we were blowing away the competition. No breaks, no time for dilly dally, we just pushed on through the driving rainstorm (more like a slight mist but you get the picture). We had distanced ourselves about 15 minutes from the second group when we glided into cruise control and slipped into a great conversation. Throughout the day we kept complaining about how poorly the trail was marked beacuse we seemed to be going for long periods of time without a marker to guide our way. We went so far as to predict that someone was going to get lost today. To make a long story short..after like 2 hours of walking alone, we realized that the group in front of us was in fact the group which had once been far behind. Obviously they had not passed us, so we quickly tracked them down to inquire about the situation. Turns out they had taken a 20 minute break and still managed to beat us. So lost in conversation, Ti and I had lost atleast 40 minutes wandering in the wilderness. I guess we should have been less worried about others and more concerned about following the trail. But at the end of the day, Ti and I had a great conversation and made it safely to Sarria. Can´t ask for much more than that. But parents, I promise to be more careful with your children from no on.
Love you Mom and Dad.

Casey

Some observations about Spain

We´re in Sarria now and just four more days of hiking left! It´s hard to imagine; we were on a bus to St. Jean exactly one month ago.

I have a couple cultrural observations I find interesting and worthwhile. The first is the separatist movement in the province of Castilla y Leon. I saw literally hundreds of graffitied signs saying such things as ¨Leon without Castilla,¨ or¨Leon Solo.¨ Many also incorporated a type of bilingual play on words using Spanish and Leonese. For example, ¨Pais Lliones Llibre¨(free leonese country). I don´t know much about the origins of this movement, but it goes back centuries to when Spain was not yet unified.

Another observation concerns the press and the current Middle East crisis. The newspapers and TV stations here are much more favorable toward Lebanon than the U.S. press. For example, the TV stations show more coverage of hospitalized women and children, explosions, and other negative effects of the bombing. The newspaper editorials that I have read are rather critical of Israel. In the Galician paper today, a cartoon showed an Israeli dagger stabbing Lebanon. Seeing alternative viewpoints like this is one of the most beneficial aspects of world travel, and being able to read the Spanish press makes my semesters of foreign language study more than rewarding.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fast times Osobrero high

So I´ve been informed we´re now in the process of transitioning from fun super-cool mountain land to smelly super-wet cow/coastland, something which sounds worse than it is because is implies flat hikes and cool (albeit dung-laden) days. The camino funk seems to have passed us after reaching somewhat epidemic proportions, and all that remains for me is a daily post-meal stomach ache and a trenchant distaste for sausage and cheese bocadillos. Our rooming schedule for the remainder of the trip was just solidified today... somewhat ahead of the usual schedule because towards the end of the camino people tend to jump on the trail and clog up the Albergues-- weak-sauce peregrino wannabees. Anyway, my softer side is getting a bit anxious to take this bad-boy home and enjoy the perks of a static residency, while a good portion of the rest of me really wants to stay in Spain for a lot longer. It´s definitely a strange emotional pull in opposite directions I think we all feel on endeavors such as these. I suppose there is little to be done but ride this crazy Camino thing as far as itíll take me. So long.

Fast times Osobrero high

So I´ve been informed we´re now in the process of transitioning from fun super-cool mountain land to smelly super-wet cow/coastland, something which sounds worse than it is because is implies flat hikes and cool (albeit dung-laden) days. The camino funk seems to have passed us after reaching somewhat epidemic proportions, and all that remains for me is a daily post-meal stomach ache and a trenchant distaste for sausage and cheese bocadillos. Our rooming schedule for the remainder of the trip was just solidified today... somewhat ahead of the usual schedule because towards the end of the camino people tend to jump on the trail and clog up the Albergues-- weak-sauce peregrino wannabees. Anyway, my softer side is getting a bit anxious to take this bad-boy home and enjoy the perks of a static residency, while a good portion of the rest of me really wants to stay in Spain for a lot longer. It´s definitely a strange emotional pull in opposite directions I think we all feel on endeavors such as these. I suppose there is little to be done but ride this crazy Camino thing as far as itíll take me. So long.

Monday, July 24, 2006

I Blame Alec

Saint James, Saint James,
Why must your pilgrims suffer so?
Their hearts as pure as gold,
Yet from their bodies, bile and excrements flow.

No Campbells soup, no mother who consoles.
How will they reach the ancient relic?
No one knows, but if they don´t,
I blame it all on Harris, Alec.

Just kidding about blaming Alec, but I would like to call to attention the fact that Alec is responsible for introducing the terrible plague which has been dubbed Santiago´s Revenge to the group. Furthermore, I would like to assure to all that the plague has been conquered, and we are all on the mend.......although I am pretty sure that Alec and I will never speak again. While I was sick, I did miss my mom, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for all of the loving care in past sicknesses, surgeries, and things of that nature....I love you Mom.

Today has been a very relaxing day in Ambasmestas, Holly and I had a chance to hang out by the river for a couple of hours. I tried to relax on the swing set earlier, but it turns out my butt will no longer fit in such places. Tomorrow should be a really beautiful hike into O Cebreiro. Believe it or not, 11 college students have agreed to rise at 4:30 in the morning in order to capture some amazing scenery as we ascend toward the pueblo. Should be a great day filled with great pictures and amazing memories. Love you Mom and Dad.

Casey

Sunday, July 23, 2006

another 5 bite the dust...

yesterday was unquestionably the worst day of my life. as we climbed the pass, a mild nausea slowly began to overtake me. i dismissed it simply as altitude sickness, or acid indigestion, or my mind playing tricks on me--it had to be anything other than Alecs horrible disease. Well, I was wrong.

As Casey, Paul and I came down the mountainside, Casey said he was feeling sick. I immediately said the same and we agreed to rest for a short while. After sharing some indigestion tablet stuff, we continued on. After only another 10 minutes, Casey and I both pulled to the side of the trail and within two minutes, Casey was throwing up. Five minutes later, I did the same.

After making it into town, this horrific pattern continued every half hour for the next three hours. We were literally on a five minute delay from each other. As the rest of the group slowly made their way into town, we found out that Kate and Chun-Yi had been infected too. Then I wake up this morning to find Allie had thrown up in the middle of the night as well. Santiago´s revenge is slowly striking us all down.

At the moment, I believe I hold the record of throwups with 10, although I forgot to ask Alec how many he had when he was sick. But, all you folks back home, please don´t worry; all of us that had gotten sick over the last 24hours are almost back to 100%. Kate even managed to walk today (which I am very jealous of and as a result, we can no longer be friends).

Well, time to catch a taxi to the next town and try eating something.