Sunday, June 19, 2011

Notes from Camino: June 19, 2011

E-MAIL, June 19, 2011

Hello again, everybody!

We´re here!
And yet not done...

I´m at a ciber cafe in Santiago, Spain, down the street from the Cathedral where Saint James´s dust is honored by the selling of every possible kind of knicknack known to humanity...

We´re staying at the Seminario Major across from the Cathedral, and this morning I saw that the hotel´s cleaning crew had gathered a pile of pilgrim detritus----sleeping bags, shoes, and the like, left behind when pilgrims checked out to go home...

I felt such a pang seeing a lovely hickory walking pole sticking out of a black plastic trash bag, I pulled it out and took it back to our little room (these are basically cells, formerly occupied by young men studying to be priests...). I will offer it to the friends friends from Sweden and Finland who we are meeting tonight to walk on to Finisterre tomorrow, in case any of them wants to walk with it.

I´ve been walking with two hiking sticks myself (well... titanium poles) and they help immmensely to bear the burden-- my triceps are bulging from helping take the weight off my knees, and my knees can still bend without screaming.

It´s odd to be here.
Santiago was the final destination of medieval pilgrims and still is for many many modern ones too, so I feel as if I´m DONE. People we´ve seen along the road for weeks have departed on Ryan Air or the train or bus back to their respective homes in Amsterdam, Cape Town, Cologne, etc.
And yet tomorrow we walk on to Finisterre, which many pilgrims are also doing.... so I am not done at all, of course. I´m HUGELY looking forward to reaching the ocean! And yet I´m sort of dreading putting my back pack back on. I´´m wearing flip flops rights now and have literally been prancing around town, feeling lightweight without my pack.
So, I feel mixed----I´m sure once I start tomorrow I´ll get back into the rhythm of walking, which is wonderful.
And someone told me they may have bonfires on the beach for midsummer´s eve, this Friday! Even if not, we´ll be there for that light long night.

By the bye, I am NOT lightweight! Once again I have proved that you can walk 500 miles and gain wieght on a diet of helado (ice cream) and patatas fritas (french fries) and cafe con leche, oh yes indeed. But I am STRONG and wish I could just pop over to Englad and do the Coast to Coast walk or something, to take advantage of my thighs of iron (and little toes of rhino horn),
rather than coming home and... funnily enough... going on a diet.
(Yesterday I was talking to a writer from Stockholm who said she´s been keeping a journal, but it´s mostly about food, so I am not alone.)

Spiritual things?
Oh, yes.
Here´s the scoop:
you can find the fruits of the Spirit in the roadside cherries a non-English speaking pilgrim picked, washed, and plunked on the table in front of us at an albergue, and then walked away.
This sort of kindness happens all the time on the road.
I asked Jose-Maria, a young Spanish man who worked as a volunteer "hospitalero" at one of the albergues, why the Spanish are so kind to the streams of pilgrims who must, after all, be sort of a nuisance (even if they do bring cash into the economy), and he looked totally baffled.
"It is normal," he replied.

It is normal.

Much love to you all. I´m home the night of the 28th.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Notes from Camino: Santiago, June 18, 2011

Fresca to Daniele [father], Saturday, June 18, 201

"Four minutes left here on the computer at the ciber cafe in Santiago--
-just to say we GOT HERE and are staying at the same old Seminario Major we stayed in last time--
they added a swank reception area and lounge and charge a lot more but the rooms are the EXACT SAME old monastic cells!
Complete with ONE fluorescent light and peeling paint.
Charming, nonetheless, and NO BEDBUGS. 69 euros for three people....
...... includes breakfast (continental)---PERFECT location tho---across from the Cathedral!

"We meet our friends from Sweden and Finland tonite on the Cathedral steps about 7 pm.
bink has planned a 5-day walking route to Finisterre for us ---the longest day is only 18 km, the shortest is 12 km, so it should be very doable, even tho some of it is quite hilly.

All is well----it´s a bit rainy here but fairly warm.

"Did I say, Mz is coming home with us?!
She lives in a tiny Oregon town and wants to move, and we both LOVE her,
so we said, hey, come try Minneapolis!
She will sleep on my couch until she can find a place.

"She is 20 and looks younger----the Spanish keep calling her chico and pequeno, thinking she is a teenage boy (her hair is very short).
One guy asked if she was my hijo [son].
Flustered, I said, ¨no, hijA¨¨.... too confused to say of course she is neighter, simply an amiga.

"Off to eat doner kabob for lunch---we are all desperate for anything non-Spanish.
(bink and Mz did eat pulpo [octopus], but I just couldn't face it.)

36 sec left.
LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
big hugs and kisses,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Notes from Camino: June 15, 2011

Stamps are sold in Spain at the TOBACCO shops.
Tobacconist are called Estancos or Tabacs and are marked with maroon and yellow signs.
Here one is paired with the Pilgrims' Lifesaver:
the green cross signaling a PHARMACY.

Spanish pharmacists are like mini-doctors, who can advise you about all matters of health concerns. You can buy heavier medications from them without a prescription than you can in the United States.

A very patient (and handsome) Spanish man helped me choose colorful stamps of Spanish stringed instruments (above) to mail my sister's birthday card.

E-mail exchange 1

On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 5:05 PM, [my SISTER ] wrote:

My fabulous Spanish b’day card arrived in yesterday’s mail, just in time for my birthday today!

I have to say my favorite element of all is the little red arrow on the front, though I totally adore all the other features—the great guitar stamps, the “52” on the front, the little napkin + sugar packet from the café, the Spanish-language card itself (and the photo of a Spanish Finna-cat on the front!), and the sentiments about my own pilgrimage.

We should start a tradition of being out of the country for each other’s birthday:
What a collection of marvelous European cards we’d amass, eh?
Love, Sister

E-mail 2

On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 Fresca wrote:

Hi, Sister!!!

Just pulled into a private albergue (more expensive, not necessarily nicer, but more likely to have a computer than the municipally run ones)--hot and sweaty and happy---glad to check my e-mail for the first time in many days.

I am SOOOOOOOOOOOooooooo glad the birthday card arrived in time! I tried to find a computer all day yesterday but there was none, so bink, marz and I sang Happy Birthday as we walked along.

Then late in the day I saw this Spanish music video --Stevie Wonder´s song covered by a Spaniard named Pitingo & a flamenco guitarist-- in a bar where we bought ice cream (bars also serve as restaurants and coffee shops) that seemed a perfect birthday message--by a very Spanish cast in very Spanish colors---I really like it, in its cheesy way: [not viewable in the USA]

So, yes, we should celebrate one another´s birthdays in foreign climes and find cards and songs to send back.

All is well---my feet are fabulous, miraculously, and my legs are very strong.
Sick to death of Spanish sandwiches and omelettes... can´t wait for VEGETABLE STIR FRY!!!

We´ll meet Annika from Sweden in Santiago in three days, then walking on to Finisterre on the Atlantic--we all feel fit and ready to do that (it was optional, but it´s working out great).
Sorry for the messy typing.

Love you!
Fresca Peregrina
On Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 8:06 PM, [my father] wrote:

hi fresca
where are you? i have been following you on mapquest. my map of spain says
you do not exist. so i turned to the web to follow your route.
[RIGHT: We slept outside one night: it was freezing cold, and we woke up soaked in dew.]
you know me. i need my gold plumbing these days. 57 euros comes to 19 each.
and for privacy and a tub!!! good value especially with a cold beer.

buddhists on the camino! are you mixing up religions? isn't the key to lose yourself
in something larger--in buddhism? i lost myself twice, but each time on a massage table.
does that count?

isn't that part of spain sardine country? beats tuna.

as for fellow pilgrims, in the nyt piece, the woman without any money and weary
offered to clean rooms//toilets in exchange for a room. the guy held her in his arms and
told her that she did not have to pay in her own home!

keep on trekking, and let me know your route so i can follow on mapquest.
love your father
[E-MAIL #4]

On Sat Jun 15, fresca wrote:

Hi, Pa (and Sister)!

Sorry--haven't seen a computer for days so didn´t get back to you---we´re now three days outside SANTIAGO in a town called... um... I don´t even know!

Last big towns were Palas del Rei... Porto Marin... Ponferrada... Leon before that (and before that, Burgo, Pamplona).
From Santiago we´ll head to Finisterre on the coast--about 56 miles.
Then the train back to MADRID AND HOME on the 28th (10 p.m.).

No gold plated toilets in the albergues, that´s for sure.
19 euros is worth it for a private room and bath once in a while, but too dear for more often than once a week at the most.
Tonite we´re in a room with about 40 people--clean and pleasant, sturdy bunkbeds (once an Italian guy fell out of a narrow, rickety top bunk onto a pilgrim pal of ours who was packing her backpack below!---no harm done, luckily)
....... but pray there are no truly world-class snorers... They cut thru even the best ear plugs.

Mostly tho it´s been lovely---kind people, good stories....
A 60 year old French man named Dominique told me I was young because I went swimming in the albergue pool---unheated!!!---on a cold day-----and we´ve had a lot of cold weather.

not much good FOOD, alas, but there you have it.
YES, SARDINES TOO as well as tuna, but now we are in pulpo country (octopus)... haven´t had any yet but the chicken is excellent----we see it running free in the road during the day and eat it at nights.
Eggs are really good too.

I did have a ticky stomach for a few days, but mildly----nothing like the US doctor who got a full blown case of E coli and had to stay in a hotel for 6 days until he could walk again.

No time to write more---a lady is fretting to use the comuputer which I've been hogging.
LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!

E-mail 5

On Sun, Jun 12, 2011 at 5:58 PM, Eeva wrote:


Hello, Fresca!

It’s been great to read your letters from the Camino, and I’m very happy to hear the blisters aren't bothering you anymore. I really hope you enjoy every step of your walk now!

I totally surprised myself with this and now I’m going to surprise you:
unless anything unfortunate happens within the next week (and unless I get lost on my way there, eek!)
I will meet you at the steps of the cathedral on the 19th.

I’m both excited and scared, not least because this will be my first *real* trip abroad, with plane changes and all, but mostly excited, about getting to see you.
Heaven only knows if I'll be able to walk all the way from S to F - anyway, I might as well give it a go!

My flight arrives at Santiago a little later than Annika and Susanna’s, but I should make it to the cathedral by 7 pm.

See ya!
(Or, as I hear it's popular to say nowadays: TREE! ;)


E-mail 6

On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 Fresca wrote:



Marz is sitting at the computer next to me saying "THE Eeva? That is so exciting!"
Oh... bink just walked up and said, "Amazing, just amazing!"
We are all thrilled.

I don't know if I'll see a computer again before Sunday (probably, but it's spotty),
but we can wait on the steps of the cathedral in Santiago until you arrive,
at least until 9 p.m., because it is very light, of course.

Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain... and so are we!

Gotta go---weird shared and expensive computer here in this private albergue (read, expensive beds).
I hope nothing unfortunate happens---you can let Annika know last minute, yes?