A woman I met from Argentina, wants a more intimate relationship with God. Another, from America, sees it as a challenge of endurance. Linda from Canada is doing it, “For my sins and for the sins of the world.” Another woman, from Italy, said she is trying very hard to feel the spiritual aspect of the Camino but was disappointed to have felt nothing yet. In the meantime, she is enjoying meeting other twenty-something Europeans. Cyclist Jo from London, said she is doing it to be “bikini fit!” A Finnish woman is doing it because of job burn-out back home. A South African woman is hiking the Camino as a way of mourning her ex-husband who had recently passed away unexpectedly. "We've been divorced for more than ten years, but I didn't feel finished," she said. "Since beginning the Camino, I've had dreams about my ex every night and I'm finally getting closure." Edward from Germany returned to the Camino for a second time because, “The day I arrived in Santiago 4 years ago was the happiest day of my life.” A Slovenian woman gave the ever-reliable explanation, “To find myself!”
People such as Ju Yun from Korea who said at dinner one night, “I want to be a pediatrician. I have twelve years of schooling ahead of me to achieve this. But the most important thing to me is that I have a good marriage and family.” Then he got this huge smile on his face. “When I think of what a good relationship my parents have, it gives me goose skin!” A Frenchman at the table asked, “Do you have a girl in mind?” Ju Yun threw out his arms and said, “Of course! I am a twenty year old boy. I always have girls on my mind!”
I tried to talk to him in Spanish, but it came out, “Our Spanish is not well. Please speak not fast." Through charades and Spanish For Idiots, he explained that he had walked the Camino thirty years prior. “'By the time I arrived in that village” he pointed to a nearby village that could be seen through the trees, “I was so ill, I had to stay there a few days before continuing." Then, he got a great big smile on his face. "I never left the village. The young woman who had nursed me back to health became my wife.”
In a refugio, a pilgrim hostal, in Villamayor we met Miriam whose Camino walk to Santiago ten years earlier meant so much to her, she volunteers at refugios several times a year, for a week or two at a time.
In Villamayor, there is no grocery store. Only one place in town serves meals, the bar. But the bar was closed temporarily, because the owner had died. It was Miriam who cooked dinner for ten of us, then cooked another entire meal when 4 cyclists came in after 9pm. Then she made breakfast for us all the next morning.
It was only our fifth night on the trail. I pestered Miriam with practical questions about the walk; "How many kilometers per day is average", "Where is the best refugio in Burgos" and, “Does it rain as much as they say it does in Galicia?”
“Oh yes!” she answered to the last question. “But it is perfect! The rain mixes with the tears on your checks at the moment you see the cathedral in Santiago for the first time.”
“What will you do once you get to Jerusalem? What do you hope to find?” we asked. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out when I get there."
We continued to meet people with unique motivations for the Camino. A Dutch man broke his stride long enough to say, “I am walking 1000 kilometers to Santiago. I picked my starting point in France because from that town to Santiago is exactly 1000 kilometers!”
There is an old custom on the Camino. If you are hiking in a group, the person who catches the first glimpse of the Cathedral in Santiago earns the title "The Pilgrim King." When we asked the Dutchman if he heard of the tradition he said, "Of course! That's why I walk alone!" and he shook our hands and carried on his way.
A man from Brazil stated as he breezed by us, “Five is my magic number. I have five University degrees, five post graduate degrees, this is the fifth time I have walked the Camino and I am turning fifty this year.” He looked profoundly sad and lonely as he walked on alone.
A German woman we had seen periodically on the trail, ended up in the same refugio as us one night. We sat outside on a bench in the sun while she told us her story. She had been an engineer in the automotive industry but had begun hearing voices after a fall off a horse. She would go into work and say to her colleagues, “I know that you've been talking about me. I know what you have been saying.” She lost her job and went to a psychic who told her, “You are not crazy. You are gifted,” and that her calling was not to be an engineer, but a healer. At this point Scott interrupted with, “I think the hospitaliar might need help preparing dinner,” and disappeared into the kitchen. The engineer, I mean healer, rolled and lit another cigarette and said with a chuckle, “You would think the first thing I would do to heal myself would be to quit smoking.”
“Well, maybe the second thing,” I suggested gently. “You might want to talk to someone else about those voices you are hearing. You know, get a second opinion.”
“No, I’m definitely a healer. I healed my ankles already!”
“Did I just hear the dinner bell?” I asked.
We are definitely meeting unique people on the Camino. Scott says many seem to be looking for an audience, "There's so much interesting history to discuss, yet they seem to go on and on about themselves!" True, there is more than a little narcissism here on the Camino. It reminds me of something a wise Irish priest once said in a heavy brogue, “A little self-reflection can be a good ting but taking yourself too seriously, now dat’s a sin.”
On The Camino, (585 kilometers walked, only 130 kilometers to go!)
We lost The Handkerchief,(http://bootsbedouinsandabridge.blogspot.com/2010/04/handkerchief.html)
I wonder who has it now?