Written Dec 13, 2011
Since my arrival in Toledo, I had been walking in the narrow cobble stone streets going up and down hills to the Correos, to meet with friends at the University, to go and chat with other friends at a bar, or just to take a stroll with Lisa–part of my preparation for the Camino. I had also given myself some tasks in addition to finishing the letters of recommendation and the paper I was writing, I was going to empty out both the University and the AOL e-mail boxes so that they could be accessed and not be shut down while I was walking. It was a laborious task and I spent hours in front of Lisa’s laptop at it.
On December 13, 2010, in the misty quiet of Toledo’s early morning I walked to the train station and I wondered how it would be out on the Camino where it was sure to be wet and misty. I had been to La Coruña and knew how wet Galicia can be. Today on December 13, 2011 it is foggy and misty in San Antonio and I am taken back to many a morning when the fog was so thick we could hardly see the yellow arrows that marked the way.
Last year, I took the 8 a.m. train into Madrid to visit with Prof. Nieves Almenar who had set up a radio interview with Maria José at the Universidad a Distancia (UNED). Earlier, in the summer, I had met Nieves through a contact at the US Embassy who had arranged for me to attend the Congreso de Literatura Chicana in León. Nieves had introduced me to her colleagues who treated me royally, hosting an informal lunch with the Dean and a couple of other professors at the largest distance-learning university, the UNED. With over 200 thousand students it is one of the largest such universities bringing educational opportunities in all disciplines except medicine and law to students in Africa and Latin America as well as in Europe. At that time, we had set the interview to coincide with my visit to the area on the way to El Camino. The interview was a pleasant visit with two wonderful women about the border and about life as a Chicana, titled Vivir en Fronteras. The interview was to be broadcast when I was walking along the Camino, and so it was aird on January 23, 2011, but I didn’t listen to it until I was back in San Antonio. It turned out so well that I was invited to do two other interviews–one upon my return specifically to talk about El Camino, titled De Roncesvalles a Santiago. and another in the summer when I returned with my students about the border, titled Una Cultura Entre Fronteras. An added bonus was a small honorarium that the UNED paid those who were interviewed. I was truly glad to pick up my check when I returned from the Camino in February for then I had a bit of spending money.
After the interview we had lunch at an Asturian restaurant that Nieves claimed was the best, but all the dishes had meat and I had stopped eating red meat a while back in preparation for the trip. Still, I ate the meat and enjoyed it; she was right, it was a good restaurant and the meals were typical of northern Spain’s cuisine. The decor further reinforced a sense of in situ, we were in Asturias! I thought of old friends who had vanished from my life and how they would sing the old Asturian hymn at the drop of a hat.
Nieves dropped me off at the train station, but it was early afternoon and I decided not to go back just yet. I knew I would have to get a pedicure before starting on the walk, so I went to the Dr. Scholl’s store/clinic near Sol, right in the heart of Madrid’s downtown, only to find that they no longer offered the clinical pedicure I’d had there before. The clinician had moved to their store in another part of town. They graciously called and made an appointment for me for the next day. It meant I would have to return the following day, but I needed it and I was just glad to find that they were still offering the service.
My day in Madrid had been too short and it would be good to return the next day and spend time in the city.