Today my niece Lydian Virginia Arredondo turned eight. Last year, I offered the walk for her and thought about her life and how different it will be from her mother’s and more so from mine. She has no inkling of what her aunt is doing. But I am doing the pilgrimage for her. She is my ahijada, my goddaughter, and I feel close to her, although we are not anything alike.
It was a Tuesday when we left Pamplona after spending most of the day taking care of some errands. Frank and Xavier left at daybreak. The Italian pilgrims also left before we did. Becky and I loitered as we were putting our backpacks in the lockers so we wouldn’t carry them as we went out to look for boots for Becky. The woman who is in charge came in to check on things. Becky asked her about a place to buy boots and just like that, she told the young man who had been at the desk overnight to go retrieve a pair that a pilgrim had left a while back. The blue and gray women’s size 8 hiking boots fit the bill! Obviously they were meant for Becky. They fit perfectly; we were excited for several reasons: First, we wouldn’t have to spend our time looking for boots! They were already broken in! And they were free! So off we went to look for a bank that would change our dollars to Euros, and we succeeded after two tries. Banco Santander (for some reason I’ve always been attracted to doing business with this particular bank) we were met by a grumpy balding clerk wearing an ill-fitting grey suit who took his sweet time and methodically checked our passports, filled out the paperwork and counted out the money. I got 140 and some cents for my $200–not a good rate at .7326 (or so the receipt says). We then proceeded to find Correos, so we could mail some of our provisions on ahead to León.
We shipped what we deemed dispensable and that we would need later in the trip: some food, vitamin supplements and such. Because it was Año Jacobeo the shipping only cost 4€. General Delivery is “Lista General.”
I tried calling my friend Imelda who teaches in Leon but she didn’t answer; my guess is that she’s in the States–she teaches at Rutgers and at Universidad de Leon. I met her when she was doing research in Santa Barbara that year that I was at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCSB.
We played tourist, going to various churches; one of my favorites was San Saturnino. I was moved by the energy in the place. We also visited the Sacred Heart and also felt tingly and “connected.” Good energy. I was disappointed, though, because the cathedral was closed to visitors porque estaba en obras and it only opened for services at certain times. Next time I am in Pamplona I will have to visit the Catedral–this makes 3 times I’ve been to the city and not entered la Catedral. The first time I came to Pamplona was in 85 and I have a great story of a Vietnam vet Chicano from Texas–tall, dark and with a huge Afro. He heard me and Ellie speaking Tex-Mex (as he called it) and immediately struck up a conversation and invited us to lunch. Problem was he was homeless and had no money yet he managed to treat us to a great meal out in a park: great bread, good wine and terrific cheese. Turned out he was related to Blasa Bluhm, someone I knew in Laredo. But that is another story and will have to wait.
During this part of the Camino, I felt more like a tourist, although everyone identified us as pilgrims.One curious beauty salon caught my eye: it was Asian. I went in and inquired and found out that no, no one is Asian, it is just that the owner liked the name Takeshy and the decor fits the name. After playing tourist and taking care of our “mandados,” we picked up our backpacks and off we went walking right through the town and then through the University of Pamplona campus.It was drizzly and cold.
I was soaked through and through when we arrived in Hostal Maribel Roncal, in Cizur Meno, I was thrilled to see a radiator and immediately sat right next to it as Sra. Roncal gave us instructions. She is calm and serene; a good soul who serves the pilgrims on the Camino. There was a young cyclist also staying there. Jose who’s in his late 20s and is bicycling to Santiago was also soaked.
Becky prepared the miso soup she brought from San Antonio with veggies we bought in Pamplona near the cafe where we had breakfast; we invited Jose to join us and he did. (I feel I need to explain why I’ve been writing “Jose” without an accent–it’s because it is pronounced with the stress on the “o” and not the “e” so it does not need an accent.) We had papaya spears for dessert!
The day was full of lessons and experiences. From when we almost got lost leaving Pamplona to the way the dark virgin seemed to stare right at me at San Saturnino Church, I felt protected and guided.
That evening in the hostal, Becky has done laundry and we wait for our clothes to dry before turning in. After my meditation, I am falling asleep when I hear Jose on the phone with his mother–she’s not happy that he is traveling the Camino during the holidays. Another lesson: families and rituals. I am lucky that my family understands. My mother has always told me to do what I know is best. I am sure it pains her not to have me at home for Christmas this year–in 64 years, it is only the third time I am not home with the family for Christmas!
MEDITATION FOCUS: The Camino provides, just as it provided Becky with a perfect pair of boots. Trust that life will provide and that you are guided.