On Friday, December 23, 2011 drove to Laredo and arrived just in time to help with the tamalada that was in progress. I had hoped to use the internet at my niece’s to post the blog entries while in Laredo, but instead I came down with a terrible cold and couldn’t drive to her home; so I stayed put and rested and tried to get better. My mom’s house has not internet access, but even if she had, I was in no condition to write anything. In fact, I am still a bit woozy and not quite all here. But I don’t want the backlog to be too great. I remind myself that everything happens for a reason as I learned on the Camino on Christmas Eve. I will write summaries of the missing dates in this post…
December 23, 2010
We left Obanos and were lectured by an old man out for his morning walk. He talked about the sembradillos de maiz, the corn plantations on either side of the path and how Navarra was resisting the US interests that would have them use genetically altered strains. He also told us the legend of Sta. Felicia and San Guillen a play that is performed during the town fiestas on the third Sunday after Easter. It was a short trek to Puente La Reina and Becky and I talked of many things as we walked. We stopped at a cafe and had lunch, a bocadillo vegetal and an an orange juice; Andy Warhol reproductions and 8X10 photos of Michael Jackson, Mohamed Ali, and Mick Jagger graced the walls.The place was smoke-filled as all the customers, mostly men, were smoking. We get to the albergue. we decide today we rest, it is our th16th day on the camino and it feels as if we’d been on it for months! We talk about books, Becky recommends the Saturated Life, I can’t recall if I’ve read it. I fall asleep praying for good walking weather tomorrow as we have along 17 mile walk to Estella. that is our goal; if we get to Ciriqui or Lorca that would be good, but arriving in Estella would put us right on schedule. In Puente La Reina we visit the Church of Santiago and Pedro. The Dark Christ is not very dark, I note. we buy groceries and cookies for dessert. it is my second night of the detox treatment. A couple of days before I found a mechanical pencil on the road. All along I have been saying that I don’t want to write, that I want to experience el Camino. But when I saw the bright blue pencil against the pristine white of the snow, I heard a voice saying if you pick it up it means you will write. And I did. And I am now writing about it.
December 24, Christmas Eve
A year ago and thousands of miles away, I had occasion to remember that things happen for a reason. a problem as my plans went awry. On Christmas Eve, 2010, Becky and I walked out of the albergue in Obanos and walked the short 2 kilometers to Puente la Reina, where we had a light breakfast and began walking across town headed out of town on the Camino. But, as we took photos at the bridge that gives the town its name, I realized that the slight pain on my right leg was getting worse. The only option was for me to take a break. I didn’t want to stay behind, so we decided that I could take a bus to Estella and Becky would meet me there at the church-sponsored albergue. Thus, I would rest my leg and we would decide what to do once we met there. It was Christmas Eve and Xavier had told us only one albergue was open in Estella, the albergue parroquial. And so it was. but before we get there, I must tell how it was that having the sciatica pain on the right leg proved providential.
When I left Becky at the bridge, I went looking for a place to take the bus to Estella. I had timed it right and only waiting about ten minutes.
I was quite upset with myself and I kept blaming myself: I could’ve trained better, I should’ve taken precautions, and so on and so on. En fin I was so upset I forgot my walking stick at the café where I asked about the bus schedule. Luckily, I remembered when I crossed the street to the bus stop in the rain and ran back to retrieve it. Be present, I kept telling myself. My backpack seemed to weigh even more. The bus came right on time; the trip was brief. I wept sitting in my seat surrounded by folks who knew each other and I was struck by an octogenarian who joked with the driver and whose gnarled hands gripped a handkerchief where she kept her Euros. The tears were of regret and worry. What if I couldn’t go on with the walking? If the pain persisted, I would be forced to stop walking, delay or even just stop entirely. Finally in Estella, I looked for the Tourist office so that they could let me know what there was to do, where to go use the internet, and where the albergue was located. In most towns, the public library had free internet access, but I never got there in Estella. Instead I was serendipitously discovered that my bad luck was really good luck and it was all meant to be as it was. I met Marian and Maria, there. They fixed hot tea and we chatted over chamomile and Marian gave me a reiki treatment that eased the pain considerably. Then she taught me a few stretching exercises to keep the leg flexible.
Then at 2 p.m. we walked over to an enoteca and had wine and cheese—I had not had wine in over 6 years because I get migraine headaches, but David, the son of the owner assured me I would not get the migraine and I didn’t! It was not a Rioja wine, it was from El Bierzo where we would be walking later on. I felt right at home with Marian’s friends and the nochebuena good cheer made it all even more pleasant.A discussion ensued when I asked about the Olentzero, the figure I’d seen all over Navarra. Oh Yes, El Papa Noel Basco, Marian answered. The various legends confirmed for me that the folk story has currency and the variants intrigued me.
Marian turned out to be a treasure trove of information; her area of specialization is the region and the Camino, and she has written several tracts, and a book on the art at the Cathedral.
Marian’s friend Maria Josebe had also come over and we hit it off right away; she got her PhD in San Diego and knows the border literature–knows my work! She gave me the key to her apartment for us to use on Christmas Day advised that we not walk since everything would be closed.She and her husband, also a professor at the Universidad de Vittoria would be visiting family and wouldn’t be back until later in the week. But, I was still not sure. I wanted to consult with Becky so I waited for her at the Albergue Parochial as we’d planned and then we’d decide whether we would take the offer or not. So, after hours and hours, chatting with Alba and with the priest and a woman who was the one in charge when there was no hospitalera/o, David, a cyclist arrived. I asked about Becky. Yes, he had seen her and she was right behind him.He was trying to get to Santiago by the 30th because he had to get back to Madrid by the new year. Since he said Becky was still a while away, I went tot he church basement across the street to use the internet. the place was full of kids playing games. Still, I was able to log on and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Shortly after I went back to the Albergue, Becky arrived drenched! Her green poncho and all she was still soaked. We quickly got ready for mass and I put on my pink turtle neck knowing that my sisters were all wearing pink for Christmas this year. (my sisters and I take turns choosing, and Marisela had chosen pink! this year, in 2011, Leticia chose Christmas green; next year, Elsa chose turquoise.) I was struck by an image of La Virgen del Ariche–an Ecuadorian Virgin–dressed in pink, “She’s the patroness of all who are in Spain without papers,” a man informed me as I stopped by the side altar.
After mass, we gathered back at the Albergue for dinner. Alba had received a care package from some pilgrims who had come by earlier: sushi, jamon serrano, and other delicacies.
At the Albergue that night were two Spanish peregrinos, Moises and Belén. David, the cyclist, Becky and I and of course, Alba the hostelera who is from Valencia and is not really trained–she just happened to be walking back form Santiago with Xavier and the priest asked if she could stay for the 2 week period until they sent someone. She agreed and here she was making us feel at home and sharing her bounty. David names us la hermandad de Estella and tells us of his travails: newly divorced worries about his little girl. Belen and Moises are teachers and reassure him.
They are in their 7th year of marriage but have been together for 18 years. They are in their 30s. They are walking the Camino during their winter vacation; they come from a small town in Alicante. They just started walking in Pamplona due to the short time they have to make the pilgrimage. She’s getting a degree in Physcal Education; he is a Physical Education teacher. They bemoan the fact that their field of physical education is so discredited in Spain.
December 25, 2010
On Christmas Day indeed everything was closed, so we stayed in Maria Josebe’s apartment, we did laundry, cooked, read and just rested. The view from the apartment was picture perfect. The river Ega courses through town meandering its way past the convents and churches. We made phone calls from a locutorio. I talked to Sandra, my sister and to Mami. Elsa says all is well. My leg felt fine and I was sure I could continue walking the next day. And so it was…