Monday, June 25, 2018

The Wonderfully-Hard

Every pilgrim can be saught out by a handful of similarities. You'll recognize them by their Camino calf tan line from wearing leggings to their knees and forgetting to reapply the sunscreen. You can see whose been walking by an all too common knee brace or an obvious limp. You'll can see their doiter or osprey backpacks, which they will insist on bringing it into the loo or will be carefully watching it while purchasing soup - it's their lifeline after all (regardless if they say all they need is their passport, CC and cell). And attached to that pack is a shell. The shell is a significant representation of the Camino in relation to St. James, which I will be into in a fee posts. But this symbol can be found everywhere, from markings to follow the path to Santiago, which is what I've been following, it's etched into stone carvings and incorporates into beautiful designs on buildings and beyond.

You will see no shell on my pink backpack. Everyday on the Camino has be wonderful and hard. Fellow trekkers ask me if I'm going to Santiago and I reply hesitantly: I want too.  Everything about this trip has been wonderfully-hard, from realizing that I'm not so interested in solo adventures anymore as I'm hurting and craving for that +1 to come with, the emotional tolles that come with your Camino friends going ahead or staying being and the body aches that have been popping up as soon as one heals, are just a few of those nasty moments that make this walk just so wonderful. The scenery has been truly astonishing and how my body of mine has survived is just as much as a surprise, but at the back of my mind, I've been wondering if this entire walk is really mine.
And then my eye is irritated. I've been coping by telling myself I'm crazy and fine and that I'll be in Burgos in two nights if it's something serious. A funny man from Europe mentions in concern that my eyes look rough. And they both start hurting and the only relief come from sleep. My new friend Jay held my hand as I teared up in frustration and fear in a room full of pulgrims.

Before we left our hostel, before the sun woke up, Grandma (we've taken to calling the two Korean people grandma and grandpa as they truly are old enough to be and probably are) gave me a hug and told me with love and certainty that I will be okay.

I worriedly walk my way seven of the twenty required kilometers to Burgos, but my eyes are screaming, from the sun. I shame myself by saying my possible eye infection is a result of cheaping out on 5-7 Euro hostels. I kick myself for not dealing with it ealier at a clinic when surly the only thing open on a sunday is the emergency. And the crazy kicks in. Am I going to go blind in Spain? How am I going to run a marathon blind? I didn't cry on the Camino, not today anyways, but I did cry in the hospital when they sent me to an eye specialist as they refused to help me at the family hospital.

I waiting in the "big room" the kind receptionist told me, after taking my passport and medical insurance  (huge shout out to Shawna, it worked and was totally worth it!). A few misguided trips and messy eye sherades later, I met with an English speaking doctor. He gave me some dye for my eyes and assured me I wouldn't die and started speaking in Spanish as my crazy took flight yet again.

He told me my eyes are dry. You're laughing and shaking your head, I know because I did.

This Canadian isn't used to such heat and spending so much time out of the office. His prescription was to wear my sunglasses and get some eyedrops and reassured me once again that I did not have an infection. I cried again.

Jf And for me, perhaps that's how I became a pilgrim. It's knowing when to know when I need to stay strong during the wonderully-hard 800km walk and when to know when I'm allowed to fall apart. It's literally a new perspective and relization that not only am I financially lucky enough to take the time to wall this walk, but physically I'm able to, too, even with a little body pain.

And so I'm formally keeping my eyes out for a shell for the following 500KM.

I've survived day 1 of the roaring hot Mesetas thanks to the man at the bar putting ice(!!) in my water blatter; these kind moments have occurred a few times when people find out I'm a solo girl [all the way] from Canada, and I couldn't be more thankful. Since Burgos, I've walked 300km. 


A strong and especially humbled girl

If you look anything like your passport you're too sick to travel. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rest Days

And so at 6am, groggy and messy, I give my American Friend a quick hug and she says "I'll see you soon". This is one of the hardest parts of the Camino,  most would agree, parting with your newfound friend. You meet many fellow trekkers, walk with them for an hour, a day or two, or perhaps just share a cervasa in the shade, but I've noticed you connect hard. And quickly. There's no bullshit small talk here. You're on a Pilgrimage and deep talk begins as early as your first coffee con Leche, because no one really gets it unless you're both doing the Camino. You share an understanding of pilgrim shaming, the padding on your feet aching and the amazing simplicity of ice cream at the end of the day.

During the rest day I sneak into bars, order a coffee and quietly unplug the lamp in the corner and replace it with my phone charger (we are kicked out of our Albergue until well into the afternoon). I sneak into coffee shops scruntching my nose at chemical fregrances to fill up my water in the washroom knowing I'm getting dirty looks at my all too natural scent.

During my rest day, my heart aches to be walking and I'm trying to understand the irony of this, it's as if my brain and body are two separate identities: my back and feet scream Stop, but my head longs to not be left behind; I've got so many miles left to go.

During the rest day I walk to the top of Ventosa and lay on the grass, lounging horizontal for as long as I can, resting my back, while reading Harry Potter (I'm flying out of London, Hellllllo).

I randomly and perfectly bump into my Polish friend and we go for a quick bite to eat and vino during the hot hours of the day. She continues ten more kilometres and I continue to long after her. But that is the thing with soloing the Camino: that is her Comino and this is mine, and we must presumably walk them differently.

I was FB messaged by a Canadian friend who asked if I've seen many sites or mostly just walked.  I smiled and typed, mostly walking. But if she only knew what I've seen, what I've done. With 200KM I've walked myself into an entirely different climate, walking from the rainy Pyrenese mountains to rolling hills into hot desert lands. 16 kilometers is about easy day and my life belongings are summed up into a pink bag with eleven items. It still surprises me every day that I'm walking my way across a country, across Spain.

So I remind myself that I must listen to my body,  if I'm ever going to successfully walk 600 more kilometers. I must respect these back pains and know that one day off my feet is going to keep me going.

I hug my American Friend back just as tightly, and repeat "I'll see you soon". Know just as much as hoping that I will.


A Nastalgic Pilgrim

Miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A love letter

To my little fleet of feminists,

You’re my sample of what maternal love could be (I've been looking), because I feel that you’re all a tiny bit mine, and that’s quite fabulous. To be clear, I'm a excellent use of alternative advice, call me your Plan B when it comes to how to live your life. A second opinion, perhaps.

Be sure to live hard, because you are meant to do so much more than pay bills and die. And try not to worry too much because
worrying won't change much. Volunteer, and karma will take care of the rest. Take calculated risks and make educated decisions, and sometimes you will want to make choices based on your heart rather than your head, and do that. Find a nice boy or girl who still likes to read and will contradict you - you're from a long line of strong, vocal women - you will need that. You're life list shouldn't include finding a nice boy or girl, choose big goals and a nice boy/girl will find you.

Learn how to fight with your fists. If you’re anything like your mum or your aunts, you’re going to be a blue-eyed and petit, which means a cute target. Learn how you can fight with your fists so you can confidently travel solo. Learn how to fight with your words. Being clever and knowing how to use your voice is important. Learn how to fight with your words so you can confidently travel solo. And I promise to take you on your first international adventure, if you're not ready to travel solo. We will volunteer abroad and it'll change your life. Learn how to dance, I was recently told that's an important life skill to have because you're going to have dance at public events, and so you should do it well (this is something I certainly need to work on).

You are allowed to change your mind at any point in your life. Do Not Forget This. Truly, nothing can’t be undone, and you will be so much happier when you voice your change of heart regarding this one and only life of yours.

I hope your dads genes overpowered the McNeil ones’ otherwise you’ll cry allot, and I’m really sorry about that. You’ll cry when you’re happy, hurt and frustrated. And then you’ll be angry because you’re crying, and not for the actual reason (very rational, I kmow). Sometimes these independent genes are a burden. But sometimes you just need to cry and move on.

And just to reiterate, I get to take you to get your first piercing (and I’ll get one, too), I get to be your first phone call, when you can’t call my sisters, and I get to be the aunt who you direct those hard questions to. I get to sit you down we’ll eat odd health food, which you’ll politely eat, because your mum’s will have beat politeness into you (like Gram C did to us), and you can ask me those questions that only an aunt can react to unruffled and answer at ease. And I’ll tell theatrical and, at times, uncensored stories, full of imagination and incite, explaining why your mums' are the way they are. I'll explain the crazy they've inherited and help you embrace your own. And I’ll share my own life lessons and woes as well. And I promise that I’ll provide that much needed honesty.

And to the Littlest Feminist, the newest addition: The Birth that I've failed to make and loved from afar, but this isn't any different from your sister's or cousin's and I'm comfortable with this decision as I was with Natalie and Heidi, where I sobbed in internet cafe and on that side road, grieving the day I missed. With you, I cried over my instant coffee in my Hostel, on your birthday, the day you changed so many peoples worlds, as you entered into your own.

A really lucky Aunt

Kid, you're gunna move mountains

Friday, June 8, 2018

The lessons she'll teach.

I've really never have a deep spiritual reason for hiking the Camino. I'm not pondering life, fixing myself or trying to get into shape - I'm happy with this ass of mine. I've quite simply been drawn to this trek, pulled to this path, this adventure has been calling my heart and shoes to join the mounds of people and take on the journey. And already I've realize that the Camino is has been waiting for me just as long as I've been waiting to walk it, because it's got some things to teach me.

I dropped my 13lbs backpack on the conveyor belt at the airport and look up at the Hunter, he's not feeling well, he admits and I suggest it's because he took the brunt of my butterflies for me, because I'm surpringly feeling just fine. We say our goodbyes and I walk towards the airport security goes and away from the security of the guy who is comfortable enough to let me figure myself out, outside of us. 

It's 9am in London and I'm so jetlaged I want to puke. For the next 48 hours everything seems impossible and chaotic. Any confidence I had was left on Canadian soil. You see, I'm am not a brave person. I'm questioning my whole trip. I don't even have a hostel for my first night in Europe. I'm second guessing what the fuck I'm doing on international soil. So I do it all scared. Thanks to some London friends and a brother in law and airport WiFi we find a place for me near Buckingham Palace. I hop on the train to Victoria Street and make quick friends with some American ladies and we joke about the non existence of global warming. I find pieces of my confidence and bits of my groove. 

Within my 24 hour stint in London I learn it has different currency and outlets than the rest of Europe (incert Quebec joke here). I almost miss my flight to France due to forgetting that I'm no longer in a small town domestic airport that reminds me of an old warehouse. No, I'm going to an international airport that gives me sensory overload due to mounds of people and stores. But thankfully money solves all problems including a fast track through security and I show up at my gate sweaty and one bottle of sunscreen lighter thanks to liquid restrictions  (don't worry I paid 17 pounds for a new bottle in France, FML).

Just when I think my crazy can calm we land in rain and a lacking train due to a landslide. I make fast friends with the guy who sat behind me and we share a cab into Sain Jean Pied da Port, the starting place of the Camino. 

As soon as my feet touch the Camino my crazy subsides. It's gently raining and I couldn't be happier. I walk alone and talk out load as someone in blue follows my tracks. The landscape is beautiful of rolling hills and historic houses, my ass hurts going both up and down the hills and I know I'm exactly where I need to be. I'm calm.

I confidently press past my destination and pay for it later. I soon realize I'm in short supply of water and the back of my knee hurts.  I continue to talk outloud to keep myself calm. There's a water station in an hour and it's not hot out. This is a really good lesson, I reason with myself, a lesson to not be so dumb. The water station appears, but it appears there's no water. I finally find the courage to look into my backpack and at my camo-back. Slight relief sets in, as I've still got half a liter and only 2.5 km's to go. No relief comes from my knee, though. The fog gets heavier and I munch on my pepperoni and follow the yellow markers (I'm carnivoring it hard and will probably poop my pants in the process. I should have prepared my legs and stomach, Megan reminds me). Finally I see the sign for Roncevaux.

The following morning,  I make fast fiends with three Americans  and we jive perfectly. We chat away the ten kilometers and I fully take in the views. As we stop for a cafe con Leche, it takes everything to admit that I'm hostelling here for the night. My body needs a rest and I need to overcome this jetlag. I'm still incredibly leary of this long trek and my abilities, but I know I need to respect myself if I'm going to even attempt these 800KM.

I'm not sure why my heart was so set on this adventure. My good friend said I'm exactly ready for the Camino for this is the most perfect timing, and I believe there is so much truth to that. I've got so many more lessons to learn with this adventure of mine, regardless of where I end up.

A Pilgrim

Without being scared you won't have a chance to be brave.