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Holiday Letter 2007

USA | Sunday, 23 December 2007 | Views [898]

Camino de Santiago Special Edition

Season’s Greetings Everyone,                                               December 2007

Here I sit at a small café in Windsor, England (waiting to have tea with the Queen, of course) realizing it is already December and I need to get moving on this year’s holiday letter and drawing.  At long last it is a sunny but blustery day and sitting in this cozy cafe is giving me time to reflect on 2007.  My head is spinning just thinking about all that has gone on.  It has been a busy, fun filled year of travel, change, packing, saying goodbyes, unpacking, making new friends, knitting, walking and contemplation.  Here are some highlights:

·         Going to Ethiopia not once but twice.  It is a fascinating country.

·         Being treated like a VIP when I went for day surgery at Al Hada hospital

·         Lighting 45 candles for my birthday celebration

·         One last boat dive on the Red Sea – a beautiful day but I can still feel the waves

·         Saying good bye to many wonderful and kind people I met while living in Saudi.  I miss the teachers, the students, the families, nurses, the staff, the shop owners in Taif, the lentil soup man, the bread man, the BA guys, and friends in Jeddah and Dhahran

·         Saying hello again to friends in Petra and Amman and walking through Petra with 10 year old Hadeel – she would not let me walk alone fearing I would get lost

·         Hanging out one last time at Michele’s swimming pool in Jeddah

·         Starting the baby blanket knitting project/book – it has been well received and I expect the first draft to be completed by April

·         Visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa and wishing I could stay longer

·         Shipping 110 kilos to the states and having all 8 bags eventually arrive stateside

·         Being escorted through the airport in Jeddah as I did my final exit

·         Taking an eventful Greyhound bus from Denver to Vail with first, the bus driver deciding to throw off a passenger for no apparent reason before we even took off and then 10 minutes into the trip while the driver is trying to maneuver around rush hour traffic in Denver a lady comes to the front of the bus and says, “I am not one to complain, but….” 

·         A weekend backpacking trip with Steve in the Snowmass wilderness area, meeting 8 crazy men from S Carolina on their yearly gourmet trek, watching the meteorite shower on a cloudless night by the lake

·         Two weeks in New England and realizing not to wear a lot of pink around the Springfield, MA bus station if I want to blend in

·         Having a great Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) experience in Paris

·         Spending a day at Mont St Michele when the tide was out

·         Visiting the candle capital of the world – Lourdes, France

·         Walking the Camino de Santiago - 900km in 45 days with only 3 really wet days

·         Watching the baby blanket story unfold as all kinds of people partook in knitting some of it from around the world – also a set back occurs as I mistakenly left the blanket under a bed two weeks into my walk

·         Taking the Eurostar from London to Paris – very easy and fast

·         Seeing the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall in NYC

·         Comparing holiday light displays in London, Paris and New York City.  London was OK, Paris had some nice traditional decorations, but NYC was over the top – I loved it.

·         Best of all was connecting and reconnecting with family, friends, and people 

As most of you know I took a year off starting in June to walk the Camino de Santiago to reflect, think, and to practice being in the moment.  I will say my aching feet kept me in the present with every painful step.  However, I did have many glorious days to walk and think and I will share some of that with you now (please see below); the real trip letter will come later in 2008.

For now I plan to be in the Denver area until June taking a class, studying for an exam to be certified as a secondary math teacher, writing the children’s story, working part-time tutoring math, writing, and looking for my next teaching job.  Will it be in Mali or Egypt or Syria or Saudi or Madagascar?

Mobile: 240-784-0058

My email is still [email protected].

I will close with a quote I came to appreciate very much this year.  It is by Thich Nhat Hahn from “The Miracle of Mindfulness”.

“The miracle is to walk on Earth”

Happy trails to you,

Becky Stateside

PS for the fun of it I wanted to list places I walked around in 2007

Addis Ababa, Axum, Lalibela, Jeddah, Dharan, Shashamanee, Petra, Amman, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Denver, Seattle, Hanover New Hampshire, Woodstock and Burlington Vermont, Suffield, Norwich and Mystic Connecticut, Washington DC, Baltimore, Annapolis Maryland, Paris, Lessay, Mont St Michele, Bordeaux, Lourdes, St Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles, Burgos, Leon, Ponferrada, Astorga, Pamplona, Santiago, Fisterre, Muxia, Madrid, Toledo, London, Windsor, Eton, Reading, Oxford, Coventry, and New York City.

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Length:

St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago – 776 km

Fisterre to Muxia to Santiago – 123 km

Number of days: 45

Weather: lots of sun, 3 wet days, cool in the morning then nice temps by 10:00am

Start: Sept 22

End: Nov 5

Status: Solo

Trail: it is well marked by yellow arrows and scallop shell markers

Food: coffee, bread, cheese, bocadillos, tortilla, fries, chicken, fish, pasta, tuna, canned corn, wine, chocolate

Best meal: Paella at Fisterre

Accommodations: Pilgrim hostels – basic but functional

Best Hostel: Granon because it was a full house with 48 pilgrims and we all sat down for dinner and breakfast.  Because it was a full house the overflow people slept in the choir loft and I thought it was very special despite it being cold.  The hosts were great and made it look very easy caring for 48 needy pilgrims.

Cost: on average about 25 euros per day

Weight of backpack: never weighed it but estimate about 20 lbs starting off and then about 15 as I unloaded the pack three separate times

Why: to walk and to have time on my side

My 16 second elevator answer to “How was it?”: It was a great way to see Spain and I experienced 5 things: tolerance, insight, inspiration, community and camino magic.

Songs that popped into my head as I walked: Morning Has Broken, I am on Top of the World, On the Road Again, I have been Every Where Man, The Bear went over the Mountain, Hey Jude, to name a few

The Best Part: every day is a new day with new places, new people, and being outdoors

The “I could do without this” Part: the snoring and blisters

The Best Rest Spot: Muxia for 2 days

What did I learn: I am on the right path

Here are some excerpts from the journal I kept during the walk:

Sept 22 9:45pm

I feel cheated and robbed on my first day out.  What rotten luck to have the whole day socked in!  The mist was heavy and soaked everything.  Normally I wouldn’t mind but today of all days was the day to be in the Pyrenees and you could hardly see 25 feet ahead.  I could only imagine how beautiful the views could have been.

Sept 27 7pm

Day 6 of the walk and I am in pain.  My poor feet are hot, tired, and bothered with blisters to boot.  No longer is walking a natural thing.  I have to think about it – how and where to put pressure on my feet.  Each foot is in different pain so I have to try and accommodate each, resulting in a funny waddle that is not making me laugh.  It made me a bit sad today because here I was on a very nice dirt road walking through vineyards with great views and try as I might I could only wince with each step rather than to be at peace enjoying the walk.  My body is telling me loud and clear to rest more and to get rid of some weight.

Oct 7 7:45pm

Walked 28.5 km from Burgos and my feet can tell.  The first 20 km went fine and then my feet started getting tired but still OK.  It wasn’t until I got to the “Good Luck Spring” when my luck turned for the worse.  They say if a pilgrim soaks their feet in the cold spring water (the water is freezing cold) then their feet should suffer no more on the camino.  I happened to change socks to put on the extreme-hiker-no-seams-very-expensive socks and that is when my feet started to tense up and ache.  The socks were left behind.

Oct 15 2:15pm

Now I am Hospital de Orbigo with a bottle of Vina Ruperez from the Rioja region.  It is a sunny day and I’m in a beautiful, peaceful setting at the pilgrim’s hostel.  The walk was short only 11km but I wanted another ½ day to rest – mountains are on the horizon.

Oct 17 8:00pm

You should be here.  Spanish music, soulful music, is being played in the kitchen while the hosts cook.  It smells amazing.  From what I can see so far is salad, soup, and pasta for 14 people.  I am ready for a good meal after today’s walk.  I think one of the bests yet with old stone villages, some crumbling apart while others are neat and tidy and romantic, woods to walk through, autumn colors, mountains, blue sky, and comfortable temps.

Oct 27 7:00pm

Today was the day!  We still didn’t know how far to walk today but was glad to be walking towards the full moon.  By 3pm we realized we were only 5km away from Santiago so why not go for it.  Alain and I decided to stay in the hostel since it would be his last night being a pilgrim after nearly 3 months on the camino (he started in Le Puy, France)….Alain and I shared a big bear hug at the cathedral – he was done.  I still had leg 2 to do but knew the longest part was behind me.

Nov 6 8pm

On Sunday (Nov 3) morning at daybreak (~8am) I set off in the ground fog and was already chilled to the bone.  Partly due to the adrenaline rushing through my blood which I hear can make you cold.  The adrenaline was rushing because I was out in farm land with small villages and big guard dogs – no make that junkyard dogs because they were big and mangy – and not chained up.  I knew the slightest noise or scent would set them off in a tizzy and with most farmers asleep or in the fields, no one would be around to witness the attack.  I walk with bated breath feeling neither hunger nor exhaustion, conscious only of the threat with every step.  This feeling lasted 10 hours until I reached the next hostel.

Nov 7th 3pm

Nov 5th was my last full day of walking.  Again, the brilliant sun painted a wonderful picture with fall colors in the dense woods.  I took this walk slowly and no longer feeling and threats of dogs, getting lost, and lack of time…  I walked on thinking back over the last 44 days.  The people, the places, the weather, the laughs, the picnics, the sleepless nights, and the common goal we all shared.  The miracle is to walk on Earth.

A Pilgrim’s Pray

To know the way,

We go the way;

We do the way

The way we do

The things we do.

It’s all there in front of you,

But if you try hard to see it,

You’ll only become confused

I am me,

And you are you,

As you can see;

But when you do

The things that you can do,

You will find the way,

And the way will follow you.      – Benjamin Hoff

Peregrinos, Pyrenees, plateau, plains, poplars, pines, pavement, pebbles – R Tumicki

Tags: People

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