Where’s the train?

Where’s the train?

Day 12, April 16: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (24.4 km, 15 miles)

For the 15th day in a row, I slipped into my light (and lightweight) gray skate-boarder pants and the teal heavyweight Smartwool top. So easy not to have to make decisions! The pants have sometimes had long underwear underneath or rain pants over them, but the gray pants have been a constant; the only long pants I brought on this trip. The shirt? Usually topped by a Polartec 200 fleece vest and either my rain jacket or my winter coat. And thus I stay comfortable… except inside some of our albergues where the centuries-old stone buildings still retain the chill of winter but the heat is deemed unnecessary because, after all, it’s the middle of April. Brrrr… The cold is on my mind because I have been sitting upright in bed for the last hour, dressed in the above-mentioned Smartwool shirt and the Smartwool long underwear bottoms on top of my pjs, a wool blanket pulled over me and… missing the two microwaveable bed buddies I would have in bed with me at home, not to mention the flesh-and-blood buddy who would have me warm in a matter of minutes. Ok, pity party over, let’s move on!

Sometimes I title my blog posts and then never get around to including any references or explanations of the title. Let’s get that out of the way now. Yes, the train? You know: “toot, toot.” I keep hearing it, but not seeing trains or tracks. Whatever could it be? Surely not the huge bowl of bean soup I consumed last night? Surely not! But just in case, a fortunate thing I walked alone for the better part of today…. Speaking of trains (well, sort of…): usually when Ken and I are on vacation, our campgrounds are situated near train tracks. We constantly hear the trains rolling through. It occurs to me: other than the train that took us from Madrid to Pamplona back on April 3, I haven’t seen a train or a track. We are really in remote areas. The towns are serviced by buses, though we don’t see those either. Do not believe anyone who tells you that the Camino is on a lot of roadway. Or do not believe that the roadway is one that is traversed by cars. It’s just not so. Or hasn’t been so. There are more snails and caterpillars on the roads we’ve been on than cars, and I’m not exaggerating. This may not always be the case, but so far. As this post asks, “where’s the train?”

The Camino provides

Take our lunch, for example. We took an apple and an orange and one wrapped croissant from the breakfast buffet at the albergue. (Yes, I know the sign said that the food there was to be consumed only on the premises. Mea culpa! I did my penance climbing 153 floors today. And besides, we didn’t consume that much at the actual buffet.) We ran back to the dorm room to pick up our packs and head down the Camino, but then Ginny disappeared. She showed up a minute later with a big grin on her face and a plastic bag in her hands. “Lunch,” she said. “I found cheese and chorizo and brown bread and chocolate cookies just left out on the pilgrim’s kitchen table. Stuff people didn’t want to bother packing up.” Ah yes, the Camino provides.

It provided some really cool sights before we’d even gotten through Belorado. I’m afraid Ginny was a gal on a mission and she missed the following. I promise pictures in the next couple of days, but here’s the story behind them:

  1. I saw a pilgrim reading a sign not minutes after we left the albergue. It was on the side of a building, written in both English and Spanish. Something to the effect that pilgrims should walk ahead about 15 feet and turn around. ???? Silly, right? But what would it hurt to do just that; this is not Sodom and Gomorrah. So I walked on a bit and turned around. Whoa! A beautiful mural, two actually, each, I’m thinking, about three stories high. One of a mature woman, one of a child. Lovely! Hope my photos do them justice.
  2. Also just a bit from our albergue: an open store front with a long table set up just off the sidewalk. On the table: two huge pans, one empty and the other filled with just-cooked rice, set out to cool. I’m talking large pans. Maybe a square yard each? Off to the side, a large cauldron in which more rice was cooking, being stirred a bit by an attendant. And the proprietor bustling about. “¿Venden arroz?” I asked, puzzled. As easy as rice is to cook, and as much of a staple as it is, why would anyone buy it? Bread, yes, I get that. But rice? Well, I had it all wrong, but the owner was more than willing to strut his stuff.  “A world-famous sausage maker,” he said. “That’s me!” When I asked if I could take a photo of the rice, he gestured for me to follow and sent me into two different rooms to see all the chorizo sausages hanging to dry. He showed me the sign on the side of the building with his web site, promised that if I ordered from the US, I could have fresh sausage from him within 24 hours. And please, would I spread the word because he had three children to support and, he added, gesturing to his wife who was by this time working to fill the second pan with more freshly prepared rice, “she’s pregnant again.” It was a really fun way to begin my engagement with this new day! What more would the Camino provide before the day was over?

Some lovely vistas, that’s what. At the beginning. And then, moving forward, we were up into the “mountains” again (high point 1,150 meters or almost 3,800 feet). We left vistas behind for a while, including those snow-covered mountains we’ve been seeing from time to time for days now, and we could enjoy being surrounded by trees: some oak and, to a greater extent, pine. We moved along at our own pace, spending a lot of time in silent marvel and far-reaching, good-fo-the-soul thoughts. Even though the path was wide, the surroundings reminded me of some of my treasured Indiana training hikes. Minus the creek crossings!

I think in another post I may have mentioned my new technique of recording some experiences and thoughts as I walk along, to help boost my memory of them as I reflect on the day and attempt to do a post about it. Both good and bad. It is easy enough for me to get the phone out, press the image of a microphone, and record line after line of text. I’ve just read some of those lines…. Ha! Very difficult to decipher. For every sentence that the recorder got correct, there are many phrases which require translation and interpretation. Still, they serve to jog the memory and even now, as I finish this post three days after the experience, the feelings do come back to me. Lumped together in non-sequential order, I’ll share a few of the details–both thoughts and experiences–of the day. More than you want or need to hear? Too “preachy”? No problem. This is meant to float my boat and may not be at all what keeps yours afloat.

Varied experiences and thoughts

  • A spoonful of sugar and some steamed milk sure helps this usually non-coffee drinker enjoy the occasional cappuccino. Especially when it is cool outside!
  • as we climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed–I think this was a 153-floor day–I was reminded that Lamaze breathing is good not only for the process of giving birth and for pedaling up steep hills; it’s a great distraction for “mountain climbing” as well
  • I have been taking absolutely way too many pictures of the exteriors of churches, but I just can’t resist. Especially the really old ones, the 12th-century ones. I love the plainness of their huge stones, the way they are visible for miles and miles, how they dominate the small villages. I love how I can sometimes look out over the countryside and see several villages off in different directions. I spotted one today built into the side of a mountain. It would have been a significant detour to check it out, and the day offered ample challenges, so I “let it go” (except for the photograph…)
  • Our “pilgrim-provided” lunch in front of the church in the hometown/birthplace of Santo Domingo was perfect in its simplicity. The table was directly in front of the church where the saint had been baptized one thousand years earlier. His birth home was across the “street” from the church. We were more or less in the “playground” of his childhood and also in the “work ground” of his adult life when assisting pilgrims was his life’s mission. Still trying to wrap my mind around how much “sacred traffic” passed through these small towns and this challenging terrain a thousand years ago….
  • I thought often today about how today’s pilgrims are a miniature United Nations. But truly united. On the same mission, even if for varying purposes. We all wish each other well. The Camino is a safe place in which to build friendships. The “buen caminos” with which we greet one another are so much more than “have a good days.” So much good will and good cheer. We have so little on our backs, but what we have is… for the one who needs it. Plastic bags, clothespins, knee braces, ibuprofens, blister patches, oranges, etc., are given to the one who needs them without (much) thought to what will happen if/when they might be sorely needed by the giver. “The Camino will provide.” Trust. Trust. More trust.
  • How basic our needs really are: shelter, food, drink, at least a few people who care about your well-being and treat you with affection. Yes, “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.”
  • I had a conversation with a French couple as I made my way today. My Spanish is coming back remarkably well and I don’t hesitate to speak it though medical terms and technological ones throw me off!), but the French I worked so hard to recuperate a couple of years ago is slow to come out. It is humbling to know that I am garbling verbs and verb tenses and otherwise sounding like an illiterate, but at the same time, it is rewarding to see that I am making myself understood and am managing to understand. (Easier still to carry on conversations with Brazilians, they using their Portuguese, me speaking Spanish, grinning as we see that we are communicating. But I digress again…). It was from the French couple, from Guy and Ann, that I learned about the tragedy of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. A loss for the whole world, but so much more personal for these folks. I have yet to see any news reports or to brush up on the news via anything online.
  • An oops that I’ve noticed. We did have a picnic lunch at the church where Santo Domingo was baptized…. but that was the day before, on the 15th, and probably described in the post for that day. And you probably have already noticed my mistake. Today’s picnic lunch, made from the bits and pieces of what other pilgrims had left in the kitchen, was enjoyed as we sat on my rain kilt up in the mountains, just on the side of the trail, Ginny with her knee elevated on my pack, pilgrims stopping to greet us and to accept–or not–some of the pilfered food we offered them.
  • Sign seen on someone’s daypack today, written in Spanish: Don’t dream your life, live your dreams. No sueñes tu vida; vive tus sueños. Doing just that right now!
  • Struck today with an awareness–brought on, no doubt, by the tedium of carrying the pack– that we all carry burdens. Some are more visible than others, some heavier, longer-lasting, more painful, some more fleeting, but carry them we do. What to do? Help one another as best we can, and notice and be grateful for those who lighten our load in any way.
  • The song “Let there be peace on earth” came to me often today. Do you know it? It includes the words: “…with every step I take, let this be my solemn vow,” the vow being to live in peace and harmony. I took lots of steps today. Have I brought any more peace and harmony and good will into the world? Hoping so.

San Juan de Ortega

The monastery for pilgrims is, basically, the town. That and the bar adjacent to it to meet the pilgrim’s needs. A few quick observations for my personal recollection, and then something major I want to get to. The quick ones:

  • It was so cold there! Inside the thick walls of the old building. The heat which we were told was programmed to come on at a set time never came on.
  • Lovely out in the courtyard in front of the albergue. The sun shone on those walls and so, while it was still up a bit in the sky, it warmed the stone in front of which we sat, dried some of our clothes, helped us relax.
  • Another top bunk. A challenge to remember where the ladder was. Plugs weren’t right there by the beds.
  • Why was everyone afraid to turn the lights on, both in the evening and in the morning? I like it better when the hospitaleros are in charge of lights instead of the pilgrims….
  • Nice hot water in the showers
  • The most generous (in quantity) pilgrim meals yet. I consumed everything! Cheapest “3-course meal” yet at 9 euros. Four courses, actually: soup, salad, meat, potatoes, pasta, then yogurt or fruit. No wine.
  • The bar was willing to give me ice if I brought the plastic bag for it.

But on to the most significant thing about the visit to San Juan de Ortega: the pilgrim’s mass. For once the mass was strictly FOR the pilgrims. I’m sure townsfolk would have been invited had there been any. It was just us. 6:30 pm. Much better than 8:00, right? The priest was the most warm and welcoming one I have encountered thus far. “Hospitality” just dripped from him as if he were a direct descendant of St. Benedict. A wide, compassionate smile. No hurry, as if he had all the time in the world. He spoke only Spanish, and at a pace which allowed any non-native with a moderate command of the language the chance to understand. Each pew had several notebooks with the entire liturgy–the priest’s part, the congregation’s part, given in six parallel columns: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and German. Before mass started, the priest found volunteers to proclaim the first reading (in French, if I’m remembering correctly) and the prayers of the faithful (in German). All were encouraged to follow along in their own language and to utter responses in their own language. And the two readings were chosen as ones that would be meaningful to pilgrims, most especially the Gospel reading (of the Prodigal Son). The priest’s homily based on the Gospel and spoken with such kindness was perfect in delivery and spot-on in content. This priest was a real shepherd. Many stayed behind to express their appreciation of the celebration. And we were at the dinner table shortly after 7:00. Very special.

That about wraps up Tuesday, April 16. I’ve yet to catch you up on “the road to Burgos,” Wednesday’s trek. It’ll come, along with some photos. I’ve posted (Instagram and Facebook) lots of photos of the 16th. Maybe you’ve seen them.

For now: signing off from Burgos. Not sure when I’ll be able to “publish” this. Perhaps now if I turn on data; perhaps in the morning.

Traveling con los angelitos

Traveling con los angelitos

Reflection on the traveling mercies received between 3:00 pm on Wednesday, April 16 and 10:00 am Thursday, April 17

A sceptic might say it’s just a matter of good luck. Let them say it! We know better. We have been blessed at every turn. For one thing: your thoughts and prayers and heartfelt wishes for our safety and for our journey spur us on. For another: it cannot be denied that “the Camino provides.” Perhaps it does so because there’s something about the Camino that brings out the best aspects of human nature: goodness, kindness, compassion. Heart! The Camino seems to allow people to be their best selves, and I am not referring exclusively to pilgrims themselves but to all those people who encounter them along the way. For every one person–and I’m referring to the natives, to those whose homeland is being literally “invaded” by somewhat crazy foreigners and compatriatas alike, and who find this whole pilgrimage business both invasive and disruptive–for every one of those there are ninety-nine natives who respond with at least interest, but also with open hearts and encouragement and support. Folks who work or volunteer at the hostels, those serving in cafes and bars, even the local police like the two who drove by me this morning and asked if I needed help.

So there are many kinds of angelitos (little angels), and don’t try to convince us that a loving Father isn’t involved. We won’t buy it. The evidence is overwhelming. Whatever happens from this point forward in our journey, there is no denying that in the last 18 hours or so the heavenly hosts have been at our side and on our side.Those hours, then, call for some sharing.

Arriving in Burgos

We had heard all about it being a long haul into Burgos. We thought we had studied the maps. We thought we were keeping our eyes out for the proper signs. For the parque fluvial, the route that would bring us in by the oh-so-pleasant river pathway where we would pass mothers pushing baby carriages, old friends dando un paseo (strolling) while they solved their personal problems and those of the world, cyclists out enjoying what would be the last dry day in a while…. It would be much more pleasant than the non-river route and infinitely more pleasant than the one that would include 10 kilometers of city traffic with near-endless plodding past factories, then businesses, hundreds of stoplights and dozens of roundabouts, all the busier because it was the eve of a national holiday (Holy Thursday and Good Friday) and many people would be heading out of town. Etc., etc. To be avoided at all costs.

And perhaps you guessed it: that’s the route we ended up on. By the time we suspected that the airport wasn’t on our right-hand side the way we wanted it to be, it was too late to backtrack. We were running late, so there were no other pilgrims to catch up with or with whom to consult. We had goofed. (Let me add: many others we later came upon made the same mistake. Shame on Burgos and its environs for not providing better guidance!)

Burgos is a city of some 200,000 inhabitants. That number may or may not include the outlying area in which we lamentably found ourselves. Yes, there were still the occasional yellow pilgrim arrows that we were following. Apparently all three routes into the city are marked for pilgrims. The truth dawned. We were some 20 kilometers into our route, but still 10 kilometers–6 miles– from our destination, the city center (the old historic area by the cathedral).

And then the first angel appeared. We saw a couple of buses. One driver caught our eye and saw us searching. Searching for arrows, actually, wondering which way to cross the street. But also he could read that we were wondering about those buses and looking at them with some longing. His bus read “Gran teatro” on the front. Not that that meant anything to us. Be that as it may, he gestured to us, pointing but making a kind of semi-circle or arch with his whole arm. We weren’t exactly sure what he meant by his gestures, but we tried to follow them, nonetheless. And then we saw it, just on the other side of the round-about: an official bus stop. One or two people already on the bus when, a minute or two later, it pulled up to that stop. It must have just started its trajectory towards the city center. Those on board had been watching the interaction and smiled at us as we got on the bus. (Or were they holding in their laughter as they took in my fuschia hat and rain jacket, my pack from which dangled a blue rag on one side and a large pink bandana on the other?) “Quieren la última parada,” the driver told us. “The last stop. That’s the one you want.” Worked for us! Six miles of misery bypassed. Six miles that, frankly, Ginny could not have walked. The miracles begin.

Once off the bus, a mapping program–and Ginny’s ability to use it well–to the rescue, to help us find the Airbnb. (Recognizing beyond all shadow of doubt the need for some extra attention and rest for Ginny’s knee, we had reserved it the previous night, miraculously finding something available during these national holidays. “See if you can’t find something close to the cathedral,” I had told Ginny as we both hunted on our respective Airbnb apps. Perhaps you realize that with an Airbnb, the exact location isn’t revealed until one books the spot. Our fingers were crossed when we located one called “Los picos de la catedral” (the spires of the cathedral). Well… admittedly “spires” can be seen from up close or from quite a distance, but “time” is such a precious commodity–here on the Camino as in “real life”–and we had to make a decision. We went with “los picos” and heard right away from “Jorge,” who wanted to know our approximate arrival time, etc. Hostel pricing? Hardly. The main hostel/albergue price in Burgos was an amazing 5 euro for what we later came to hear was also amazing in terms of comfort/services. Still, the Airbnb was not costly enough to break the bank and well worth it.)

What to do first? Pick up Ginny’s pack which had been sent ahead to the municipal albergue or go straight to the rented apartment?  “The apartment,” Ginny said. “I need to sit. I couldn’t carry the pack right now. Let’s get situated.” We continue onward. “But wait, Ginny, are you sure we are heading to the street Valentín Palencia? I think you have us going towards the hostel, towards Fernán González Street, towards the albergue.”

Oh, there’s Michelle from Korea! Hugs! Haven’t seen her in days. Oh, Lisa! Oh, Kelly! Rosbita! José! Carlos! Joe! Kiki! More hugs. Ginny has endeared herself to so many people! Some of these folks we had seen earlier in the day, some yesterday. Some a few days back. And here, here in this major city, we have come together again. And here we are, in front of the municipal. And there in the bar just across from it, the waiting backpack. So we weren’t heading for the apartment after all?! Darn! Now we’ll have to lug that thing to a spot that might not be close at all!… Double darn!

Oh, but we were at (or almost at) the apartment after all. Another miracle: “the picos de la catedral” was just around the corner from the albergue and at the foot of the splendid cathedral, a gem of a cathedral by anyone’s standards. You’ll see some photos at some point…. As much pain as Ginny was in, there was no better medicine for her than to be so warmly greeted by fellow pilgrims and to know that we were not only with them in spirit but also in person as we–later that evening and again for a mid-morning snack on the following day (today, the 18th), joined other pilgrims in the “bar” across from the albergue municipal, where the talk of the day revolves around handling the rain, the injuries, the pain, the route, the upcoming Meseta, the fact that Spain is on holiday and services are few… It is not yet Good Friday, but we are not strangers to the crosses which must be borne. All borne a bit more easily with a bit of sangría and a lot of good humor. Sorry, not only do I digress, but I’m getting ahead of myself in my description of the “angels” and “miracles” with which these hours were filled. Let’s return, then, to 4:00 pm on Wednesday and our arrival at the Airbnb.

Finding ourselves at the entrance to the apartment building in which our private apartment was located (a XVI-century building if I’m recalling correctly the description on the Airbnb website), we contacted Jorge and waited for him to send someone with the key. In short order his mother, Mari Carmen, arrived and let us in. “Us” now includes a third person, lovely Lisa from Australia who was thrilled to be able to spend one night with us and have a sleep-in in the morning.

As Mari Carmen opened the door she explained that she and her son (Jorge, we later saw, is a very young-looking 20-something) have just listed with Airbnb, that the previous night a single pilgrim had been their very first renter. All appliances brand new and never used. Basic but finely appointed. Plenty of light for this lover of light! Plenty of heat for this lover of both warm air and hot water! Have we died and gone to heaven?

Well, maybe into the higher ranks of Purgatory: 1) when as an afterthought we wrote to Jorge to ask how to connect with WiFi, we got the disappointing news that the apartment doesn’t have WiFi. Oh…. 2) when last night, after Ginny iced her knee with a bag of ice we got from the bar just down the street, we discovered that the fridge and freezer–cord inaccessible as the unit was wedged into an inset cubby–were apparently not plugged in. 3) Washing machine but no dryer. Even Purgatory gives “breaks” and so each of the problems have a type of solution: 1) we’ve managed to get online both at the albergue and at the bar around the corner. Just have to make our way down a rather steep stone pathway in the rain. Small enough price to pay when we hunger for communication (perhaps in another few weeks we will relish being disconnected; we’re not there yet…); 2) Jorge came by today and got the refrigerator going; 3) we figured out how to give the washing machine it’s inaugural run (I kid you not here: it ran for well over an hour!) and, though today’s rain precludes hanging our clothes on the outdoor line that accompanies our flat, we’ve rigged up some good indoor drying spaces on or near the radiators. As they say, all’s well that ends well. The above: if not outright miracles, more than adequate solutions. At the least, blessings.

Off to the hospital

But back to Wednesday afternoon. We quickly settled into the apartment, ate one of the pre-packaged croissants provided on the dining table for guests, and left to find a taxi to take us to the hospital. It was beyond time to have Ginny’s knee evaluated and have a better idea as to what was going on with it. The front desk at the nearby albergue municipal called the taxi for us and we were quickly on our way to the emergency room connected to the university’s hospital. Our taxi driver was eager to tell us about the beautiful procession that would take place the next night (Thursday, 18th, 8:00 pm). It is called “el encuentro” (the “meeting up”), when a statue of the Virgin will leave one church, one of Christ another; the two “meet up” in a timely fashion in front of the beautiful cathedral, all leading up to the Mass of the Last Supper. (Another aside, since I’m into “Holy Week” descriptions here: last night as we left the nearby bar after a delicious dinner of thick creamed vegetable soup, mushroom risotto, and salad, we heard the drums of a procession sounding somewhere down the street. It must have been about 10:00 pm. I will say this: as an 18-year-old I would definitely have followed the sound and not missed the chance to observe a unique cultural and a possible spiritual experience; as a 69-year-old who had walked 13.5 miles carrying about 15 pounds on my back, climbed over 50 “floors,” spent a couple of hours dealing with taxis, directions, hospital rigamarole, and medical parlance, I pretended not to hear the drums and not to be curious, choosing rather to head to a comfortable bed in a warm place on a night when I didn’t need to set an alarm for 6:07 am but could, instead, sleep in until 7:30-ish.)

Of course I’ve taken another “bird walk”–a term a former colleague used to employ for digressions. I left off with us on the way to the hospital where, once delivered, everything seemed so expedited as compared to in the states. Boom, boom, boom. Registered, off to X-ray, off to assessment, in comes the doctor. Leaving the hospital within an hour and a half.

Of course, what you really want to know is the diagnosis. Nothing broken. Ginny pretty much knew that. No talk of meniscus (and here, folks, I’m out of my element; I was dealing with vocabulary clearly beyond my ken, but Ginny was absorbing it and that’s what counts, right?). Verdict? No surprise: tendonitis, swelling of the tendons, no? Inflammation. Cure? Nothing unexpected, really. Same thing she has been doing. Ibuprofen every 8 hours, preceded by some ranitidine. A larger elastic knee brace than the one she had been using which was too tight. An immediate “no” to the idea of any professional massage to the knee. (And did we hear a secret “sigh” with regard to pilgrims who take on too much with the Camino? Perhaps. Was she met with a great deal of compassion? Hardly. No scolding, but no “congratulations for being a dreamer; you’re going to be fine.” At least the physician didn’t say the dreaded words “your Camino is over.” Nor did she demand a certain number of days off. To the question of “can we return to the trail on Friday” the response was: “Depends on how she feels.”

Ginny was concerned about payment. Not about being able to afford it, but wanting to know how/when she would be billed. Unfortunately for her (though Ginny would never try to “get by” with something intentionally…), I happened to have noticed that the address the hospital had recorded on her official documents–like her discharge papers–was 100% nonsense and there was no way in god’s good earth that a bill would ever have reached her. Let me explain: her name was typed correctly, and there was only one number incorrect–a misreading of a “7,” placing a “1” instead at the end of her address. And the “N” for “north” was correct. The rest, though? Gibberish. A bunch of consonants strung together to represent “Shore” and another bunch to represent “Duluth,” the “D” being the only correct letter. Both the “MN” and “EEUU” (for USA) were missing. The keyboardist must have set her fingers on the wrong keys and, not knowing English, she didn’t notice. My guess, anyway. As I say, unfortunately I noticed the discrepancy and we provided the correct information once again. The bill is likely, now, to reach its destination…

To sum up as far as the hospital visit went: no miracles there; a small amount of reassurance, but very small. Best part: it was efficient. We might have had similar results in the US as far as treatment plan, but the service here was three times faster. Thank God for even small favors, right?

The next miracle, though, was a result of needing to take another taxi back to our new home. I can’t remember now if our new taxi driver overheard us speaking in English and a few words jumped out at him or if I asked him directly, but before I knew it, he popped this question (in Spanish): “Wait. Do you need a massage therapist? I know one. I go to him regularly.” And he pulls out a card for “Joaquín.” “Si queréis, yo le llamo. Pero… va a ser difícil posiblemente. Mañana y pasado mañana son días festvos.” (“If you like, I’ll call him for you. But it’s going to be tricky because tomorrow and the day after are holidays.“) Before the cab ride was over, we had an 8:30 am appointment for the next morning. No later. Joaquín had been planning to take off first thing in the morning for Irún, the Basque Country, a couple of hours north, near the border with France. But if we could do it first thing, then ok. We were grateful.

We didn’t know just how grateful we had reason to be!

Ginny was exhausted and ready to pick up some ice, maybe get carry-out at the bar (and by now you are figuring out, right, that a “bar” in Spain isn’t the equivalent of one in the US.” One can get wine and tapas or even a full meal in a bar, but can just as easily order coffee and a pastry. Ginny wanted–thought she wanted?–peace and quiet and, especially, a chance to ice her leg. She wasn’t even interested in food. Ah, but then we saw this one and that one, with smiles, how-are-yous, and the distractions began, all so very good for the soul. And if the body is going to heal, the soul must be involved as well. In the end, we must have spent a good hour and a half, perhaps a bit more, in the bar having dinner and splitting half a liter of sangría. Home to ice, to get situated, to chat with Lisa, to settle in for the night. I was out like a light. It was no problem sharing a queen bed with Ginny; we’ve done it often enough in the distant and the not-so-distant past at cousins’ reunions. Only oddity here: the pillow was one very long one. We would have to do without flipping it during the night. Small price to pay. No snorers. No fumbling around in the dark. No wondering on which side the ladder was located to climb up to or down from that upper bunk. Biggest risk at the Airbnb?  Getting used to the luxury….

Massage therapist to the rescue (we hope!)

On to the next miracle. And I’m not referring to Ginny being able to walk the half mile or so to the therapist’s treatment room. It was not a pretty sight. Morning is always the worst time for her knee and the 46-degree rainy morning didn’t help things. (To those of you who might think we are not getting into the Holy Week scene sufficiently, let me say: Ginny is experiencing her own Via Crucis and I am one of the bystanders witnessing the walk; also, for my part, I knew when I limped out of bed this morning that I had better check my right toe. I had put a blister patch on it a good five days ago. The instructions say to leave in place until the band-aid falls off–and shouldn’t it have done so by now?–but I couldn’t resist. When I had a look-see, I realized why I was feeling pain; the blister on the side where the two toes rub was–still is–pretty full of whatever it is blisters are full of. I patched with some moleskin and found that once my socks and shoes were on, I was pretty good to go. Anyway: we will not be forgetting the story and reality of the Passion even if we don’t participate to any great extent in the local festivities. (Which, by the way, seem to be relished more with a spirit of “keeping traditions” than with strong spiritual overtones. But who am I to really know that such is the case?…)

We arrived at the locked entryway to Calle Santander, 4, and, while studying which of the buzzers we should ring, a gentleman appeared coming towards the glass door. We were about to meet Joaquín (can we agree on this? No more accents on that “i” as it’s a bit tricky and time-consuming to get them there. ¿Vale? That work for you? Good thing!). And here’s what we learned about Joaquin in the course of the the near 90 minutes that we spent with him: that he is the chief physical therapist for the Burgos men’s soccer team! That he attends all their home games and most, if not all, of their away games. The walls were covered with his credentials, with photos of the team, and with drawings and thank yous from patients (he definitely used the word “patients” and not “clients” in the course of his conversation).

You may recall that the doctor said “no massage.” Or at least no massage on the knee; on other parts, ok, if that gave some relief. Have you ever ignored a doctor’s advice? Have you found yourself having more confidence in a health professional who was not a medical doctor per se? I trusted Ginny’s assessment of Joaquin and she trusted him, and so did I. Again, my translating services were extremely useful. What Joaquin did was assess the situation, do a bit of poking and prodding and analyzing. He was not, in other words, doing what one might call deep-tissue massage (not that I’m any expert on the terminology or the treatment, having had only two or three massages in my whole life, but… I’m doing my best here), so not totally disregarding the doctor’s orders.

“Tolera las agujas?” He asked me. “Is she okay with needles?” I translated and she said she was.

Summary of the visit: Joaquin did some deep-tissue needling (Colleen, your mom said you’d had some great experience with it, and she knew about it also because of Wayne’s therapy practice) on both front and back of the knee as well as on the buttocks where where some kind of “pyramid-like muscles” (something like that! My physiology knowledge and terminology is non-existent!) was very tight due to the body trying to compensate for the injured knee). Ginny’s face, of course, was down flat on a soft cloth which may have muffled any groans she might have been uttering, but in general, she indeed did “tolerate” the needles very well. As he worked, Joaquin could notice how things were loosening up. And also: many strips of KT tape–pink, how nice!–were strategically placed after more assessment (I took a few photos of the brilliant workmanship, but I’m guessing that Ginny won’t want those shared with the general public….) Biofreeze was sprayed. Cautions were given: no limping or, for sure, Ginny’s Camino will be over. Over. How to avoid the limping? Forget the ibuprofen. Not strong enough. Ice! Ice! Ice! Three spots, three times/day, for 15-20 minutes. No carrying of the pack, at least for now. Joaquin suggested a stronger medicine, suggested she not wear the knee brace. He wrote down instructions for today through next Tuesday, by which time she will have weaned herself from the NSAID drug he recommended at a 3x/day rate. Some white tape was put on top of the pink, the former to be removed in two days or at any moment if it proves to be uncomfortable, the latter to remain on for… well, until it starts peeling and seems totally useless.

We learned that massage therapists in Spain do not get or expect/accept tips. Joaquin found that practice very odd indeed. He was adamant about telling us that we would be charged the same rate he charges his own clients, that he is–and we believe him–honest and truly wants to see his patients be able to continue living their passions as a result of his work. We have his phone number and he urged us to be in touch via WhatsApp if we have any questions. And this: he wants us to send him a picture of us taken in front of the cathedral in Santiago. After sharing with us some photos of his French bulldog , he sent us on our way so he could shower and pack for his trip. We, on the other hand, were lucky to find a farmacia de guardia (an on-call pharmacy) quite close, open and serving a large area of this closed-down-for-the-holiday city.

Money in our pockets after a stop at an ATM, food in our bellies after a stop at the “bar,” ice gracially given at said bar, we returned to the apartment to ice, wash clothes, and share these 18 hours of miracles with you. Their telling may not have brought you to tears as the living of them has brought us, but hopefully they have not put you to sleep either.

We are ever grateful for your thoughts and your prayers. (And if, as sometimes happens, you have forgotten the prayer part, it’s never too late to begin. We have a long journey ahead of us!)

Your comments on these posts are also very much appreciated. I’d love to respond to each and every one, but the truth is this: impossible! Know that they are read (those placed directly in the Comments section at the end of each blog are much more easily accessible to me than those placed on Facebook where yours truly is at her most inept. Email is great, too, but please forgive the lack of response from me. For being with us in spirit and for your encouragement, we are most grateful.)

As for posts from Tuesday, April 16th and the first part of Wednesday, April 17th, I still hold out hope of completing them and sending them off to you. Stay tuned.