Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Day 43 - Santiago in the Rearview Mirror - Monday, 1 June 2009


Bag-rustlers and inconsiderate people with loud voices once again destroyed the tranquility of the morning, my last morning in an alburgue. (If I had do-overs I would spend a few nights in hotels! It is physically and psychologically demanding to sleep among strangers and have no privacy or control over so many parts of one’s life…character building, yes – fun, no!)

I dragged my bag and trekked over to the commercial district across town and found a cozy bar to breakfast on toast and café con leche. I window shopped till 1000 when stores opened. I found a huge bookstore with lots of books in English. (Follas Novas, Calle Montero Rios, 37 – 981.594.406…it is near the park where the ferris wheel dominates the horizon)

I looked at summer clothes but just couldn’t see myself in any of them – I really needed a complete make-over before I could transform from into any kind of butterfly. I found an internet café and spent an hour online and then wandered through the old Mercado – like a farmer’s market and filled with wonderful produce. I whiled away some time sitting in the shade reading a novel I purchased earlier. It was hot and humid already so I decided to walk to the bus station before siesta. I stopped enroute and had a sharuma at a Kazakhi restaurant.

I sat in the station café sipping café con leches and reading and sweating. I still have 3 ½ hours to wait. There is no A/C and there are no fans. I am restless, tired, bored and sweaty.

I consider moving to another table – I cannot avoid hearing the conversation going on between two people who seem to be negotiating a romantic liaison. He is a slim Italian and she is a hefty, plain-faced English-speaking woman. He holds her hand. I can hear their conversation but pretend not to. I do not move. I stare at the pages of the book in my hand. From the corner of my eye, I see body language that supports my original hypothesis – a rendezvous in the making. She is 40-ish, a bit plump with short, dishwater hair and unflattering glasses. They seem ill-matched. He knows little English – the conversation is hard work for him. He is not attractive, but seems so because of his attentive manner and his ability to appear sincere as he spews out flattering phrases.

After 30 minutes and two beers each, they depart together. I think they sealed a deal.

I wander out into the main station. A group of Latter Day Saints are there – ten young, clean-cut boys from the USA, spit-polished and wearing white shirts and ties. I engage them in conversation. We have a wonderful discussion about spirituality, service-before-self, life in foreign countries and all sorts of variations on the theme. They were quite interested in my Camino tales and my Peace Corps stories too.

Shortly after sunset, I boarded the bus for Madrid. I will arrive at Baraja airport in the morning, in time to catch my flight back to the USA.

I am ready to go home. I am ready to heal. I am ready to process all that has happened these past 6 weeks. I am ready to resume life. I am ready to see if the Camino to Santiago is the end of an adventure or just the beginning of the real adventure.


Compostelle 2008 said...

Virginia, I wondered all summer if you had made it all the way to Santiago. You will think about your pilgrimage everyday for a long time and it will stay with you for a long time. Don't dwell on the negative, think of all the experiences you lived.

Michèle from Ottawa (Canada)

Virginia ("Ginn") said...

Thanks Michele - Nothing negative about it...I was just surprised to be sooooo exhausted. The experience really is much like child-birth - the ups and downs. I loved the humbling arrival at the cathedral (getting lost and sprayed) and then the magical moments alone in the plaza. (That's in the note dated Saturday, 30 May.

I need to write another post about my airport experience - hint: I got upgraded to first class on an earlier flight so I sipped champagne all the way home! 8-)

Life is good...