Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Saturday, March 01, 2014


I am near the end of my journey on the camino de santiago's camino del norte, I am in a cafe in Sobrado, waiting out a rainstorm only to see that the forecast for the rest of the day is a 100% chance of rain. Ah, sweet futility. As a bonus, please take a look at this hilarious "sculpture?" of a hipster pig made from cured pig parts and wine. I've been staring at him for 2 hours. He has a lanyard that indicates his name is Jacinto and that he is a volunteer with this local "comision de fiestas 2014." Indeed, party pig, indeed. The wine is made from a local grape called mencias and is super delish . (had to get one in for the foodies.)

 Last night I stayed at the monastery in Sobrado, which is attached to a lovely church. The only other pilgrim at this stage in the low season is a partially toothed man named Joseph, who has the requisite odour de pilgrim and has brought along his dog for the journey. It was me and Joseph and the dog in our room last night. I was not super excited about this, but was too exhausted to care or do anything about it. When we woke this morning--with the monks, at 7am, natch--we can hear that it seems to be monsooning outside. Now, one gift that the camino has given me is persistent enough rain that I had to buy full body rain gear (think the full body condoms in Naked Gun, but with a hole for the face and space for a monstrous backpack.). The amazing thing about full body rain gear is that it allows you to tromp through the rain with childlike abandon. This is mostly magical, albeit a little cold. The problem is that at some point too much rain obscures your vision (despite your super brilliant pre-camino move of buying contact lenses) and turns your path into a giant pool of lakes and mud. and while my body and backpack are nearly waterproof, my shoes are merely resistant--ie, subject to becoming fungal cesspools when plopped in mud. So, I am waiting for it to end and scouring my guidebook for a different path.

Joseph gets up to use the bathroom and walk his dog, looks outside and says "oh, we cannot walk in this" and leaves.  I had been listening, praying it wasn't as bad as I thought. I peeked outside. It was worse. Joseph returns with two cups of coffee. One for himself, and one...for his dog. He then says "I spoke to the Father and he says it is no problem for us to stay another night." He then proceeds to drink his coffee, and coax his dog to finish his own bowl of coffee. I said "I don't know what to do." Joseph says, "Tranquila..." and proceeds to stare at the wall while absentmindedly scratching his ridiculously well-behaved and adorable dog. It is clear to me at this point that Joseph is actually a Tim Burton character. He's the weirdo I found mildly scary who is actually super kindhearted and self-assured and has a firm grip on some of the great mysteries of life. He can teach me many many lessons about life quality .He carries a small transistor radio and a stick which he has adorned with feathers. He stares at the wall a great deal. He is a good dog owner. He allows enough time in his journey that he can "tranquilo." He is not walking on a 35 day pilgrimage to the airport in Santiago to catch a flight. he is on a journey with no particular end. Damn him. I hate recognizing this and knowing I am in no position (forgive me, knowing I am not in a WILLING position) to learn from him and embrace this. When I leave to find an internet connection to see how I can manage this part of the journey and, for the thousandth time, forget my hiking poles, Joseph runs to find me and says "just in case you do not return tonight." 

Joseph, I hope that someday I grow up to be like you. Until then, I have to walk in the rain. I have an airport to get to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the pig, gurl. it reminds me of my glory days of gallivanting around eshpsnya. your fwiend, joe.

9:45 PM  
Blogger James Carter said...

I'd like to use your translation of Liu Xiaobo's Hunger Strike Manifesto for a class/teaching workshop. Could you email me at jcarter[at]sju.edu?

7:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home