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~Explore. Dream. Discover~

"Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you,
because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places."

Current Missions:
~To Walk Every Street In San Francisco~
~To Give 1,000 Compliments~
!To Find my Great-Grandparents' Birth Certificates in Italy~
!To Walk Across Spain on the Camino de Santiago!
!To See Lava in Guatemala!
!To Study Spanish in Mexico!

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Welcome to the Travelingdina Blog!

I write about anything and everything I come across in my travels both near and far.

Check out some of the highlights by clicking on the story links below:

The Daring Hummingbird Rescue Mission

Love in Chamula

OMG It's Lava!
(Four-part story. Click the links at the bottom of the entry for each next part.)

Send Lawyers, Guns & Money

A Story About Blood


Diana Joy Colbert, 1970-2011

I sat in my cubicle on the first day of my first Grown Up job, staring at the screen, wondering when I could start playing minesweeper and if I would ever make any friends here.  It was 1995, and I was a Program Assistant for the Social Science Research Council in New York City, a nonprofit that, though I didn't know it at the time, was a stepping stone for young, liberal-minded grads with a bent for academia.  A lot of the work -- OK, the majority of it -- was grunt work, but we were surrounded by the best.

Each Program Officer had a 20-something Program Assistant from prestigious schools: Penn, NYU, Columbia.  I couldn't believe I was actually here, among the braniacs, feeling like an impostor in my fancy slacks, a part-timer who was still finishing up her degree.  I'd taken the job more out of cluelessness and a passion for social justice issues than as a career move, which seemed to have been the intention of the other folks there. 

And, except for a high school job in a bond-trading office where I was automatically relegated to the Kids in High School Clique, I'd never worked in a large office before.  It was overwhelming!  Would I be alone all day? Who would I eat with? Would I have any friends? What about these ridiculous slacks? Were they OK? Would I fit in, even a little?

I needn't have worried. I shared a very large, 2-sided cubicle with Christina Kang, a friendly and gregarious Program Assistant for another project-- whose wedding I eventually attended and with whom I remain friends to this very day, my first (and only!) "cube-mate." Christina took me along for lunch, introducing me to the whole gang.

My first day, my first lunch, and I will never forget meeting Diana.  She was tall, tall, tall, with long arms and legs, pale skin, short, shaggy blonde hair and a nose piercing.  A nose piercing! She wore sandals and a long, flowing dress and I was decidedly both terrified and awed by her: her look, her energy, her presence.

Diana, at some point, chose to introduce herself to me, to walk with me, to sit and ask questions about me and share bits and pieces of herself as well. She gave me the ins-and-outs of the office and was just generally unbelievably friendly to the new girl, without being overwhelming  at all. 

I was literally startstruck.  In the competitive world I grew up in, I'd never met someone who just came at me with what appeared to be such unambiguous curiosity and kindness.  Diana and I quickly became good friends, with sleepovers at her apartment even though I only lived  blocks away.  We took our first Big Travel together: flying to Calironia, renting a car, and promptly almost destroying it. 

She remained on my credit card for years after that -- to rent a car, one must be over 24 -- which she was, but I wasn't -- and have a credit card -- which I had, but she didn't.  Solution? AMEX Family card! And Voilá, we were family, off and renting and riding the brakes all the way down the steep 10% grades of California's Northern Sierras.  Once in SF, she looked up and took me to the Women's Community Center in San Francisco, an image of such striking power I remembered it instantly, despite the neighborhood having changed substantially, when I moved in literally 2 doors down almost 12 years later.  We went to a yoga retreat (me, doing yoga??) and ate flowers picked from a bush in a backyard.

Diana and I went to our first Ani DiFranco concerts together, our first festivals together, hilariously sober campers surrounded by a field of unwashed travelers playing Hacky Sack in clouds of smoke outside their tents with dogs named Ganja.  Diana was someone I could sing with and laugh with, someone I didn't need to drink or party with to have fun-- not always the easiest task for me.

Her endless reserves of hope and determination were inspiring.  She always worked steadily toward self-iprovement, and put her heart and energy and dedication into whatever she chose to focus on at that time: massage (the "I'm practicing arms today, come over!" were the best invites ever!), church, writing, love. Diana was a truly caring person and a gifted healer.

Like all friendships, we had our ups and downs.  Jealousies, insecurities, competitiveness, boys, egos: it all gets in the way, especially in our 20's.  But Diana and I had a profound effect on each other, a deep love that comes from friendships made when we're all still figuring ourselves out.  We reconciled shortly after I left NYC, and saw each other periodically: we shared a room at Christina's wedding, she saw me perform in Midsummer Night's Dream in Manhattan, we got hot cocoa in Starbuckses and cheesecake in pastry shops around the City.

Diana was so hopeful, kind, joyous, and achieved much in her short life.  She lost her battle with Leukemia on December 8th, 2011.

Rest in peace, Diana, and come smile on us, shower us with your hope and inspire us to follow our dreams. To not give up in the face of fear. To love.

In memory of Diana, I ask you to reach out to an old friend this week, someone you haven't talked to in a while, someone you haven't heard from beyond the periodic status update and a thumbs-up. Pick up the phone for a minute and give a call, if only to say, "Hi, I remember you, and us, and I am thinking of you. I love you. Thank you for being a part of my life."


9/11/2001: New York City, 3rd street and 2nd avenue. I watched the first tower burn, the fireball go up the second. I wandered the city in a daze, walked with the hoards of people covered in grey ash like snow, no one speaking, stunned into silence. I panicked in the streets when someone shouted: "They're going after the small buildings next!" and ran till my heart pounded louder than the words in my head. I dialed my mother, I dialed my mother, oh god don't let me die without speaking to my mother! but the phones weren't working. "Due to the tornado in your area, your call cannot be completed." The Internet: our savior. All of us desperately trying to connect. Reunited randomly online with an old lover: "Where are you?" "Here." "Meet me on 14th Street." Watching ambulances race down deserted streets. Holding hands, clinging to familiarity, waiting for the world to end. The next days were only eerie, the city empty, except for the vigils: I held a stranger in Washington Square Park, touched the faces of missing people plastered on streetlights, burst into tears at PETA's simple white signs, "Do you know of an animal who is missing its person?" Life is so mundane, so normal, until one day, it isn't.

The Long VersionCollapse )

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Day 4: Camino via Escort (21K)

Day 4: Tabara to Santa Croya del Tera (21K)

June 22, 2009

So, after spending a few hours waiting for me like nervous Jewish moms (and perhaps not without reason) the night before, today Hugo and Maartin decided to walk part of the way with me. Their main goal was less about protecting me from potentially hazardous tractor-drivers (they thought he was probably fine) but more about showing me how to “read” the Camino-- i.e., figure out which way the arrows are pointing, or which way the trail goes if there are none-- so I could avoid feeling (or, um, getting) lost and the need to actually engage with said tractor-drivers beyond a wave.

"Reading" the Camino involves tricks that are vaguely like what it must be like to stalk wildlife: we look at the ground for footprints, bicycle tracks, and small piles of stones that previous walkers may have left as a sign to those to follow. Ironically, this part of the stretch had really good waymarking – you could follow the arrows pretty much even without a book – so their effort, though well-intentioned, was kind of silly.

It seemed all the more silly since I’d had it in my head that I would prefer, in general, to walk alone (and, as it turns out, in general, I do! Except for those rare cases where I really clicked with people, I enjoyed the alone time to meditate, listen to books/music, or, um, freak out in peace. But more on that later.) Hugo kept emphasizing a bit dramatically that later in the day we would need to part, he wanted to walk alone, he prefers to walk faster, etc., etc., all of which I thought was pretty amusing, since he’d took it upon himself to walk with me and “show me the ropes" -- I never asked. I don’t know if I just bring out the caretaker in people, or if he just likes to feel self-important. Most likely it's  a combination of both-- and the company was certainly a combination of amusing/annoying.

Listening to Hugo's cute Irish accent was fun, but he tended to talk a LOT, and mostly about himself and his own experiences – when I’d try to add to the conversation (for example, he likes birds, and I wanted to talk about Rangering and how I got into birding, share some birdie love) he pretty much didn’t care. At all. Maartin tended to walk a bit ahead, or smile and nod and add little to the conversation.

This whole somewhat odd dynamic, in turn, though, made me reflect on the nature of conversation in general. What do we get out, emotionally, of conversation? Is it from hearing about the others’ stories and points of view? Or just having someone listen to our own? Is it paying attention? Or is there something in the exchange?  

Where I grew up, much of "conversation" is about relating our own experiences and commonalities with those the other is sharing.  There's not much silence, and everyone jumps in to share their own side.  In this case, it was clear that wasn't what Hugo was interested in. So, even though a back-and-forth is more what I’m used to, I took it upon myself as a cue to just listen and reflect, and to try not to talk about myself so much.

So Hugo yammered and yammered, and I tried to be pleasant and listen, but to be honest, It was hard to disentangle my own need to yammer and yammer, and so I soon began to tune out, and didn’t really enjoy walking with them all that much. The time did, however, go surprisingly quickly – much more quickly than when I’ve been alone.  By the time we’d gotten 14K though (pretty much without stopping), I was really, really, really tired, and my feet were killing me.

We were almost through a pretty much deserted town when I decided that I couldn’t go on without a rest. (Put hand to forehead in dramatic gesture here.)  So, Hugo went on, and shortly thereafter, Maartin realized I had turned into Grumpy McGrumperson and probably wanted to be alone, and went ahead, too. I walked all the way back to the softly rotting stone church we’d passed at the entrance to the town, and climbed up the rickety, smoothly worn stone steps on the outside to the belltower. I had a nice view of the fields we’d passed and the path we’d come up from up there.  I sat and tried to nurture my poor little feet, airing them out, poking at blisters, and adding wads of band-aids and cotton before eating some sardines and putting my shoes back on.

By Day 4, the walks were beginning to blend into each other-- hours of red dirt roads, winding next to undulating cut straw fields.  The 7K stretch I had left from the church to Santa Croya del Tara is where another one of these clay-colored dirt tracks snaking to the horizon began to climb slowly but steadily uphill.  My feet were throbbing, and I felt if I stopped, I might never start again.  I'd already begun listening to "The Secret" (a new-age version of "Think Positive!") on my ipod, and decided to put it to the text.

I fixed my stare at the top of the hill, and, with every step and spring of my pole, repeated, "I am strong! I am strong!” over and over. And over. And over.  It was my meditation, a mantra, and, in my 1-minded, goal-oriented tunnel vision, I made it to the top!! And... wiithout stopping once!

Safely at the top, I paused, and a friendly man with a car (read: non-pilgrim) and binoculars made me spill out my water -- "Caliente! Caliente! Necisita agua frio!" and gave me some cooler water from his canteen. We had friendly chat (to the best of my ability) and he told me the town was "not far now." From there, I could see the tiny town waaaay down there in the distance, and how the terrain, as the camino made itself slowly downhill, would be changing.

I passed lots of little huts, which I understood to be like above-ground wine cellars. The terrain was becoming more and more green, as i descended off the hot, dry Meseta into the valley and foothills that would lead me to of Galicia. I heard the plaintive bleating of a sheep, and watched as a farmer walked from a stable and across a field to another stable, all the while carrying the limp body of a tiny sheep,  its legs swinging under his arms. The bleating didn't come from this lamb, though, but from who i presume was its mama, who trotted next to the farmer, just bleating over and over and over as they made their way across the field. It was kind of sad and kind of shocking -- was the lamb dead? -- but the mamas cries made me think of love, and I chose to think, the farmer was just helping the lamb along, since he could walk faster. Or something.

I finally made my way over a small bridge and into the town, where I came upon a clean square and gorgeous park next to a river. The alburgue was near the exit of town, so I sat on a bench for a while (oh my poor feet!) before pressing on the last 10 minutes.  The alburgue itself was super nice, although, being a "private" alburgue and not the Camino-sponsored one, was a pricey 10 Euros for a bunk.  The typical pilgrim dinner made by the alburgue hostess for the 3 of us -- HUGE plate of pasta, salad, and the ubiquitous Lomo (pork loin made with salt-n-pepper) with wine-- was delicious, and cost 8 Euros. 

I didn't last much longer after dinner -- just picked a bunk near the window, cuddled up into bed, and had a nice, long rest.

Below: Casa Anita, the private Albergue in Sta Croya del Tera

Casa Anita Alburge in Santa Croya del Tera


              After the dramafull morning, walking slowly got better. The terrain was gorgeous, with the river behind me, the gently forested slope in front of me, clear views from the top, and easy paths later on.  The craziness of the morning felt like it had happened to another person, in another lifetime. 

            However, something I learned is that the sun actually gets hotter at 4:00pm than it is at Noon. So, my late starts and slowpoke ways aren’t always so innocuous! It was time for a break.  I wound up stopping in Faramontanos de Tábara -- an extremely cute, more modern-looking but still tiny pueblo probably about 7.5K from Tábara, where the albergue ultimately was located. 

            A pretty, 20- or 30-something with a glass in her hand – the only person I’d seen in the town -- pointed me in the direction of 2 bars.   The closer one, naturally, was closed. I trudged back up and through the bright square into the darkness of the 2nd bar.  I had another of would be a million bocadillos over the summer (basically, a sandwich made from a baguette – this one with a not-that-spicy chorizo) and a coffee.  I wasn’t all that comfortable sitting in the nearly-empty bar, so I headed back out through the annoying rubber-fringe door curtain and started back across the square.

            As I was walking, I noticed an old, old, old – I mean, like, really old – lady sitting in slippers on a bench under the shadow made by a porch balcony from the town hall that lined one side of the deserted square. She was hunched over, and nearly bald, a tiny woman with a long, long, hooked nose. She saw me, and called out for me to come to her.

            “It’s too hot for you to be walking,” she said in Spanish. “You should sit here with me.”

OK, I thought. Who was I to say no to the world’s grandmother?  I sat with her for about an hour, where we had the same conversation over and over and over again.

             “Es tu primera vez aqui?    “Oh, yes, it’s my first time here.”

            Que bueno!!! Vas solica?”   “Yes, I’m walking alone!”

            Que valiente!!! Donde comenziste?”   “I started in Salamanca.”

             “Que marveilloso!......  Es tu primera vez aqui?” 

 And so-on.  It was actually OK—I got to have a conversation in Spanish where I actually understood the questions and knew how to say the answers. And, this little old lady reminded me of my beloved Aunt Bibbie, who, in her mid 90’s, has a tendency toward this same conversational trick.  It just made me feel good to give someone some much-needed company, and filled me with feelings of love toward my Aunt. (And, yes, it was nice to have an excuse not to walk out in the heat!)

             Eventually, a not-as-old man sat down, who I actually understood a little better, and then a not-as-old-as-the-old-lady-but-older-than-the-man joined us. She had fewer teeth than either of them, a hairier chin than both, and I understood not a word. Eventually, they all got up together without much ado– it appears they were waiting for the Welfare Man, or someone similar, who came by to give them some money—and I decided to head out again.

            This may not have been the best idea – it’s hard to say if the sun actually gets any cooler the later it gets, or just hotter – but, well… a) I should have peed again (everything is worse when one has to pee) and b) I should’ve learned my lesson about what happens when one is too embarrassed to go back and ask.

            So what happened was… The route just kind of… disappeared.  And my book made NO sense. There was an arrow on the stop sign that pointed… kind of straight, and kind of left.  I didn’t know. The book implied go straight, so straight I went. For a while. 

            But I could tell the town I was heading for was off behind me and to the left, and it just felt like I was going clearly the WRONG WAY.  I sat under a tree checking out the ants and reminiscing about how just a few lifetimes earlier that day, I was sitting in the woods by a river freaking out and checking out a scorpion. (Yes, a SCORPION! A tiny, fucking scorpion! I’d never seen one before, and almost didn’t believe it was really a scorpion, but they’re kind of unique. Boy, am I lucky!)    (Those are ants moving the little leaves around in the photo.)

 Anyway, I was wavering between feeling lucky and unlucky and somewhat like the luckiest unlucky person there is. I had been walking along these worn, dust roads that went through scrubby fields with little shade.  I peed (finally!) and began to feel a little braver. At this point, I was still doubting the wisdom of stopping any passing cars for help, and wound up walking all the way back to the stop sign to check out the arrow again.

            It had not changed since I’d been there last. I absolutely could not figure out where the hell I was supposed to go, so I just decided to follow the paved road directly toward the town and figure it out from there.  I was fairly sure the road would bring me there eventually, but I did still have to work somewhat to keep the “fairly unsure” thoughts at bay.

 I took a lot of rests – it was HOT – and eventually started to count my steps out loud to pass the time, a bit like a lunatic.  (It turns out there are about 1025 travelingdina footsteps in a kilometer.) I finally made it to the town I’d seen in the distance.

 A nice, friendly, slightly older-than-middle-aged woman was heading the opposite way from me, and, when I asked where the albergue was, turned around and started walking with me in the right direction! I think she even asked if I wanted to come in and sit down, and I regret not taking her up on it. I’m never sure when someone is being honest and someone is just being polite.

            I left her at the house, and continued on into the town. Again, I had some trouble finding the albergue. Why in the world the guide doesn’t have small maps of the towns or give turn-by-turn directions on how to get to the albergues, instead of just a street address (streets aren’t really numbered or labeled in Spain) is beyond me. 

Eventually, however, I found my way there, and Hugo and Maartin were there, making pasta, with ham and veggies, including a nice big portion for me! They were worried when I hadn’t shown up till so late, and thought maybe I’d decided to stay elsewhere, but, knowing there weren’t that many other choices (and that I was a Camino newbie), had expected I’d just pull in late.
It was wonderful to have a delicious dinner with my new friends.  Although Hugo got a little drunk, and I got my feelings a little hurt when it became clear he was only interested in his own stories and not mine, it was still a fun and good night.  There was a lot of me teasing him and him calling me a “cheeky sod,” with Maartin chortling along Dutchly.  This third phase was a perfect end to a decidedly long, long day!


Day 3: Monday, June 22 2009 – Granja de Moreruela to Tabara, 21K

I woke up grumpy and late, as per my usual, and got a café con leche at the bar/restaurant across the porch from the alburgue. I asked the woman there how to get back to the trail, and she  walked her bike with me to the start of the “new” route toward Orense. This route was listed in my CSJ book as now being waymarked, and was also described as being superior to the "old" route, which was via paved roads.

But in reality, the route wasn’t waymarked at all, and was totally confusing! Here is is where the Camino splits-- One way goes north to Astorga to eventually join the Camino Frances (not my way), and one way veers west to Orense (my way). But, to go to Orense via the "new route," the book said to first follow the signs toward Astorga, and then to turn left. But figuring out what exactly was meant by left was difficult to parse out, to say the least.

For even though the bike lady had pointed me up the hill, and the extraordinarily old ladies sweeping their porch I'd passed (now two of several who’d asked, “Sola?? Vas solita???” and clucked their tongues finding out I was walking alone) seemed to imply I was going the right way, I arrived at the top of the hill to… a big confusing fork.

The trail crested the top, and then split off into a hard left, a medium left, and a right, with no arrows whatsoever. I was totally confused. The hard left just felt like the wrong left, despite it being technically what I’d interpret as the real left, so I just followed the medium left.

I walked for a while without seeing any flechas (yellow arrows) and began to get nervous. Luckily, I was just walking on a straight dirt road, through the trees, so I wasn’t "lost" per se. I thought about heading back down to the little town of Granja de Moreruela, but I still didn’t like the idea of putting in so much time and distance in the wrong direction, nor did I want to look like an idiot in front of the old ladies (something I really need to get over.)

Anyway, a dude on a tractor rolls up, and I ask if he knows where the Orense route is. He spoke a heavily inflected, enthusiastic and gruff Spanish I could barely understand. What I gathered was that he thought I was heading the right way, I should hop on, he’d drive a little way down to look for the flechas, and if we didn't see one, he’d drive me back down to town. I was still high on the excitement of being a Pilgrim, and the generosity and kindness of everyone I’d met, and so without even really thinking, I hauled my ass up into the tractor.Example of a big-ass tractor. Credit Google.  [Example of a big-ass tractor, courtesy of Google Images -->]

So the next thing I know, I’m high up in the cab of this tractor, next to a guy who, as it turns out, smells kinda like beer and is getting progressively more and more excited (and loud) as he talks to me without acknowledging that I can’t really understand ¾ of what he’s saying. From what I could gather, he’d been at a fiesta the night before. And something along the lines of “I had to work, but now you’re here!!!! ¡Fiesta!

I’m getting a little nervous at this point, because, well, that’s what I do. We don’t see a flecha right away, so I say that I want to go back to town, and he says (I think) to hold on, one is coming on up. The trail is by the river. Tranquila.

For those of you who don’t know, "Tranquila" essentially means “Chill out” or "Calm down." (Not surprisingly, this is a phrase I hear repeatedly throughout Spain. It is simply not culturally appropriate in, well, the rest of the world to be as un-tranquila as I am.)

The tractor was rolling along pretty slowly because, well, it’s a tractor (and that's what they do.) And, it did seem like we were heading the right way. Still, I’m American, and I’ve seen way too many crime dramas and New York Post articles an anxiety-prone chica should be allowed.

So I’m vascilating between thinking this guy is a nefarious alcoholic creep with his constant prattling (“Fiesta! Tranquila! Mi Corazon es bueno! Fiesta! Jejejeje!”) and simply kind of a dumb guy who had something interesting happen to him that day (giving a Pilgrim a lift.)

(Photo from near where we had been driving.)

As we then slowly veer off the dirt road toward the main road, there is a car blocking our way. They seem to be moving gas cans around or something, and the Tractor Dude says something like, “Do you want to go in the car?”

And I’m like, “With 3 guys!? And leering Spanish guys, at that? Oh Hells, NO! I’ll stay up here, thankyouverymuch.” (OK, it was more like, “No, I prefer with you.”) I asked if he knows them, and eventually it sounds like he says something like, “Don’t worry, they’re family.”

Anxiety now officially has the upper hand. The guys get back in the car, and we follow them slowly down the road. Tractor Dude continues laughing and rambling. He assures me that the trail is coming up, and, true enough, as we cross the bridge over the river, I see an arrow and the trail off to the side.

But… we don’t stop. “¿Porque no parada?” I ask (which means something along the lines of “Why no stop?”) and Tractor Dude tells me that the tractor is too wide to stop on the bridge. This makes sense. But shortly thereafter, we are past the bridge, the road seems plenty wide enough to me, and… we still don’t stop. He seems to be telling me to wait, wait, a little farther, a little farther. Tranquila.  But we were plenty far enough past the trail for me.

At this point, I realize I'm stuck in a tractor with a possibly half-drunk farmer and following a carload of 3 men. Scenes from Law & Order begin flashing into my mind and I blurt out in my broken Spanish, “¡Quiero Bajar! Bajo! Baja! Bajan! Parada! Pares!” (“I want to get off! I get off! You get off! They get off! Stopping! You stop!”)

Eventually, I switch to English, mixed in with Spanish, until I’m in a full on panicked scream, my voice pitch rising with every breath. “Stop! Stop! I’m SCARED! I’M SCARED! I'M SCARED! ¡TENGO MIEDO! ¡¡¡TENGO MIEDO!!!!”

I’m wild-eyed and reaching for the door. I can’t figure out how to open it – it’s some secure, confusing lever-type latch, and, remember, I’m probably 10 feet off the ground in this cab. Tractor dude looks at me like I’m completely insane (the term “banshee” comes to mind), slows the vehicle down, opens the door, and I guess rushes to the other side and actually helps me down.

He looks kind of baffled and actually kind of hurt, and, as I get down, he makes the “not me” hands off kind of gesture. I growl at him, “¿Corazon bueno?? ¿Es verdad??” ("Is it true you have a good heart?") and literally run off – with my stuff jangling – while all at the same time thinking how ridiculous I was being.

I mean, why run? He, plus any of the 3 gentlemen in the vehicle in front of him, could’ve caught me, especially with me running WITH MY STUFF. (I just couldn’t let it go!) And, was my imagination and American-indoctrinated "Everyone wants to hurt you" ideology just running wild? But, it didn't matter: I was simply panicked. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such corporal, instinctual panic before, but if I ever had a doubt, well, this was the real deal. Rational me was watching from above, baffled, as well, as I ran into the trail, stashed my stuff in the woods, and just ran and ran and eventually tried to hide myself behind a rock and some trees.

I’d heard them drive away, but I was a little afraid they’d come back. I checked to see if I had a signal on my cellphone to call Hugo or the Spanish version of 911 – but no luck. I paused and looked around. It was the first really, truly pretty place I’d come to, but I had a hard time enjoying it at that moment. I finally went back for my stuff, and headed back to the trail.

I then realized I must’ve left the phone where I’d sat down the first time. I stashed my pack yet again, and headed back the other way – again – to look for the phone, but got scared – again – and decided to screw it. I aborted the mission, re-found my stuff – again -- and headed back (again!) in the correct direction.

I turned around and looked at just how tranquil and beautiful the scenery really was. The bridge we had driven over was in the distance. I replayed what had happened as the shaking began to subside. I still don’t know if I totally misread this person and my overblown sense of doom caused me to make a ridiculous scene worthy of an Oscar, or if my acute sensitivity protected me from something horrible.

Most I’ve spoken to lean toward the former. I didn’t know what to think at the time. But I took in the tranquility of the now-still environment, looked down at the gorgeous river, put "Your Heart is An Empty Room" on my ipod and, giving thanks for being OK, finally cried.

"Burn it down
'Till the embers smoke on the ground
And start new
When your heart is an empty room
With walls of the deepest blue..."




This is a Story About Blood

Ten years ago, I decided to start fencing. Again.

Read more...Collapse )

"How did I get so lucky?"

We all process grief in our own ways. Read more...Collapse )
Day 2 (June 20, 2009): Montemarta → Riego del Camino → Granja de Moreruela (22.5K)

What do I remember about this day? Just being HOT! And tired. I clearly left too late in the day, but what did I know? Read more...Collapse )

I woke up after my first night in an Albergue (the low-cost, pilgrim-only accommodations found at various intervals along the route) at a miraculous 6:30 am after only one very brief hit of “snooze”, which was quickly aborted in anticipation of the absolutely soul-disturbingly awful ringtone on my Vodaphone cell alarm. I then managed to foil my early start by taking 2 hours to get ready and arrange my stuff in my backpack. (This will be much less surprising than the early wake-up to those who know me well.)

Read more...Collapse )


The first day was amazing. I wanted to walk FOREVER! That, despite the fact that my legs felt like jelly at the end of the day. Which, perhaps, should have been a warning to how my legs were going to feel the next morning....