Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Camino Eve

It's sort of a cross between waiting for a big trial to begin and going to sleep-away camp for the first time, with a dash of Christmas Eve thrown in -- a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. Happily, it matters a lot less than a big trial, and I'm better prepared to deal with new challenges than when I went to 4H Camp for the first time at age eight (and didn't change my clothes the whole week, despite my Mom's careful packaging of daily outfits; I promise to do better this time).
The first plaque to the right celebrates the Camino de Santiago for offer a path westward under the Milky Way to Santiago de Compestela ("field of stars") and the remains of Saint James, which were carried in a boat the length of the Mediterranean (in a week!) after he was beheaded by Herod and buried eight miles inland, where they were forgotten for 800 years until rediscovered and sanctified.
The second plaque, set in the stone wall of the narrow calle that runs downhill past the Plaza de Santiago, reports that several moments before the start of the Encierro or Running of the Bulls every July, the participants pause for a moment to pray for Saint Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona, to protect them when the the bulls come thundering down upon them. Seems like an unnecessary imposition on San Fermin, who surely has more deserving supplicants in need. What ever happened to assumption of the risk? It's not reported what the participants pray for before the Running of the Nudes, an event just as the name describes which happens two days before the Bulls do their thing. PETA sponsors the event to promote awareness of animal rights. But shouldn't they let the Bulls chase the Nudes, if they really want to maximize animal happiness?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the Way to the Way

Today was perfect except for staying awake. The back of an Air France Flight is always interesting. Last night it was crush the plastic cup. The guy two seats to my right spent at least an hour between three and five monotonously compressing the sides of his plastic wine cup until they shattered, then compressing the pieces, the pieces of the pieces, etc. He was joined by a swarm of others. They sounded like a mass of maniacal killer crickets. So waiting six hours for my Bilbao flight at Charles de Gaulle was no fun, on no sleep. It's unnerving when you snap awake from an unplanned nap 10 minutes before your flight loads When I got to Bilbao, I spent a few hours dealing with the discovery that my Spanish cell phone gives all its display options and error messages in Spanish. Duhh. And of course the Spanist telco messages explaining why your call didn't go through are in Spanish. Nothing like a challenge when you're groggy. So why was the day perfect? Bilbao. What a grand city. After solving the mysteries of the Spanish Cellphone, I set out for a late walk, and ended up having dinner in the old town in the perfectly proportioned 18th century square, with its palm trees stationed at each corner. Of course, dinner is a relative term. After circling the square to see which of the dozen or so cafes was serving the best food, I found that the only solid food in evidence was ice cream being slowly spooned by two grandmothers, and a plate of tapas mixta ordered by a festive crowd of businessman. So I settled into the tapas option, which were filling if not nutritious. No one else was in any hurry to eat. They weren't even thinking of it. When I left the square at 9, the kids in my iPhone picture were just warming up.

Thought for the day: Has anyone studied the circadian rhythms of the Spanish? They are proof that sleeping at any particular time, or for any length of time, is just not hard wired into the human genome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Before I Go

Opinions differ on blogging the Camino de Santiago. Some say the idea is an oxymoron or worse. The Camino should be a time for introspection and Finding the Answer. Others say that there should be a diary of an expedition like this. And since diaries are so last century, that implies a blog. I can't choose between those respectable positions. So I plan to chronicle my long walk mostly because, traveling by myself (well, with a small group and a sag wagon, but the chances of much companionship there are up in the air), I may go bonkers with no outlet for my thoughts. Then again, I may sink into a well of self-centered meditation, and this could be the omega as well as the alpha of my postings.