Quite a day!
Went out for dinner last night with a gazillion people. A bit overwhelming, and so much food. I couldn’t eat it all, so shared it with Roberto from Mexico, sitting next to me. I think my body is finally getting back to normal down food wise. I have scarfed at least one and sometimes two 3 course meals a day, plus endless chunks of dark chocolate with almonds. Most of those meals have had meat, eggs, whole milk, cheese, sugary dessert and french fries in abundance. (and vino tinto y pan). I can tell I’ve been burning through most of it, as I am constantly cinching by backpack tighters, so I tell myself it’s ok (plus, I really don’t have any option). Not sure how I’ll face the day without a tortilla con patatas for breakfast. The Semenario Menor where we are staying closes at midnight and we managed to just get in about 11:59, fell asleep and no one stirred until about 9:00. We had to be out between 9:30-13:30 for cleaning, so there was a scramble. Desayuno with Nando (noticed a new sign: ‘Hay café para llevar.’) I love that the cafe con leche grande is about 6 ounces. (I’ll also confess here that about two weeks into the walk I started adding sugar packet to my cafe con leche.)
After breakfast we headed to the pilgrims’ office to get Nando’s compostella certificate. So many people who I knew were there, Xaviar from San Nicolás, Davide from Italy, ‘my’ favorite Koreans, the 4 Chilean cousins – quite upset because something was out of order and they were denied official recognition. Went to sit in the cathedral, Nando, me, a Danish woman (wisely equipped with tissues) and Marie-Jo. We sat quietly for about 45 minutes, each somewhere quite different, but comfortable and taking comfort in the others’ presence. Around us the cathedral swelled with people – tourists, worshipers and pilgrims, and evey few minutes a familar face went by and nodded a greeting and joined the growing numbers in the pews. As noon approached the crowd somehow hushed. Veera saw us and we squeezed together so she could sit between me and the Danish woman. Then my favorite part of the whole service. Well, before the service. A sweet faced nun with the most amazing voice, clear and true but also very warm tried to teach the group of disparate, motely, wet and tired pilgrims from many different countries some simple response choruses in spanish and latin. She sounded so lovely singing accapella, her voice soaring in the cathedral, that no one wanted to break the spell and sing with her. The gold in the cathedral I found overwhelming, the simplicity of her voice truly moving.
Her singing and seeing so many people who I’ve come to love taking the wafer of communion were the two most meaningful parts of the service. As Karol passed I thought of his mother in Poland. Nando. Eduardo. Claudio & Katya. Seo-Yeon and Sun-hwa. Yves. Francisco. Marie-Jo first in line.
I was totally unprepared for the dispensing of the incense. It was not at all what I imagined.
Afterwards, more hugs and good-byes.
Nando went off to browse bookstores, Veera and Eduardo joined a group headed for Finisterre, I went to the farmers market, bought salad supplies & headed home to eat and nap. As it was still raining I also bought a collapsible umbrella, much more convient than a poncho in town. I notice that umbrellas (and doggie raincoats) are very popular in Santiago. (In the country men would hook the umbrella in their collar and hang the umbrella down their back.)
After my siesta I headed into town to get bus and Finisterre/Muxía info from the tourist office. In the am I had also noticed a white tourist ‘train’. Since I had ridden the green one in Burgos and yellow one in Leon it seemed appropriate. An easy way to be a tourist without having to actually do anything. And it gives you a sense of the city. When I got to town there was one just about to leave. Shared a seat with a German woman finishing the Camino Portugués. Much of the town fairly is new, and like Washington many cement buildings stained with water/mold.
The tourist office was closed when tour ended.
Mightily tempted when I passed a theater and an Arab film festival. Just missed the 8:00 movie.
Inspite of the tour the logic of this city’s streets still mystifies me. Heading towards the Seminario I was inexplicably walking the other direction on the same road when I bumped into Seo-Yeon. Tomorrow, the 25th is her birthday. She is treating herself to a night in a hotel in a single room. Since it is already tomorrow in Korea I invited her to tea and a slice of tart de Santiago with 27 imaginary candles in an upstairs tearoom.
Rain lessening. Temperature rising. Fog obsuring tower tops. Seminario totally fog bound by the time I crawled into my sleeping sack on the 3rd floor.
24 Oct 2009