23 August, 2014 - Villar de Mazarife, Hostel de San Antonio de Padua
My first day on the Camino is complete! I walked from Leon to Mazarife which is almost 14 miles. I walked more than a half marathon today! But even more exciting is that I made new friends. :)
I met a very nice group of people from New Jersey: Father Anthony, Mark, Mary, Martha and Eileen. They are all part of a walking ministry in their church so they had been training for the Camino for the past few months. I saw them at the Pilgrim mass in Leon last night, joined them for dinner and walked with them this morning until La Virgen de Camino. They stopped at a café and I decided to move on.
I walked alone until Oncina and as I was walking along I noticed how happy I was. I found that I was smiling and I had this light fluttering feeling in my heart. I hadn't felt that happy or excited for anything in a long time. After worrying about logistics and visas and packing for so long, there is something wonderful and freeing about only worrying about the next few hours of your day. And now, this will be my life for two and a half weeks. I will get the endorphins of exercise, the freedom to stop and start where and when I want, and the opportunity both for introspection and for the meeting of new friends.
In my solitude, I also noticed that I depend a lot on my guidebook for directions. So starting in Oncina, I decided that I would try to trust that I would find the next shell way-marker and it would point me in the right direction. Also along my Way today I keep thinking how much Dad would enjoy this trip. I wish he was here right now but I am also glad that I am on my own. I think I would become too complacent, too dependent on his expertise as well as his company.
Speaking of company, I met another group of pilgrims in Oncina: Almu from Madrid and Nicole and Andrea from Austria. Almu and Nicole knew each other from studying abroad and Nicole and Andrea were friends from school. Almu offered me a place in her guest room when I return to Madrid! And Nicole offered the same if I ever find myself in Vienna. I think I am slowly starting to get this whole meeting new people thing.
I walked with these girls to Mazarife (we arrived around 1pm) where Andrea moved on rather quickly after lunch and Almu and Nicole were going to look for a ride to the next village. I, on the other hand, went in search of a place to stay for the night.
I settled on the Hostel de San Antonio de Padua. As this is only the second night, I'm not quite sure what to look for when choosing a place to stay. This is where I like to consult my guidebook once again. It has recommendations and comments on the general feel of places as well as listings of the amenities each place offers. This hostel was nice and quiet and, while it sat on the main road as you enter the town, it seemed safe and serene. Plus the hospitalero was sitting on the front porch as I walked up and she was so warm and welcoming!
Thinking about the people I have already met and the people I have yet to meet: while I will surely meet and pass by (and be passed by!) many many people along the Way, I am acutely aware that not all of them will become friends - but that is okay. I just have to remember that that is life. People pass through others' lives for different reasons - they may or may not make a significant impact. I have faith that God will put in my path the people who will impact my life and whose lives I will impact as well.
I am now sitting in the front yard. It is 4 o'clock and I have a very very long walk tomorrow. I wish I had an ice bath to dunk my feet into.
Dear God, please bless my new friends and let their journeys along the Way be enlightened and full of truth. Bless those who I have yet to meet and bless my own journey. Show me what you want me to learn from this experience and help me do so. Amen.
An after-dinner addition to my earlier entry:
A note about food - dinner last night in Leon was my first foray into the menu style of eating here in Spain. Lots of restaurants offer "menus" which, for a set price and from a limited selection of dishes, offer a starter, a main course, a dessert and a drink. Because most places along the Camino offer these menus for a very reasonable price (anywhere from 4-10 euros), this is the usual fare for pilgrims.
However, because of my eating restrictions, I found it hard to eat all - really even most - of the food that was brought out. The only thing is that leaving food on your plate is kind of a signal that it wasn't very good - in some restaurants, it can even be taken as an insult if you don't finish your entire meal.
Well tonight was a similar experience, except that the hospitaleros here cook dinner as a community meal for all the pilgrims staying in their hostel. After a full day of walking, I was actually relatively hungry so I ate my entire salad, my whole main course (which was an amazing paella dish), plus most of my dessert which was a lemon-flavored cake. Not only was this way too much food than I should have eaten, I consumed it all way too fast - and I found this out the hard way (read: I felt like I had to vomit).
So I learned my first hard lesson of the Camino: to not have these menus, but instead just order single items from the menu ("solo"). Alright, off to bed now. I'm up super early tomorrow morning so I don't get in to Astorga too late.