¡Hola Amigos y Amigas, Jen aquí!
Fun fact: Spanish feminists are promoting the use feminine and masculine plural titles being necessary, instead of masculine titles being all inclusive. Anyway…
As many of you know from reading Justin’s blog, I am willing to do almost anything for an authentic cultural experience. From wearing a hijab and sneaking into the Dome of the Rock to breaking vegetarianism to eat dog and scorpion, when I have an opportunity to try something unique, I jump at the chance. Well, in this case, I “walked” at the chance.
Did you know that Catholic pilgrimages are a very honored tradition here in Spain? As soon as I heard about this beautiful, cultural past-time, I knew that I should join in. Oh, are you wondering why Justin isn’t writing this blog?
Because he didn’t walk 55 kilometers!
After a lot of begging among my coworkers, I finally convinced an amazing friend, Nuria, to do it with me. Everyone else complained about the difficulty without training. I had faith I could do it.
Here are the basics of the pilgrimage. Javier, the patron saint of Navarre (the region where we live), was born in a castle in his namesake city. He traveled the world as a missionary and is incredibly respected among the people here. Nuria even named her first-born son Javier. In fact, when I’m not sure of a student’s name, I can simply say “Javier” and have a good chance that he will respond. The people of our region created this annual pilgrimage to his birthplace called: Javieradas.
Here’s how the trials and tribulations of the weekend went. Justin packed me lots of meals and snacks. Nuria loaned me a backpack, sleeping bag, and hiking boots. Because I knew it was going to rain and snow over the weekend (and boy, did it ever), I had decided to wear her waterproof hiking boots.
Unfortunately, I had to start the journey without Nuria. For this reason, she signed us up with a church group so I wouldn’t be totally alone. Awkwardly, no one raised their hand when we asked if they spoke English. Thankfully, I did find a few people to talk to! Sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. Good thing we’ve been taking classes.
We walked all day Saturday, only stopping twice to eat, until, under the light of the moon, we finally reached an old church. Here, there was a celebratory service. While some people were celebrating, however, I was in severe discomfort. A shout out to the cutest little old Spanish woman that you ever saw, who went out and bought me a Coke to re-energize me because she noticed my excruciating pain during the mass.
Remember those boots I borrowed? Bad move.
One should never walk 30 miles in new shoes! My feet were covered in blisters. And being obsessive compulsive about germs does not bode well for these experiences. I refused the offer of help with my blisters, not trusting other people’s tools, and continued the rest of the way. While walking, I was actually daydreaming about my sneakers and wanted to kiss them upon our reunion.
After church, we still had a kilometer to go before our overnight destination. Being in so much pain, the group tried to convince me to drive to the house. Umm no. That’s cheating. I told them, “Soy cabezota.” I am stubborn. Plain and simple: I would walk the entire pilgrimage no matter the pain. After all, isn’t suffering a part of the process?
The next day, we walked the final 8 kilometers, stopping 14 times along the route for the Stations of the Cross. As we came around the final bend, the castle came into view. I’ve never been happier upon seeing a castle in my life. Seriously, Cinderella’s castle in Disney World doesn’t even come close to my joy in this moment. Mission Accomplished!!!
Unlike eating scorpion (which I really don’t recommend), a pilgrimage is something everyone should take an opportunity to do, no matter your religion. It was a time of self–reflection and perseverance. The body and the mind are capable of much more than we often give either credit for.
I found mediation to be a powerful force in keeping me going. Ultimately, I came to regard the following three aspects of my life during the experience: gratitude for my body’s fortitude, blessed to have a friend in Spain willing to try something new with me, and happy to be graced with a life off the beaten path.
Hasta La Proxima…