Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 415 - All about trust...

A couple of weeks ago I had to give my husband full power of attorney to sign documents on my behalf abroad. When I had the papers certified at the embassy the lady behind the desk said to me: 'Do you realise that your husband can withdraw all your money from the bank, sign over properties to himself etc. with this document that you are signing right now?' I had to smile.

What happened to trust? Surely I should be able to trust the man that I've shared my life with for over thirty years! She registered my marriage in his country of birth all those years ago, so she knew how long we've been married, she even registered the births of the children and grandchild as well!

I suppose she has seen her fair share of foul play as well and perhaps the question was merely posed as a woman to woman - are you sure you know what you're doing - sort of warning or advice of sorts.

Remembering this incident made me think of the issue of trust. Here I am, planning a trip that involves 780 kilometres of walking in a strange country where they speak a foreign language. I'm not booking any accommodation and in fact, I'm planning to sleep in hostels that I've never been to where often 20-plus people sleep in dormitories and share bathrooms. In fact, there is no guarantee of available beds as it's a question of first come, first served in those establishments.

As for food - well, I'm hoping that there will be a meal available somewhere at the end of every day and I suppose if  breakfast and lunch can magically appear in some form along the way, that will be just great!

I'm hoping that there will be warm water for my showers and somewhere where I can wash and dry my two outfits that I'm going to have with me. In fact, I'm hoping that I will be able to survive for a month with the meager number of items I will be able to take along in my 'Camino wardrobe'!

There's a lot of hoping in all the above, so I've made a decision to start trusting, instead of hoping!

The three pictures I've chosen for this post were all taken on my hikes last week and they fitted in perfectly with what I wanted to bring home here (probably to myself more than to anyone else!).

Those beautiful flowers could only appear if we had enough rain at the right time. Our Cape West Coast is transformed into a wonderland every year round about this time but it can only happen if we have rain. So, we have to trust that it will rain, and so we do. Every year.

The San people who lived in this part of the world so many years ago and who are responsible for the magnificent paintings below, had to put their trust in so much more! Rain, shelter, food, health - nothing was pre-packaged or available online! My worry about finding a bed every night on the camino seems like a joke when I imagine their lives - trust me, I have pictures of leopard tracks just outside the caves where we saw these paintings!

If you have ever been fortunate enough to spend time in the magical Cederberg area here in South Africa you will know that rock formations like the one in the photograph below, abound. Some of these magnificent structures seem almost surreal - I pretty much had to trust that this massive rock would remain supported by that tiny bottom structure as I stood in front of it...

You get the idea. So, trust I will.

 Here is a lovely piece from Ermanno Aiello's book where he relates an experience that illustrates exactly why I trust that all will work out exactly as it should.

' I had planned to stay for two nights in Melide and, after I had made my way to the centre of town, I asked a passer-by whether he knew of any hotel or Casa Rural in the area.
"Yes", he replied and promptly led me to a hotel close by. Unfortunately this hotel did not have any rooms with en-suite bathrooms and I wasn't too keen to use a communal bathroom.
"No problema, Senhor" said the manageress, "our sister hotel does." and she promptly telephoned said hotel and reserved a room for me. "How do I get there?" I asked. "No problema, Senhor" said the man who had accompanied me to this hotel, "I'll take you there."
The sister hotel was at the entrance to Melide and was a fair distance away. My guide escorted me all the way to my hotel and, once there, refused any offer of payment for his help, drank a glass of orange juice with me and left.
Was this person another of God's angels sent on the camino to help the pilgrims, or was he just a man with a heart full of compassion? I could not recall when last I had received such help from a stranger.'

I hope that I will meet my own 'angels' in Spain and am reminded of two verses in the Bible:

Proverbs 3: 5&6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Hebrews 13: 1&2 - Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

I hope to add my own wonderful Camino stories to those of the thousands of pilgrims who have walked before me. If you are reading this and have walked the Camino - do share - I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 399 - Men of Steel

A few days ago I spotted a headline in one of our local newspapers. It read: 'Men of Steel...'. That really got me thinking.

Can you imagine something colder, more horrible, more unappealing to have to strive towards, if you are a man.

To be a man of steel. I can't imagine something sadder than that.

Let's see what comes to mind when the word 'steel' is mentioned. Cold, hard, unbending, potentially sharp, therefore dangerous, could even be double edged if a sword - actually that is enough! All of these attributes, if identified in a man, is enough to make me run for the hills!

How I wish I could erase all the labels that society has hung around our necks, especially those given to our men! Instead of wishing for a man of steel to swoop me up and take care of me for the rest of my life, I would ask for a 'Man of Love', a 'Man of Kindness', 'A Man of Gentleness' - to name just a few.

I started wondering if anything is ever compared to steel in the Bible. That same evening the following words jumped out at me from the pages of a book that I was reading: 'The Bible says: Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of another.'

Proverbs 27:17. What a message. And brought to me in no uncertain terms. Steel, iron - the message is loud and clear!

I knew I wanted to write a piece here that I could connect to the Camino. This topic was just perfect as it got me thinking of why men, in particular, undertake this incredible journey. I'm sure not one of the men who have ever walked the Camino did so in the hope to be called a 'Man of Steel' once he arrived in Santiago!

I turned to Ermanno Aiello's book 'Forever a Pilgrim' to see what his encounters with fellow men on the Camino revealed.

On page 119 he talks about arriving at the Albergue Parroquia, a parish hostel in Santibanez de Valdeiglesia. Here he met Ercole, the hostalero.

' Ercole - the hostalero - turned out to be a middle aged, handsome, well built, flamboyant Italian from Rome. On hearing that I was also from Rome (or had been 59 years earlier) he gave me my very own private upstairs 4 bunk room. (doesn't sound like a 'Man of Steel' to me...)

He goes on to explain how Ercole prepared wonderful tasty meals for them (with the help of an elderly Spanish lady :) and tended the blisters of young pilgrims who had arrived at the albergue.

'The young couple I had passed on the camino had eventually arrived and Ercole was tending to her blistered feet in such a tender way. He continually spoke to her softly, almost caressingly, telling her that she would be all right by the next day. She was obviously very nervous and afraid but the gentle touch of his hands on her feet, the compassion and love in his voice, the encouraging words - he soon had her smiling - albeit nervously - while he drained and sterilized her blisters.'

Later that evening, after sharing a grappa or two the two men were in deep discussion and Ercole shared his story.

'Ermanno,' he said, 'Seven years ago, in Rome, I was diagnosed with incurable bone marrow cancer in my right leg. I then decided to walk the camino in this condition and I made this promise to the Holy Trinity. "Let me live long enough to walk the camino and I will give you the next five years of my life" I walked the camino - the last five kilometers barefoot - and my cancer was gone. I left Rome and came here seven years ago and I hope to die here one day.'

A man of steel? I don't think so!

In conclusion then - the lesson I learnt from the journey I took in my head since reading the heading in the newspaper is this. Just like iron sharpens iron - we sharpen the countenance of those we come in contact with. In layman's terms - people should grow from interaction with one another.  

Just as even a hard rock can be shaped into a heart as the one I spotted on one of my hikes, the reference to steel need not always refer to something hard and unfeeling. I for one hope that the only 'Man of Steel' that I am going to encounter on my Camino is my trusted friend in the picture below! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 394 - An official pilgrim!

I guess I'm official now! My Pilgrim's Credential has arrived. This was accompanied by my official Pilgrim's Passport, duly stamped by the Confraternity of St James.

I've locked it all away so that it doesn't get misplaced between now and June 2012 - with my history of losing things, well let's just say it's best locked away! I will admit that every now and again I find myself taking it out and looking at it. Seeing '782,2km to go' printed at the starting point seems slightly overwhelming but very exciting at the same time! 

So, got the papers, got the luggage tag. Only about 300 or so days to go!

We're getting there - slowly, but surely!