Greetings from Mazarife!
The Update: I finished my bicycle route today; knocking out nearly 180 kilometers in 3 days feels incredible. One of the gifts of this journey is going alone and, therefore, being able to go at my own pace. I feel like I never get to do this: during the school year I go at the pace of the bell schedule. On the Camino, however, I go as far as I want and as fast or as slow as I want. For once, my schedule is entirely up to me.
I anticipated taking a rest day in Leon, but decided against it. It’s a densely populated city with lots of noise and traffic, reminding me of downtown Los Angeles only with shorter buildings. I walked around its cathedral, which hosts 1000s of square meters of stained glass windows and an art museum, and felt like I had seen enough of Leon. I much prefer the quiet, Spanish countryside and small villages, so that’s where I walked to today instead of staying in the city for a second night. After about 5 hours of trekking through beautiful fields of wildflowers and wheat, I landed in Mazarife - a small town of shepherds who lead their flocks on donkeys.
The Insights: The Camino is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and mentally. I was talking to an Italian, Marist priest about this the other day and he found the Camino difficult (but also rewarding) because we’re always in a state of constant change. I’ve spent roughly 21 nights abroad. Each of those nights were spent in different beds. Each of those nights were spent in different towns. Each of those nights were spent with different people. A pilgrim on the Camino never settles in and never makes themselves comfortable for very long.
The constant state of change makes those of us on the Camino more flexible. In terms of food, shelter, and even health, we take what we can get and don’t complain much. For example, my albergue filled up quickly this afternoon. Some boys walked in around 3 and my hospitalio could only offer them a mattress on the hallway floor. They paid their 7€ and unrolled their sleeping bags! There’s a saying that tourists make demands, but pilgrims say thanks.
I consider myself a pretty flexible person already, but the Camino helps me practice this skill. So often in the classroom, something doesn’t go as planned or there’s a surprise technology failure. Just like the Camino, I have to think on my feet, accept limitations, and go on with the resources I have.
An Anecdote: I always wondered why bicyclists wear such tight shorts. I thought it had to do with comfort or reducing friction, but now I know the real reason.
I was nearing Leon on my bike. After coasting down a hill, I began to pedal again. As soon as my left foot pushed down on the pedal, I felt an intense pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt before in my upper thigh. I slam my handbrakes, stop, and when I stand up, I feel it in my thigh and now also in my rear. I’ve never felt this pain before, so I’m thinking I tore a muscle or seriously hurt myself. I get off my bike and try to check the area, but I can’t really get a look without a mirror. After a minute, the pain starts to subside and I start walking it off, but then I feel it a third time! This time less intense and in my abdomen. Finally, I hear it. I look down my shirt and there is a bee frantically trying to free itself. So I whip off my long sleeve and he stings me one more time in the process. I’ve never been stung by a bee before, so I half expected to go into anaphylactic shock, but, thankfully, I guess I’m not allergic.
So somehow my shorts caught a bee as I biked and it stung me twice. Then, when I loosened my shorts to check the area, it moved into my shirt, stinging me two more times.
So I learned that bicyclists don’t wear tight shorts to reduce friction or make a fashion statement. Tight shorts just keep bees out of your pants.