Slowest and most painful day thus far on the trip. Blisters all over my feet. Met a solemn and earnest young guy, about 22, named Sebastian, with a somber temperament, who didn’t take the work of life as a joking matter. I almost didn’t start talking to him because of the grim look on his face. I could learn something from this observation. We talked for 15 minutes in Spanish, with labored and poor pronunciation on my part. I was struggling like a drunk person to pronounce a slurred stew of words, when he interjected.. “Dude, you know you can just speak to me in English.” Thank God, why didn’t you say that earlier?
I am relieved to be the more extroverted person in a conversation because its a rare occasion. I relate better to introverts. If a conversation were a game of darts, an extrovert would throw 100 darts and an introvert would throw 50 darts, but they would both land close to the same amount of darts on the bull’s eye. Introverts are more intentional and efficient with their energy output. Extroverts have the flash and the crowd-pleasing ability though.
Sebastian’s grandmother told him stories about the Camino since he was a boy and she never had the time or money, so he felt it was a journey taken on behalf of his whole family. He was an atheist, but had the presence of a deeply spiritual person. He expressed his disgust at the wealth disparity in Ecuador with lavish mansions neighboring poor slum-like communities. Living in Barcelona, he had barely made a single new friend after living there for the past four months. We both expressed a struggle with finding meaningful relationships.
For an atheist, he had a lot of faith, and belief in love as a sort of religion in itself. For example:
“We are wired to create things, to connect. Too many people are scared of creating things and being looked at weird.”
“I think the Camino is best undertaken alone. To find out what you might need to hear, from the earth, from your conscience, from people.”
Sebastian’s precise intent was evidenced by each measured, forceful, step and stab into the ground with his large wooden staff. His dream was to open up a school/dorm/condiminium complex back home in his neighborhood in Ecuador. He had a mystical, prophetic presence that reminded me of The Pilgrimage, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I tried to wrap my head around those vague fairy tale-like concepts: destiny and fate.
Later on, I stopped for a feast of mini-muffins and potato chips. It was 11 am. Breakfast is not given the respect of being an actual meal in Spain. We parted and he said “Great to meet you, Peter.” with more liveliness than he had in our entire conversation combined. The feeling was mutual.
I jogged up to a girl in increments to close a gap of 300 yards, discreetly, so as not to appear desperate, because I wanted a distraction and someone to talk with. Her weakly pronounced “Hola” outed her as a native English speaker. She had a tan complexion and after a span of time, took off her large sunglasses to unveil piercing aqua-blue eyes that gave me pause. Hailing from London, she worked in TV production on a National Geographic type channel. She told me she is disciplined about recording her thoughts, the sights, sounds, each day immediately to not to forget them. She had been hiking with a large group but got sick of the constant back and forth of “What should we do for dinner tonight?” taking votes and all that stress. She emitted a strong signal of wanting to be alone that I picked up fast. I was stopping at the next town for the day.
A fast talking, wise-cracking Spanish guy named Javi in his forties helped me hand wash my clothes in the outdoor sink at the hostel. Later in the day, he invited me out to lunch with his four Spanish biking comrades. Lorena and Eduardo, a couple from Sevilla, engaged me in conversation frequently as they sat next to me. Only Spanish was spoken for the whole meal. I tried to focus but it felt like bailing water out of a boat with a hole in the bottom that constantly filled with more water. I locked a target down on a few words in each sentence and gathered the general idea. Sporadically, I would ask a fairly informed, brief question, reminding the table I was still there and not invisible. Lorena, gave me a sympathetic look and a light embrace on my back with her hand every few minutes as if to say “Its ok, I know being a foreigner isn’t easy.” Javi enjoyed a playful exchange with the ever-accommodating restauranteur. I forget about my gripes with the heat, food, and “laziness” in Spain as I am made to feel warm and welcome by the Spaniards who have so much patience and compassion. Loneliness and disconnection are the force multipliers, the fire under my feet, propelling me, beckoning me to go out, connect, create, love. Today I felt rewarded for my efforts.