Category: Musings & Ramblings



Do subscribe to my other blogsite “retirement suits me” for my latest blogs on our reunion and other adventures around Spain, Lourdes in France and Portugal. (https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com)

MADRID

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/homebased-in-madrid/

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/death-in-the-afternoon/

BURGOS

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/el-cids-burgos

SAN SEBASTIAN

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/eating-around-san-sebastian-spain/

BILBAO 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/the-euskotren-to-bilbao/

GETARIA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/balenciaga-de-getaria-viva-vasco/

LOURDES 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/be-still-back-in-lourdes-france/

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/menos-emocional-en-santiago-de-compostela/

FINISTERRE & MUXIA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/game-over-in-finisterre-y-muxia/

FATIMA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/one-morning-in-fatima/

SINTRA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/sintra-a-royal-favorite/

LISBON 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/san-antonio-festival-in-lisbon/

Our VIDEO: http://youtu.be/lfv7iBfh0f4


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The BUTAFUMEIRO  (incensory) and the TIRABOLEIROS (incense carriers robed in red). The magnificent scene of the smoking, swinging incensory during the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is forever etched in my memory.


Many come to Santiago de Compostela and consider this the highlight of their trip. I admit it’s quite a spectacle. And a fitting end to a 113km camino desde Sarria in Lugo.  Many others walked longer distances — a few limping along with blistered feet, wind- and sun-burned, some a few kilos lighter. Me? Not a kilo lighter. But I may have developed leg muscles and swollen feet from all the walking. As well as sunspots across my face. I now realize they’re not big issues with me. 

What are the big issues then? The distance — how can I forget the day we walked 32.6 kms? And the weather. I don’t mind if it’s cold or sunny. But it’s a pain to get in and out of poncho raincoats! Many times too I’d put on the poncho before my backpack — which meant I had to redo everything so the backpack stays covered by the poncho. The mud? I don’t mind, except when it’s slippery. The uphill climbs…. Oh Lord. Thirty years of smoking took its toll. I felt like a really really old lady — hunchbacked and all with a backpack and poncho — with every step I took on steep inclines. Yet still, no big issues. Amused myself enough on those climbs. Happy thoughts! 

Go slow. Listen to the birds. Feel the sweet, moist smell of the forests. Mind the yellow arrows. Let Maryanne entertain you with her lovely singing voice. Be impressed with 70+ y.o. Herta’s camino pace — slow, deliberate and sure. Catch the funny exchange between buddies Carole and Helen. These 2 kept me amused often enough. May and Beth will keep you distracted from the muscle pains as they regale you with many interesting and funny stories. Such good walking companions! When Ann W and Sue wait up at the bend for you, and ask how you’re doing, you feel touched by the kindness. And how inspiring to find a mother-daughter team walking with you. Ann C and Missy make me consider another camino with my grandchildren. That is, if I can keep myself in good shape like Herta! And Chus. What would we do without young, lovely Chus? Thank you all, witches. I mean, ladies. Missing you all already! 

So, my camino ends for now. But the memories linger. We made it! 

DAY 1: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/my-camino-switching-off-for-a-week/

DAY 2: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/day-2-a-very-wet-camino/

DAY 3: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/day-3-camino-back-into-the-woods/

DAY 4: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/my-camino-day-4-the-best/

DAY 5: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/camino-day-5-can-you-believe-it/

DAY 6: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/my-camino-its-over-but-not-really/

Witches away!


http://youtu.be/ByPqqO8Qwus


The peregrinos are coming to town. It’s a Friday and the noontime and evening masses for pilgrims at the lovely Romanesque cathedral in Santiago de Compostela will have 8 robed men swinging the butafumeiro across the isles. As I soldiered on on this wet and windy day, many younger pilgrims zoomed past me, unmindful of the cold and rain. They could reach Santiago in time for the mass at noon. 


Believe me, getting in and out of your rain poncho can be a mood spoiler. Much more so for those wearing rain pants. But it’s the last day. Our last 15 kms. As the Irish, German and locals zipped past on foot or on bikes, each had an expectant look.  “Buen Camino” which means “Have a good camino or walk” has also substituted for “hello” and “excuse me” or “move aside” as when they overtake you along the trail. 

 

Most peregrinos stop at Monte do Gozo to have their first glimpse of the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It’s the last hill before reaching Santiago, about 4 kilometers away. Windy, overcast sky, cold and wet, we made a collective sigh of relief that the “end” is near. Our hearts felt the church spires beckoning us to march on. 

 

 

As soon as we stood before the Church, the dam broke. I cried. Such joy to be here. Such an honor to make this pilgrimage. All worth the wet, cold, windy camino days. The swollen feet from all the walking and the swollen hand from holding the shaft or walking stick.  This “jubilada” (retiree — which is what they registered at the Pilgrims’ Office when asked my profession) made it! And I’m happy that we made this hike in 6 days, feeling every step of the pilgrimage. Gracias, Señor.

The Pilgrim’s Mass at 7:30pm had the entire cathedral filled up as early as half hour before the service. Came a good hour early and claimed front seat. Soon after the service, the tiraboleiros prepared to swing the metal thurible. Botafumeiro is that giant thurible or incensory that they swing across the isles, up and down, pulled by 8 men in deep red robes. Botafumeiro in Galician means smoke-expeller. And the robed men in charge of the swinging thurible are called tiraboleiros which mean incense carrier in Galician. 

Such a fitting end to this pilgrimage. Feeling blessed. Unlike those who made the 300-800km journey (or even longer), I can’t claim any lifechanging miracle. But I have a newfound discovery. Life, as with uphill climbs, need NOT be rushed. It’s hard. But taking breaks –a breather– every so often makes a seemingly impossible task doable. Often enough, I had to remind myself to slow dow and walk in a relaxed manner. As with life, we sometimes do things just to get it over with. In this Camino, I discovered SLOW works

Gracias, Señor. Gracias, San Tiago de Compostela. Gracias to my nueva amigas : Maria Chus, Herta, Beth, Maryanne, May, Anne W, Helen, Carole, Ann, Misty, Sue. God bless you all😘

http://youtu.be/ByPqqO8Qwus


Funny how one starts thinking it will be another “short hike”. You see, the camino trail should have covered 28 kilometers but a great decision was made to “break” this legbreaker into 2 days. Entonces, it’s 28 kms in 2 days. Enough reason to start a tad perky yesterday and today. But it rained yesterday. Not so today. 


 

We left our hotel in Melide around 9:30am and walked a bit off the trail to visit this pulperia, a church and a zapateria. Another reason to feel perky after a “late start”. For the first time, there was a mass service on this Wednesday during this camino journey. Great start! 


 

By the time we were ready to resume our camino, 2 in our group had new leather boots in their backpacks. If we weren’t full from breakfast, we could have spent more time in that pulperia. 


 


Enjoyed the best weather today. Cold when we started, but sun’s out and trail’s lovely as we weaved through Galicia’s countryside. This part — from Melide to Arzua — is very interesting.  We shared the camino path with cows, had lunch in a small cafe bar (Santiago) whose pet dog attempted to follow us as we were leaving. Friendly dog, friendly cafe bar owner. He gave us so many “freebies” like more cheese, jamon, cake etc. Lovely man! 


  

This part of the Camino is the best so far. “Only” 14 kilometers today through one of the picturesque parts of Galicia. Both the farmlands and villages are charming. Gosh, did I actually say that? ONLY 14 KILOMETERS TODAY. For someone who is lucky to hit 10,000 steps in a day, you better believe that!

 

 

Though I struggled with the uphill climbs — 30 years of heavy smoking do that to you! — I enjoyed the hike. It helps too that we didn’t get rained out today. 


Birds chirping, feeling the “crunch” upon stepping on fallen leaves, crossing a bubbly stream, a slight drizzle, muddy paths, and cow manure here and there.   




It’s hard to deprive one’s self with a copa of vino or cerveza. I should stop. Dehydration  issues and balance issues and all. Even the vino during dinners, much that I enjoy them, should be given up. One of the 4 ladies I’m walking with told me that she’s giving up smoking in this Camino. “That’s great” I said. To which she smilingly replied “…. just that I don’t smoke”. Touche! Let me have my vino!

  

 

There’s a lot of my musings and ramblings as my knees struggled through the uphill climbs, downhill walks and flooded/muddied paths.  Many oxygen breaks happened here. I’m good walking some distances on flat, dry surfaces. And without a backpack! But I’m compelled to use a backpack to carry my change of socks, vaseline, and fleece vest. Oh ok, the chocolate and energy bars are in there too. Galician weather is hard to predict. Funny how I don’t miss sunny spells (I break out in sweat!) and how thankful I am whenever it rains just when we’ve stopped for some coffee or caldo! But today, it rained again on the last leg of the camino. Too lazy to put on my poncho. Just trudged along hoping the hotel is at the next bend. 




Being close to Nature makes for good contemplative monents. Whenever a gust of wind ruffles your hair, you cant help but smile. The aroma of cow manure brings you back to your senses, but in a positive way. For the life of me, I welcomed the scent of farm life. The simplicity of Galician life renders you grateful that you’re doing this walk, able to count your many blessings. A pilgrimage or an adventure? It is both for me. I wanted to challenge myself as much as I wanted to do my “spiritual retreat”. I’m having my moment. Can’t even bring myself to complain when it rains, gets really cold or when I couldn’t figure out where to step on a muddied path. Really. 




“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen”.  — Linda Hogan 

Buen Camino!


Well, not exactly. Or you wouldn’t be reading this. Pre-booked hotels via caminoways.com have excellent wifi connection. Yey! But I confess I felt a great deal of excitement over the looming solitude and physical challenge as I prepared for the last 113 kilometers or 70 miles walking from Sarria in Lugo to Santiago de Compostela. As the day neared, i grew more anxious…. bordering on nervous wreck. Can I really do this?



Switching off. At least for 6 hours each single walking day. No sweat. I can easily do that. Even longer, if need be. My practice walks then lasted 2-3 hours straight. Like 20,000 steps or so. But this time, it’s not only longer hours. The ground’s not paved nor even, and there’s an incline here and there. In some spots,  it’s not even dry. Very wet, I may add. Even muddy. Every couple of hours, the camino is suspended for some serious oxygen breaks, backstretching, fluid replenishment, dry-ups, pee breaks, or just a change of socks and slathering of more Vaseline on the feet. 




 


“Every pilgrimage is a journey backwards. Every pilgrim’s step is a step towards his childhood.”   
         — Charles Foster (The Sacred Journey)
  
 
There is a saying on the French route: the first third is physical, the second third is mental and the third third is spiritual. Many pilgrims seem to fall into this rhythm. In my case, it started out as spiritual. I wanted this so much as my own spiritual retreat of sorts. I likewise made a mental note that 113 kilometers is punctuated by gastronomic breaks and all I had to do is think pulpo gallega and caldo gallego to keep those legs moving! As I took my first camino step, my faith & confidence combined to make this a meaningful Day 1 of my camino. As the roads and paths stretched before me, the physical demands of the camino wiped out all pulpo dreams. All I wanted was to reach the pre-arranged hostel, take a bath, put up my legs and sleep. These images all threatened to break my concentration as I prayed many rosaries. On Day 1, 6 rosaries. 
 
 
 
I was NEVER more aware of my body and physical state than NOW. It’s like I know the condition of every toe attached to my feet. Like I’m having an altercation with every leg muscle. My brain’s all messed up halfway through Day 1’s camino. It’s 23 kilometers today. Yeah, what a fine introduction. But looking at many pilgrims from all over the world passing me — a few limping through, having walked nearly 700 kilometers — it is such a humbling experience NOT to complain. 
 
 


Dinner in these parts is at 9pm. I worry I may not make it to dinner. Definitely dinner is more a social activity rather than nourishment for me this time. It’s a struggle to keep awake after the hike and then, a leisurely stroll around the village. I know others may think this part of the Camino is the more popular, more touristy, noisier, more about the adventure rather than the pilgrimage type. But hey, who’s judging? Certainly not me. We come for different reasons. We each make our own Camino? But whoever said it’s easy is lying! (And it’s only Day 1 😭😭😭)


I’m GUILTY as charged. Got into a snapping frenzy when we visited the monks in Mandalay’s many monasteries and learning centers, and whenever, wherever, however we found them — in temples, in the market, along the streets, walking, resting, in prayer, dining, in study. We couldn’t stop! So can’t many others.

 

 

 

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And it’s never more true than when we caught them lining up towards their dining hall where a group must have donated their sumptuous 2nd and last meal of the day. Perhaps “extravagant” by monks’ standards. The usual 1 or 2-dish meals expanded to 5, but at the price of being watched and photographed while dining. Forgive me, for saying this. I am just as guilty. It took another fellow (thanks, Bob) to remind me that it didn’t seem right to photograph them while they are eating. More so to have photos taken with them in the background. Come to think of it, why in heaven’s name do we do that?

 

 

 

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Quite frankly, I would not have hesitated to join the monks at the slightest hint of an invitation. Shame on me. The silence was palpable. I hardly heard any plate or bowl being moved nor any tin cup being put down. At some point, I wondered if the monks chew their food. I didn’t hear a sound!

 

 

 

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Mandalay is said to be the monastic center of Myanmar. Many monasteries and monks’ learning centers are located there. And we visited the bigger ones where these monks can be observed while praying, studying and dining. Much like a tourist attraction. In one, I felt like we barged in while young monks are having their study periods. The headmaster in sight didn’t seem to mind. One young monk in particular was weirdly hamming it up, playing with his cat knowing our cams are all trained on him.

 

 

 

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Not all are big and well-funded. We visited a remote school a boat ride away from Old Bagan and found a small village supporting a few young monks. At the time we visited, we wondered what else these monks do outside of prayer and study times. Being dependent on these poor villagers’ support for food and other basic necessities, it would have been more pragmatic to also teach them farming, fishing and other means of livelihood. Much like some other monks elsewhere who farm even just for their own food requirements or tend vineyards, coffee plantations, etc. to earn enough to cover their needs.

 

 

 

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A wake up call. I’m done with my monks’ photography. Let this set be my last. Mi apologia. I leave you guys alone now.

 

 

 

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“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson

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The Man and His Camel

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The Many Bright Colors of Indian Fabrics

India is a progressive country, yielding so many young billionaires like it’s in fashion! I saw the riches, glamour and the princely pleasures of the majaranas and maharajas in their past echoing into their current life situation, as well as the poverty and chaos to be found in the rural villages and narrow alleys of the cities.

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Diwali “flowers” Sold Along Major Streets

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A Bullock Cart Ride Across A Rural Village near Bijay Niwas

Twilight Zone it seemed as one is transported from the comforts of a former royal manor to a rural village where cow dung is held sacred. Or being whizzed through narrow alleys past stalls selling nearly anything from candied sweets to multi-colored grains and spices, to fabrics glowing with gemstones to carpets sold as cost overruns and rejects from fashionable name stores in Paris and Milan. Truly, a sensory overload and I have not even begun to describe our actual experience.

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Street Photography

Parasols In Lovely Colors

Parasols In Lovely Colors

Photographers would have a blast capturing human interest shots here. Indian women are so beautiful, so exotic-looking, especially with their colorful sarees. The wide-eyed children with curly locks aren’t camera-shy and would even prod you to photograph them. What’s best is many locals love having their photos with tourists like us. Many times I evaded the cam thinking I’m photobombing —- only for the locals to ask me to stay put and pose with them. Incredible Indians!

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The markets here extend way over the main roads, sometimes spilling right in front of temple gates or along fortress walls. Camel and donkey carts, along with the occasional elephant, compete with rickshaws and tuktuks for attention. Haggling is an art, as ancient as the forts and palaces. I didn’t observe any zoning system, finding mansions side by side with shanties. There is absolutely no pretense to hide the bad, the ugly, the dirty. The stark and naked truth either shocks or charms you. Either way it hits you, India is truly incredible to the core.

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Seventy Odd Years

 

We recall the early years
And thank God for these blessings
Such a delight this life
With triumphs and a few fights.

 

 

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Ten years of separation and a whole ocean apart
Love spans many miles and travels over ebbs and tides,

Sisters at birth; joined at the hearts
Survivors, as our sisterly love endures.

 

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What’s there to celebrate at 70?
God’s precious gifts of love & life

Family & Friends

Come, help us celebrate!

 

 

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Call it a conspiracy. Everyone knew but her. Believe it or not, even the family dog seemed to be in on it, except her. Turning 70 is a milestone and we’re not leaving any stone unturned just to pull this big surprise.

 

 

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I flew into Sydney with the 2 “elves” (grandkids). Took PAL thinking our flight’s ETD was 10:45pm. Surprise, Surprise! It was actually 9:10pm. Flight skeds changed without notice? Did we miss it? Naaahhh. We were at the airport thinking we were way too early. Took a pee break at 8pm, grabbed a drink, and trooped back to our gate only to find we were the last 3 to board! Ran for it and finally put on our seatbelts almost out of breath.

 

 

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So we made it…. and landed 3 hours early in Sydney. My niece jumped out of bed at 7am when I messaged her that the “package has arrived”. By the time we reached the doorstep, all surprise plans went haywire. Lack of sleep and stressful departures do that to you. Just the same, we pulled off the surprise sans a video 😦

 

 

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Two days after, a niece arrived. That’s surprise #4 (the first 3 being moí+the 2 elves). The following week my dear couple friends arrived. I’ve rested well enough by then and didn’t fail to document the whole surprise scene.

 

 

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All set for the party now. April 27. Six surprise packages. Great Gatsby theme. Black, White, Silver and Gold. Only the 70 year old dons RED. Surprised? Yes. Happy? Yes. We did it! Friends and family all here to celebrate a milestone in my sister’s life. Life is a celebration!

 

 

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