Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 60: Whittling Your Carrot

The video of today's swinging incense burner at mass,
but this time, from the back of the church. =)
October 10: When I woke up in the morning, I still hadn’t decided if I was going to spend another day in Santiago or not. When I first arrived, I figured absolutely not. One zero day was plenty! But I had such a good time the day before, catching up with several pilgrims I hadn’t seen in for weeks, and I found myself more and more inclined to spend another day in town and see who else I could find.

Regardless, I definitely planned to head to the cathedral around mass to see what new pilgrims arrived in town. I expected Karolina to be there now that I knew she was in town, but there could be others I knew who I didn’t know arrived in town as well. So if I did any hiking today, it probably wouldn’t be until 2:00 in the afternoon at the earliest. Most pilgrims usually stop hiking by 2:00 in the afternoon. The idea of another zero day was very appealing.

I went downstairs where I ate breakfast (included with the cost of the room)—cereal, toast, orange juice, muffin, and an apple. I got online and checked the weather forecast—a chance of rain today, and all but guaranteed the couple of days after that. It wasn’t a forecast I liked, and I refreshed my browser page hoping it would return something different, but it didn’t. It continued to stick with its miserable forecast.

And finally, after hemming and hawing, I finally decided to take another zero day.

Late in the morning, I headed out to the cathedral before mass to find out who showed up. I didn’t see anyone I knew in the main square, and with nothing better to do, I first wandered into a door to the left of the main entrance where I inquired about the “tower tour.” I first learned that they give guided tours of the cathedral—to areas where most peons can’t go—from Nancy, Jeannie, and MaryK the day before, but we wound up drinking at a restaurant and chatting with passing pilgrims (occasionally providing applause to newly arriving pilgrims) and missed the tour. Since I was going to be in town another day, though, I was inclined to do it. The woman there told me that an English-language “roof tour” was scheduled for 5:00 that afternoon. Ten euros for non-pilgrims, and eight euros for pilgrims. (Our credentials were our proof of pilgrim-ess.)

“I’ll be back at 5:00, then!” I told the lady. =)

Then I took a loop around the cathedral where I spotted Karolina sitting with her journal near a side entrance. Karolina!!!

It felt so good finally catch up with her again. According to my journal, it had been 23 days since I last saw her in Burgos—more than three weeks earlier. Out of everyone I’d met since I left Le Puy, it was Karolina I had bonded with the most. She hadn’t told me much about her adventures since then in her emails—she didn’t carry a laptop, after all!—and wanted to save the stories to tell me in person anyhow, so it wasn’t until now I figured out how I had gotten so far ahead of her. When I left Burgos, I was absolutely convinced that Karolina had to be ahead of me because I left so much later than the time when hostels started kicking people out, but that assumption turned out to be wrong. She stuck around Burgos later in the morning to visit the cathedral with Maria. So when I spent the whole day thinking I’d catch up to her, she was already behind me. Then she had blister problems that slowed her down even further until I had worked myself two full hiking days ahead.

And speaking of blisters, I inquired about any new ones she had gotten and their names, and she said she’d gotten a bunch of smaller blisters, but that they weren’t big enough to individually keep track of. So she called the group on her one foot the Spice Girls and the group on the other foot Monsters, Inc. after the characters in the movie.

It started to sprinkle outside, so we moved into the cathedral to continue our conversation. The pews were already filling up quite a bit when we entered, and although there was still space on the floor where I sat the day before, the entrance we came in from had a set of stairs leading down that would make perfectly comfortable seats and allow us to stay out of the way where people couldn’t trip over us. And it should provide a great view of the swinging incense burner. “Let’s sit here on the steps!” I told her. So we did. =)

Karolina found a guy she had met on the trail, Brian, I believe it was, and introduced us, and quizzed him about a place to stay. Karolina had stayed in a hostel the night before, but didn’t much like it there and had heard about another place with a private room for a few euros more there in town where Brian was staying, so she quizzed him for directions.

Brian also told us that he was going to celebrate his completion of the trail by going to McDonalds for lunch. I kind of rolled my eyes at this. I didn’t really have a problem with this per se, but I why make such an effort for McDonalds? He went on about not having McDonalds since starting the trail, and by golly, he was craving it in a big way. Filling out every stereotype of Americans. I said something to that effect in a jokingly sort of way, at which point he told me he was actually Canadian, not American at all. Lived in Vancouver. Which perplexed me even more. I hadn’t realized that Canadians were so fond of McDonalds! Maybe he’d have gone for a Tim Hortons (or something) instead had one been available in town.

A bit later, Vivian found us and joined us as well. Mass went on like it did the day before, although this time Charles wasn’t around to say a few words. During that part, however, Karolina turned to me and said, “That guy is speaking Polish!” I listened to the speech, listening for anything that sounded distinctly Polish—whatever that might be—but it just sounded like a European language I’d never heard before.

The swinging of the incense burner was just as impressive from my new perch in the back of the church as it was from the front of it, but this time I had a view of hundreds of cameras, the back screens lit up, taking photos and videos of the spectacle. It was strangely hypnotic, and not something you’d see from the front.

After mass was over, Karolina and I went in search of a place for her to stay the night, following the directions Brian had provided, but after about 15 minutes, we couldn’t find the place and gave up the search. Brian had expressed an interest in the roof tour, so she hoped she’d see him then and he could take her to the place. But it meant she’d have to lug around her full pack for the rest of the day.

I told her she could leave it in my hotel room if she wanted to, an idea that appealed to her, so we walked back to my hotel for her to dump her pack. Then we headed off to visit a particularly colorful statue of two short, but more-or-less life-sized women. I’d first seen the statue the day before and knew Karolina would be game for some silly photos with it. =)

Dscn4524bThe one woman of the statue had a hand extended, and I thought it would be funny if I got down on my knee and pretended like I was proposing to it. Karolina thought it would be funny if it looked like the statue was grabbing her ass. So we did both versions. I’ll let you readers decide which worked out the best. =) Then I had Karolina climb up on the shoulders of the statue where I took a couple of more pictures before she got back down again.

At which point a Spanish woman—a real one, not the statue!—said something to us in Spanish that was clearly not in a pleasant “How are you?” kind of voice. So I said I didn’t know Spanish. Oh, I certainly knew enough to know she was angry about something, but I really didn’t want to hear it either, and for once, pleading ignorance of Spanish seemed like it would be in my best interest.

As it turned out, however, the woman knew English as well, then proceeded to chew out Karolina and me for our little photo shoot—that it was disrespectful and could have damaged the statue. Disrespectful? It’s a friggin’ statue! There weren’t any little signs on it that said no touching. And we clearly had not damaged the statue. And we were already done. Sheesh. Sorry, little old, cranky lady. Life must be good for her if the worst thing happening in her life was a couple of tourists taking some silly photos with their statue.

On our way back into the old town, we saw Vivian having lunch at a restaurant and joined her. I have absolutely idea how the discussion veered into eye colors, but I remember it ended with Karolina taking off her glasses so we could see her eyes clearly—and we were stunned to find that her eyes were both different colors. Her one eye seemed to change color from one side to the other. It was freakishly weird. Kind of cool, but oh so weird.

Dscn4526b“And you aren’t wearing any contacts or anything that are doing that?” we asked, unsure if this was some sort of trick.

But no, that was her natural eye colors. I had to get a photo of it.

What does she put for her eye color on a drivers license? I can’t imagine that they allow people to put two different colors, one for each eye? And what about that one eye that actually changes color within the eye? Karolina is a MUTANT!!! It’s the only logical explanation! =)

Karolina intended to continue hiking on to Finisterre and Muxia, just like I was, but after that, she was thinking about continuing her hike along the Portuguese route—perhaps all the way out to Lisbon. I originally wanted to do this, but had to chop off that section when I decided that I didn’t want to walk, on average, 30+ kilometers per day. So I was a little envious of her being able to do the Portuguese section. However, to do it, she needed a guidebook for the route, so we headed off in search of one.

And in the crowded conditions of the alleys of the old town area, I was following behind Karolina when I accidentally stepped on the back of her foot. “Oops! Sorry about that!”

Which is when Karolina asked me about what it’s called, in English, when you take a stick and shave parts of it off with a knife. “Whittling?” I suggested, not really sure what she was getting at.
“There’s a Polish saying,” she told me, “when you step on the back of someone’s foot like that, we say you’re ‘whittling your carrot.’”

“I like it,” I told her. It somehow sounds dirty and funny at the same time. “I’m sorry about whittling your carrot, though.”

Karolina and I went into a couple of bookstores in search of an English-language guidebook for the Portuguese camino—or even a Polish version would have been fine for her, but that seemed even more unlikely than finding an English-language guidebook, but nobody had it.

I took her to one other bookstore that I had visited the day before, but warned her that I didn’t think they had the book since I hadn’t seen it on my earlier visit. I wasn’t actually looking for a Portugal camino guidebook at the time, though, so maybe I had just overlooked it. They did have a lot of books about the camino, though.

Except when we arrived, the bookstore was closed. We looked at their window display, however, and saw the exact guidebook we were looking for. “There it is!” We just had to come back when the store was actually open a half hour later.

We did come back a half hour later, and looked inside the store for the book, but couldn’t find it. I finally asked the desk clerk, in Spanish, where they had their Portuguese camino guidebooks.

“We don’t have any,” he told us.

“Umm….” I hadn’t expected this as an answer. “But yes, you do!” I insisted. “We saw the book in the window!”

He insisted that they didn’t have any guidebooks for the Portuguese section, so I had him follow me to the window and I pointed at it. “That book. That’s the book we want.”

He seemed surprised that it was there, but went into the window display and pulled out the book from there and handed it to me. Apparently, it was the only copy of the book in the store.

Dscn4535bKarolina looked through it for a couple of minutes before purchasing it.

How time flies when you’re having fun…. At this point, the roof tour was going to start soon, so we headed back to the Cathedral in time for that. The roof tour was absolutely awesome, and it is indeed an actual roof tour. The tour guide took us out onto the uneven roof. The rain had mostly stopped, but drops still sputtered and a terrific wind blew through shredding my umbrella to pieces. Literally. There’s not really much to report about the roof tour. We walked around it, and the guide told us about the cathedral and carvings and such. The views were wonderful, though, and we could see stuff from angles that most people will never see. Looking down from a bird’s eye view into the cathedral was pretty awesome. =)

Brian didn’t do the roof tour, however, so Karolina started growing more concerned about figuring out where she’d stay the night, but about a half hour after the roof tour ended, we crossed paths with Brian again.

“Did you find the McDonalds?” I asked.

Oh, yes, he did. And supposedly, make quite a spectacle of himself ordering all sorts of food. =)

Then he led Karolina and me to the place he was staying at. The woman took Karolina upstairs to show her the room, and I waited with Brian down below. A few minutes later, Karolina returned and we left. The room wasn’t quite made up completely when it was shown to Karolina and she told the woman that “she’d think about it,” although I didn’t learn that until after we had stepped outside. At the very least, I knew Karolina couldn’t ditch me quite yet because I still had her pack in my hotel room.

Brian was talking about eating dinner at Burger King—which I knew was a couple of blocks away from my hotel since I had passed by it several times—but I had absolutely no interest in that. I never really liked Burger King in the United States. I really didn’t want it in Spain! I hadn’t had any sort of American chain food since I arrived in Europe more than two months earlier, and it felt wrong to even consider the idea. Without voicing any of these thoughts, though, I suggested that Karolina needed to get her pack from my hotel and we split off.

“There is absolutely no way I want to eat at Burger King,” I told her. “I’d pretty much be willing to eat anywhere other than Burger King. I’d even try one of those ugly-looking octopuses before I’d want to eat at Burger King.”

She was in agreement about not wanting to eat there, however, and needed no convincing from me.

“So where do you want to eat?” she asked.

I shrugged. I didn’t really care. “Just not Burger King.” I’d only been in Santiago for two days. I hadn’t yet found a “favorite place to eat” yet.

“Truth be told,” I told her, “if you weren’t here, I’d just go to the supermarket, buy some food, and eat in my room.”

“I’m okay with that!”

So that’s what we did. We did our food shopping. I finished first and told her just to meet me at my room. I’d go on ahead and try to clean it up a bit. I had my gear all spread out on the floor and the place was a general wreck.

I didn’t really “clean up” so much as I did throw all my gear onto one side of the bed, between the bed and the wall, clearing up the rest of the floor for walking. Karolina arrived several minutes later, and I impressed her with the English language television stations I had managed to pull up. Two and a Half Men were on, apparently a show Karolina really enjoyed. At least until Charlie Sheen had been replaced with Ashton Kutcher. This was an old Charlie Sheen episode, though.
We watched TV for an hour or so and ate dinner, but by around 9:00, I thought it was starting to get late and asked Karolina if she was going to take that room at the other hotel or not. “I don’t have a problem if you want to crash on the floor here tonight, but if you do want that room, you probably should get going. That woman isn’t going to want you knocking on her door at midnight looking for a room!”

Karolina seemed shocked it was already 9:00 at night. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. =) And she seemed a little concerned that her sleeping on the floor might bother me, but I assured her I had absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I preferred it that way. I wanted my camping buddy back on the trail, and the last time we parted ways with the expectation of camping again later, we didn’t see each other for over three weeks! At least if she crashed on my floor overnight, I’d know where to find her the next day. =) So that’s what we ended up doing.

At about 9:30, she asked me if I was still going to go. “Go where?” I asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Your three friends at the train station.”

Oh! I had totally forgotten about that! I had mentioned earlier in the afternoon to Karolina, that I wanted to wander down to the trail station to see off Nancy, Jeannie, and MaryK, but had completely spaced it. Karolina didn’t know them, so, so I left her behind to catch up on her email with my laptop. I bought a container of grapes at the supermarket—which held more than I could eat, so I took that with me to give to the girls.

At this hotel, when you leave, they expect you to give them the key for the room while you’re gone. The key is also is used to power the electricity in the room. You slide it in a little slot by the door, and electricity for the room goes on. I guess it’s to make sure that you can’t leave on the air-conditioner, heater, TV, etc. when you aren’t actually in the room to enjoy it. But I was supposed to be alone in this room. Depending on the alertness of the desk clerk, it might look a little suspicious if I left without giving them the key for the room. But if I did that, it would leave Karolina in the dark. Literally.

“Don’t worry, though,” I told her. “I have a trick.” I pulled out my wallet and took out an old phone card I carried that I couldn’t even use in Europe. It was about the size and shape of the keycard, and I took out the key from the slot plunging the room into darkness, then shoved in the calling card and the lights and TV came back on. “As long as it’s roughly the size and shape of a credit card, anything will work in that little slot.”

I walked downstairs, gave the key to the desk clerk, then walked outside and down to the train station where I caught up with the three who seemed absolutely shocked to see me there. “What are you doing here?” they asked.

“Well, it’s like this,” I told him, pulling out my grapes. “I bought these grapes, but I couldn’t eat them all myself. And I knew you guys were leaving on the 10:30 train, so I knew I’d find you here and maybe you’d help me finish them off.” =)

They didn’t believe that story, though. “No, really, why are you here?”

“Just to say hi! Or bye, as the case may be!” They did believe that, but were still incredulous that I’d do such a thing.

They told me about their day—the long bus ride to Finisterre, and that the rain and wind were so bad, that they hadn’t even made it out to the lighthouse before turning around and taking the bus back to Santiago. I told them about the roof tour and how they missed out. I hung out with them for a half hour or so, until their train arrived at the station and they hugged me goodbye and boarded the train.

I headed back to the hotel. Karolina made herself a nest of sorts on the floor, and I gave her the five-foot long pillow from my bed that she could use as padding. (I don’t know why, but all of the pillows in Europe seem to be five feet long. It’s so long, I don’t even know what to do with them and wind up not using any pillow at all.)

Weirdest freakin’ eye color I’ve ever seen! Especially that left one! Kind of cool,
but so weird…. I’m a little disappointed that my camera didn’t really
seem to pick up the colors as well as it appeared in real life.

Looking down into the south side of the cathedral from the roof.


christmas6 said...

both of my aunts eyes are two different colors

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

The eye color difference is called partial heterochromia.

Croughwell said...

I just finished your book and it was great! Loved the drawings :)!

strollerfreak - Mel said...

Personally I think the picture of the statues grabbing Karolina's bum is the best! LOL

~Melissa (aka 5reikids)

Anonymous said...

I'm also an old lady and I agree with the old Spanish lady that climbing on the statues is inappropriate but I can understand your thinking. But if many people did that, the statues would get damaged. They were great photos - but standing next to the statues is best!