the meseta

The meseta is quite different from the other areas of Spain we have traveled through this far. The beautiful mountain, rolling hill, and vineyard filled landscapes of both Navarra and La Rioja are not at all like the shadeless, wheat filled, flat lands of the meseta. The meseta, a high central plateau that makes up around 40 percent of Spain’s land, is a fairly flat region in central Spain. The meseta ranges anywhere from 400 to 1000 meters high, and is relatively treeless. The Sierra de Guadarrama and the Sierra de Gredos split this region into northern and southern halves. In the north this region is boarded by Cordillera Cantábrica and in the south by the Sierra Morena. Throughout this region one can find many grazing sheep between the abandoned, scarcely populated towns and villages. This region is filled with various uninhabited homes, and the cities are mostly populated by an older generation as many young people left this region in the 1960s to pursue opportunities in the larger cities.
This region has played a large role in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the development of Spain. When the Moors attempted to overtake the Christians, the meseta was one of the first areas the Christians were able to reconquer. When the Christians reconquered the region from the Moors, the meseta became apart of the Kingdom of Castile. This Castile region eventually became the Crown of Castile and was later known as the Kingdom of Spain. The meseta, in contemporary Spain, is apart of the Castile and León region in the northwest, while the central and southern regions of the meseta are apart of communities in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid. The meseta is also known to be the home of the Castilian language, now known as Spanish.
The culture throughout the meseta is fairly diverse, as the region is so large. Some say the people of this region are quieter and not as friendly as other regions. I did not find this to be true, most people I encountered were kind, helpful individuals. Many of the original buildings in this region are built from mud and hay, as this area did not usually have access to stones or bricks in the past. The diet of the residents of this region is extremely meat dense and caracole soups are popular in some areas. When visiting various towns throughout the meseta, I noticed that the fruits and vegetables were more fresh than they did in other regions. Some albergues even had their own gardens which was great, there definitely are perks to traveling through this area.
Many of the people throughout this region are kind and genuine, despite what others claim about the residents of this region. I found the locals I have met to be just as kind and caring as those from the previous regions I have walked through. While in a private albergue in Hornillos, I met a kind couple, who ran the establishment. The couple was inviting and told us they wanted us to treat their albergue like “home”. This inviting couple encouraged me to practice my spanish with them which was kind of them, as my ability to speak spanish is not one of my strong points. I also met a kind man at El Nogal, an albergue in El Burgo Ranero, whose name is Christian. Christian let me play with his adorable cat and precious kitten as he talked with me about his childhood in Barcelona. Christian told me stories about his time in Spain and I also told him stories and information he wanted to know about America. I am so grateful that I met kind people like Christian and the couple in Hornillos. The locals throughout the region are extremely kind and welcoming, just as they have been throughout this entire journey.
The meseta is very different from both Navarra and La Rioja. The walks through the meseta were not as exciting as when we traveled through other regions. The flat lands, spread out towns, and not so scenic routes did provide me with time to think and reflect though, which was beneficial. When traveling through the other regions we walked on many woodland, populous city paths and we did not walk in shadeless areas or walk up busy roads very frequently. However, when in the meseta, we traveled mostly in shadeless, desolate areas and often traveled up roads and on gravel and cement rather than forest paths. The meseta was not as exciting as the other regions that we walked through, however, even though the land was flat and desolate, it was a vital part of my journey. For me, the meseta represents the times in my life where my faith will run dry, the times where I can’t feel or see God’s presence. The times that I choose to trust in God, and carry on, even when life is difficult. The meseta was just what I needed. The time we spent in the meseta provided me with time to think and reflect on my life. Though mentally and spiritually difficult at times, walking through the meseta enabled me to grow in faith and taught me how to trust in The Lord in a deeper way.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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dinner for 12

Tonight I decided I would cook dinner for myself and a group of 11 other hungry pilgrims. What was on the menu? Bread, wine, balsamic dressed salad, chickpea tomato stew with rice. Pilgrim meals at restaurants typically cost anywhere from €7.50-€15.00. But my meal ended up costing only €2.50 per person!
Friends helped me chop up the vegetables for the salad, which was so great. The kitchen was a bit overwhelming and crowded, as many other pilgrims hustled about the kitchen trying to prepare their own meals, but I’m used to cooking amongst a crowd as I have 7 others in my family plus brother and sister in laws, nieces and nephews.
After the meal was prepared, we all sat together, held hands, and I led us all in prayer before we began our meal.
I loved the fact that our table was filled with so many people from various nations. America, Germany, France, Denmark, and Croatia. Though we all come from different backgrounds and countries, we’re all so similar, each holding hands in prayer, each sharing a meal, each on a journey, each on The Camino.
My meal was received with thanks and so much love. I didn’t even have to lift a finger to clean up, as they all cleaned up and let me relax.
Tonight was amazing and I could not be more thankful for the time spent with my Camino family. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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a sunflower dream

Yesterday when walking we came upon a beautiful field of sunflowers! It was a dream. Sunflowers are my absolute favorite flower. To me, they represent pure happiness. Today we’re in Mansilla de Las Mulas, at a great municipal albergue. My dear friend Elida from Croatia surprised us here and we’re going to walk together to Leon tomorrow. Today was a great, quick walk of 11.5 miles and tomorrow is about the same distance. I’m throughly enjoying every second here and welcoming every step with bliss. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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images from today

Today we walked more than 19 miles from Terradillo de Los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero. The walk was great, but the last five miles were mentally rough. Me and my friend Hannah both pulled each other through and we made it to the city by around 2:30pm. We’re staying at an adorable albergue called El Nogal. I made a salad with fresh veggies, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, white asparagus, and tomatoes for a few friends and I for dinner, it was so refreshing after a somewhat mentally strenuous day. I’m really starting to get to know and love all of the group members from my university that I’ve been traveling with, each person adds something extremely special to this group. Though this is an individual journey, it’s so amazing to experience all of this together. I wouldn’t want to change one thing. Tomorrow we have a shorter hiking day, 12 miles. Then on Thursday we head to Leon, for two rest days. I’m excited for Leon because some of my pilgrim friends are waiting for my group in Leon and we’ll all be together again on Thursday. I love my Camino family, I love my Camino. A few pictures from my travels today are below. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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250 miles

Here I sit in my albergue in yet another town. I sit and reflect today, as I do everyday, yet in a new light. Today marks the half way point of my journey on the Camino.
250 miles down, 250 more to go.
These towns, these people, these thoughts, are all indescribable.
It’s difficult to put into words how my journey on the Camino has been thus far. So many thoughts, too many feelings.
This trip has already changed my outlook on life, on God, on myself. It has already matured me more than I ever imagined it would.
It has been so special to meet people, hear their stories and share my own experiences.
Every pilgrim I have encountered has had a different reason for being on this journey; different intentions and expectations. Last night when I was at a gathering led by augustine nuns in my hostel, all other pilgrims present and myself were asked to explain why we decided to walk the Camino.
When the question was asked, though at one point I would have known the answer, I then, was answerless.
I thought to myself “Why am I here?” Yet, no answer was made clear in my mind. When it was my turn to answer the said question, I answered that I chose to go on this journey to “walk the paths that thousands have walked before me, in pursuit of deeper faith”. I think that would be my answer if asked again. I know I am here to journey on, to move forward, to begin a new chapter in my life.
A chapter of growth, of depth.
One without the pain of the past holding me back.
I moved forward from my past and have been healed from old wounds for quite some time. This journey I am on, however, is almost a symbolic journey of moving forward, alike with the literal way I moved forward in the past.
So, what have I been thinking about these past 250 miles?
While walking, whether alone or with other pilgrims, my thoughts seem to stream in from all directions. People say this portion of the journey is more of a mental struggle, I’d definitely agree with that. Walking through the Meseta has been a new kind of experience for me. The beautiful mountain, rolling hill, and vineyard filled landscapes I once traveled through, have been replaced with shadeless, wheat-filled, flat lands. I am so thankful that the past few days have been somewhat cooler and less sunny because I have heard the horror stories of pilgrims walking through the Meseta in dry heat, which I have not had to do. A few days back, I did get ill from dehydration but I pushed through and now my body feels great. Many of my group members are suffering from pulled muscles and tendons, somehow this far I have had no ailments, it may be as a result of my training for the trip. Blisters? Not many, I have had one, but it’s nothing to complain about. Even though my body feels great, sometimes my mind and my thoughts get the best of me.
For me, the Camino is too spiritual for music, but there have definitely been days where music has pulled me through the last three miles. Typically I am either having deep conversations with others on the trail or overtaken with thoughts as I walk on. I travel with a walking stick in hand on these old, Roman, gravel roads. The Camino has given me the opportunity to literally think through everything in my life, past and present.
To believe in God is easy for me, just as easy as it is to look at the earth and to see beauty.
When I look at the complexities within nature, from a simple flower petal to the beautiful landscapes I travel through, I cannot see how some cannot see the existence of something greater. When talking with a friend about God a few days ago, he questioned my beliefs, as he did so, I answered and questioned myself as well. To question for me is not to doubt the truth of my beliefs, but instead to make sure that I can rationally explain and defend them.
My friend questioned, is the God that created such beauty like nature, the same God that allows people to have violent tendencies, to kill, to test one another, to suffer? Is all the pain in the world just the result of free-will being acted upon? Some question, why a loving God would put millions upon millions of individuals on earth for an insignificant second compared to the endlessness of eternity, in order for them to be tested and punished if they choose to go against their creator?
I don’t have the answers and I don’t understand many things.
The more I think, the less I know, yet my faith never ceases.
But, I do in fact know that the God that I believe in is good, holy, and is just, not manufactured by man, therefore is full of mystery and cannot be understood completely. The previous questions I addressed are questions that I ask myself often, but then I realize I won’t ever know many of their answers. I know that God is good and that people are imperfect thus we are not able to fully comprehend something that is not imperfect.
Yesterday, when walking with my professor, he said that some people are born to blindly believe; some simply accept faith, God, and the Bible, without even questioning the problem of pain or suffering. While others, God makes to be questioners, to look at things more analytically, to see things in a deep way, to need a justifiable reason to believe in something. He said he believes I am one of the people God that has been given the gift of thought. He said a questioning spirit is both a gift and at times seems like a curse, but I long to be rational, to question.
Because I am consumed by doubt at times, it does not mean that I am not just as consumed by faith. I believe that faith and doubt cannot exist without one another, that they coincide. Without doubt where would my faith be? It would be a lie. I am a born skeptic, I will not blindly believe in something simply because it sounds appealing or will give me a warm feeling inside. I don’t believe that faith is something that should be expressed or experienced only in feelings. Spirituality and faith are far deeper than feelings, far too deep to be proven. It’s like asking me to prove that hope or love exists. Though they are not tangible, or provable, I know they do exist, I also know that many of you believe they exist as well.
I believe in depth, I believe in questioning and thinking. It’s through my questions that my faith has been made deeper.
I want to seek. I desire to know truth. I crave it with all of my existence.
So, as I walk on, I will continue to think and to question, but above all else, I will continue to hold onto my faith.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

burgos cathedral

The cathedral Our Lady of Burgos is an absolute must see if you are visiting Burgos. The rich history and gothic architecture is absolutely unreal. This cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary was completed in 1567 and was added to the World Heritage List in 1984.
This beautiful church is filled with paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, and various tombs of many famous saints.
Here are a few photos from my visit last week:

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words

Words. How powerful they are. Few things have the ability to change people the way words do. For the past few years I have been striving to make sure that everything I say is meaningful, that every word I express has purpose.
During my first week on the Camino, a few individuals in my group decided to articulate one word that describes their journey. One word that explains what they stand for. One word that expresses who they are. Moreover, one word that illustrates who they aspire to be.
When asked to come up with a word for myself, one word came into my mind instantly.
Simplicity.
I aspire to lead a simple life; to be a minimalist, to stop longing for material objects. I typically over-analyze everything I am confronted with, I want to stop making life so complicated for myself.
I desire to eat simply and to lead a healthy, vegan life. Organic, raw fruits and vegetables are prime examples of simple eating.
Moreover, I long to have simple, child-like faith in God and humanity.
As I continue on my journey I will strive to see the world more simply and to be purposeful in all that I say and do.
I hope that we never forget the impact that our words can have on the world. For, words are only words, but their power and influence is immeasurable.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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stopping to smell the flowers and pick some cherries

Stopping to smell the flowers and pick some cherries.
That’s how I’ve decided to do the Camino. At first, without knowing it, I raced through my days on the Camino. Within the first week, however, I realized that I should walk slower and take time to enjoy good conversation, stop for coffee along the way, and learn to relax.
I am a very high strong, over active, individual. I am not good at relaxing or thinking simply whatsoever.
I have learned how to relax on this trip and to indulge in the richness of every moment as I take in the beautiful scenery around me. Some of my favorite moments on the Camino have been when I have visited various churches along the way. Every church, I have noticed, is so unique and beautiful. Most churches are adorned with gold alters and molding and have gorgeous stained glass; without stopping this would all go unnoticed to me.
I think the same goes for life. Let’s all take the time to pick some cherries, enjoy our scenic routes, and engage in meaningful conversations.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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