October 14th, 2013
A couple of days ago on the Camino a pilgrim walking next to us stopped suddenly, gasped, and put his hand over his mouth, then cried, "I forgot to pay for breakfast! I´ve got to go back and pay for breakfast!" But the town was 10 km behind us already. "But I´m not the kind of person who would do that!" Though none of us knew this man, who turned out to be from Portland, Oregon, we all agreed that of course he wasn´t the kind of person who would do that. "It´s just so hard to pay here," he sighed, and we all agreed with him on that, too. The Spanish food service workers are the hardest workers we´ve ever seen, and we´ve seen one person in a cafe or bar working as waiter, cook, busperson, and cashier. They just seem too busy to worry about getting paid! Typically, you´ll order your food at the bar, then when it arrives at the bar, you´d be glad to carry it to your table, but the over-worked waiter insists on carrying it to your table for you. You try to pay as soon as you´ve recieved your food but the waiter won´t have it, saying, "despues, despues!" (Later, later!). He or she will never bring you a bill,when you´re done you have to go back to the bar and try to get his or her attention, then tell him or her what you had, then he or she will add it up and tell you what you owe. If you try to leave a tip they´ll think you´re a confused foreigner who´s overpaying and they´ll try to set you straight. I´ve learned to force the tip issue in Spanish! So then last night we stayed halfway down the mountain in the town of Acebo, where we stayed at El Meson Acebo for 5 euros each. It was a small albergue with 18 beds pushed close togehter in a small room, but, unlike the night before, this time the room felt crowded as opposed to cozy! But the friendly and very considerate pilgrims made it all good. And the albergue had a nice bar and restaurant downstairs, so that was good, too. The only thing was, the hallway between the dorm and the bar (the bar also served as reception area) was kind of turny and confusing, so when I was trying ot return to the bar from the dorm with a bag of dirty laundry to give to the hospitaliera/waitress/bartender/cook/laundress I got confused, and as I was standing in this hall way wondering which way to go the aforementioned lady came rushing by me with an armful of wet laundry. As she rushed by she told me to just leave my laundry there, she´d take care of it. I called after her, asking if I should pay now. "Despues, despues!" she called back. A little later while once again wandering cluelessly aorund the building I happend to pass the laundry room where she was shoving some laundry into a washer. I asked her if I should leave the money for the laundry service at the bar. Without looking over her shoulder she cried, "Tranquila! Tranquila!" (Relax! Relax!) I could just hear her thinking, "Geez, what´s with this annoying OCD American lady? All she ever wants to do is pay me!" Tom and I ate the 10-euro pilgrim meal at the restaurant that evening. We both started with the trout soup - huge delicious bowls of soup that we swore had a whole cut-up trout in each bowl! After I´d mopped up the last drop with two pieces of bread I was too stuffed to move, talk, even think, let alone eat one bite of the steak and fries I´d ordered for the next course - unti lI saw the steak! It was rare and juicy, and the friench fries cried out to be dipped in the juice from the meat. So of course I had to eat every bite, and even rose to the occasion to finish off the vanilla pudding for dessert. Tom´s second course was trout and ham: a whole trout, head, bones, and all, stuffed with a piece of ham, which got rave reviews from Tom. He finished off with strawberry ice cream. But here´s the punchline, which actually happened at the beginning of the meal, when the same laundry-lady came to take our order: she placed a hand gently on my shoulder and before she took our order said, kindly and patienly as you would to a child: "Now don´t worry, you can pay for your laundry when you pay for your meal." I felt like the sheepish-est pilgrim on the Camino. Until the next morning, when a soft-spoken, middle-aged pilgrim from Massachusetts tried to pay for her breakfast when it was set on the bar in front of her. The same waitress/everything else shooed her over to a table then grabbed the woman´s food before the woman dared to try to bring it to her table herself, thus committing the faux-pas of trying to save the worker a few moments and a few steps. The Massachusetts woman, duely chastized, turned to me and said, "It´s just that I like to pay for the food as soon as I get it." I agreed sypathetically. Yesterday climbing up and down the mountain the views were spectacular, mountains beyond mountains beyond mountains, but today while finishing our climb down the mountain we saw a phenomenon that I´d read about in the guide book: cloud islands. This happens when the tops of the mountains appear above a vast cloud cover, so it looks as if the mountain tops are volcanic islands in a white, foamy sea. It was spectacular! Other sections of the downhill climb were very treacherous (for me, at least), over sheer rock, and at another part the path was so narrow with the bushes so close along the path that, with the velvet-green mountians rising up on the right and in front of us, I imagined that we were trekking through a mountain jungle - if there existed a jungle with 50-degree weather! Anyway, we did make it to the bottom of the mountain and walked a total of 17 km to the industrial city of Ponferrada where we´re staying in the only albergue in the city, the San Nicholas de Flue, where for a donation(we gave 10 euros) we have a room in the basement, which would be all right if all the bathrooms weren´t on the first floor! But I guess it´s all right anyway. Everyone have a wonderful day! Love, Patti 8)
10/14/2013 06:50:11 am
Sounds spectactular - I can't imagine how amazing it must be.
1/30/2020 04:04:52 am
If you want to get better at this, then you just need to keep on practicing. I know that it is a tall task to accomplish, but I really do feel like you can do it. I mean, if you are not able to do it, then that is just a waste. If you can help me do it, then please, be great to me. I hope that we can start making better things, and just be great at what we do.
10/15/2013 12:31:42 pm
Your posts are always upbeat and positive, so when you wrote your descent was trecherous I was startled. But you obviously maintained your footing --and humor!
3/18/2020 07:16:23 am
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My husband Tom and I will be walking the 490.7-mile Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago, Spain. We leave Columbus 9/11/13 and return 10/30/13. God willing.
The sequel to "Equal and Opposite Reactions" in which a woman discovers the naked truth about herself.
by Patti Liszkay
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A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library