Jeff needed to head to Cordoba to pick something up. Something that couldn’t be shipped. And he asked me if I wanted to tag along. Heck yeah! Being an American, and that long road trips are in our DNA, I had my bag packed in 5 minutes and was waiting by the front door at … Read more We Just Popped Down to Cordoba
Today was a day. A monumental day. Jeff got the vaccine. And we did a few other things, too. It started out early, and only 6 hours later we were home again. I like to be early to things. To me, being late is disrespectful and just plain dumb. The early bird catches the worm. … Read more The Beginning of the End
Under the heading of ‘What can go wrong, will go wrong’, the last 12 hours have been interesting. It felt a little like we were Tina Fey and Steve Carell in the movie ‘Date Night’. How can so many things stack up against you? We were spending a quiet evening at home watching ‘Drunk History’ … Read more The Hooker and a Bone Scan
I’ve been told I have a ‘Justice Complex’. But I figure if there is one complex to have, justice is not a bad one. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s bullies and boundary-crossers. People who think it’s OK to intentionally make other people’s lives less wonderful, and sometimes much harder, than they need to be. And I just won’t have it. Read more I’m Probably Going to Hell for This
When we moved to Valencia, everything was different. I felt so bombarded by the differences that any subtlety or shades of grey were completely missed. The things we were dealing with were all primary colors and right in our faces. Now that we’ve lived in Spain for 16 months, I notice other things. Jeff talked … Read more The Power of Disconnection
Hi! I’m Kelli. In 2017, my daughter and I walked the Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied-de-Port nestled in the French Pyrenees, 800 km to Santiago de Compostela in A Coruna , Spain. The adventure was transformational and moving to Spain with my husband, Jeff, was the logical next step. Except, well, stop right there! Because it wasn’t that easy. Read more About Kelli
Jeff had a great idea. Recap, succinctly, all the things we learned(so far) in our move to, and settling into, Spain. Not that I don’t want someone to read my entire Blog, but if they really wanted to suss out the pertinent info, it might be a rather time consuming undertaking. Lets face it, some of it is just plain nonsense too.Read more Lessons Learned – Spain
We’ve experienced so many new and wonderful things since moving to Valencia, I thought I would begin to make sense of it all in a ‘The Best of…’ section. Easy to pull out by category and hopefully provide some quick tips, whether visiting Spain (Valencia in particular) or moving here.Read more The Best of Valencia
Send reinforcements! Sundays are supposed to be quiet on the Camino. But they just keep coming over the wall. I’ve tried everything! The waffles and bowls of oatmeal are flying. But the demand for avocado toast is out flanking the troops. And breakfast beers? Oof! We’ve run out of the cold ones and have had to break out the breakfast cider. Send more cold beer!
Luckily, the French troops are more amenable.
‘You want a cerveza, correct?’ I asked one of their Generals. But he just scoffed – as only the French can.
‘A bit early for a beer, don’t you think?’ he chided me.
‘So wine, then? You are French.’
He smiled. ‘Of course.’ He is civilized, after all.
I wish I was a Hindu Gods – Shiva or Kali (not just little old Kelli). I could use the extra arms today.
I’m sad to report that I accidentally drank caffeinated instead of decaf this morning, dear family, and am suffering the nasty after effects. Please ask Aunt Sally to send Camomile tea – STAT! And some soothing lavender essential oils to calm the waters and my caffeinated nervous system.
I must go. The lull in the fighting is over. I can hear their sticks clicking the pavement like the drums of war. My heart beats out of my chest, hoping none of them want a cold cerveza 🍺. Please let them be French 🇫🇷
Pray for me, dear ones, as I reenter the fray. War is hell! 😉
This day began after a deep sleep. Surprising even me. Especially since the Amish barn raising that was hooking up the electrical, the water, and tuning the coffee machine lasted until 8pm last night. Our yard was full of trucks. I just had to watch and wait. And it all worked out. Trenches were dug. pipe was laid I love out contractor’s crew. They had all kinds of suggestion about the food truck. Then they reinforced my countertops, unbidden. When I thanked them, they just shrugged. ‘We feel like this is our food truck ,too. We couldn’t let it stay like that.’
After all this activity, Jeff and I went for a long walk down country lanes. It was just what the Dr ordered. I slept like a baby. So much so that Jeff had to wake me up after my alarm on my phone was going off without me hearing it. The calm before the storm. But not such a storm, afterall. No major eruptions. It’s the Camino. I was cool as a cucumber. And, it was a relatively quiet day this morning. The least number of Pilgrims we’ve had since a Wednesday in March. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are our busy days. I figured opening on a Friday would allow me to ease into it. Turns out, I was more right than I knew.
It was a strange day, traffic wise. Usually, our busy time is between 8-noon. But today it wasn’t anything like that. The morning was a bit slow. Then, as the temperature heated up, the trail did too. Of course, we had people from all over the world. It was great to hear people’s stories of their Camino(s). And to watch a group of cyclists go by – then turn around and come back to order coffees. A hundred people came in to take photos. And Irish lady told me that walking through our gate is like a warm hug. ‘I told my friend. You just feel it.’
As you would expect, it was a day of mistakes. Not the least of which was when I forgot to bring the cash from the house and put it in the cash drawer. So funny. There were other things , too. They seems so obvious now. But, I also got a lot of stuff right. Mostly, I nailed it. Ha!
There were highlights. I loved meeting these two women from Saudi Arabia.They stopped at the gate to take photos. After I asked where they were from and greeted them with a ‘Salam alaikum’, they sat down for a beverage and a chat. We had some things in common. They had studied in the US. It’s just a reminder that the Camino transcends religion (or lack thereof), or country of origin. The experience is transformational, no matter where you come from.
A group of ladies who wear their South African pride without apology are life goals. Happy Pilgrims!
By 1pm it was winding down. The first day was in the bag, as I locked up and took the dirty dishes inside to get everything ready for tomorrow. But before that, I put my feet up and thought about food for the first time today. Suddenly, I was hungry.
Just then, my phone rang. Looking at the screen, I saw it was from a number in Beverly Hills, California. Hmm… I don’t know anyone who lives in Beverly Hills anymore. I considered ignoring it because I get scam calls all the time. But then I remembered those are on my US phone. So I went ahead and answered it. What happened next was interesting.
‘Are you open?’ asked the voice on the other end.
‘Excuse me?’ I asked. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘We are sitting at your tables and you look like you are closed.’
Well, I was closed. I went out the front door onto the patio with the phone to my ear. They waved and I walked over.
‘I’m sorry. But we are closed.’
The woman looked a bit disconcerted. ‘We need some vegetarian food.’ she pointed to a very skinny boy next to her, who looked shy. He reminded me of our eldest son, Ryan. ‘You are listed in Google as vegetarian. Is there any way we can get something?’
I looked at the boy and then back at the woman. I couldn’t let him go hungry. ‘Of course. Give me a moment.’ I ran back and got the keys to the food truck, put on some shoes, then went back outside. ‘What can I get you?’
The boy whispered what he wanted and she passed along the information to me. ‘Two avocado toasts and some hot oatmeal. Fruit squeezers, Pineapple juice. And water.’
Those, I could do. Oatmeal has been a big hit on this hot day. Yeah, I know, even I was surprised. As I was whipping it all up, two cyclists rolled up. (Psst.. I’m closed). But they just wanted grilled cheeses sandwiches and orange juice. So I fired up the grill. Again.
As I was grilling the sandwiches, another pilgrim showed up. She saw us on FB and wanted a cold beer. ‘One beer, coming up!’ Easy.
I served the woman and the boy their avocado toast. Then, another pilgrim came through the gate (Remember – I’m closed, right?) . She wanted a waffle. I turned on the waffle machine, then served the grilled sandwiches and orange juices.
The waffle Pilgrim was from Scappoose, Oregon. She saw my coffee sign and we chatted a bit about growing up in Oregon. Her waffle done, I scooped the butter and put some blueberries on to it, along with some real Canadian maple syrup. Note – I still have not eaten myself yet.
The woman and the boy were now joined by a large group of other kids from Los Angeles. They bought some other stuff. Then they wanted some hot popcorn. Hot food on a hot day – curious. A crowd of pilgrims at a very hot 3 in the afternoon was not what I was expecting on my first day out, Based on our previous experience of Camino traffic, there should be no Pilgrims after 1pm. Or very few.
I refilled water bottle with a little fresh squeezed lemon. It helps with the hydration.
Finally, they were all on their way. I waved goodbye, then cleaned up, again, and made my way into the house. Smiling and sweaty. An unusual but surprisingly good day. So many people just coming into the gate to take videos or photos. And to tell me how lovely they felt just standing there and looking at the scenery. One person smiled ‘It’s very calming here.’ It might sound unbelievable, but it’s true. I heard it so many times today, from so many different countries. Before we moved here I had never experienced this with strangers at my home. I know we can’t fix other people. And we can’t expect them to fix us. But something magical happens when like minded, positive people gather. The energy and acceptance is contagious. One of the women I met today sent me a message later. ‘I saw my dream alive today.’ Who knew a simple food truck and a sometimes, at least lately, scatterbrained American could be a part of something so transformational? This is just the first day. It makes me wonder what day two has in store for me, and the Pilgrims who are on their way here.
Why does everything always come down to the wire? Why? But it’s Murphy s Law, isn’t it? I should have been ready for it.
I had today mapped out. I am baking today. That’s pretty much all I needed to do. I had driven into Santiago yesterday and applied for the final CASH supplier (food wholesalers). These are all over the place. I starred with the one in Melide. It took three trips to become a member allowed to shop there. Every time they wanted more and more documents. And horn of a unicirn. I’ve submitted less paperwork to attend University.
Then I went to the one in Lugo. Apparently they needed a set of different documents- and leprechaun tears. My gestor just shook his head every time I came to his office. ‘I need Modelo blah blah blah, now.’
Finally, he made me four full copies of my entire business file. ‘Just in case you want to shop at another place.’ Ruben has a dry sense of humor.
I had to go to the Mercadona in Santiago, anyway. So I could relieve them of their entire stock of frozen berries. Smoothies. 🙄 So I decided to go to the new Cash Galicia up the street. I had my four copies in my plastic folder. I was ready.
The entrance was festooned with yellow Camino arrows so I took it as a good sign. I waited in line for the checker to apply for permission before I shopped. I had a pen at the ready. I’m no newbie to this wholesale food supply business. But I would be thoroughly disappointed.
The guy nodded. asked me my business name, my NIF #, and my address. Then, just my first name. That was it. He didn’t ask for leprechaun tears (I had those too). Nor the molting of the rare, almost mythical, Asturian yak. It was a completely verbal transaction. My mouth hung agape. I wanted to yell at him. ‘Do you know where we are right now!!! This is Spain, for godsake! At least do me the courtesy of miming me some bureaucracy. I went to some effort here. Frown at my documents. Act like I’m not worthy. Make me sweat a little. Take my papers to your supervisor and act exasperated. Come on, man. Make an effort!’ But no. Afterwards, I wandered away, a little lost. I don’t know if I can shop in a place that doesn’t put their back into some good pointless bureaucracy.
And Then I Woke Up Today
We are stocked with food to get us through the weekend. Unless this enterprise is crazy busy. I took a conservative approach. I can always bake more tomorrow afternoon.
Then I checked the credit card reader. I should charge it so it’s ready tomorrow. But, it turns out, they gave me the wrong cord to charge it and we don’t have the right cord here. Never mind. I had to go to the bank anyway. I need cash to fill the cash drawer.
On the way to the car, we had some Pilgrims from California waiting. They had heard us on a podcast and stopped to say ‘Hi.’ So nice of them. Then three young Spanish kids walked in. Tired and hungry. I explained that we are not open, but I felt bad so I gave them a loaf of zucchini bread and some bananas. Hugged the Americans. They all wanted photos. Then Jeff and I hopped in the car towards town.
Yesterday was a holiday in Galicia. San Pedro. Saint Peter. So the bank today had a line of 100 people. I kid you not. And ONE teller. The rest are on vacation. Here, there is no merchant window for businesses. You just go and take a number. You have a big sack of cash to deposit? So, what! You will stand there with every one else.
After I sent Jeff to a cafe to get a Coke and warned him he might have to apply for retirement by the time I got out of the bank, I sat down and waited. And waited. Finally, my turn came. And you know what I learned? You have to order your cash the day before! But the day before was a bank holiday. I needed to go on Tuesday.
I begged, I pleaded. I threw myself on the mercy of the court. Actually, I explained that I’m a dumb American with a new business, have no idea how this all works, and tomorrow I am opening. She nodded. She’s seen this movie before. She went to the bank manager, who couldn’t be bothered to emerge from his office to help her with the 100 customers in line. He knows us. He gave us umbrellas when we git our business loan. He looked out of his office and nodded. Then he approved my extraordinary receipt of non-preordered cash from my account.
Louis Vuitton was not happy carrying such a heavy load. Then I told her I needed a charger for my bank card machine. But she shook her head. It must be ordered. They will telephone in 10 days when it comes in. I could feel the pulse throbbing in the vein in my forehead. I looked back. The angry bank mob would eat me for second breakfast if I dallied further. The teller was at the end with me.
I slung my bag over my shoulder. Then found Jeff at the cafe. He looked older since the last time I had seen him. We drove home. I texted Diego, our contractor. I need water and power. He texted back with a frowny face. No no no. No frowny faces today!. ‘I come to you so we can talk.’ I didn’t take it ask a good sign.
We pulled up and we had another American Pilgrim, Maggie, waiting to say ‘Hi.’ Just then, Diego pulled in with his guys. So I left Maggie to deal with our power and water frowny face. It turns out that the frowny face isn’t so much about the power and water. And more about the bureaucracy of our solar panels and the patromonio. And Diego wanted to supply me with paperwork from the regulations for the Xunta de Galicia, so that when the police come – and they will come – we can show them the regulations that say we don’t need anyone to certify us because we are a mobile business. Not such a frowny face. I signed a bunch of things and now the plumber and electrician are here working. Whew!
Our liability insurance was finally issued today. The certificate arrives within the hour.
The coffee machine didn’t show. But the guy is coming at 4pm to give me a loaner until next Tuesday, when it arrives from Italy. Apparently, the delay was the world coffee making championships in Italy last week. Of course it was. He is throwing in some cups and saucers as a ‘lo siento.’ Which is fine.
I started baking and making some waffles. Jeff is eating my mistakes.
It was then that I realized I still had the number of the bankcard machine guy in my WhatApp history from when he dropped it off. So I pinged him with a photo and a ‘por favor…’ He just knocked on the kitchen window scaring me to death as I am baking things for tomorrow. Now I have the charger and, voila! My bankcard machine is working.
We still have our list of things to do before I fall into bed at midnight, exhausted after a day of a million little heart attacks. But tomorrow, it will all be worth it.
Just because we are crazy busy with our own concerns, that doesn’t mean we don’t have commitments we need to keep. And today I woke up bright and early and hopped in the saddle, again. Well, really on to the mower and I drove it down the road to our neighbor, Marie Carmen’s house.
We missed mowing last week because of all the rain. And her yard had exploded! It was a jungle. Jeff followed with the weed wacker and we knocked it out. I waited until 9:30, but I still woke her up. I wonder if she had a rough night. She cares for her husband, who has had a severe stroke. She heard the mower and opened the gate.
I made quick work of it. Then she signaled I should stop the mower. For our efforts today she awarded me with a giant zucchini. Then she took me to the barn. One of her barn cats had a litter of kittens. And they are ready to find new homes. She picked up a little one and gave her to me. So now apparently, I’m paid in zucchinis and kittens😃
Meet Lulu. She is so cute and talks a lot! Like most tabby cats. It’s taken all day, and some heavy cream, to coax her out from my rolled up yoga mat. It’s warm here today but I am under this throw to encourage her to calm down. It’s been a rough day for her. She misses her mama.
I had other fish to fry. Especially since I have that giant zucchini. Time to start tightening up my recipes. And at the sane time, I need to bake my socks off to fill up that pastry display on the food truck. And what do you do with a giant zucchini? Gluten-free Zucchini Bread with oat milk and walnuts! You can’t get much more farm-to-table than zucchini from the farm next door.
It turned out pretty good. And the house smelled like heaven. The recipe makes four loaves. Warm from the oven and spread with butter, 😋 Jeff gave his stamp of approval. I filled a plate and took it down the road to Marie Carmen. Oops! I sometimes forget that people here might be asleep after lunch. I woke her up, again!
Then I came home to work on my Smoothie game. I’ll be using frozen berries in the biz, but today I only had fresh raspberries. After a run to the Gadis for a car load of ice, I whipped up a raspberry/banana smoothie.
Jeff tested this one and had some suggestions. I’ll make a few more before the big show on Friday. Tomorrow is waffle and pancake day. We will both be 300lbs by the time we open. But, oh well.
My next breakfast bread will be the world’s best banana bread. And I’m making some yummy protein bars. Oh yeah, and my famous chocolate chip cookies. All gluten-free. But you’d never know it. 😉
Gotta go! There are flower pots to fill while there is still daylight. 😎🌻
Crazy busy right now. But wanted to post some pics of our progress towards opening this coming Friday.
I still have some trees and flowers to pot. And some table cloths to secure. And, well…- a million other things. But it’s starting to come together.
Here’s hoping Pilgrims like the selection so far. Following the old software development KISS approach. Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s stood me in good stead all these years. 🤞We will menu edit, and add as we go along.
All our new appliances were delivered last week and Jeff and I have sent loads of barn debris/garbage to the punto limpio (garbage transfer station) in Palas. The barn has been totally cleaned out and pressure washed. New shelves are up and all the vertical space is being put to good use. But there were some hidden treasures in the barn, as well. I found some cool old benches. A little TLC and some elbow grease later, they are out by the tables. I know when I walk, I don’t want to set my pack on wet grass. Jeff will make a sign Mochilas/Packs Aqui. But his new CNC machine has a problem with the motherboard. They are sending another. So we are dead in the water on all the signs, and stencils for the food truck logo, etc. But we will survive. I’m focused on go-live. Version 2.0 can wait.
For those living in Spain, or Galicia in particular, do you know what this is?
We found this in the barn. I think it’s kind of cool but we don’t know what it is. Am I supposed to spin the thing in front and ask the frog for three wishes? Cause I have a few of those queued up.
We had a ton of people come in today hoping we were open. Even had Pilgrims knock on the front door. Holy moly, they scared me as I was in the kitchen conducting experiments. ‘Do you have rooms left. We would love to stay here.’ They asked in a very French accent. They looked tired. I hated turning them away, pointing up to the next village. ‘I’m sorry. We won’t be able to accept guests for a few more months.’ A good omen for when the cabins are built. Come on, turismo and patromonio, give us your approval for all the construction, already. 🙄
But we are focusing on what we can do. The entire neighborhood was looking in today, including the guy who owns the big cafe up the road. We are creating a hullabaloo. But we aren’t serving anything they serve. I know avocado toast and a soy chai lattes aren’t on their menu.
We are live on Facebook @HappinessCafeontheCamino
And on Instagram @happinessonthecamino
And we officially show up on Google Maps, which kind of freaks me out a little. Google has verified we are officially the owners of this food truck. I am not sure how they accomplished this ‘verification’. Perhaps they called the corporate offices of Happiness Enterprises – our parent company. 😉 I hate that they put the pin in the middle of the property and not on the road by the gate. But, at least it’s there.
Tired. So tired. But happy, and we are in the home stretch. This week is full of delivery trucks and trips to Lugo and Santiago. But I can see the starting line up ahead, which just proves it. On the Camino, wishes really do come true.
Something happened last evening that I want to mark.
Yesterday was a strange day. I wrote about some of in the last post. We were inundated with Pilgrims, even though we were selling nothing and have little to offer right now. But it reminded me of last summer when there were no beds and people came and camped in our yard. We weren’t selling anything then, either. But people came and we got to hear their stories. And yesterday, when there were breaks in the crowds of Pilgrims, I was able to speak to some – always long haulers – who shared their Caminos with me. And they talked about the grieving process of being just two days away from Santiago.
It was a lovely day, when the river of positivity that runs perpetually past our gate for 8-9 months a year invited us to jump in and swim in it. For just a bit. It’s like a baptism every time. You emerge energized and grateful for the experience. Jeff and I reflected upon it throughout the day.
Last evening, we decided to head into town. We can get gluten-free pizza prepared by Greek immigrants in Melide. And it’s really good. We ordered an Athena pizza, then sat down over our drinks, waiting for it to come out. At one point, we had to move tables as a group of very rowdy teenagers behind me were so loud I couldn’t hear Jeff speaking. It turned out to be a blessing. Because of this we met Alejandra, a Mexican peregrina walking the Way. She started in Sarria and was in terrible pain. And she struck up a conversation with Jeff.
‘I don’t know what to do. I know I only started in Sarria. But my legs are killing me.’
So many Sarria walkers feel the need to almost apologize for just walking from Sarria.
Jeff smiled. ‘You’re on day 3. That’s the worst day.’
Alejandra appeared skeptical.
‘I see these people that have walked from France.’ She told us, rubbing her leg. ‘They are flying. They don’t look like they hurt at all.’
Again, Jeff smiled. ‘They looked and felt like you feel now, 30 days ago in the Pyrenees before Pamplona. You will likely just be getting past this by the time you reach Santiago. Everyone goes through the same thing. No matter where they start.’
This seemed to make her feel better. Then we asked her about how a lady from Mexico City was here walking a Camino. It was an amazing story about having a vision from her deceased sister. She always felt that ‘someday’ she would walk the Camino. But the vision of her sister told her to go now. So she left everything and flew to Spain.
She cried telling us what this walk has done for her. The time to focus. To let things, the heavy things of life, fall away. To see miracles in the small moments on this walk. And to learn to appreciate the littlest things. A chair or a wall, upon which to rest. A water fountain when her bottle has run dry. Encouragement from another pilgrim.
I was impressed. Often, those of us who have walked ‘the whole thing’ often believe that walking from Sarria doesn’t allow for the type of spiritual or personal transformation that we have experienced over weeks and weeks of walking. But this woman dispels that myth. Caminos take many forms. A Camino with an open heart is all that is required to work it’s magic.
She asked us about how we ended up here in Spain. People we meet here always do. We told her the abbreviated version. Our own story bores us now. But she was intrigued, and we talked a bit about our plans for our food truck, the cabins and the free camping. How it was born last summer when beds were scarce. She was amazed.
‘And you didn’t speak any Spanish when you moved here?’
I smiled. ‘Barely a few words.’
‘But you came anyway. And now you are helping Pilgrims. God has called you.’
We finished up our pizza and said our goodbyes. Jeff went to pay but our new mexicana friend surprised us. She had paid for our meal! Then she hugged us both.
‘You are angels. You pass on good things to Pilgrims. And so I am passing this on to you.’
I am not a religious person, but truly, something happens in this place that I can not always explain. And it’s because of this river of positivity on the Camino, that all of this comes our way. Hmm… On second thought, maybe I’m not meant to really figure it out. Maybe we are just meant to accept it, and like Alejandra, pass it on. All with the same open heart.
Over the course of the past few years, I have learned to let go more, and to let things be what they will be. So much of life is not in our control, so pretending we can do something about it is foolish. I just need to surf the wave.
As we inch closer to our 🤞 opening day, we are locking things in. Our big freezer will be delivered today from El Corte Ingles. And they will remove the old one from the barn. I swear, there was a body stored in there at one time in the past. It’s frightening to lift the lid. 😳
The bank tech arrived today and delivered/tested the card machine. I can take cards. We are good to go!
Then I reached out to our coffee supplier. He is also importing the coffee machine from Italy. Sadly, the machine is delayed. ‘Hopefully next week.’ Which is when I am opening- according to our sign. I closed my eyes hearing this. Just breathe thru it. We could open today if we had a coffee machine. The tables and umbrellas are up. The food truck is completely ready to go – sans coffee machine. Just breathe.
Then, this morning I walked outside and we had a full house. We aren’t even open and people came through the gate to sit on our tables by the food truck, and also the Amazon tables we moved in front of the house. It made me smile. They just kept coming. Some people sat on the grass. Others standing around in groups. Students, old people. Groups of women from various countries. Some cyclists. If horses showed up it wouldn’t have surprised me. I would have just said ‘What took you so long?’
I stamped passports as if I were a notaría and these people were buying real estate. We had so much fun and met so many people from all over the world. Jeff just laughed and shook his head. The sun peeked through the clouds and suddenly, water bottle refills were in high demand.
It’s interesting to hear what other people are seeing on the trail. Coming home from my Camino back in April, I practically ran from Palas to our house. Never stopping at another cafe for coffee or a stamp. I wanted to get home to my own bed. But I am hearing from Pilgrims today that people up stream are charging for stamps. €1-2. When I offer our stamp they ask ‘How much?’ I’m sure my confused expression shocks them. Frowning. ‘It’s free. Of course.’ This has meant very quickly a crowd forms. We had a line down road along the hedge at one point. Probably 25-30 Pilgrims waiting for a stamp. I heard one woman tell others passing by, ‘It’s free.’ As if that was a consideration. Others stopped and got in line, too. Like I was at a book signing. I set up a table and Pilgrims became very efficient having their Pilgrims passports open and ready.
‘Aqui?’ I would ask, pointing to an open square.
‘Si’ as I affixed the stamp, then they’d fold it up.
‘Gracias. Your house is beautiful.’ Smiling.
Later, people asked if they could refill their water bottles. We said ‘Of course.’
I just laughed ‘It’s free.’ As another line immediately formed to the spigot on the pump house.
Sure, I am disappointed that our coffee machine is late. I think most pilgrims will want coffee. But, even if it’s not here by next Thursday I think I will open anyway. The carnival atmosphere today lets me know that people on the Camino can live without a coffee stop. But what they really need is the spirit of the Camino without being charged for it.
I have asked Jeff a few times in the last couple of months for reassurance. ‘Do you think I’m crazy to do this? Will anyone even want what I’m selling?’
Usually, he wraps his arms around me. ‘It’s going to be great. And you’re going to do just fine.’
Sure, we are a business. We need to make money. But after today, I think he’s right. Because, along with the coffees and the pancakes, we are giving away a healthy dose of kindness. For free. I am so glad to know we are living up to the Happiness part of our name. And now, I see how much value that really has. Something money can not buy. Priceless.
As a teenager, my brother offered little advice as I navigated my way towards adulthood. I was not his favorite person after I usurped his position as the baby of the family. But there was one thing I could count on. He would defend me to anyone outside the family who he perceived meant me harm. I won’t pretend to understand him and this weird cognitive dissonance. But I appreciated what passed for him caring about me. Even if it just came in brief flashes.
When the time came for boys to begin to call, my brother, surprisingly, took a keen interest. I think he viewed my reputation as an extension of his own. Thus his role in the vetting of any potential boyfriend would naturally fall to him. I remember when the first boy asked me out, my brother approached him in the halls at school. Since we were mere sophomores and my brother was a senior, he held the high ground.
‘When you pick my sister up, you come to the door and knock. If you honk the horn and expect her to come out, you’ll be waiting a long time. Show some respect.’
And to me he laid down the law. ‘You will not go out with anyone who doesn’t come to the door.’
The first boy was intimidated by my brother, who would later become a director of rather dark films. Even back then he knew how to frighten people.
Since we moved to the farm I think of my brother almost every day when a horn honks at the gate. But not because I’m going out on dates. It’s because everyone who drives through the gate, for nearly any reason, honks their horn. Correos, DHL, GLS. Seur, and on and on. Including rando taxis delivering Amazon orders. It’s a thing, summoning you outside. I’m used to it now.
But today it was a strange car. It pulled in and stopped out by the food truck. Not usual delivery guy behavior. Especially in a monsoon. Then it honked, but the driver didn’t get out. It was pouring rain on the window as I looked out. Jeff was on a conference call. I frowned. I have orders coming tomorrow from El Corte Ingles. And the guy setting up my new bankcard machine is coming some time tomorrow, too. But, for the first time in a long time, I have no other outstanding orders.
I pulled on a hoody and ran out as the man finally emerged. He was ready for my sad Spanish, explaining he heard we need a large item rubbish pick up. He works for the city of Palas de Rei and, apparently, lives down the lane from us. He wanted to see what we want hauled away so they can send the right sized truck. I took him to the barn and showed him the first pile. Then I showed him the old batteries and paint cans, and tractor oil left by the previous owners. He nodded; they will take it all. He will text me before the guys come later this week.
Juan ran back to his car in the deluge. I ran to the house, smiling. My brother was right about boys and respect, all those years ago. But he was wrong about the meaning of a honking horn. In Galicia, a honking horn is a good thing. It means forward progress. Problems solved. But, wait a minute. <eyes narrowing> Who told that guy I needed a large rubbish pick up? The neighbor grapevine? Hmm… never mind. It all needs to go. And you know what? I don’t even want to know.
There are just two things holding me back from a soft opening. That’s even before July 1st. One of those things, my Sanremo coffee machine, should be arriving this coming week from Italy. Then Diego and crew can do their magic. The other thing was supposed to be solved by Amazon. Think again.
Tables. That’s the other thing. I could not find picnic tables anywhere. I need picnic tables, as I can’t lay down a legitimate terrace until I get approval by the turismo and the patrimonio. Which will happen in geologic time. So my tables and chairs need to sit on grass and not sink in. Solution: Picnic tables.
I looked everywhere for them but absolutely no one within a three hour drive had them in stock. And no one would order them for me. Ugh. So I turned to Amazon. They had some that are the right size. Order placed, they were supposed to arrive on the 9th. It came and went. Then the email notifications started explaining – delay after delay. Finally, while I was drinking my morning coffee in the village, while lamenting this situation to Jeff, we saw the DHL van pass by. My tables were coming DHL.
‘I think that’s your guy. You should go.’ Jeff offered.
I slammed my cafe con leche back, threw a fiver Jeff’s way, then started running. I couldn’t miss this delivery. I passed Pilgrims heading the opposite direction. ‘Buen Camino!’ They shouted at me, huffing and puffing in my mini sundress (it’s been so hot here until today) and Crocs, as my phone rang. It was the delivery guy. ‘I’m coming!’ I shouted, so loud he likely heard me through the phone and from down the road. He told me, ‘Don’t run.’ And what did he have in the van? My tables.
The DHL guy knows I’ve been waiting for these. Every day he comes to deliver stuff. And every day I say, pleadingly ‘Eso es todo?’ That’s it? And every day he apologizes and shrugs. ‘Mañana?’
Jeff finally caught up to me as I was tearing the plastic off each table. We both got a good look at the quality. It was not good. Sure, it will work in a pinch. Backyard bbq’s in Pomona or Poughkeepsie. But it won’t hold up to the abuse of hundreds of Pilgrims and backpacks a week. And the rough wood requires sanding so Pilgrims won’t get a splinter sitting in a pair of shorts. Not the quality I was expecting.
Jeff knew my disappointment, so he hopped on the LeroyMerlin.es (Spanish version of Lowes Home Improvement) and he checked to see if their stores in Santiago or Lugo had restocked. Nope. Then he checked further afield. A Coruña, Ponferrada, Pontevedra, Vigo. Nada. But three+ hours away, in Oviedo or Gijon on the Asturian north coast of Spain, they had the quality picnic tables I wanted from the beginning. 14 in Ovideo. And 27 in Gijon. Honestly. Now, I don’t want to tell Leroy Merlin how to manage their inventory, but Galicia is entirely sold out, while Asturias is sitting on 41 picnic tables at the start of the summer season. Come on, people. It’s not rocket science! Time to rebalance your inventory.
There was only one thing for it. A run to Asturias with our new trailer. But there was just one problem, we had cleaned out the barn and were waiting for Saturday to take it all to the local transfer station that opened at 10am. No problem. We would head north right after. But I made a big, unforeseen mistake. When the guy at the transfer station asked if I live in Melide, I said ‘No. en Palas.’ This was the wrong answer. Your mother lied when she said honesty is the best policy. We would have to go to the Palas de Rei transfer station. ‘Donde estas?’ I asked him. He gave us directions in Gallego. Yay!
We pulled out and were immediately flagged down by a guy who said he would take us there. We followed him for the 10 kms, where he stopped the car and said they were closed but he would take our stuff for €50. Jeff said ‘Gracias, pero, no Gracias.’ Then Jeff walked up to check out the hours of operation posted on the gate for the Palas de Rei transfer station. This photo is for real.
Yup. Open three days a week. For ONE whole hour. Mind boggling. We drove home in silence, then unloaded our load of junk into a pile in the barn.
‘We’ll figure out how the thread the needle of the one hour opening of the Palas de Rei transfer station next week. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have their hours memorized.’ Said Jeff, sarcastically.
I felt bad. I should have just said Melide. Ugh. But it wasn’t long before we were on the road. The A54 to the A6. Then on to the A8 all the way to Gijon. I had never been to Asturias before. 14 other Spanish autonomous communities, but not Asturias. It’s breathtaking. Green and mountainous. Right down to the bay. The jagged coastline reminded me of No.Cal, Oregon or even British Columbia. It was foggy on the way there. But sunny on the way home. And it really wasn’t that far. Just three hours each way, towing a trailer at reduced speed.
We stopped for gas and had an unexpected encounter. A Vespa club was revving up the engines, getting ready for their Saturday ride. Somehow we attracted their attention.
They wanted to know where we got our trailer. Apparently, it would be the right size for a couple of Vespas. 😉. It was fate.
Then, I spotted one scooter that is the perfect shade of blue. The owner offered to let me sit on her. So cool 😎. When we moved to Spain I knew I wanted a Vespa. But I needed to have my Spanish driving license for one year to legally ride up to 125cc. My one year was up the very moment the pandemic hit. And I had other priorities. But this gas station encounter reminded me of my love for Vespas.
Jeff laughed as I climbed on. ‘Only you could have fun just sitting on a Vespa with a bunch of strangers in a gas station parking lot.’
He’s right, of course. A friend once told me I was the only person he knew who ‘could have fun sitting naked in the middle of a corn field.’ A curious way to put it, but I suppose he is right, too. Now I know what I’m asking Santa for this Christmas. Well, that, and a humble beach shack on the coast of Asturias. Because, after our 7 hour round trip up north, there is no more beautiful coastline, anywhere.
The result of all that is that I have my new, very sturdy, picnic tables sitting in the trailer, ready to be assembled tomorrow, in the rain. Just a step closer to opening. And perhaps, one of these days, Pilgrims walking down our lane will hear a beep beep as I whiz by. Ready to join my scooter club mates for a leisurely weekend ride through the countryside on my vintage Vespa. It’s no cornfield, but I think I’d manage to have a good time, anyway 😃 Because, as I truly believe, good things happen when you don’t give up.
Relearning lessons is harder than learning them the first time. Because you know you should know. Why? Because …well, Kelli, we’ve been here before. Remember? 🙄
When I started my career in technology I was a Business Analyst. That meant I worked with the business side of the company, then translated their needs into requirements documents so that our software developers could code the solution. I even did UX design. This was in the 90’s. We made it up as we went along. They call them Product Managers, Product Owners and UX designers in today’s software engineering parlance. Fancy.
I was good at my job, and mostly because I kept the business out of a ditch. ‘Don’t tell me how you want to do something, tell me what you are trying to do.’ This was difficult for some people.
‘I run these three reports. Then I dump them into excel and then I run this macro, and then…’. Ugh.
‘Ok. But why do you do this every Monday morning?’
Heavy sigh of frustration from the user. ‘Because Suzie, my boss, wants to see the data.’
‘And what does Suzie, your boss, do with that data?’ I would ask.
‘I don’t know. She just wants it.’
That would lead me to set up a meeting with Suzie, then Suzie’s boss, etc. And on and on up the chain. I kid you not, half the time no one really knew why they were generating any of these reports or spreadsheet. Or doing activities that had zero business value. People are creatures of habit.
I ran a project once where I had to eliminate 2500 reports so we could switch from one ERP system to another. I was sure I would get fired because people cling to their reports like baby blankets. Especially execs. As if they will drown without them. Six months of meetings later, and of the 2500 reports we found four to replace. Yes, you read that right. FOUR that had any business value. Another six months after go live I had a nasty phone call from an EVP. She wanted to know where her report was and she was PISSED OFF!!
‘You broke that report and I look at it every week!’
I tried to remain calm even though she was yelling at me. ‘Well, I can imagine it’s hard to run your business weekly without this report. But it’s a monthly report so I’m unsure how looking at it every week would change the numbers. But either way, we turned it off six months ago.Your assistant was in every one of the meetings when we made the decision.’ Dead silence on the other end of the line. ‘Is there anything else I can help you with?’
‘I’ll call you back!’ SLAM!
Funny, I never heard from her again. In my experience, it’s career suicide to complain about new software that a CEO has just spent $100 million on implementing. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t make it long after our conversation.
Today has had me flashing back to that time in my life. And now, I have become what Jeff refers to as ‘The User.’ This is how software engineers often refer to those who will ultimately use what they are building. Sometimes it’s said with respect. Sometimes with frustration. Right now, I am a little more on the frustration side of that scale. Even for me.
My new food truck POS system arrived. It is touchscreen and runs on hardware that I am used to. But it’s more SAP than Oracle, from a business flow perspective. And while I have implemented SAP, I didn’t love it. The lingo is the same, and so is the process for setting up items (Articulos). Waaay too many steps. Not to say I’ve ever had to personally execute item set up, but at one time long ago, I managed a Master Data team for a large US retailer that did. I heard the whining.
I’m doing more than a little whining today. And I am selling very few items. Article families and product hierarchies! Where is my good friend, Curt Young, the product hierarchy guru, when I need him. And POS self training? I need the PoS mistress, Alissa Yee, to make me tranquila, again. She would sort out why my register tape isn’t printing! Jeff is trying to fill their shoes.
‘At least you don’t have to enter country of origin, or if it’s shoes that are made with the parts of endangered species. Just go simple. Set it up how you want to report on it.’ he reminds me. ‘And stop poking at the screen, over and over. Give it a chance to load.’
Eye roll ‘Well, Duh.’ I already know this. <as I go back and change my product hierarchy based on that sage reminder> He doesn’t have to tell me. I’m being a User. And not the good kind.
You’re probably asking why I’m not using Square, or some other easy out of the box solution on an iPad. It’s because they want too big a cut of my profits. Even for cash transactions, for goodness sake! No, thank you. Besides, they would still require a product catalog. And these iPad solutions are really not for mostly cash businesses. With the Anti-fraud legislation passed in Spain from last October, I need to report everything correctly and have back ups of my back ups.
Water, Water Everywhere
My product catalog entered – it really didn’t take that long 😉 – I jetted into Melide to try to solve my water analysis issue. I have been to every farmacia, but one, to ask if they sell water testing kits. Our contractor told me just to go to a farmacia. But not one has sold these kits. I walked into the last farmacia I have yet to try before heading to Lugo or Santiago.
‘No. We don’t sell water testing kits.’
Heavy sigh. This was getting ridiculous. What was I going to do? I want to have the test results available to anyone who asks for my documents. And I want to provide Pilgrims with free water bottle refills. It’s been so hot. This summer will just get hotter.
‘Do you know where I can go?’ I asked. ‘I really need to have the water from our well at our house tested.’
The girl shook her head. ‘We only offer water analysis. But we don’t sell the test kits. It’s 2€ for the collection vessel. And €20 for the analysis and report.’
Wait, what? This is what I have wanted all along. I was asking for it the wrong way. Focused on the how instead of the what I was trying to accomplish. Likely, I would have been able to check this off my list weeks ago. I shook my head as I left the farmacia with my €2 water collection vessel. Jeff is right, these days I really am being a User.
Because we are opening our food truck on the Camino, and later the cabins, I have rejoined Facebook and Instagram. It’s a business decision, more than anything else, because as everyone who reads this blog knows, I am not a fan of social media. But then, like everything else, there was an upside.
To create my business page, I had to create a personal account. I was not happy about this, but I did it. And, because I have this personal account I decided to make my personal Facebook all about the Camino, because that is the entire reason I am creating the business Facebook page. So, I joined some groups – Camino de Santiago All Routes, etc. And I joined The Camingas group, amongst many others. This is a group dedicated to helping woman who walk the Camino alone. It was created after a solo American woman was killed on the Camino in 2015. The group is women only and answers questions, helps with planning, and more importantly, they encourage those who are nervous prior to walking the Way. And also, as happened yesterday, those who have started their Camino and are in need of help. A lot of ‘Don’t quit – you can do it!’ and also tips, tricks/hacks, and medical advice. It’s a good group. Women helping women.
So, over the course of the past few days, I have been reading people’s stories of inspiration, and trials. Looking through videos and scrolling through pictures. Yes, we live on the Camino Frances with Pilgrims passing each day, but it’s wonderful to read and see what people on the trail are feeling and seeing. Inspiring. But there is one particular type of pilgrim that I am always amazed at. Those who leave their front doors in Europe – sometimes further afield – and they begin walking from there. They traverse sparsely marked ancient Camino paths. Through towns and village where there are scant services for Pilgrims, if any at all. Until they reach St. Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees. The distance they have already marked makes my little 800 km look like a day in the park. I always imagine they arrive in St. Jean feeling like we long haulers on the Frances feel when we arrive in Sarria. ‘Where did all these people come from?’
In all of my recent FB scrolling, one post jumped out at me. It is a film by Pauline Wald, a Peregrina from Paris, who started her Camino in Alsace in eastern France. She walked 2000 kms to Santiago de Compostela. And she produced a film about her experience and those of the Pilgrims she met all along the way. Over four months she documents what the Camino means to those who walk, and how changed they are by the experience. You can view the trailer here. And view the movie in its entirety on here.
Periodically, when I see something as inspiring as this I will post it here, or on the The Happiness Cafe page/blog. I don’t know her personally, or receive any compensation for this post, but I think we should highlight and boost such inspiring journeys. And such beautiful work. If you choose to view it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, almost no fiestas have been held in Spain. They have made valiente efforts in this regard. Modifying them, downsizing, de-crowdifying. I think most cities decided, until this past spring, that it was less expensive, and less risky, to give them a miss. There was always next year. Now, as we are learning to live with the virus in Spain, next year is finally here. And fiestas have returned in earnest to their former glory. And no one is happier about this than Spain, because no one, anywhere, throws a party like the Spanish.
In Valencia, we had Fallas. Weeks of ear blasting fireworks, giant minots, and the setting of things on fire. Fire is synonymous with Valencia. But, here in Lugo we have Arde Lvcvs.
Arde Lvcvs is the celebration of Lugo’s Roman past when Lucas Augusti ruled the region and Lugo was the capital. They named the public hospital after him. The fully intact Roman wall surrounding the old city is just more evidence of Roman influence that continues to present day. I love Lugo.
Arde Lvcvs (Lucas) is a four day fiesta every June that captures this Roman past with faux battles between the Romans and the Castros (native people aka Gallegos). The city is resplendent with banners and military encampments. There is a Roman circus, chariot races, and a Roman market. Even Roman marriages are performed by the mayor. These are only good for one year. But the woman can decide to extend it. It’s her choice. If she does so for seven years, the marriage is considered legal and binding.
The city’s residents, from the oldest to the youngest, get in on the act by dressing up and participating.
Don’t laugh, but Jeff and I had no idea about this when we had to drive into Lugo this weekend, and we decided to have some Chinese food in the centre. When we got there it was mayhem.
‘Why the hell are all these people dressed up as Romans.’ A legion, complete swords, shields, spears and a band, had just walked by. ‘Or cave men?’ Those are the Castros – the people the Romans were busy suppressing in the 3rd century. Earlier in the fiesta, apparently there was a battle over an old Roman stone bridge. With the Castros attempting to scale the city walls. Think of it like those civil war reenactments in the US. Yeah. I know. I don’t really understand those either.
We had no idea what we were about to see. The closer we walked towards the wall, the thicker the period-clad population became. Passing through the gate, it was crazy and amazing at the same time.
We watched the Roman marriage ceremonies. Toured the market. Ate some crappy 3rd century cuisine- just kidding. 😉 That’s where Luciens draw the line on the authenticity meter. They can’t abide terrible food. Sadly, we missed the Comilonium – the open air banquets. And the Bacchanalia. Heavy sigh. Next year.
Dodging little kids sword fighting, we made our way back to the car to head to the Bricomart. As you would expect, Jeff is all about going back next year in costume. This will give us time to research designs, etc. He likes to be authentic in his cosplay. Now, I need to start researching San Froilan – the big fiesta in October. If there are any costumes needed for that we need to start shopping now.
Thank you everyone for your kind messages. After I wrote the previous post I slept for more than ten hours straight. Relief. I haven’t done that in a month. It feels great to let the light in and to lay down some of the weight I’ve been carrying. 🙏 On to happier topics.
In preparation for opening the food truck, we paid our insurance agent/gestor/accountant a visit. Time to make sure we are protected for liability. These guys have been invaluable since we moved to Galicia last year. Car insurance, taxes. Setting up our business and getting our business bank account set up. The business loan. They even connected us to a guy who will plow the lavender field for us – while our tractor litigation is unresolved. They are so nice. We usually go on Saturdays because it’s quieter and they have more time to spend with us answering questions, etc.
This Saturday we walked in to the office and they were abuzz. And not because it’s Spanish tax season. There was a box by the desk of our insurance agent. Our gestor was standing over it, smiling. It’s weird to see people’s faces now. We had never seen their smiles before. Really nice. And they were on full display beaming at the contents of the box.
‘My dogs had it cornered near the chicken coup. I knew we had a meeting with you and you could take it to your farm.’
Everyone here knows we don’t have a dog, because they all know we don’t have a fence. Because our property plans are in infinite turn around with the patrimonio. 🙄 And what was in the box? An Erizo. A hedgehog! Jeff was thrilled! Gift with purchase.
We concluded our business, then Jeff gathered up the box. We stopped for coffee at a cafe with our new friend, Giggles 🤭. The waitress knows us well. If I go there without Jeff she sends me home with a piece of cake for him. On the house. Bringing a hedgehog with us for coffee didn’t even make her flinch. Then we headed home to give Giggles a new home. Jeff donned gloves and did the honors as we scouted a safe spot to put him. Where he could burrow and stay safe in the brush. He was rolled into a ball, but came out as Jeff carried him around. Jeff said he was very prickly. Like a giant chestnut 🌰 (castaña) husk.
We know that he is a wild animal and not a pet. But we became strangely attached to the little guy in the short hour we were acquainted with him. For the record, we have no idea if it was a boy or girl. The office called it a He. So we did, too.
After heading back to the hardware store, then returning home, Jeff got out of the car and went to check on Giggles. But he was gone. Which is a good thing. Of course, Jeff has now researched everything there is to know about hedgehogs. Erizos eat the bugs and more bugs. They are not native to the Americas. You can only find then in Africa, Asia and Europe. The European hedgehog is the largest. Big or small, they really are cute.
Good luck, Giggles. Mi casa es su casa. Go eat all the bugs and spiders you want. The buffet is open.
Today, I’ll tell you a secret. One I have told very few people; less than the fingers on one hand. Few know about this aspect of my life, outside my immediate family growing up. Not even the closest of friends. It’s not a short story, and it’s not easy to write, nor read, but there is a point, I promise.
I’ll get right to it. I have struggled my entire life with sitting at a dining room table for a meal. Not in restaurants or cafes. Public places. Those are fine and safe. But in private homes? Impossible. And there is a good reason for it. Well, a reason, anyway. Strange? Believe me, I know this.
As a kid, dinner time was torture time. It was the time of day that posed the most danger in our house. And my Dad was the source of that danger. It was brimming with unpredictability. I can sit here today and break out into a sweat just thinking about it. Tears falling at the memory. Rules needed to be followed. Strict rules that started with the salt and pepper shakers to be taken from the windowsill behind the chair where my Dad sat, and placed on the table by 4pm. 4pm. That was the rule. We wouldn’t be eating until later, but if this didn’t happen there would be consequences. Why? It doesn’t matter. You never asked why. Only compliance mattered. As you can imagine, it got worse from there.
The chair to the left of my Dad’s was where my Mom sat. The chair to his right was ‘the hot seat’. He was right handed. This was reserved for trouble makers. The bad kid. It rotated occupants amongst my siblings until I was about 4 years old. Then it became my permanent seat, every night, until I left for college, when I did anything and everything I could to never live in that house again.
My anxiety about dinner would start on the bus on the way home from school. I needed to remember to get those salt and pepper shakers on the table. If I got distracted that would be bad. I had little reminders I kept so I wouldn’t forget. But, still, sometimes I would. Those were the worst nights. I blamed myself for forgetting.
Dinner was always filled with taunting, humiliation, yelling and sometimes violence. As my Dad would fill our plates with the amount of food he decided we should eat. For a five year old to be given the same amount as a grown man, and expected to sit at the table until it is gone, is not realistic. We were allowed only one glass of milk. There were times it took me more than three hours to get it all down, all while being berated for not appreciating what it was like during the Depression when he had nothing. Needless to say, mine and my sister’s relationship with food has always been fraught because of this. And many, many other things.
As an adult, my loathing for a traditional family meal at home has never waned. If anything, it got worse. I would avoid it, even subconsciously, at all costs. Looking back, even after I had children of my own, I realize that I would cook for the family, but always find excuses not to stay seated. Getting additional plates. Or refilling milk or water glasses. Clearing plates. Like I was a waiter. Jeff would get up from the table and find me in the kitchen standing at the counter.
‘Come sit down.’ He’d say. Frowning. But I couldn’t and I didn’t really know why. Not understanding why I was so irrationally afraid. Of what?
I couldn’t have our friends over for a sit down dinner without having an anxiety attack. A pool party or bbq was fine. But a real meal? No way. So I stopped inviting them. Not because I didn’t love and value our friends. I just couldn’t do it. And accepting invitations to their homes was equal torture. My boss invited us to Thanksgiving once, with her family. If we had gone to a restaurant I would have been fine. But dinner was at their home. It was all I could do to stay in my seat. Jeff held my hand under the table through the entire meal.
I have hated this secret thing about myself for so long, but I can’t remember not feeling this way. Or wishing so hard that it wasn’t so. I’ve bought countless dining room tables over the years. Hoping it would help. A round table so there would be no ‘hot seat’. A few made of stone, not wood. I tried everything. At one point I spoke to a family member about it. They didn’t seem to have any issue eating a family meal, like a normal person.
‘You just need to get over that.’ They told me dismissively. ‘It’s been a long time. And you were the youngest, anyway. You didn’t have it as bad.’ I don’t know why I expected empathy or support. Our house was always every man for himself. But I think trauma manifests itself differently in different people. My fear of dining room tables is probably pretty benign compared to what some other people go through.
After my Dad died in January of 2020, I was determined to overcome this. But I wasn’t sure how. English speaking therapists are hard to find in Spain. You don’t think if that when you move to another country. And Covid got in the way, just a bit. Then, a friend in Valencia connected me with a therapist in the UK, who agreed to help me over Zoom. His lovely Yorkshire accent and his guidance have been invaluable. We did a lot of work on this and other stuff. At 55, I wanted to eat a meal in my own house at the table. That shouldn’t be Herculean. And to be able to invite people over for a meal in my house, and actually enjoy it. But, after decades of it getting worse and worse, I wasn’t sure it was even possible for me. Then, my Zoom therapist had an idea.
‘What if you made your own table? You could do whatever you wanted. You choose the materials and you decide how it should be.’
It was a good idea. But I was skeptical after trying so many different things. After I got home from the Camino, and Jeff returned from the US, we drove to Santiago and we bought the wood. But I struggled to imagine it in our house. Helping me overcome this thing? How?
Jeff got some tools together and he helped build the top. We sanded it down. Then we stained, together. And I started to get a bit excited about the possibilities. We might actually be able to invite people over, like normal people. Maybe this would work.
It’s a huge table. And heavy. I never do anything small. Jeff had to wrangle the table top in to the house from the barn on a hand truck. Once we got it inside he was able to put the legs on. It wouldn’t have fit through the front door assembled. Then we applied coats of bees wax. So far so good. That night, in the middle of the night, I got out of bed in the dark, came downstairs and turned on the light over the dining table. It’s a no nonsense farmhouse table. Not perfect. Just like me. But a beautiful color. And made with love. Jeff’s efforts to help me kick this thing made manifest.
We gotta make peace, you and I. I thought, running my hands over the surface.
I know I’m not alone in something like this. My traumas and old burdens or hurts are no worse than another person’s. When we look at other people in the world, we do so from our own perspective. It can’t be any other way. We often assume someone else has the world on a string. Life is easy for them – or so it seems. And sometimes we judge others harshly, perhaps for a perceived slight, or a weakness or failure, without understanding the origin of how that came to be for them. But we are just human. All of us.
In my little corner of the world, last night without fanfare, Jeff and I sat down in our own house and we ate a meal at the giant table we built together. You have no idea what this meant to me. For the first time in a very, very long time I didn’t have that sick feeling of panic. Or rush through the meal, fleeing to the relative safety of the kitchen. It was, well, remarkably unremarkable. That’s all. Nothing more.
This blog has been a lifeline to me for some rough patches over the past 4+ years. I try to be as open and honest with what is happening and I appreciate all of you who take the time to read it. I wrote this because, as you all know, I am starting something new in July. A fresh adventure to blow out the cobwebs. And it’s time, finally, to put the old ghosts to bed. Once and for all.
I’m running around like a chicken with my head…well, you get it. The lists are long and getting longer. Just when I think I have it all handled my gestor or my contractor calls and adds more. Appointments are made for me for digital certificates. More appointments for Social Security, or with the ayuntamiento (town hall). Forms and signatures. And more signatures. And then, there is the stuff.
I buy what I can locally, but sadly, much of what I need for the food truck is readily unavailable. And I need it now. That means that Amazon and I are past the friend stage and have moved on to serious dating. In a big way. And I know all the delivery drivers. They have me on speed dial. Driving home from my appointment at the Social Security office in Melide this morning – a cluster of clusters, again, with my strange name – my phone rang. If you think it’s difficult to understand español while standing in a cafe, try doing it with a shouting delivery driver while you are driving. My brain was on the edge of 100% capacity. I didn’t know it but it seems the part of your brain that allows you to drive, and also process language are the same part. And they struggle to do both, simultaneously. The GLS driver (a Spanish delivery service) and I are on a first name basis. And he has delivered so much stuff to our house over the past year that I am in his contacts. Now, with the business, he comes here even more often. He’s in my phone under Delivery Guy, but when he calls he just says ‘This is Miguel’. He has become very considerate of my time. Jeff calls him my boyfriend.
‘Kelli, it’s Miguel.’ Even though I know 20 Miguels, and he probably knows 100. He doesn’t bother to tell me which delivery service he is with. He knows I know. ‘I have two packages for you, but I can’t get them both to you at the usual 2pm delivery. So, I apologize, it won’t be before 6pm.’
Honestly, I had no idea GLS was delivering anything to me today. I don’t really track his SLA, but I suppose it’s good that he thinks I do. Noon. 9pm. Today. Tomorrow. I don’t really care.
‘No problem.’ I told him. ‘We are home all day.’
Then he called me back a little later. ‘I was mistaken. I have three packages for you.’
I swear, nothing beats Spanish logistics.
Miguel is just one of the trucks who will pull in today. So far, this morning we have had five deliveries before lunchtime. Now I realize, as children, why we all loved Christmas so much. And why online shopping is so popular. It’s not really the convenience, or the selection. It’s the dopamine hit my reptilian brain gets when I see a delivery truck pull through the gate and honk. Like Pavlov’s dog, I salivate. Even though most of this stuff is not a gift. I purchased it all myself and I know it’s coming. Jeff is the same way. He comes out of his office every single time to see what came in the truck.
That’s probably why the ice cream man was such a big hit when we were kids. We would hear that creepy carnival organ grinder music coming down the street, the stuff of nightmares, really, and all the kids in the neighborhood would run after it, with a quarter in the pocket of our shorts on a hot summer day. Money we had earned from operating a lemonade stand, or selling dandelion bouquets door to door. I mean, really, who wouldn’t pay 25 cents for a dandelion bouquet from a cute kid with two missing front teeth, messy pigtails, a sea of freckles, and two skinned knees. It worked every time!
I am hoping Miguel has my picnic tables. I wasn’t able to find them locally. Everyone was out of stock. Amazon is saving my bacon on this one.
Crossing the i’s and Dotting the t’s
Because we are foreigners, we need to do everything by the book (legit). I get advice from Spaniards, ‘Don’t worry, Kelli.’ But they can talk their way out of something when authorities come to call asking for this stamped official form. Or that license. But I can’t do that, and not because I am a linguistic infant. It’s because if they are going to try to stop us doing what we want to do with this business or the property, they won’t say they are opposed to us because we are foreigners. That would be discrimination. They will point to some stupid stamp, or form, or licensing shortcut, and they will pin it on that.
My contractor showed up today with one of his tech guys. They are surveying some work they can do without the approvals that seems to be going in perpetual circles. And we talked about this very thing.
‘Gallegos can be jealous people.’ He told me.
I was shocked to hear him say this. ‘Everyone seems very nice, and so helpful.’
‘Of course. There are nice people everywhere. But some people will be nice to your face and then turn their cheek another way. There will be people who will not like that you moved here and opened this business. They will make some trouble for you with the Concello, or the Patrimonio. Maybe they will call the Guardia Civil to ask them to pay you a visit to check all your paperwork is in order. The difficulty for you is that if you were Spanish you wouldn’t need to file half of these forms with the Ayuntamiento. But you have to, because if you don’t someone will point and say you aren’t following all the rules, when no one else follows all the rules. And, sadly, when you file the form it gives the bureaucracy the opportunity to either scrutinize you, slow everything down, or to tell you ‘No’. When, if you never filed they wouldn’t even know you were doing anything. And they wouldn’t care. It’s crazy.’ But he shrugged. ‘Nothing we can do.’
‘But we are generating tax revenue for the Concello and the Xunta de Galicia. That’s a good thing, right?’
‘They don’t care.’
So I spend a fair bit of time on bureaucracy these days. I find if I go to an office with hat in hand (this means with a humble demeanor) that people will usually help me. You have to acquiesce to their authority. There is no other choice. But there are actually people rooting for us.
One of my stops this morning was at our bank. Maria Carmen was happy to see me. She filed paperwork for my bank card machine so I can take cards as payment. It should be ready on Monday.
‘I am bringing my family to your grand opening.’ she smiled. ‘We are looking forward to it!’
2 am Musings
The cardboard was piling up this morning from all the deliveries. I flattened it all out and took it to the can by the gate, when I heard American voices. They greeted me when I said ‘Hello’. And where were they from? Seattle, of course. Well, Maple Valley but I didn’t get that out of them until I told them I was from Seattle and that my mother-in-law lives in Covington. Maple Valley is right next door. They were complimentary about the house and the property. And loved the idea of the food truck.
‘You’ll do well. It’s a beautiful setting and very inviting. We don’t like to go into dark cafes.’
I walked them around a bit and I told them about my idea at 2 am this morning. ‘I think I am going to do a photo booth on the backside. We will stencil some cool Camino stuff back there. Shells, some iconic cities along the way, and other stuff. People can take silly pictures with their Camino family against the backdrop and share them on social media. Tag us on Instagram and Facebook. What do you think?’
They thought that was a great idea. ‘There aren’t photo booths anywhere on the Camino.’
I agreed. Unless someone has done something in the past 60 days that I didn’t see when walking.
We are quickly getting things prepared. And, if the coffee machine comes from Italy as promised by the 25th, we will be ready to open on July 1st. Between now and then I better getting cooking. Jeff will be my culinary guinea pig as I pin down my very simple menu to start. Each night, I am dreaming of working in the food truck and I haven’t even opened yet! Tired but energized when I awaken every morning. With a head full of new ideas. It won’t be long now.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain