No, I didn’t hop on a plane to the Great Northwest of the US. But, lately, it seems to have come to me.
It monsoon rained here for five days straight. And everything has grown by leaps and bounds, as it does in a rainforest. Yesterday, I hopped on the mower and spent a few hours cutting the grass, as Pilgrims walked past the gate by the thousands <no exaggeration>. It’s getting crazy busy here.
Later, I trimmed the 100m of hedge across the front. I hear North American ingles coming from the road, more and more. And notice that most Americans are shy about speaking to locals. They are rarely the first to offer up an Hola! Or a Bon Dia. So I do it for them. I was climbing down the berm running along the ditch in front of our house, dragging the heavy battery powered hedge trimmer with me, when I heard an American voice. She was walking with a woman who spoke fluent español. And I know this because when the American addressed me, after my initial hola! – the Spanish speaker provided the translation. After I told them I understood the American, we switched to ingles.
It turns out, the American is from WA state – Sedro-Wooley near the Canadian border- and we chatted at our gate.
‘Do you love living here?’ She asked, peering in at the house. The freshly mown lawn looked gorgeous, if I do say so myself 😉. ‘Never mind. Don’t answer that. Your smile says it all.’
She is struggling with the thought of going back to the US. The news is grim there. And she is just a couple of days from Santiago. I hear this a lot. People who have walked from St Jean have started mourning the end of their Camino by the time they reach us. All of them say the same thing. ‘I don’t want to go back.’
It was nice to speak to someone from back home. It’s two and a half years since I have been on American soil. After Jeff’s experience with US passport control last month, asking ‘What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?’ It makes me nervous to go back. What do you answer when asked by your own country’s border control why you are visiting your own country? After such a long day of travel from Spain I might be a bit testy. ‘The purpose of my visit to the US, with my US passport? Any damn thing I want.’ 🤬 I used to have Global Entry in the US. So I didn’t even have to talk to these jokers when I came back from an international trip. But now? It’s probably best I don’t go. I told Jeff he should have said he flew there just for a #4 at Taco Time, and because he ran out of beef jerky. Because its kind of true. He took care of both of those things in the first hour after landing.
Today, I decided to walk into Melide. I had some banking to do. Here, you pay your Concello bills at the bank. Car tabs – €73, and annual garbage collection – €38. Bargains, both of them. I’m a pro at these things now. It’s kind of like I know what I’m doing. The first time I had to pay a bill at a bank in Spain was after we bought this house and moved from Valencia to Galicia. The teller was a little frustrated with me and my general cluelessness. After I explained this was my inaugural run for Concello bill paying, she eased off.
‘Good job. You did very well.’ She assured me after my transaction was complete. Like I’m a toddler. Which I sort of am for so many things in Spain.
But this morning I wasn’t going to have any issues. I got this. I walked the 7km into town, with a thousand Pilgrims, then up hill to the bank. Easy peasy. Paid the taxes. Went to my gestor. Then stopped by the contractor to get an update on the solar panels. There will be a meeting tomorrow. Finally, I was ready to walk home.
Before crossing the Roman bridge over rio Furelos, I stopped at a cafe for a coffee and a water. It’s heating up here. Time to hydrate. The place was packed with Pilgrims. And who is sitting next to me at the cafe? A couple from Seattle. Of course. I swear, it’s as though Seattle has emptied out and they’re all in Spain walking past our house.
Today is this couple’s 49th wedding anniversary. A German Pilgrim serenaded them in German. They looked decidedly uncomfortable by the performance and the attention. The husband walked from St Jean. She joined him in Sarria to walk the rest of the way to Santiago. We chatted some. It’s only been a month since I finished my last Camino, and it was nice to hear the stories of someone else’s experience. Waving goodbye, I walked over the bridge and up the hill to home. Nearing O Coto, the path was blocked by a large group. They were laughing and told me, in ingles, that I was going the wrong way. ‘Santiago is that way!’ A man in their group loudly informed me. And where were they from? Seattle.
‘I’m not going to Santiago.’ I smiled. ‘My house is over there.’ Pointing to the other side of the pasture. After I left them it occurred to me that the more folks I meet from Washington State it makes me realize Seattle isn’t ‘back home’ for me anymore.
I continue on, knowing every bump in the pavement as I wave at Lois, our local cafe owner in the village who is wiping his tables. He waves back, ‘Hola! Kelli.’ Then I turn down our street at the Y, walking under the shady canopy of ancient oak trees lining the road. Taking a deep breath, I smile. I’m already home.