And Still, She Persisted

When I was little my Mom read me a book about The Little Engine That Could. The other bigger train engines didn’t believe in him, but when the Littlest Engine had to go over a mountain he built up steam and willed himself to the top.

‘I think I can. I think I can.’ He tells himself, over and over, until he crests the summit. The story of my childhood philosophy. I always believed that I could accomplish whatever I set out to do. You can call it arrogance. Dogged determination. Hubris, perhaps. But I figured that if I could dream it, I could make it happen. Jeff is the same way.

Henry Ford famously said ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’

These days our property is flooded with workers. Digging, plumbing, wiring, and asking me a thousand questions. In my experience, these guys have a plan. But they are like the hero from 1950’s Hollywood. The strong silent type. They generally don’t communicate at the level I need. So I when see them I ask my thousand questions. Some of them run when they see me now.

It’s nearly 8pm, and there is still heavy machinery here. Digging holes and excavating stumps. The rest of the workers have knocked off for the day. They have been here hooking up the food truck. Two days ago they told me they were waiting to hook it up until they had the approval for The Patrimonio. But today they started. Hmmm.

So, this afternoon I went outside to talk to Carlos. He works for Miguel who runs the crews. Carlos speaks a little ingles. and he has loved the idea of the food truck right from the beginning. I asked him why he is hooking up the truck and laying cement stones for stairs to the door of The Happiness Cafe.

‘I can not say, Kelli. I just do what they tell me. You go to Kelli’s on Monday. I go. Yesterday they tell me not to complete the hook up. Today, they tell me to get it finished immediately. It is complete. You have everything you need. But the roof of the food truck should be vented and insulated, for the summer to make you more comfortable. I call my father-in-law to bring some on Thursday for you from his chicken farm. After that, I do it in five minutes. No problem.’

I know I can complain. Ok, I have been frustrated, angry, hopeless, baffled, hopeless, again. Whiney. At times, very sure that my permissions would never come thru. But, when the foreman of the crew offers to call a local chicken farmer to secure me insulation so I don’t have to go to Obramat in Santiago or Lugo? You can’t beat that kind of community feeling or dedicated service.

‘Anyway, Diego is coming to talk to you when they are pulling out the stumps. I don’t know nothing but I think maybe something is happening.’ He saw a hopeful glow pass across my face and raised his hands. ‘ I don’t say nothing. But I think since they change their minds on the works, maybe.’

I let him get back to his business. But I have sat in the house for the past two hours waiting for Diego. Could today be the day? Is it possible that we will be open again by June?!?

Diego arrived and in his typical low-key fashion he let me know we are approved by The Patrimonio.

‘It is no official yet because I don’t have the paper in my hands. But they tell me yesterday that it is approved. No more trouble from the Patrimonio.’

What?!? I need fireworks 💥 A bottle of champagne 🍾. Something BIG!! I want to shout at the sky!! Or perhaps light a candle and say a prayer 🙏 of thanks. But, right now I am smiling and crying at the same time. To some this may seem foolish. Approval from The Patrimonio for the protection of the Camino de Santiago for a Pilgrim business? A little food truck and cabins? Some tent sites? Nothing, really. But to me it is HUGE.

We came to this country as immigrants. Knowing nothing and no one. Not even the language. We learned everything from the ground up. NOTHING was the same as the US. NOT. ONE. THING. We survived the pandemic far from home, navigated Spanish medical care, and hospitals galore. Then bought a farm, and started, again, making a life in a rural community. As dreamers, believing we could accomplish whatever we set our minds to, we thought we could start a business on the Camino, and then we did. Yet again, there have been roadblocks, misdirection and misunderstandings at every turn. But nothing worth doing is easy. I want that Elizabeth Warren t-shirt to wear in the food truck for my first day open in 2023.

And still, she persisted.

Diego says when the Patrimonio official paper arrives in the next week or so, he and Fernando, who is the owner of the construction company, will drive to Palas de Rei to meet with the council in person to make the authorization for the food truck and bathrooms/pilgrim laundry, immediately. Before the Concello approves the entire project. But the turismo and The Patrimonio have given their approval for all of it. Finally.

Sometimes, I need to stop and remember all we have done in five years. And all we have been through. Just for a moment. Time to take a deep breath, then get ready to open. Because we have cleared the highest hurdle. At long last, we are ready to build up some steam and tackle another mountain. And to the people who called the police on The Happiness Cafe food truck last October, take a good look. Because no matter what you threw at this silly American girl of little consequence, still she persisted.

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