Finally in Paris!

When I first started researching walking the Camino Santiago, I steered clear of flying into Paris. Although I have traveled a lot throughout Southeast Asia, I thought it sounded too busy for me. Too big, too busy, too fancy, I really don’t speak any French.

 As you can see,  I’m in France! I even did a great job of negotiating for myself on the flight over… Did I really want to spend 50 euros on the taxi, or did I want to put my big girl pants on and take the Subway for €10?

So, After standing in the long long passport control line at Charles de Gaulle International airport, I sat down and reviewed my instructions for getting on the subway that my hotel had sent, and started walking. After all, I had come to walk, right?

After one little mishap getting on one connection wrong, I found my way to a helpful train employee who got me  pointed in the right direction and I got back on the subway and got things fixed up. I was pretty exhausted when I got to my hotel, Eiffel Kennedy, But I did arrive so  success!

Here I am on the way to the Eiffel Tower!

Just outside my hotel is really nice outside restaurant, and I was enjoying a Caesar salad and a glass of nice red wine and I met an older gentleman – – between 78 and 85 I would guess – – who used to live in Southeast Asia. He also spoke very good English.

I told him all about my business over there with my ex, and how my ex had recently died in a freak accident. He listened very quietly and then asked me why my marriage had not worked. Here is the interesting part— When I explained to him that my ex had gone Asian and taken on a second wife, he quietly looked at me and said,”I went there with my wife. When I came home, I came home with her. That is normal behavior.” I realize again and again how horrible a lot of my time was living in Cambodia, and I’m so glad that I’m out of there and the USA – – with a great second husband, might I add.

My new friend and I then moved on from our journey comparisons, but it was so nice that we were able to talk about Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam. The days of the 60s. The UNDP, Vietnam War…We even talked a bit about the new Ken Burns series about that one. I can’t wait to sit and watch it from beginning to end over a five day period.

My new friend caught up and slowly made his way down the street, putting his cane to good effect. I noticed that he had difficulties walking, and I remind myself that the time is now. We never know what the future will bring, but when it’s time to walk and go and see— use time well. 

The very kind waitor told me later that I had just made my first friend in France!
And then it became time to walk. As I walked to the Eiffel tower, I realized that I am not with the shoes that I chose to walk this time. They are Salmonson trail runners, but they don’t support my feet and legs as well as my big heavyVasque boots. I am going to get about eight hours of sleep and reduce the swelling and pain on my legs from a long flight and a long, long walk. After about 12 hours of sleep, I think I will feel more kindly disposed to them. Tomorrow I will enjoy the museums in Paris, delicious coffee, some pastrie tomorrow I will enjoy the museums Paris, delicious coffee, some pastries, and have a good walk around the city.

I will also get my trains sorted out, as I will be taking a train toward Lyon to spend some time with a family member before then flying into Pamplona!

By harmanygroves

Burgos to Hornillos…

Today I walked from Burgos, Spain to Hornillos. I had forgotten how much I love this part of the Camino.  First, I walked out of Burgos  past the cathedral.  I didn’t remember seeing this statue last year, but honestly, last year I was so overwhelmed and tired because I had started in southern France. Perhaps I saw the statue and it just seemed new when I saw it today! I then continued following yellow arrows out of town, past the university. 

Pretty flat until a little bit later on, when it opened up into steep Rolling-hills. This was definitely the Meseta. The sun was hot, and although it’s only March, I worked up a sweat. Passed through Tardajos, which had a picturesque bell tower complete with nesting storks up top. The town seemed as sleepy and quiet as it did last year. 

By harmanygroves

This I Believe…

I believe in the power of prayer. For me, simple, old Christian prayers are amazingly soothing, especially in times of need.

One time, I was in a hospital surgery room, in Bangkok, Thailand. The surgery that I was scheduled for was not a pleasant event. To top it off, the surgeon was stuck in traffic, so I was lying in the surgical room, wrapped in a strait-jacket-like device, designed to keep my arms from flopping over the side of the surgical gurney. As I lay there, I could not help thinking about why I was there. I was once again having an ectopic pregnancy, and as ectopic babies are unable to survive–ever– the surgery was to remove the baby—only three months old—from one of my fallopian tubes. I had met my baby on an ultrasound monitor just the day before, and remembered bursting into tears as I had been given the heart-wrenching news. As I lay on that gurney, I felt tears come to my eyes, and then spill down into my ears. I could scarcely breathe, as I had become so congested. Suddenly, the words of the Catholic Hail Mary  came to me.

Now, bear in mind, I was not raised Catholic, but prayer calms me, and the “amen” at the end makes me think of my family. I can’t count the Thanksgiving dinners I’ve shared with Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, and beloved grandparents with a before-dinner prayer of thanks–the traditional “Our Father, who art in heaven”–and that family “Amen” said in unison.  So, here I was with a bright surgical light staring me down, trustled uncomfortably in a situation of no control, and suddenly, I heard “Hail Mary” prayer in my mind. I could not remember the words at first, so I concentrated initially on remembering them…Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I knew that I was probably not at the hour of my death, but lying there all alone for what seemed like forever but was in fact about an hour, it felt like death!

I was in Thailand, without family nearby. I was facing a surgery, with only a friend waiting outside. The friend, a young British woman named Sharon, was  a friend of mine from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was about six months pregnant. She and her husband, Paul, were going through some marriage problems, and I had run into her on the plane, only a one-hour flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. It was so reassuring to know that Sharon was there with me; if you can imagine, my own first marriage was also tanking at that time. That my spouse was not with me when I had received the horrendous news bore testimony to that.

Holy Mary, Mother of God….I thought of all mothers, and all of their struggles. My own mother was back in Washington state. I had always appreciated her strength, her wit, her beauty. Full of grace, the Lord is with thee….I had perhaps recited the Hail Mary—in my mind, not aloud—about fifty times when the doctor breezed in. He was always so damn flippant that I had already decided I could not stand him.

“Have you been crying? What’s wrong with you?” At that point, I just looked at him and responded, “I’m pregnant and losing a baby”  That’s what, dumb ass. Sometimes the idiocy of doctors is too much to bear. Anyway, that Hail Mary prayer got me through a terrible hour: more than the sedative. Certainly much more so than dwelling on the event at hand.  That’s why I believe—wholeheartedly —in the enduring, soothing power of prayer.


By harmanygroves

Positive Thought

I believe in the power of positive thinking.               When I was a teenager, my parents were conducting the Cold War in our home. Unhappy in their marriage, and doing nothing to fix it, both Mom and Dad had decided to bring an element of drama to our lives that my sister and brother and I did not understand. We had no knowledge or experience of the silent treatment, that cold, caustic atmosphere of anger and uncaringness that goes hand in hand with a failing marriage. Instead, my siblings and I carried a burden of guilt and responsibility that caused each of us to suffer in our own ways.

That’s how—as a young adult—I needed to learn to think positively.   By the time I was in my middle twenties, I had worked many jobs, and some of them were real clunkers–such as the Westcooke Mushroom Factory, ten warehouses of drippy, stinky cow manure—but my most recent job, as a Therapy Assistant for the State of Oregon had given me a strongl sense of self-worth. That’s when I decided to quit my job and go to college.

After all, I told myself, I had been successful in a fairly high-paying job; why not go succeed at my lifelong dream? I continued to coach myself throughout four years of college. I always told myself, “If others can do it, why, you can do it too!” and other positive messages, such as “If you don’t know how, just ask! That’s what they are paid for!” and a message that I really love: “Don’t ever, ever tell yourself no. Tell yourself yes. Give yourself permission to do well.” Another favorite message is this one: “If you wouldn’t put another person down, why would you put yourself down?” I definitely learned to coach myself through positive thinking. I thought myself to success. This is not a skill that I learned over night; I definitely recommend you take some time and practice learning to be kind—to yourself.

By harmanygroves