Hi! I’m Svea. If you aren’t familiar with me, I am an extremely short, extroverted, talkative, loud, person. You might not be able to see me, but you’ll typically hear me from a half mile away. Spain was no different. I probably said Hola and Buen Camino to complete strangers more times than I have ever spoken in Spanish class at school, and I have been taking Spanish at Breck for six years. I strongly think that my bubbly and outgoing qualities got me through the walking and the whole trip all together. For those who don’t know, I have a medical condition called hypocondroplasia dwarfism. In less medical terms this means that I am 4’5” and the size of your average eight year old. In one of the places we stayed in during the walk, there were these Spanish kids looking to be around our age who were clearly making fun of me because of my short stature. They then proceeded to laugh and talk about me in a foreign language that I don’t really understand. Trying to make the encounter less awkward and being the outgoing person I am I started talking to them thinking I had “amazing” Spanish skills. No surprise I was wrong about those skills and ended up making a complete fool of myself saying mixed up and incorrect Spanish sentences. Elizabeth then saved the day and said ¿Sabes hablamos Español, verdad? This translates to “You know we can speak Spanish, right?” They somehow still had the nerve to keep poking fun at me. Eventually the negative feelings started to overpower the positive feelings that I had just had. I then had a little bit of a nervous break down in the laundry and shower part of the albergue. If you were one of the people with me at this time, you know who you are; having a LITTLE BIT of a breakdown is an understatement, a big, big, BIG understatement. Even though she is not here, I would like to formally apologize to the one lone foreign woman who was with us when I had my breakdown. Innocently in line for the shower, in the small increment of time she was there probably not expecting an American teenage girl to be having a panic attack. For that I deeply apologize to her. I then realized that I could take two different routes. One, I could let this situation make me negative for the rest of the trip. Or two I could just bounce back to being the happy person I had been before all of this happened. I chose the second option. Why I did is because I had such great friends sticking up for me in that moment. I also made this decision because these people absolutely did not deserve a cranky Svea dragging the group down in return for all they had done to help me. The next day just so happened to be our longest day of walking, 21 miles. I had used my experience from the previous night to motivate myself going forward. Even though those Spanish kids weren’t there to see it, I slayed that long day of walking. But in all seriousness, if I didn’t have this incredible group of people to help me get over what those Spanish kids did, I likely wouldn’t have gotten through the 110 km. And for the amount of time they have had my back through everything, I don’t think I will ever be able to repay them for that. I would like to leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare, “Although she be but little, she is fierce.” Thank You!

 

Hello everyone, I’m Phoenix Pham. I am here to speak about my memory of the Camino.

Whenever I think of the Camino I see dirt trails, rolling hills, morning mists, and gentle forests. I see the cobblestone roads of Santiago and feel the heat of Madrid. I remember countless cafes and dozens of pasties. But most of all I remember my pilgrim friends. Eating with them, Sleeping with them, and walking with them. I have no “memory” of the camino in the singular sense. Rather, I had a series of moments which all have taught me something.

The plane hums and pilgrims are chattering excitedly. I am sitting the the middle column of the plane one seat from the right. Kailey and Sheryl sit beside me. I am a little annoyed with Cheryl because when we were choosing bandanas she made me pick mine almost last. Somehow she senses this and tells me how we will become friends on this trip. I smile disbelievingly and turn to Kailey for a game of chess.

What I find funny about this is that Cheryl and I did become friends. We walked and talked together and I found myself admiring her strength and character. The same was true for my other companions. I had already formed opinions of them, but while we walked I glimpsed a small part of true character, and respected it.

I start suddenly, twisting on my paper sheets. A voice can be heard through the darkness. My ears strain as I try to make out what it is saying, but then I realize it’s carson. He’s sleep talking while I’m sleeping. “Shut up!”, I shout and he stops. Soon after I fall back asleep.

Ok, I admit there was nothing spiritual about that moment, but looking back on it a part of myself was revealed that night. In the morning Jimmy told me he had heard me and Carson’s exchange. Others had been woken by Carson talking, but realized he was asleep. I, on the other hand, shouted at him to shut up. I learnt that I was impulsive that night and have then since tried to curb it.

I take out my Ukulele and begin to strum. I only know three songs and play them badly, but when I am about to put it away the man walking in front of me says. “Don’t stop, it takes my mind off my feet”. Obediently I play and we strike up a conversation. His name is Nick and he’s from Ireland. He can speak Gaelic and I would see him 3 more times.

On a normal day I see 2 thousand people and ignore most of them. But when I am walked through farmland and forest I became focused and open. I would take our canvas banner and go up to strangers smiling and asking for a signature. These people were no less special than those at my school. They were probably no less interesting too, but I was in a foreign country and found everything so exciting. So what I’m trying to say is that with time, I take things for granted. I am at school for four years and think the students are static, unchanging, boring. In Spain I would go up to pilgrims and eagerly learn about their lives and experiences. Since then I tried to think that same way, but time is a great force.

Sitting on a bench, watching my friends standing in line for their credentials, I grin ruthfully. I had lost my Camino passport and could not be certified as a “true pilgrim”. But as I sit, I think that certified or not, I have become one.

I could go on for hours about Spain and the Camino, but as I write this it is late at night and I am tired. In all these moments I learnt something about myself. If I had not gone these lessons would have passed by. But the Camino, I think, is a great teacher. While on it one notices and reflects. Walking clears the mind and cares seem million of miles away. Real worries separate from the fake and the learning takes place. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to go and hope that one day I can go back, because I never really got my credentials.