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Friday, July 30, 2010

Laura Better Git!

I like this photo that was mixed in with DZel's Santo Santiago album. Portomarin is waiting for you, Laura!

Being that August starts in two days, I want to take the time to say that I posted the most this month since starting this blog! Call it what you will- therapy, procrastination, creative outlet... Portomarin may not be waiting for me, but lots of blogging and a busy Autumn-Winter sure is.


Walking 3

The last of DZel's reflections:

After the second day I stopped counting the days, kilometers, hours, and milestones we had to complete before reaching Santiago de Compostela. I soon realized that the entire walk was no longer about the finishing point, but about path taken to get there. I will not lie, and confess that I had to make the effort to keep myself from drifting into a state of mindlessness and force my presence in each step I took. I had to constantly remind myself to raise my head high and experience every moment with all my senses. The truth is that I stopped few times to take pictures, because at times I felt that the pause would distract me from living the moment.

Another reason that it was difficult to capture more images of theCaminowas because there were lines of people walking behind or in front of us, so it was sometimes hard to stop the flow of pilgrims to take a shot. It being a holy year, Xacobeo, floods of people came from around the world to complete the pilgrimage and receive their “Compostelana” from the Catholic Church. While I fully enjoyed the entire pilgrimage, I will be say that I believe I would have enjoyed more of the spiritual purpose of the pilgrimage had there been less people. At times the masses of people overwhelmed me and many around me due the stress created over reaching an albergue and finding refuge for the night. Because the stress was so overwhelming we decided as a group to call ahead and reserve at the private hostels for a couple extra Euros a night to assure a bed with some clean sheets and a disinfected bathroom.

I witnessed an example of the stress produced by the crowds through a woman from Bilbao who we bumped into in each town we stopped along the way. The first day we met her she informed us that the last albergue she slept at was infested with “chinches” (bed bugs) and that she didn’t get any shut eye due to the itch all over her body! Then we saw her speed walking on the third day in an effort to be the first in line to get a bed at the next stop albergue. When we finally caught up to her, she informed us that she walked a total of 8 hours without stopping to eat or go to the bathroom. Just listening to her stressed me out; but for some reason I got the impression that she got a high over the stress and was proud of her suffering. I guess some people interpreted the Camino as a penitence for which they had to suffer through to be redeemed?

I should add that there was another man like her on the walk that carried a 20 pound, 5’7ft statue of Jesus Christ on the cross on his back! He said that he carried the Christ on his back to redeem the spirit of the Camino and educate foreign pilgrims what it was truly about. Most Spaniards were in shock over this man’s act, some even taunted him; but coming from a Mexican background, I’ve witnessed plenty of Catholics who have done something similar. The poor man attracted so much attention that day that he became the talk of the town. While sitting in a bar, the bartender and owner of the hostel laughed and explained to us that when he stopped at her business in search of a bed she didn’t know if he needed 1 or 2 beds: one bed for him and another for his Christ statue. I should say that I was torn between the impulse to laugh and at the same time honor him for his sacrifice. I mean, while it may sound ridiculous for those who perceive such acts as fanatical and overboard, I respect the sincere act of people like him. After all, for some, the decision to do the Camino itself might be interpreted in the same way. Who decides to walk miles over various days?

Thousands! Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people around the world complete pilgrimages to different destinations. And for immeasurable amount of purposes people decide to depart from their homes for a destination in hope that during their journey they fulfill their souls with purpose. I should be honest; I still ask myself what my purpose was during this journey. There are so many causes that motivated me to walk: my prima, Estela; my parent’s; my goals; Jose Luis and Femi; and my hopes. My strong desire to walk and walk to a destination was symbolic of my constant drive to pursue new goals and support causes. Also, my heart and soul still maintain faith in God and his will to alleviate the pain and suffering of my loved ones. I still believe in his/her power to cure where there is hope. I maintain esperanza in life and superhuman powers intercept when our souls are weakened. So I pray, I walk, I meditate, and attempt to recover from my faults with the goal of finding a balance in life and existence.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Walking 2

Here is the second account of DZel's recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela:

On our first day after climbing some unforgiving hills, we came across one of many water fountains that streamed water from snow-capped mountains. While some believe water has no taste; this water was delicious, full-bodied, and tasteful! Its natural cold temperature quickly calmed the thirst I worked up during the first hours of climbing. I could not get enough of it and for a moment fantasized about my bathing in it, but there were miles to tread before sundown and no time for any luxurious baths. The goal for the first day was to reach a small stop called “Alto del Pollo,” strange name, I know, but we had decided to stop there and find a place to stay the night. It so happens that the entrance to “Alto del Pollo” was incredibly unwelcoming; a sharp inclining hill adorned with hundreds of rocks of all sizes. The hike almost brought me to my knees and my body temperature increased with my heart rate. I run, bike, swim, and do plenty of exercise; still my heart informed me during that climb that I was nothing but a weakling!

Indeed I was humbled and I accept that I am not extreme athlete; but then again, El Camino de Santiago is not about physical strength, it is about spiritual growth. Like all the pilgrims I met on the Camino, the walk through this path to Santiago de Compostela was all about modesty, self-awareness, and soul-searching. Walking comes so naturally to all of us, and the truth is that we do not need to walk far to realize that the act itself can be a meditative one; we can walk in rhythm with our thoughts and submerge our bodies in the physical universe we live and experience our presence in the beautiful environment we are all part of.

Anyhow, there was no “albergue” with beds in “Alto del Pollo” so we had to continue walking for another hour or so in the late afternoon to see if we could find someone to sleep. To our luck we walked into a beautiful small town, which had no more than 30 permanent residents. There was a small private hostel there run by the most welcoming staff. For about 15 Euros each, we found a clean bed to sleep in, and a disinfected bathroom to shower in. Immediately after showering we washing out cloths by hand and hung them outside the albergue on a clothes line that was set up for all the pilgrims to dry their wash.

The albergue housed for that evening over 100 pilgrims from around the world. I went to sit at the local benches where I almost believed I was sitting at the United Nations; Germans, Australians, Austrians, Chinese, Venezuelans, Germans, Brazilians, Mexicans, and Americans all sat around outdoor café opening themselves to random conversations with fellow pilgrims. Some of us shared tips on treating worn feet, others recommended pilgrim housing along the road, but in the end most conversations lead to the same question: why do the Camino de Santiago?

I am not sure if the global economy has its place in my story, but what I do know is that at least 5 people I met were able to find the time to embark on this journey thanks to their unemployment. Others lost a loved one or had endured emotionally draining periods that left them with a thirst for spiritual awareness and consolation for their worn souls. As for me, those of you who know me well and know all that I have lived in the last year understand why I would take this journey. Sometimes when you feel lost, the best way back home is to walk without direction; at the end of your journey you will realize that your heart has taken you where you should be.

Our dinner that evening felt like the last supper, well, actually more like Thanksgiving! It was a quite a feast for only 9 euros! All the wine, water, pasta, beef, and cake we could fit into our bellies. I sat by several Italians, a German man who had been walking for over 3 months from his hometown, a couple of Central American women, and a few Spaniards from Alicante. Over the dinner table it seemed as if most of us knew each other for years, sharing more than expected from a stranger you have never met before. I wondered why we don’t sit with strangers in restaurants more often and just talk. Why do we sit alone at a table when we go out to eat when there are so many more doing the same? Eating alone is so boring!

After our meal I was ready to get some shut-eye, we expected to start walking no later than 5:30am. The truth is that there was a bit of stress among the pilgrims since there was an increasing amount of them that were in search of a bed to sleep in, and since most albergues were first-come-first-serve many pilgrims set out early in hopes of getting to the next albergue early enough to secure a spot. To ease our stress we decided that we would walk at our pace, and that if there were no beds left we would sleep under the stars in our sleeping bags. For many this was a common practice when camping, bit for a city girl like me, the thought of sleeping in sack, without a toilet, and the possibility of being shit on by a random cow grazing in the hills worried me a bit. Then I thought how the air could clear up my skin, my shit fertilizes the soil, and well, the cow shit could rejuvenate my aging sunburned skin. Who knows maybe I could later put my new find on the international market and become a millionaire like the woman who invested Spanx?

Back to the topic Denise! The following morning waking up was a bit of a challenge; I haven’t woken up before 5:30 in a while, much less while on vacation! While I looked forward to walking through the mountains of Galicia and rural regions, I almost suffered a panic attack at the thought of having to lug my 30 pound backpack for 32 kilometers! I know, I keep bitching about the backpack, and I sound like a wiener, so let this be the last time I remind you guys about it.

The most vivid memory I have of that morning is the smell: fresh cow droppings. To most that may sound like an unpleasant scent, but the scent took me back to those early morning in Moyahua during the summer when my abuelita woke us up early to drink the warm frothy milk she had just milked from her cow. I clearly saw myself sitting at her dining table, covered with wildly colorful floral print plastic table cloth, with my clear glass decorated with bright orange flowers, waiting for her to pour the milk into my glass from the silver tin bucket she used to milk the cow. Her worn tanned large hands holding the tin bucket slowly pouring the thick warm milk into my glass were so present in my mind that I almost believed I was at her table as I walked that morning. As I let the image run through my mind my heart just warmed up and I felt so close to my father and family. If only I could walk back in time and take my grandmother’s hand to my cheek and kiss it and tell her how much I loved her. Little did she know that I would later go across the sea in search of memories of her and my father’s hometown.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walking 1

DZel just returned from the Camino de Santiago, a walk I intend to accompany her on in years to come. I am familiar with the traditions surrounding Santo Santiago on a personal level. My father Manuel (pictured above), who hails from the small town of Moyahua, Zacatecas (also pictured above) is intimately involved with the custom on an annual basis, assuming the role of the Santo Santiago in the re-enactment. In fact, he is in Moyahua with my sister right now, as I type, celebrating las fiestas. Below is a first person account of DZel's recent experience:

Several years ago I made a promise to the patron saint of my father’s hometown in Zacatecas, Mexico; my promise to Santo Santiago committed me and my father to walk from Huentitan, Jalisco to Moyahua, Zacatecas. A total of a bit over 70 miles in 30 hours, my father and I completed one of the roughest, yet fulfilling walks of our lifetime. While walking over the dense mountains that divide the states of Zacatecas and Jalisco and stomping on the steaming asphalt two-way road that joins the two regions, I learned lessons beyond the classroom or lecture halls of all the prestigious educational institutions I ever studied in: commitment, loyalty, character, presence. The value of the lessons I learned as I walked for hours under the blazing sun with my father outweighed all the pain I endured during the grueling walk, inspiring me to commit myself to another walking journey in my near future.

Without thinking twice about the physical challenge, I decided to do the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Of course, this time I was a bit gentler with my legs, and walked a total 176 kilometers over 8 days. The first three days were incredibly challenging since I didn’t listen to friend’s advice and packed a 30 pound backpack! Ahh, the shoulder pain! In fact, I believe I lost some height due to the weight of my backpack; I measure 170cm and on the second day of carrying the weight I measured 166cm! I was getting shorter by the day! In fear of becoming a midget by the end of my trip I took the easy way out and like many other pilgrims I sent my pack along using a taxi service. Thank goodness I was not the only fool who over packed; it seems that many first timers had the same problems, making this backpack taxi service a lucrative business for local Galicians.

Putting aside the pain, I must say that the entire experience is one of countless blessings. Each step offers a new view, a new experience in life. Feeling the crisp air at dawn… saying “til tomorrow” to the morning fog and greeting the new day. Passing the rural villages and greeting the locals who’ve started the day hours before dawn. Attempting to imagine what their lives are like on a day-to-day basis. Fantasizing over the simplicity of their lifestyles and secretly wishing to seek refuge from the overwhelming complex society I now live in.

At one point, I did stop to research more about the rural lifestyle that the people along the Camino de Santiago lived. Perhaps I would discover that all my fantasies about how great their lives were would be confirmed, convincing me to leave the big city and seek work as a farmhand or who knows what in the Spanish countryside of Galicia. Seeking someone to share their life with me, I met Carmen, a warm and loving 60 year old woman who reminded me of my abuelita, Emilia Tello. Carmen stopped to ask me how I was and inquire about my pilgrimage thus far. Her mannerisms and physical aspect warmed my heart as I felt that I was again with my paternal grandmother who passed away when I was a young. Carmen invited me into her home and fed me some crepes with sugar and a warm hot chocolate, stirred using a wooden “molinillo” just like the one my grandmother used in Mexico. It had been a long time since I had felt so warm and close to my father’s family.

While I enjoyed my sugared crepes, Carmen, explained to me how strenuous country life was for her and other women in the village. She explained that even after retiring she worked with her son raising cattle from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Feeding the cattle, rounding up the cattle that graze on the hills, cleaning the barns, making cheese, milking the cows, and what sounded like never-ending housework. Alas, Carmen left me with the impression that country life would kill me physically within a week or less! The truth is that living in the city we are so disconnected from nature and rural society, the birthing grounds of all that we consume, often taking for granted all the hard work that goes into getting to our tables the nutritional delights we enjoy.

More stories to tell will be posted soon ...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not That The House Needs to Be Warmer

The Bluebs residence does have excellent cross-breezes coming in from all sides, perfect for keeping this housewarming on the cooler side. I brought over chocolate peanut butter and mango Italian ices for further refreshment, but was so preoccupied eating all of this wonderful food that I forgot to capture them. For a housewarming gift, I got Bluebs and J-Baby a dry plate of the Trevi Fountain... After sifting through several I figured this one was the best because J-Baby loves being Italian (and making the best Aperol spritzers, pictured below!) and Bluebs likes La Dolce Vita. Bada bing!


⋅Corn and many herbs salad with hot finger peppers and toasted cumin seeds
⋅Potato salad with dill, celery and mustard
⋅Root beer baked beans
⋅Gruyere and gorgonzola burgers
⋅An assortment of sausages from Emily's Pork Store:
Broccoli rabe, red peppers and cheese, fennel, hot sausage and sweet sausage
⋅Karolina's famous salmon with a potlatch seasoning

Just when I thought a sense of family in NY would be impossible these two come to the rescue:

Sunday, July 25, 2010


This could have been a fantastic photo if I had remembered to snap it earlier. Not pictured are the insanely delicious Camaron al Chipotle taco, the Pescado Zarandeado taco and more Cebollitas Cambray (grilled Mexican scallions- out of this world). A while back I considered working part time at La Superior. I would be many pounds heavier if that had ended up happening.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Who Needs An Umbrella?

Unless there is serious downpour, I will be sticking to headscarves, henceforth. And the collection properly begins now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Storm Photos

And then aliens came over for rosé and quesadillas...

Highlight. Of. The. Week.

The homie D sure knows how to package an impressive mix CD. I'm loving the black bubble wrap... But what I love even more is 70 + minutes of 70s smoothness. There are some familiar faves- last week's Baby Come Back, How Much I Feel, Magnet & Steel, Midnight at the Oasis, but there are some new and forgotten gems on here, too. My new goal for the week is to learn the solo from Ace's "How Long" on the guitar (that sentence is reason enough for me to label this post "humor" as well).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When Smeerka's in town that means it is time to attack every favorite food spot of mine, in no particular order. I could, and often do, eat falafel sandwiches too many nights in a row. We visited two of my favorite spots, Mamoun's and Oasis.

Mamoun's avant et après:

This place is great, but there's something a little dry about their sandwich. The hot sauce is too hot. I always say I will skip it, but stubbornly end up putting 4-5 drops, as though the result will be different that particular time. When will I learn?

Oasis, photo courtesty of Get Sconed:

I am never disappointed with Oasis, I must say. Those pickles, the marinated onions... They load up on the sauce. It is hands down my favorite falafel in NYC, so much that I schlep the 45 minute subway ride all the way there just to get off the L, get a sandwich and come back!
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I'm an LA transplant now living in Brooklyn. I develop film projects by day, write at night, and have a dangerous predilection for vintage Robinson Golluber scarves- this blog serves as a tiny window to everything else I do when I'm not satisfying those first three passions. I'm trying to blog more and tweet less @annabelleqv. What about you?


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