Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Merging the Dream into Reality

The Beginning

I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer. In October 2014, I had a dream that I was hiking through mountains with nature completely different to what I know. The next day, I turned on my laptop and clicked whatever video came up as a "recommendation" on Youtube.  To my amazement, it was bits and pieces from my dream the night before. 
For the next few days, I began researching, El Camino de Santiago. I spent days debating on whether I was going to follow my dream and take a leap of adventure and set out. One week later, I had made up my mind to walk, still unsure how I was going to finance, prepare, or even complete this trek - but as the days went on, the dreams kept coming and I was certain I was going to do this.
For a little over four months, every weekend, I set out into the Trinidadian forests and began climbing. During the week, I'd pack my backpack with bottles of water and walk on the treadmill. 
I had the support of a small but effective group. Being a private person, I decided I would let my dreams tell me who and when I was going to tell my loved ones about my great adventure. As the weeks fell off the calendar, more and more people became aware of my intention.  
I had never been to Spain; no one in my family had been to Europe, really. We were more familiar with the Caribbean and American culture rather than European. My Spanish skills were at a bare minimum though I bought a number of books and searched all the touristy words before my big day came. 

March 14th 2016 
I left from Trinidad to Miami and then to Madrid. For hours I sat on the plane, not getting more than a 10 minute sleep, thinking of so many things. At the end of the flight, I kindly asked the woman next to me for guidance - both she and her husband did. 
My first day in Madrid, I got lost. I tracked down a young man dressed  like a Pilgrim, thinking he too was on the way to St. Jean, France but he was returning from South America. This kind person helped me get my train tickets, my train, and even took me to one of my stops. I had no idea how I was going to do any of this as there are no trains on my tiny island! When I finally connected to my bus to Pamplona, I spent hours, nodding off to sleep and awaking every time the bus stopped. 
At last, I awoke, got off the bus and entered the bus station, only to realise, i was at the wrong stop! The people at the bus station ever so kindly tried to get the bus conductor's attention but failed. I had to wait an hour, with a new ticket, until my Pamplona bus finally arrived - and it did

Pamplona, Spain. 
I arrived at 10.30pm with out any sleep or food for the journey. A young woman guided me towards a hotel. As I walked more and more into the city, a group of three people, took me my the hand and showed me both hotels. That night, when I got to my room, I began laughing hysterically outside my hotel room because - I could not open my room door! What else, right?! The next morning, I woke up, had a large breakfast and left the hotel with a warm, "Buen Camino!" from the hotel manager. A warm shot of energy surrounded my entire body and began building in my heart. 
I sat on the bus going to St. Jean Peid du Port and began thinking how the kind acts of strangers, in a country where my language was limited, was so helpful and trustworthy and this was only my first day! 
When the bus stopped in France, I walked out and asked a woman for help. She too, was about to walk El Camino, she looked at me and said,
"I don't know where to go but we will follow."

A few seconds after she continued, "I will walk to Santiago with you." 

St. Jean Peid du Port to Santiago de Compostella
My new friend and I stayed together the entire way. We were a unique pair, Romaina and Trinidad walking hand in hand while discovering our many mutual traits. For the first two weeks, we walked with mainly women from all over the world. Gradually, faces change but some you'll see in every corner, hostel, and every step with you. This is how we met the boys during our second week. We'd seen them all the time but never stopped to connect until one day we just stopped and bonded. Now, there was an energetic balance of male and female consciousness. Together, we all saw how much we reflected ourselves in one another; we became a family.

One Year Later
As I look back, I realise how much I inspired myself by following my dream and universal signs. I understand now that people will help people. We can have any of our life goals with the assistance of others if we learn not to take anything too personal, and in that become less egotistic. We are powerful and control our perception and energy. Through this, we will see that our path is lit up through pain, love, and laughter. I fully see now that in life, you must be a little crazy to survive the society that has brainwashed the masses to become. 

I live my day to day life as I did on the Camino; in the now. Don't get too caught up in doing for others that you forget to do something for yourself. See the magic that you already are. 

Live your dreams.

Buen Camino!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Galician Rain

Mud stains decorate my pants 
like Monet paints his art. A white 
butterfly with black spots flies 
alongside me as I play hopscotch 
with puddles of mud. I wait for 
the familiar laughs behind me

to catch up. The sunlight peaks 
out as they walk closer. We look 
around for the fairies sheltering 
from the rainfall in the eucalyptus 
trees but cannot find them. Five 
shades of sun kissed faces wear 
brave smiles of youth; creating 

a rainbow in the forest.

Tunes of the Road

The flutter of paper wings

 tells me to walk more. I’m 
in a place of sleeping, mossy 
stones and barren olive trees.

Cold water flows down into 

the village of snow dusted 
roofs and eating sheep. I don’t 
know where my feet has taken

me but there’s a shimmery light 

nesting under the giant, thawing 
trees, guiding me. Time doesn’t 
exist here, there’s only the whisper

of the road.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Carry your home on your back,
dear peregrino. The blisters on your
feet eagerly ooze the desire to wander 
through a place that is not home.

Tongues of unfamiliar lands

melt together with whistling
Spanish birds under the rising sun.
Clusters of sun smeared faces 

light up the Camino's trail. 

Words fail to feel the emotions
in the hearts of those 

follow the signs under the stars of 

Santiago de Compostela.

The Dream Have you ever wondered what would happen if you woke up one morning and decided to follow the dream you had the night before? If you followed all the signs the universe sent you?
I did.
I am going to walk 500 miles.

I knew nothing about Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage that has many routes. For my Camino, I planned to do Camino Frances or The French Way which requires 800km/500miles of walking. I am not religious however the Camino came to me for reasons I don't know yet.
I am a very active young woman in Trinidad, I spend most weekends hiking in de bush. It’s safe to say, I was very intrigued by the Camino because of the nature, weather, and culture. The Camino is active year round but some Albergues or Hostels won't open until their designated time. 

I decided to venture off in mid-March to see the seasonal shifts as well as experience Easter in a new country. This would be different. A foreign country, a young woman, and a different  language - am I crazy?! Yes, a little but I was safe and well assisted by the locals. During my first night in Spain, one group of people stopped what they were doing to walk me to a hotel before my next day journey from Spain to France.  
On arrival to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the sky was a sour grey with light to medium rainfall. I politely asked a woman, whom I saw at the bus station, for help , little did I know, she and I would walk the entire Camino together. 

The First stop

In the south of France, visited the Pilgrim's Office; this is where a Pilgrim's Passport is issued. This is used throughout the Camino by collecting stamps along the route as proof you've been walking. Each stamp is unique, so you have a collection of all the places you've walked to. 

We stayed at the only available hostel which was cheap, cold, yet owned by a warm old couple who were thrilled to have an "island girl," the only one they'd seen from Trinidad (let's change that). Here,  I quickly formed friends all who I walked with on the next day.  I did not sleep that night. Sleep is precious on the Camino - it is very rare due to jet lag, snorers, and those who speak and scream in their sleep - yes, scream. The only thing to comfort me were the soft purrs of a cold cat sitting on the step outside.
The public Albergues don't usually provide breakfast or dinner but some do as well - just look for them. We sipped tea from bowls and ate whatever fresh and dried fruits we bought at the supermercado the day before. 

Now....AH READY!

The walk began at 7.30 in fog and a drizzle of rain. Then by mid-day, we were pushing through the mountain of snow, snow, and more snow. My brown fingers became swollen, red, and could not move; my gloves were useless. The Island girl was now frozen! 

At 4pm, we saw the first sign of Roncesvalles, a little happy village dance took over our bodies. We were officially in Spain and day one was finished. I was starving. One of the things I didn't know about Spain is that dinner is late. That evening, I ate so many sunflower seeds I must have a blooming flower garden in my stomach by now. Nevertheless, I got the “pilgrim’s menu” which is the same at most places and difficult for a variety if you are a vegetarian like me. The menu consists of three courses, like any other restaurant but is cheaper - you are a pilgrim, after all. I later discovered cooking as a group.

That night, back at the Albergue, the dream of the Camino manifesting into reality slapped me in the back of my head when I tried climbing up onto my top bed bunk and fell right off. Day one and I’m down, good sign, right? This was my life for the next month. 

As the days went on, the trail changed constantly: snow to rain to mud to sun to dirt to sand to powerful wind; sometimes all in one day! The trail shifted constantly. For the first few days, there was snow, which was expected due to the season and being closer to the North.

Later, sun, mud, stone, and low temperatures married. The animals began coming out of their slumber as the end of March neared and the Camino was decorated with snails, slugs, and many worms. Butterflies and ladybugs began to visit me on a regular basis.

Each day, we walked between 18-25 km, with the exception of four days where we accomplished over 30 km. Every day had it's own challenge from climbing up hills to monotonous flat without seeing villages or fellow pilgrims for hours. I still believe it is more comfortable to walk the Camino in the Spring or later in the year. The summer time is usually too hot and there are too many pilgrims. Some of the trails are mainly dried dirt and it can be difficult to be on the path with the heat of the sun.

As I look back now, the weather changes challenged me the most. Imagine waking up to a voice, "Good Morning. It is raining." It rained all day and then there was hail accompanied  by the echoing sounds of a cuckoo bird - because he just had to chuckle at this tropical lady being tossed around by the 30mph winds.

A Few days later..
It took us 32 days to make it to Santiago de Compostela. The last morning was the first time I'd walked 15km without stopping for a break. I did not care. Nearing the town of Santiago, the Camino is designed in such a way that there are minimal bars and cafes; it forces you to push until the end.

Miraculously, the sun cleared the rains that Sunday morning. It was the first time the locals saw the sun and a blue sky in a very long time. Goddess earth gave us the best welcoming gift. 

Although I started alone, I was now in a family of five entering Santiago de Compostela. When we entered the town, no one said a word. We looked at each other and smiled. We hustled into Santiago limping, with blisters on our feet, filthy clothes, over grown hair, and utmost joy in our hearts.
As we neared the Cathedral, we slowed down as the bagpipe player infused the air with beautiful sounds of music.  Emotions ripened, we held each other, and at the same time, took a step into the Centre of Santiago de Compostela. 

At the end of the Camino, you can receive your Compostela or certification at the Pilgrim's Office and submit your now fully stamped Pilgrim's Passport as well as your Official Passport. The Compostela is written in Latin and your name is translated into Latin (if it can be translated). Excitement spilled as I filled out the Pilgrim's Form: REGION: Caribbean, COUNTRY: Trinidad & Tobago.
I did it. No, WE did it. 
I walked outside with my Camino sister, who was once a lost stranger at a bus station, and ran up the street. Pounds lighter, she danced and jumped around on the ancient stoned floors as my laughs penetrated the walls of Santiago.

Taking the risk and accepting a greater challenge such as the Camino has helped me remember one thing: how to be a child. We ate too much sugar, had too much energy, complained about ALL our aches and pains. But laughed, smelled the rain seeping into the wood of Galician trees, lost all negative judgement against others, and most importantly - we loved. 
"I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams." - Vincent Van Gogh

Feel free to comment below with any questions or comments!