I’ve been slowly preparing for my trip to Spain later this Fall and over the weekend I decided to try to walk a bit carrying my trekking pack, just to see how I handled carrying the weight, and also how my shoes would hold up over longer distances than just a couple of miles. Albuquerque has an absolutely wonderful urban running/biking/walking trail called the Paseo del Bosque, which runs along the Rio Grande through about half of the city. It goes by a few state parks, the zoo, and many county open space areas. It’s quiet and very nice, especially not having to deal with cars. I was able to walk from my home to one of the early entry points on the Paseo and then walked about 8 miles north to the very end of the trail. All in all, it was about a 9 mile walk. I did okay for about the first 6 miles, but the last three were torture. My feet hurt;, my hips were killing me; I was beginning to get a blister on one of my feet, and it was getting pretty warm outside by the time I finished. It took me about 4 hours to walk 9 miles. It’s taken me several days to heal from that experiment. Today was the first day I was able to really move around and walk quickly without much pain. It’s a tricky thing because initially, I felt like my hips were the worst part of the pain. My calves, knees and ankles all felt pretty good. But they started to hurt the following days, after my hip pain went away. I think maybe the hip pain was more from carrying the weight of the pack. I didn’t use a hiking pole when I walked and I certainly will carry one on the Camino Frances. I hope to be able to complete this Paseo del Bosque a couple more times before I leave, just so I can try to get my body somewhat familiar with walking long distances. I don’t know if I’ll really be able to walk the 200 miles I’ve set out to walk in Spain, but at least I can try it. I don’t know anyone who has actually walked the Camino, despite there being 20k people a year who do it. I thought I had met one at the library but she came back in yesterday and clarified that she actually hasn’t walked the Camino. She’s been to Santiago de Compostela and she walked the last half mile or so on a whim while studying there, but she didn’t actually do the whole pilgrimage experience. But, I’ve been planning what to pack and what I need to buy and (most important) what songs I want to put on my mp3 player for the 200 mile attempted walk. John Mayer’s “Paradise Valley” album is absolutely terrific. It’s a good wandering/meandering sort of folksy rock album. I found this acoustic version of one of the songs from that album and I thought I’d share it here. I think he’s getting better as he gets older. I like most of his music, but I feel like “Paradise Valley” is his best album, to date.
Another way I’m trying to prepare is by learning Spanish. This isn’t really for this trip, although it will help me. I feel obligated to learn it for my job. We have no one at the library who is fluent in Spanish and it’s a real problem. There are a couple of us who try our best at translating, but without someone who can really speak the language, it’s difficult. So, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for a while now using an app on my phone, and it helps with basic skills. It’s good practice and a nice refresher for me, but it’s not really practical. It’s got me constantly translating sentences like “The girl eats an onion” or “The turtles drink water”. Not bad sentences, but totally not that helpful in my daily life. A wonderful woman who comes in for computer classes agreed, a couple of weeks ago, to begin teaching me Spanish! She likes to teach, and although she’s not a teacher, she is patient and willing to try to help people learn the language. She is also trying to learn English, so it’s a good trade-off. So, we have enlisted a small group of people who meet for an hour each week to learn and practice their Spanish. I’m excited about it because I think it will help me. Eventually, it will be real conversations with people I actually will see on a fairly regular basis, as well as people I can contact if I have questions or am confused about something. I don’t really know the other people in the little class yet, but they are all from the area and grew up here, so it’s fascinating just to hear their stories of how the community changed in relation to the tolerance of people speaking Spanish. One woman was saying how when she was growing up, she would get into trouble at school for speaking Spanish on the playground. She would hear it at home, but the nuns at her elementary school would punish anyone they heard speaking Spanish. I’ve heard that quite a bit in my community as people reminisce. There are entire generations here who cannot speak Spanish, book-ended by generations who do speak Spanish. It’s interesting to hear the stories of the Mexican immigrants, as well, because the woman who is teaching me is from Southern Mexico and her stories of difficulties in understanding Spanish-speakers here when she arrived are eye-opening. I know dialects are everywhere. Every country has different regions with different dialects, but I didn’t realize that Northern Mexico and New Mexico share much of the same dialect. It’s Spanglish rather than what my teacher calls “proper Spanish”, which is what they apparently speak in Southern Mexico, where she is from. She had a very difficult time learning words and communicating with people here when she arrived, despite everyone speaking (what each of them considered to be) Spanish. She was trying to teach her son to speak Spanish and he was taking Spanish in school and the words he was taught at school were different and she finally stopped trying to fight the differences and had to accept that she and her family needed to learn not only English, but Spanglish, if she wanted to understand her new neighbors. It’s all very interesting and I would just go to this class and listen to them all reminisce, but I do try to participate and focus on learning the lessons. I even jumped into my basic Spanish skills today at the library when a co-worker struggled with asking a woman if she’d had a library card before. And the woman understood me! It was a tiny triumph. My teacher says you will know when you are fluent in a language when you begin to dream in that language. I have a hard time even imagining getting to that point. I will be very pleased if I can just confidently speak with the people who come into the library and need my assistance but who only speak Spanish.