Monthly Archives: March 2011

supernatural powers


I’ve been thinking about superhero powers lately… Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Just roll with me for a second!

My husband, Patrick, and I have just started streaming the T.V. show “Heroes” and quickly became huge fans! Yes, I know it was on a while ago but we never got into it until now.  The show is about these seemingly random strangers that find themselves blessed/cursed with super powers.  The onset of these powers can destroy the world but it’s up to the characters to use their powers for good and save the world (save the cheerleader, save the world… just had to throw that in). The characters on the show can fly, make fire, run with superspeed, heal, read people’s minds, put thoughts into people’s heads, time travel, steal other people’s powers, etc. Of course one power isn’t better than the other and the only thing that makes someone bad is their choice in using said power. So it got me “casually” thinking about what type of super power I would have. It wasn’t anything serious, just a thought…

Then, in the Spanish class that I’m teaching, we are talking about hypothetical situations in the present and asking things like: If you had a super power what would it be? Because of my recent streaming television adventures, I got excited about thinking on this. Of course I didn’t let my students know what a dork I am and just how much I enjoyed this particular hypotheticality.  I held in all of my newly forming thoughts on this particular topic and pretended to listen to them while really I was imagining my own powers…

So what would my power be? Well, I’m glad you asked.  At first, I just thought about what the best powers would be and what I would do with them. Honestly it was a really hard list to come up with but I will share with you my top three choices.

1. Touch of Gold: With this, I would be super rich and be able to travel wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted and still have the means to see my family often. I, of course, would donate a lot of money to special causes as well and make sure that everyone I love had what they needed.

2. Invisibility: With this power I would spy on people and find out when people are really telling the truth or not or find out if they are up to an evil plan. I could save the world by breaking up some pretty evil plans out there!

3. Time travel: Oh this sounds like the most fun.  Honestly, I don’t have too many regrets so I wouldn’t really go back to change anything. But, I would go to the future and use the information to win a bet or the lottery. I could also go to the past and tell everyone how messed up the futre is and if they only would change this one decision things wouldn’t have to end up a certain way.

Then, I got to thinking about all of the bad things that could come out of these.  If I had the touch of Gold then I would probably give everyone gold because I wouldn’t want anyone to go without.  And then, since everyone had all this access to gold it wouldn’t have any value anymore and we’d all be back to where we started. There is also the chance that I could be like Hurley in Lost and hate the fact that I had all of this money all of a sudden and see it as a curse instead of a blessing…

If I was invisible then I would probably turn rotten. I could do all of these things in private but call others out their secrets. I would have some sort of god complex and just be miserable to be around.  No one would ever trust me because they would think that I was spying on them all of the time…

If I time traveled I wouldn’t really learn from my mistakes.  The reason I don’t have many regrets in my life is because I know that everything that has happened has made me who I am today.  I would love to be able to go back in time and stop me from hurting people but then our relationships would be different because there wouldn’t have been any hard times to go through together…

I don’t think anyone would ever choose the right power for themselves. They  would come to us naturally and spring out of our existing personalities.  It just has to work that way. No one would ever choose the right power and they would end up ruining themselves and a whole lot more.  So then I decided to change the way I was thinking about this whole super power thing.  What would come out of me even if I chose it or not? I decided that I there must always be two possible powers for each person. One is the villain power that could emerge if someone is bad and the other is a good power that they only use to help people with. First I’ll talk about my villain power.

If I were a villain I think that I would have the ability to sew people’s mouths shut. I know how morbid that sounds but we’re talking about villains and personality flaws here, people. I think this would be my power because whenever anyone says something really mean to me, I get really angry and wish that I could do just that, sew their mouth shut!  This would be bad  because it’s actually pretty easy to hurt my feelings so their would be a lot of sewing. I’m pretty sure that everyone I know would have their mouths sewn shut and then I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to…

(this photo really creeps me out by the way)

My “good guy” power would be a very interesting one. I’ve thought long and hard about this one and I’ve decided that it would be the ability to take physical and emotional pain away from others.  First of all, let me remind you that I would never choose this power. It’s what I think would come from me naturally though.  I hate seeing other people in pain. It actually makes my body hurt. I’ve never met anyone who describes sympathy pain in the way that I do, or claim that they feel it as often as I.  If I see someone get hurt, I hurt. I can’t watch violent movies because it hurts me to watch it. Any time I see someone get hurt my stomach flips and I feel this weird pain. Sometimes it’s over my whole body and sometimes it’s concentrated.  I’ve compare it to the phantom feeling that is described by amputees. The limb isn’t there but your mind is telling you it is. That’s kind of what the pain is like. I know I’m not hurt and it doesn’t hurt in the same way that it would if my body actually was injured, rather I feel this hovering pain that’s there, but not there. Any time I see a violent movie or see someone get hurt, it physically affects me.  I also can feel emotional pain of people. A friend of mine lost her baby in the fall and for days I had this emptiness in my belly. I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t know what it feels like to have a life inside of me, but for a few days I felt empty inside; like something had been taken from my body.  Today, actually, I was walking down the hall at work and I saw this man sitting in a chair that looked so sad.  I’ve seen him before but he’s never caught my attention like he did today. This feeling of pure and deep sadness rushed into my body and it shocked me. So much that I actually teared up and rushed into my office. I can’t even describe the sadness that I felt when I walked by him. I wanted so much to say something to him but by the time I cleared my eyes and came back out he was gone.  It was so out of the blue and random.  I don’t know why I got so sad when I saw him but I just felt like he was so sad about something and I wanted to take it away from him.

So, That’s what my super power would be. I would be a pain catcher. (This sucks really because I actually have a really low pain tolerance). I would never choose that power, but the power has chosen me.

Now that you’ve let me show you what a dork I am, it’s your turn to tell me! What would your super power be? What about your personality would morph into a power? I want to know so if I ever have to save the world (or a cheerleader) I know who to call!

nunc est cudendum (Hammertime in Latin)


How do you say “hammer-time” in Latin? Well, let me tell you!

1. nunc est cudendum: This means “now is (the time) for hammering”

2. malleus incipiat: This means “let the hammer begin”. It is more of a subjunctive use and it shows desire for “hammer-time”.

Now, you may be asking yourself how I came across this little tidbit of knowledge.  The truth is, whatever you’re imagining is far more fun than what actually happened so I’m not going to tell you.  Would MC Hammer tell you that the real reason he wore hammer-pants was because when he was a kid he used to dress  up in his mom’s skirts and one day his dad came home unexpectedly so he had to pin the bottom of the skirt to his ankles so that it would just look like he was wearing the future iconic and worst clothing phenomena that came out of the 80s and not actually dressing in his mother’s clothing? Of course not! He would tell you something way cooler and un-weird of course.   So, I’m not going to tell you how I know how to say hammer-time in Latin.

I will, however, tell you that the real reason that I’m writing this post is not because of our beloved Stanley Kirk Burrell (a.k.a. MC Hammer) and his most inspirational lyrics, rather something my student said to me the other day that made me smile.  I ran into her on campus while we were both dashing between buildings to stay out of the cold.  We stopped for a minute to talk about her plans for next term.  She told me that the real reason she was taking Spanish was so that she could understand her grandpa’s Cuban songs he used to play when she was a kid.  She said that every time she tries to translate them they come out sounding really strange and she knows that there must be something lost in translation (which made me think of hammer time… what the hell does that even mean anyway?).  She wants to not only understand what each word really means in the songs but also what the songs mean within themselves and to her grandpa. She wanted to feel the meaning behind the words that she used to try to overpower with her own pre-teen music by blasting up her speakers every time her grandpa would have his music on.  She says she feels really bad that she used to do that to her grandpa and wishes she would have learned Spanish when she had a chance to learn it from him.  It really made me happy to know this about my student.  What a wonderful reason to learn Spanish: to learn about your heritage and to honor your family.  I love that every once and a while those students pop up who have a really cool story behind their language passions.

I wonder if our friend Hammer ever took a Spanish class…

P.S. You can’t touch this… just sayin’

shame spirals, tail chasing and words of wisdom from grandma


A shame spiral characterizes the loss of self-control over something that makes one feel worthless and pathetic. Due to these feelings of low self-worth and guilt, the action that triggered the shame spiral is repeated and the degradation of one’s self continues. It is a cycle that repeats itself, bringing one down further as it repeats.

I learned this term (and feeling) when I was in grad-school.  You could count on any one of your classmates to be shame spiraling at any given day.  Mostly this was self induced because when someone gets down on themselves it usually is coming from something small that they’ve let morph in their head into this giant moster that takes over and consumes your mood.  It’s natural though because you’re under so much pressure and stress.  The ideas start small and you think there’s some huge bomb that’s about to go off but really it’s all like that German 99 balloons song where everyone is making these childlike things out to be adult nightmares…You know,  like a look you got from your professor when you turned in an exam so they must be really disappointed in you and it totally makes sense because you sounded like an idiot the other day in class and now, just as you are, they are wondering how the hell you ever even got into the program and who on earth isn’t doing their job and kicking you out?  Or when all of a sudden your students are dead-faces during a grammar explanation and you now know they all hate you and think you can’t hack it as a teacher and you look like an idiot in front of your professors anyway, your students were all you had left, now that’s all over and just wait till they rip you a new one on their evaluations and tell all of their friends not to take your class.  Or when your mom is making you feel guilty about not spending any time with the family and you realize that you’ve been spending all of your time “building your career” but really what you’ve been doing is putting yourself in the most sadistic situation you ever could meanwhile your family is starting to hate you for being so selfish and will you even have friends when you get out of the program? I mean, you haven’t seen anyone for two years, maybe they think you died or something, or maybe they think you’re a snob for ignoring them… The great thing is that I am now done with this chapter of my life (not to say that I’m not thinking about starting it all over again in the not too distant future).  I am graduated and now am an educated professional… well, sort of.

My shame spirals are definitely different now.  For one, they don’t happen NEARLY as often. In grad school it was one shame spiral after the other and often times you would have two or three of them simultaneously haunting your constant thoughts. Now, there is less to worry about.  There is no one to impress and you don’t have to fight to keep afloat and you have time to be with family and friends. But they happen in other ways.  Now, living the life of an adjunct I have to worry about finding full-time permanent work.  I hate the fact that as soon as you’ve secured temporary work for the term you have one minute of relief but are thrown full swing back into the panic of having to secure something for the next term. I have to overanalyze interviews and self-scrutinize all of the cover-letters I send out and wonder what that person really wanted me to say when they asked why should they give me a job.  It also starts when you know you’re competing against your friends. This is the worst part of it. When you actually know the person who got the job over you.  What do they have that you don’t? I mean if it were an anonymous person you could at least imagine that they must have been so absolutely amazing that there’s no way they couldn’t have gotten the job.  If it’s your friend, you just think “what was it?” I know I am as good as them, why did they get it? What did they say that I didn’t? What are they doing that I’m not? Why is it that when I graduated I had all of this confidence and knew that whoever didn’t hire me would be a fool but now I’m realizing that I’m the fool for thinking I would have a full time job without any hassle. But the truth is that there are not a whole lot of full-time permanent jobs floating around. It’s hard enough to get the good part-time ones let alone have anything with the slightest chance of job security! I understand that it’s the life of an adjunct. It just scares the crap out of me when I’m at work talking with other adjuncts who have been that way for over 11 years! Come on, people. Don’t you realize that all I want to do is teach for you and I’m a damn good teacher and you should realize how dense you are for not creating a job for me?!

These shame spirals make me feel like my special needs can in many ways.  She is deaf and slightly mentally handicapped.  She spends most of her time eating and sleeping but when she’s awake she gets in these crazy self-destructive fights with her tail.  I know what you’re thinking: every cat chases their tail and isn’t it funny and cute.  But you need to understand the severity of my cat’s tail chasing.  I want to start with that she just doesn’t know her own strength and she tends to use it on herself.  When she chases her tail and bites it… she REALLY chomps down! I mean really hard.  She’ll sit there with her tail in her mouth while growling really low and howls.  You know what a cat fight sounds like; angry, deep growls and helps. Well, this is the sound of my cat “playing” with her own tail. No joke, she even leaves large swollen lumps on her poor tail and has drawn blood a couple of times.

Belle the Cat

It makes me sad to watch.  It makes me even more sad to think that I do the same damn thing to myself! I sit there and beat myself up and I don’t really even know how hard I’m biting down until it really hurts. If I would just realize that it’s me who is doing the biting I would just stop, right?  This leads me to think that all I really need is a good attitude adjustment.  Immediately my grandma pops into my head (they are good at inspiring attitude adjustments).  My grandma always says two things: “This too shall pass” and “There’s no use crying over spilled milk”.  I appreciate these words of wisdom from my grandma.  She dropped out of school in the 8th grade because the kids called her fat and went to work at her parents’ store.  My charming and much older Navy grandfather visited the store one day, they met and 63 years of marriage, 8 kids, 18 grandchildren, 19 (I think) great-grandchildren and an amazing life later, she sits in her front room table watching the world go by her window on Jack street in Milwaukie with her vodka-orange juices, Virginia Slims with a blue cloud surrounding her  and tells me this every time I need to hear it.  She reminds me that life happens and when all is said and done, those hard times don’t mean so much. And if they do, they were just something that you learned from. See, Grams has something going for her.  She is constantly adjusting her attitude.  She knows that life is full of ups and downs and there is nothing that can stop life from moving forward.  “This too shall pass” and such.  She knows that you can’t do anything to change the past and all you can do is learn from your experiences.  If the milk spills, there is no use getting all “excited” about it (I never understand why she uses this term either… I’m not excited, I’m freaking out!).  Just know next time not to put it too close to the edge or just stop flailing your arms around when you talk and you won’t knock it over (that happens to me all the time).

Thanks Grams.  I’ll take your advice and not cry over this spilled milk and I will remember that “This too shall pass”… until the next shame spiral begins.

What the Camino really meant for me…


Me (a very masculine looking me with an abnormally round head) and Kathleen at the Cathedral of Santiago

I was recently looking back at an old blog that I made during my trip to Spain to complete the Camino de Santiago.  It’s been a lot of fun looking back and remembering how much I learned during that trip and since then. I love the theme of the blog so much that I’m continuing it here on a new hosting site.  I wanted to make sure that I had the original blog still connected to this one so I’m going to post them here… As mentioned before, looking back at those old blog posts reminds me of where I’ve come from and where I’m going.  When I prepared for the Camino I remember feeling like I was getting ready for something that was going to change my life.  I just knew something huge was  going to happen.   In the end I was right but you can’t really see that reflected too much in those posts.  Really because everything “big” that happened, happened after I left the Camino and went further north to Oviedo to do my internship…

What I learned on the Camino is was to endure pain.  That sounds horrible but it’s true.  I had an amazing time on that trip but it was very physically taxing.  Every morning when I would get on that bike, my legs hurt, my seat hurt and my muscles were tired.  We were exposed to elements and attacked by giant swarms of flies and we were filthy dirty all of the time.  What happened though was that as soon as we stuck in our ipods and started peddling, the pain somehow went away.  The pain became joyful.  We learned from our pain, our bodies broke down and repaired themselves even stronger because of that pain. I also learned that if you go at a pace that’s comfortable, then it’s not too bad. Just don’t push your way through life and you’ll still get to the end… just with less pain!  I learned to persevere and know that even when I’m stuck on the side of the road feeling desperate and totally alone, if I keep at it, if I keep moving forward, I will make it.  There will be a reward at the end.

Well, all of this wonderful knowledge came in handy for me a little while later.  Soon after I finished the Camino and went to Oviedo to start my internship, I got a call from home that came with horrible and painful news. This news shattered me in more ways than one.  I had to listen to something that had happened back home while I was sitting a world away, alone on the side of the road with nowhere to go.  I had to look back and say “well, you can’t ever go back can you?” and look forward and know that if I just kept moving, if I just persevered, then I could make it.   I am happy to report now that getting through that pain was hard but in the end, just like I arrived to Santiago, I have arrived to a healed heart and it no longer hurts.  It took a while for that pain to go away but each time it hurt I thought about what I had learned about living through pain on the Camino.

This perseverance also helped me a tremendous amount when I returned from Spain to finish my Master’s degree.  I had left half way through my degree to pursue an internship that would help me later on in my career.  It was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had and it was so amazing and I would never change it for the world.  Anyone who had taken the time to listen to why I wanted to go on that internship was very excited for me and supportive.  But, believe it or not, most of my professors were not.  In fact there was some attempts at convincing me not to go… I ignored them.  When I came back to school, that meant I had a lot of catching up to do.  I had Master’s papers to write, Master’s comprehensive exams to study for, paper and exam defenses to prepare for,  teach 60 students a term and actually get through all of the classes that I had to take.  Near the end I almost didn’t make it.   I mean I really almost didn’t make it.  My adviser brought me into her office to break the news to me that there was just too much left to do, I wasn’t even close to being done and there simply wasn’t enough time to do it all and fix what I needed to fix.  She informed me that I probably wasn’t going to graduate… my heart sunk. My heart sunk and then I got fired up. No one was going to tell me what I was not able to do and what I am capable of. It took the good part of an hour to actually convince her that I was going to do it. No matter what! When I told my friends and family what was going on, the most common response was “Well she just doesn’t know you very well does she, then?” My friends and family knew that I could do anything I put my mind to and it was good to have them there to remind me of that. My friends were really what saved me during those times.  Without the support and help from my friends, I never could have done the impossible task that was ahead of me.   Which actually brings me back to the Camino as well… you can’t do it alone! You need someone you trust to help you through it 🙂 So, long story short, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life that last term.  I never slept, was a walking zombie and lived in this tiny little cave-like office that I shared with other grad student teachers.  There were many ups and downs and I cried a lot.  I had complete break down near the end but at the end of the day I did it!  I did it! I reached my Santiago! I graduated!

Of course, looking  back I could never describe how hard these two things were to go  through.  It’s hard if you’ve never experienced it either to really understand how difficult they were.  But with this post traumatic stress blocker that I’ve developed, all I know is that I did it.  I can do anything I set my mind to.  The pain isn’t that bad. If you just keep going and pace yourself and make sure you have a really good friend to help you along the way, you can do anything!!

Santiago (original post 9/22/2009)



The arrival of Santiago came upon us quite quickly. After our long day of covering 83 km we were very proud of ourselves but then realized that we had only about one days worth of riding before we got to Santiago. I started to panic a little bit. I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I wasn’t ready to get to Santiago. It’s funny because usually you want to reach your destination, your goal but in this moment I wasn’t ready for the journey to end. I hadn’t had my “Camino Moment” yet. I hadn’t had time to put everything together in my head and reflect on the journey. I just couldn’t stand to have this end before I was ready. So, we didn’t go to Santiago right away. We actually decided to stop half way between Palas de Rei (the town we were in) and Santiago. I knew that that day was going to have to be a day of reflection for me. I was a bit depressed as we head out on our bikes. My legs were exhausted and my Camino was coming to and abrupt end. I kept peddling and soon found my rhythm so that I could think. I had a lot to think about.

Usually on the bike I would listen to my ipod and get lost in the songs or be so focused on my body, the bike and the road that I didn’t really think about a whole lot when I was riding. Most of the time I was just absorbing what was going on around me, taking it all in. This day was going to be different. I needed to process some things that day and really prepare to end the Camino. I was thinking back to our first days where everything was new and fresh and exciting but at the same time completely overwhelming. There were a couple of times, especially with all of the problems with the bikes, that I wondered why I was there. I was questioning my ability and I was asking myself what this really could do for me. What was I thinking?! But there were many things that pushed me along. The people we had encountered were so wonderful and helpful. There was this cheering on from other pilgrims and the people around us. There was this feeling that once we entered the Camino that it would takes us to where we needed to go. There were some tests along the way but if we trusted what was around us we would get where we needed to go. Then there was a time where we lost all concept of time. At the beginning of the Camino when you met another pilgrim you would ask them where they started from that day and where they planned on going, how many km would they do that day. People would ask when you started and which day you were hoping on ending. But as time went on and the closer we got to Santiago the less this was important to everyone. People stopped asking how far each other got in a day and started asking about their experiences. People were feeling changes in themselves and wanted to talk about it. People seemed less rushed as before and seemed like they were enjoying their journeys. I think there is a certain point for everyone when they stop thinking about arriving to Santiago and only really think about what is at hand for the day. It’s almost like you get in this crazy little bubble that’s disconnected from the rest of the world with no desire to break it.


This day was a great reflection day for me. I was able to think about the Camino, think about what I had thought about and learned and contemplated on. It was a wonderful experience. When we got to the town we were supposed to stop at we decided that we didn’t want to spend our last night there. There were too many people and to ‘city.’ We asked a man at a hostel where he thought we should stop and he suggested Santa Irene. We rode a while before we came upon it and would never have stopped there unless we were suggested to. We were so glad that we did though. We rode off the main road to find a beautiful refuge with a huge yard and the cutest rooms ever. It was so peaceful and relaxing there. Most pilgrim hostels are just a place to sleep and do laundry. This place was really a place to relax. It was the perfect way to end our trip. We took naps in the yard and ate wonderful home cooked food. We met some really great people as well. Over all we were ready to go to Santiago the next day. I think that we had just the right amount of relaxation and reflection that the next morning I was so excited to arrive. I was singing along to my ipod out loud most of the time. The ride was short because we ended up covering so much distance the day before so we arrived pretty quickly.

Most people say that actually getting to Santiago is disappointing. They have days and weeks leading up to this arrival only to find a big city with lots of people and a feeling of strange bitter sweetness at the end. I can understand how this may feel to some people but I really wasn’t that disappointed. When we came around a bend and I could see Santiago with the cathedral towers shooting out of the center I was so happy. It was such a great feeling. I think that I was mentally prepared as well. Almost as if my journey really ended the day before in my thoughts and I was just going a little bit further to make it official. I really understood one of the pilgrims at that time who we had met along the way. He told us that he was walking but probably not going to get to Santiago. He would just walk until he knew he was done and then go back home. I understand that it’s not “getting to a place” that’s important, it’s the journey along the way. Nevertheless, arriving to Santiago gave me such a proud feeling. We did it!!! Despite any problems, doubts or bumps along the way, we did it! We rode up to the cathedral at about noon. There were tons of tourists everywhere. This was a bit strange because I realized that I really felt like a tourist attraction. In the big groups of tourists everywhere they were all being told about the Camino, the pilgrims, the history and then all of a sudden they get to see some arriving. It was funny. Kathleen and I took a picture in front of the cathedral holding our bikes over our heads. I really wanted a victory shot. Of course all the other tourists wanted our picture as well. So Kathleen and I are in some random German, French and Japanese photo albums somewhere! After taking our victory in a little bit we headed to the pilgrim office to get our official certificate of completion. It was great. The people at the office check your pilgrim passport to make sure that you have stamps from all the placed in between to be sure that you really did it.

It was also really great to see the other pilgrims arrive along the way. We ran into an Irish friend that we had met a couple days before and it was really great to sit back and reflect together about our experiences. It showed me even more about what a process the Camino is. I think that I still probably haven’t processed the whole thing yet, what it means to me and what I’ve really learned from it. I can guess that things will probably happen in my life that will make me remember the Camino and then I can really understand what it showed me.

I highly recommend all of you to look for something in your life that is like a pilgrimage. It is such an amazing experience. It is a time of meditation, self reflection and spiritual growth. You will discover things about yourself that you never knew. You will recognize things about yourself that you knew before but would let yourself see it. You will grow as a person and be a companion to others. I hope that all of you are able to do this at some point in your life. It truly is an experience of a lifetime.

On the road again (original post 9/13/2010)


A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving

Kathleen and I spent a few stressful days wondering if we would ever make it to Santiago. We didn´t have bikes and our bags were made to fit on bikes so we couldn´t even walk it. We took a bus to Leon where I slept most of the way and Kathleen was being converted to Opus Dei. Well, not really but the crazy Spanish lady really tried. She also told Kathleen that we weren´t really doing the Camino because we´re not Catholic. She also wants us to call her and hand out in Santiago when we get there… not going to happen.

We arrived in Leon with good spirits but super tired and we just wanted to get back on the Camino. We checked in to the closest refuge which was only 3 euro with free Internet! We realized quickly that we weren´t really into the town too much. It was a city with a pretty old town but we just wanted to be on the Camino. We had pretty bad attitudes about it too. The next day we found out (from a very grumpy tourist office lady) that Leon does not rent bikes. Period. Ok so I guess we´ll have to buy them I thought. I was trying to think of a number in my head to buy the bikes that was the most I would spend. I really wanted to finish the Camino and I wasn´t going to give up. We found a really great bike shop that my husband would drool in and told the owner our woes. Whenever you mention you are a pilgrim it seems like you have this special pass. Everyone wants to help you. He sold brand new Trek mountain bikes for the same price of renting the crappy ones and told us that if we brought them back to Leon he would buy them back from us. What?! Is this really happening?! This is amazing! We took our beautiful bikes and got the heck out of the city. Yes!! We´re back on the Camino. See Camino, you don´t really want me to fail. You just want to test me a little bit…

But… We have now been back on the Camino for a few days now and have loved every second of it!! We´ve climbed mountains and flew down the other side. We´ve met amazing people and have visited the cutest little towns that Spain has to offer. Spain is beautiful and I am so grateful for the chance to see it in this way. I am constantly amazed by how taken care of I feel as a pilgrim. The refuge system is absolutely amazing. It is extremely organized. We are able to stop by any of them to fill up on water or leave our bikes if we want to explore a little bit. The people who run them are so great and most of them have been pilgrims themselves. While riding we almost always are waved, honked at and cheered along by locals in all of the towns. I had a family clap me up a hill the other day. It was the best feeling. Today, an old man in a tiny town was looking out his balcony and cheering as we came to the top of the hill panting. Good job, bravo, well done! We´ve also seen written messages from past pilgrims encouraging us in the hard parts. I feel like there is a certain attitude towards pilgrims in Spain. It´s the closest to a native you can get. When you are a pilgrim here you are not a foreigner, you are a friend and everyone wants to help you.







There is also a great sense of collectivism. From the messages of past pilgrims to the encouragement we all give each other to the way the locals help you out as if you were their own, I feel a part of a special group. I´ve also been able to contribute to this as well. The owner of one of the refuges wanted to leave for a while and asked me to man the desk since I speak Spanish. He told me how to fill out the pilgrim and national information of each person and left me to it. Normally I would think this bad service but he gave me a room for 4 euro and drove us in his car to the next town to get some food (it was a small town with not much in it). I´ve really come to understand this idea of ´passing it along´and taking care of other people as much as I can.

The people we´ve met along the way have been very interesting. People do this pilgrimage for very different reasons and it´s really fun to hear people´s stories. Most people want an escape from reality. A lot of the people on the Camino are retired people looking for their adventure and sense of peace after a long time of working for someone else. It´s rare to find a person under 30 doing the camino and most of those people are on bikes. And those who are on bikes, well most of them are men. Kathleen and I have seen two other women riding the Camino. I´s rather interesting. We did meet a great retired couple from Holland who started the Camino on bike from Amsterdam!! Overall, the people have been great and it´s been so much fun learning the stories of everyone.










Today we rode 83 km and we´re feeling great. We´re in a cute little town about 80 km from Santiago. We can feel it coming close. Part of me wants to arrive to Santiago and part of me wishes this could go on forever. People say that the Camino is addictive and I can see why. It´s such a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I know so much more about myself and what I can do than I ever imagined. I am so proud of Kathleen and I and am excited to learn all I can here.

Again, thanks for following my journey. I hope you all find one of your own.

Santiago or Bust. But what happens if we bust?!? (original post 9/8/2009)


“It´s like the Camino wants you to stay here… like it doesn´t want you to get to Santiago.” -Pilgrim in Sansol

We started the Camino officially on the fifth from Pamplona. We had decided to stay another night in San Sebastian with Juan Maria and caught a train to Pamplona in the morning instead of spending the night. We got the the hotel where our bikes were waiting for us and everything seemed great. We got on our bikes, figured out how to get out of town and started our journey. Almost immediately we were greeted with a friendly “Buen Camino” by another couple of pilgrims on the trail. We saw the friendly shell that was on their bags and called out a “Buen Camino” ourselves. This was the first encounter that made our pilgrimage official. We were pilgrims and we were recognized by others. This was going to be a great trip filled with lots of great people to get to know.

We headed out of Pamplona and in the distance we saw huge windmills up on the mountainside. I thought of Don Quijote´s windmills and smiled. Soon the slight slope of the hillside turned into a huge rocky mountain that we had to climb. We couldn´t even ride our bikes because it was so steep and rocky. How were we going to make it? I wasn´t even half way into my first day and I started to doubt myself. Is this the way it´s going to be the whole way? No, it will get better I kept telling myself. This won´t last long. The way up the mountain was so hard. The hardest thing I´ve ever done. My arms hurt from pushing my heavy bike up the rocky side and I was getting tired fast. I kept looking at those windmills that were slowly getting closer. I decided that once I got to the windmills everything would be ok. I thought about Don Quijote again. Just as his windmills were not really a giant I had to think realize this about my mountain. This is just a “hill.” If I could only recognize that I could beat it. I wasn´t going to let my mountain throw me to the ground like Don Quijote´s windmill.

We made it to the top and it was glorious! The view was amazing and we were so happy. We spent some time at the top refueling. We thought that it would be smooth sailing from there. Well we were wrong. It was just as hard coming back down. We had to fight gravity and the rocks to keep our bikes from flying down the other side of the mountain. My arms and hands hurt so bad from holding the bike. Again, I reminded myself that I´ve wanted this for a long time and that I will be proud of myself at the end of the day.

Kathleen and I arrived at a small little town called Puente La Reina. We arrived at our first Pilgrim Refuge content, tired and pretty proud of ourselves. We had completed our first day of the Camino! We walked around the town a little bit meeting other Pilgrims and talking to locals. We saw a couple taking the most beautiful wedding pictures on the medieval bridge. How beautiful! That night we slept hard and were excited for the day to come. Day two. We we got through the first day then we could do anything, right?

Day Two:

This day started a little late. We were the last Pilgrims in town when we rode out. That was ok to us because most people left early because they were walking. We had plenty of time on our bikes. We had a pleasant ride until another crazy hillside came up. Ok, we can do this. We did it before and we can do it again! Then the problems started. All of a sudden my bike rack falls and my panniers are dragging on my back tire. What happened? “Kathleen, you´re not going to believe this, my bike rack broke! How am I going to hold my bags on the bike?” We spent some time gathering snippets of string (including string from my pilgrim shell) to piece together the rack and tie it to the bike. Pieces were missing and there was not way that thing was staying on without help. I felt desperate for a moment because in that moment I realized how many things could go wrong. I mean it would have taken hours to walk the bike while trying to hold up the bags to get to a town where we could fix the rack. We started back on the bikes and I started to feel better. Riding is great and the people and view along the way was amazing.

Later on in the day we switched to the motor way instead of staying on the Camino. This seemed to take up a lot less time and was definitely easier. It seemed that everything else started to go wrong with the bikes. The bikes wouldn´t shift right and the chains were jumping. Kathleen could barely pedal because her chain would jump and she would almost fall off the bike. Then, when we were in between some very small towns and when you looked around you couldn´t see anything for miles all of a sudden my chain broke. I almost started to cry because while looking to see what the problem was I realized that the chain was really messed up. Even if I fixed this chain it was going to break again. Just as I called Kathleen over to take a look, her front and back tires popped. We sat down to patch them because we were going to have to walk the bikes to somewhere. As Kathleen was pulling her tire out to patch we realized that the tube was super old and had been patched many times before. This stupid bike company couldn´t even give us a tube that hasn´t been compromised?! This was getting ridiculous!

I was feeling desperate and hopeless. I thought that our trip was ruined and I was so mad that we got such crappy bikes. In just two days we had a list a mile long of problems. We didn´t feel safe on these bikes and we had paid a good amount of money to rent them. In my head I just knew that not only were we not going to get our money back but somehow the bike renal place would tell us the damages were our fault and charge us. All we could do that night was walk to the next town. When we got to that town we were blown away by the helpfulness of everyone there. We walked in broken on broken bikes and our faces were very telling of the day we had just had. We walked into the first place we saw to ask where we could stay for the night. Immediately everyone started to help us. Someone sitting at the bar told us he´d fix my chain so that I could at least get to the next town. The town that we were in was so small that it didn´t even have a phone booth. The guy at the bar called up the street at the Pilgrim refuge to see if we could get a room. He poured us a beer and told us to relax. I felt immediately better. These people were so nice! I didn´t feel so helpless and I started to have a renewed hope. The Camino had brought me to this tiny little town with the nicest people. Everyone was so laid back and relaxed. We met some really great people and had a really great time.

The next morning we set out about 17km to the next big town. There we spent the whole day trying to get a hold of the bike rental people. Again, I was for sure that they weren´t going to work with us but at the end of the day (after hours of trying to contact them with a whole other page worth of stories to tell about the process) the company would be giving us our money back. Yay!!! At least now we can find new bikes. We had the best time again just meeting people and listening to stories about the Camino. We saw two Japanese boys who were doing a documentary on the Camino. They were trying to record the amazing journey that it is.

So, it´s not a total bust but we still have to get new bikes. Because of all the problems we´ve lost a lot of time so we got on a bus and jumped towns to Leon. Tomorrow we will see if we can rent new bikes or possibly buy some. I am in good spirits now. I´ve realized that these things that have gone wrong are just a part of the journey. My trip isn´t ruined because this is the way it was supposed to turn out. I was supposed to stop in that tiny little town and meet the people I did. I was supposed to only be able to go to the next bigger town because I needed to see what I saw and talk to the people I talked to. The Camino knows what it´s doing.

My first few days in Spain (original post 9/4/2009)


Well, I´ve been in Spain for a few days now and we´re having a blast! We arrived in Madrid after the best plane ride I´ve ever had to Europe. I didn´t sleep but I was rather comfortable and it didn´t seem to take so long like it usually does. We left Portland at 8 in the morning and arrived in Madrid at 8 in the morning Spanish time. We had a whole day ahead of us. A friend of ours was on the same flight (going to see her family in another part of Spain) so we had a coffee at the airport before we each took our subway lines in different directions. We found our hotel, near the Plaza Mayor, took a shower and set out on the town. Now we hadn´t slept in over 24 hours so it wasn´t as easy as it sounded. We ended up sitting at a cafe so extremely tired that we couldn´t even drink our coffee. So, we went back to the hotel and took a three hour nap. Ok, so 3 hours in 24 hours, great! We ended up walking miles and miles around the city just wandering around taking everything in. It is sooo good to be back in Spain. I started seeing the little things that I love about Spain but I almost forgot. The way the laundry detergent smells on the hotel towels. The way old ladies walk arm and arm through the streets window shopping. The way old men walk side by side with their hands clasped behind their backs and walk with a rhythmic saunter. And how even at 11 o´clock at night you can see little children playing in the streets.

That night we slept for about 5 hours. Jet lag was getting to us and it was hard to sleep. We boarded a train the next morning to San Sebastian, a city in the Basque Country to visit a friend of ours that studies with us at PSU. He´s from here and has been here all summer visiting his family. It´s been really great to be able to see him with his family. It´s one thing to visit a place but another when you´re able to see real people, how they live and the love they share between each other. This city is one of my favorites!! It is right on the beach and is so quaint. The food is to die for, really, and the people are so great. We walked around the city and headed up to a view point where you can see the whole city, the beaches, and the sea head out towards France. To our surprise there was a Regatta happening in the sea. Teams from all over the North came to compete and there were tons of people everywhere. I´ve never seen so much spirit for a boat race!! It was a lot of fun and it was great to see the event and all of the people involved.

Later, we had a pretty traditional style of eating where you go from bar to bar eating small plates and them moving to the next one. In the Basque country they are called pintxos (in other parts of Spain they have similar tapas. Seriously every bite was amazing. We had things like croquetas with ham and chorizo, morzilla (blood sausage, mmm so good!!) mixed with seafood and stuffed into peppers, baskets of bread with goat cheese and caramelized plum spread over the top, the most amazing calamari I´ve had in years and tons of other amazing little dishes. We literally stuffed ourselves! It was soo good!

We ended the evening sitting in a plaza filled with people and children. The sights and sounds included little Basque children switching between Basque and Spanish with a bilingualism I would love to have while playing futbol in the center as their parents enjoyed a glass of wine and a band of men erupting in song while winging their beers from side to side and making a harmony only learned by singing the songs together since they were young. It was the perfect end to the perfect day!

Tomorrow we will be starting the first leg of the Camino de Santiago! It will take us about 15 days to complete on bike. I´ll try to post some pictures as soon as possible. Send us your good thoughts so we have a safe journey!

Poesia del Camino (original post 8/28/2009)


Polvo, barro, sol y lluvia
es camino de Santiago.
Millares de peregrinos
y mas de un millar de años.

Peregrino ¿Quién te llama?
¿Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni el campo de las estrellas
ni las grandes catedrales.

No es la bravura navarra,
ni el vino de los riojanos
ni los mariscos gallegos
ni los campos castellanos.

Peregrino ¿Quién te llama?
¿Que fuerza oculta te atrae?
Ni las gentes del Camino
ni las costumbres rurales.

No es la historia y la cultura,
ni el gallo de la Calzada
ni el palacio de Gaudí,
ni el castillo de Ponferrada.

Todo lo veo al pasar,
y es un gozo verlo todo,
mas la voz que a mi me llama
la siento mucho más hondo.

La fuerza que a mi me empuja
la fuerza que a mi me atrae,
no sé explicarla ni yo
¡Solo el de arriba lo sabe!

before my journey begins (original post 7/26/2009)


I was recently looking back at an old blog that I made during my trip to Spain to complete the Camino de Santiago.  It’s been a lot of fun looking back and remembering how much I learned during that trip and since then. I love the theme of the blog so much that I’m continuing it here on a new hosting site.  I wanted to make sure that I had the original blog still connected to this one so I’m going to post them here…

As I am getting ready to leave for Spain, many things are going through my head.  I will be there for five months and each of them will be filled with excitement but the adventure first and foremost on my mind is the Camino de Santiago.  I have wanted to be a pilgrim on the Camino for 7 years now.  The first time I saw a pilgrim walking across Northern Spain I was very intrigued.  Why would anyone walk for weeks on end covering hundreds of miles armed only with a walking stick, a backpack of essentials and a shell around their neck?  The Camino de Santiago (or the Way of St. James) during the medieval times was one of the four main pilgrimage sights along with Mecca, Jerusalem and Rome.  People used to walk hundreds of miles so that when they arrive at the holy destination, their sins would be cleansed. Nowadays people from all over the world walk the Camino for their own type of Pilgrimage unique to each person.  Everyone has different reasons for doing it.  Of course I don’t need to be a pilgrim for my sins to be cleansed but the idea of a spiritual journey that is both physically and mentally challenging has been on my heart for a while now.

If we think about how busy our days, weeks and months are and reflect on all the craziness that is our lives it can be overwhelming.  This last year has been particularly crazy for me.  Starting Grad School, being a wife and trying to maintain relationships with friends and family, buying our first house and running a non-profit has definitely kept me busy.  There is always some deadline, and not enough time in the day. There is always an immediate and long-term goal hovering over my head and things that slip through the cracks because I can’t do it all.  What if for a couple of weeks my only goal would be to move my body from one point to another? All I would have would be my own thoughts, a trusty companion and the dirt on my feet.  What would I think about? What would I learn about myself and the world around me?  What perspective would I gain? What would it do for my spirituality? What part of Amanda would I discover?
This will be a time of only partial solitude.  I will be away from my normal life and the people who usually fill it but I will be traveling with a dear friend of mine, Kathleen.  I am also very excited to have such a great friend going with me.  Journeys are exciting, but even more special when you can share them with someone.  What would Don Quixote and Sancho do without each other?  Who would tell Don Quixote that the big scary giant he is about to face is only a windmill?  Who would teach Sancho that what is more valuable than any exotic island with all the power in the world is true friendship and brotherly love? Who would love Don Quixote through the process of finding himself if not his best friend Sancho?! Would Don Quixote ever have made it so far through his journey if it weren’t for his friend?