Hugo, the loquacious Irish pilgrim who’d taken me under his wing to help guide me on my first days of the Camino, had talked to me a bit (read: gossiped) about some of the other pilgrims he’d met. He warned me about Annika, a German girl who he found “snobby.” Hugo also seemed annoyed that Annika would only speak Spanish, despite knowing English; Hugo’s grasp of Spanish being poor, I can see why this could be indeed annoying.
Annika did catch up to me in the delightful town of Santa Croya where I took a much-needed break in an attempt to soak away the angry rash of blisters that were crippling my feet. Despite my best efforts, Hugo’s warning definitely affected my preconceived notions of Annika. I chatted with her for a bit while she sat on a shady park bench, and, before putting two and two together she seemed OK. But the slightly higher-than-thou, wizened-Pilgrim attitude emanating from her tipped off Hugo’s warning cry echoing in my head (“Snobby German pilgrim on the way, watch out!”) and as she spoke I found myself growing to dislike her.
The feeling was cemented when, at mealtime, she and Anita, the owner of the private alburgue, reprimanded me for reading while I was eating.
“Do not eat and read at the same time! It is not good!” they chided.
“Please, I’m tired, this is what I enjoy doing,” I replied, to a response of derisive looks and clucking tongues. I could almost hear the words going through their minds, “Ah, those boorish Americans with their foolish customs, tsk, tsk, tsk…”
I really took their comments personally, as if I was being looked down upon. Annika in particular was in my face about it, and it felt… awful. In retrospect, I wonder what I could’ve said or done differently. Perhaps just “That’s interesting,” like a broken record, ignoring them. Or, perhaps being less attached to what I wanted, bring in the “Mystic Buddha”, adopting an open, nonjudgmental stance and just agreeing to their terms. “OK, fine, in your country, I will do what you say is done.”
Giving up attachments to desires, attitudes, wants. Not so easy, my friends, not so easy…
“Day 5 Summary: Called Mom, went to Mass, met Annika… tried to swim… wrote… read… Spent the majority of the day with my feet soaking in homemade vinegar to treat the oozing and aching blisters…”