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Fiesta in Santiago – 30 September

2011/10/06

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The Last Day in Santiago

We awoke to find Santiago transformed into a fiesta city, with a mediaeval festival in full swing. There were street performers, stalls with crafts and foods attended by people in costume: a remarkable way for the stay in Santiago to end.

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I will leave Santiago sadly and somewhat reluctantly: perhaps I will, now, always carry the spirit of pilgrimage in my heart, but when we depart from the city in the morning, we will no longer be part of a route on which our packs and cockle shells (mine has been slightly damaged for several weeks, but I am attached to its unique, “gap-toothed” appearance) mark us as something recognisable, greeting and greeted by those we meet, often with the Spanish, “Buen Camino.”

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On this last day, we found our Swedish lady friend from the Netherlands, listening to two singers (street performers) who were entertaining us with excerpts from operas. We even ran into the couple who slept above us (as it were) on the bunk beds in both Hospital del Órbigo and Astorga. There were some people whom we missed, and whose stories will, for us, remain incomplete. One was Kevin, from Londonderry. The other was our young Flemish friend, whom we last saw in Astorga, suffering from similar swelling in her leg to Kate’s affliction. We did not see our Spanish-speaking, American professor from Indiana after Cezir Menor. Others crossed our paths occasionally, but then disappeared.

All these people were our community along the way. They are as much a part of the Camino for us as the Pyrenees, or the high, breezy fields of the mesetas, or the vineyards of the province of León, or the ancient cobbles of the Roman road, or the deep, furrowed paths of Galicia. And so are the many Spanish people who showed us kindness along the way, especially the man who ran the café in Rabé, who gave us such good food, good service, free WiFi, a little medallion to carry with us, and then enthusiastically enquired of us when we left whether everything had been good. He is the icon for the best of the Spanish people along our way, patient in communicating, generous in spirit, and kind in heart.

And as I write this, I am reminded of one of my favourite prophetic quotes, from Micah: “what does YHWH require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This should be a pilgrimage mantra, but it has been our experience also of the people whom we have been blessed to encounter along the way.

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