Monday, June 22, 2015

Detroit Diaries: I'm here!

I put the last of my bags into my car and gobbled down the rest of my breakfast (the last few bites of mom's food for a little while). After configuring my GPS to head for Hamtramck, MI it was time to be on my way.

I decided that I needed to be quiet for the first hour, letting my mind wander without mindlessly listening to music. After that hour passed, the sights on the road began to change from that which is familiar, to brand new turf. I plugged my iPod in and tried not to look at the "remaining time" on my GPS too often. The miles passed by quickly, and before I knew it I was halfway. (It's funny to compare how fast and far you go in a car versus how long it took to walk 100 miles on the Camino.) After a few rest stops, I had 3 hours to go and decided I wasn't stopping.

When I had only about an hour to go, I hit a detour. A poorly marked detour. Since I'm too cheap to pay for my car GPS's update, I probably looked like the idiot tourist driving around with a car GPS, phone GPS and a super lost look on my face. Either way, after driving around in what I am convinced was a big circle, I finally found an alternate route and was back on track. 

I finally arrived at the house. Settled in a bustling neighborhood just outside Detroit, I opened a gate into a gorgeous backyard. I was greeted by a husband and wife, both with accents (he is from Poland and she is from Ukraine). Their adorable little daughter was sitting at a little picnic table eating snap peas from their large garden. I exhaled a bit of relief; I had made it. They are so hospitable and showed me around their property. Before leaving me to take my bags up to the loft apartment, they offered for me to join them for dinner!

While carrying my suitcase up to the third floor, I already wished I had packed less. (Didn't the Camino teach me anything about packing?!) After I had brought the last of my things up, I had not been on the phone for 5 minutes when they called me for dinner. We sat in the garden, this adorable family of 3 and me. They passed out wraps that contained lamb, veggies, pickles, so many spices and a delicious garlic sauce. I've never had anything like it before.

I sat and listened to them talk about their lives here in Hamtramck, learning about the little hidden gems amongst a city that is trying to rebuild itself. There are so many cultures and people groups in the little neighborhood, and the restaurants in the area are so diverse!

New cultures. New adventures.
Here we go.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Detroit Diaries: wait, I'm going to Detroit?!

Yes, Detroit. Well, more specifically, Hamtramck. Less than 15 minutes from the heart of Detroit, I will be interning with Better Life Bags, a company dedicated to creating a purposeful purchase experience.

This whole opportunity came about a few months ago when BLB advertised needing a few college interns for the summer. My absolute dream job is to do marketing (and other business-related duties) with a company that is about more than making money. I am so passionate about companies like TOMS, Sevenly, Warby Parker, The Root Collective, Elegantees, Sweet Aroma Coffee, Fight the New Drug, My Fight, Undercover Love Apparel, Love Your Melon, I Won't Watch, The Love Alliance, TWLOHA, and MOTHCO...just to name...a bunch.

I am a believer that we can do so much good by switching to products that have a purpose. ((I can give my friend a backpack, and that's cool. Or I could give her a backpack that also provides education to a child in Africa who otherwise wouldn't receive an education, and that's SUPER cool. I'll go with the second one.)) They are not all non-profit or Christian companies. But they are companies that are making a real difference in the lives of people...and that is what attracted me to Better Life Bags.

When I saw the ad for interns on Instagram I thought, "Woah, that would be SO cool if I could work with a company like that. I really want to move to Detroit for the summer?" The more I grappled with it, I decided to apply...and only tell 3 of my friends. Not even my parents. Because come on...what was the likelihood I would actually get it? The application said they would contact me by May 1; I had a few weeks of waiting ahead of me. 

Within those few weeks, other job opportunities were falling through due to my Camino trip and two other weeks of family vacation. I felt silly thinking about applying for jobs that I would only be able to work at for 6-8 weeks. As May 1 approached, I couldn't stop thinking about the BLB internship; I wanted to get it so badly. April 30 came and went, and I checked my email more frequently than I care to admit. I began to doubt that I got the internship, but held out for one last day (due to the encouragement of one of my friends). Business hours came and went on May 1, and I even tried calling my mom twice to explain "I applied for this random internship on a whim...but no worries because I didn't get it! I won't be leaving for a strange city!" She didn't pick up her phone and I didn't leave a voicemail.

BUT THEN, at almost 11pm on May 1, my answer came. I got the internship! I was SO excited and then realized I had to explain this whole crazy story to my parents. Even more, I realized I am moving to Detroit for 6 weeks! All that to say...God has a sense of humor in little details and works in great ways behind the scenes. I am so excited to embark on this adventure and work with a company that has incredible values. 

The most common question I've received when telling people about my internship what is Better Life Bags? Well it just so happens that they just released this video yesterday explaining who BLB is, what they do, and why they are different. Check it out!

Can't get enough? Me either. Click here for their website, where you can design your own bag (so addicting) or check out the "ready to ship" section. 

Tomorrow I will pack up my car and begin my drive out to Detroit. I will be living with the two other interns in an apartment in Hamtramck. We will be working on various projects for BLB, and I am so excited to learn more about the business end of a purposeful business.

((For those of you who want to stay can look for more "Detroit Diaries" posts here on my blog!))

Thanks to everyone who has been incredibly supportive of me through this whole journey! I am truly blessed by you!

Friday, June 19, 2015

My First Year as a 20-Something

I recently shared an article on Facebook from The Odyssey entitled "20 Things To Start Doing In Your Twenties" and it is a fantastic read...even if you're not in your 20's. As I began thinking about the article more, I thought that I would share some reflections and encouragement from things on that list that I have taken up in the last few years. ((These are numbered in correlation to The Odyssey article.))

1. Keep a book by your bedside and read it before bed instead of falling asleep to Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
I formed a habit in college of being on my phone late at night in bed. Scrolling through social media on a bright white screen. However, I had a goal for myself over the summer that I would read more books. I've read two books so far, and it's been great. Instead of checking my phone at night, I find myself wanting to pick up a book instead (which is cool because I would not be considered a "book worm" at all). There's a special type of joy found in finishing the last few chapters of a book late at night when you are fighting to keep your eyes open. Don't get me wrong, there are still nights when I am on my phone. I do not need another excuse to check my phone. But reading before bed is a great substitution to technology-overload. I'd recommend it.

2. Open yourself up to the world around you.
YES. I have been so blessed to travel and meet people from all over the world. Stepping outside my bubble of culture and normality has been one of the most rewarding things ever. I do not have the means to travel all the time, but there are so many resources out there to make me more cultured as a person. (In fact, the book A Year Without Makeup is on my to-read list this summer!) God has made the world a beautiful place; experience it. 

3. Stop giving changes to people who don't treat you how you want to be treated.
"Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23 
Two years ago I wrote this verse on my mirror. It is a constant reminder that while we are called by God to love everyone around us and to be a light in the darkness, we are also supposed to guard our own hearts. Love others, but protect yourself. When I was in middle school, my youth pastor gave an analogy that went something like this.... There are two types of people: those who fill your bucket and those who empty it. The people who fill your bucket are those who encourage you and refresh your spirit. In contrast, those who empty your bucket are not necessarily bad people. They may be people who you are pouring into, constantly encouraging, and walking alongside in tough times; I believe we are supposed to do this as Christians. However, the point is that you cannot empty your bucket into someone else if your bucket is already empty. Find the balance. 

4. Start to take responsibility for the holes you dig yourself instead of looking for others to rescue you.
This is a tough but great lesson to learn. I consider it a blessing that my parents have been incredibly supportive of decisions I have made since I was a kid. They always give me their honest opinion of my options, but regardless of what I choose they support me. Clever, mom and dad...because if something does not turn out the way I wanted it to, it was a result of my own decision not something forced upon me. I am a very stubborn person, and in those scenarios I am left with no one to blame but myself. Trust me, I learn a lot faster that way.

5. Time is space; learn how to design your space.
I am SO sick of people saying they are busy. I say it and I hate that too. One of my mentors once told me, "Busyness is a choice." This phrase will always stick with me. We choose to fill our lives with things: good, bad and indifferent. But everything we do is a choice. Where we spend our time is a reflection of what is important to us. Yeah...I'm still working on this one. 

6. Start reading The New York Times (or any respectable news outlet for that matter). 
This past semester, I was required by a few business classes to keep up with current events. Whether it was for Marketing or Economics, I had to know what was going on. I signed up for NYT morning briefing email and reading it has become a part of my daily routine. It comes in every morning around 6am. I personally love the email because while it includes crucial news that may sometimes be depressing, it also includes interesting and encouraging news. Instead of hitting snooze one extra time in the morning, I read through the morning briefing. It's a great way to start my day by taking my blinders off and hearing about what is going on in the world. (Plus, it's really impressive when you can talk to people about current events. Bonus points for professionalism.)

7. Ignite your fire for the causes you believe in.
...and don't be ashamed of it. If you don't know by now that I am in LOVE with what God is doing on the Camino, I have not been doing my job.

8. Mind Map it out.
I'm pretty sure I'm on the verge of a large mind map. Lots of resources recommend doing this to figure stuff life.

9. Start to develop your personal aesthetic.
I have NEVER been on top of trends. And the best part about it is that now...I don't care. I see people who have their own personal styles that I could NEVER pull off, but I love that they do what they want. Buy clothes that make you feel like you. Also...I had my first Plato's Closet experience yesterday and I'm in love. Grab a friend and pick the racks. A $50 shirt for $7? Yes please. 

10. Constantly change up your environment.
"Don't live the same year 75 times and call it a life." Robin Sharma

((Whew...half way there. Thanks for reading this far and I promise the second half is shorter.))

11. Venture outside your typical crowd.
Trust me, God made every person beautiful and unique. Live vicariously through others. Ask someone what is the craziest thing they've ever done. People have cool stories. I'd hate to miss that beauty and adventure just because I was too comfortable in my own little bubble.

12. Connect with a mentor in the field you're interested in pursuing. 
This is such good advice. Even though I have lived for over two decades, I don't know everything there is to know about life. HAHA. Treat a prof to coffee and listen. They love it. 

13. Ask more questions.
I babysit a little girl who asks more questions that any person I have ever met. However, she is one of the smartest little girls I have ever met. Coincidence? I think not.

14. Develop your people skills.
I love talking to people but I still have lots of room for improvement in this area. One of the biggest things I need to work on: listening. Yes, that's a people skill.

15. Invest in a mature wardrobe.
I've been finding that while I have a closet full of clothes in great condition, they are not all as mature as I need. Again...consignment shopping is great. It's way more convenient to buy a couple pieces at a time than to hit the "real world" and need to buy a whole wardrobe at first.

16. Save money from each paycheck for needs you're not even able to conceive of right now.
Cons to saving money: none. I'm working on putting this into regular practice.

17. Know your flaws and focus on ways to improve rather than being insecure about them.
No one is perfect. We've been told that forever. Then why are we so afraid of our imperfections? Work on them and be gracious with others. 
"Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another." Jane Austen

18. Travel, study abroad, or move to a foreign place.
YES. While I was on the Camino this year, I had the most interesting conversation with a German man about American stereotypes. Americans are known for having blinders when it comes to seeing the world. We travel and expect everyone to speak English. We criticize because we do not take the time, or do not care, to understand. One of the things I love about the Camino is that you do not just experience the culture of the country you are in; you experience the culture of all the people who are also walking. The possibilities are endless (and so are the lessons). 

19. Hang out with kids under the age of four.
Kids are hilarious. Filter-less conversations and endless amounts of creativity. Be inspired.

20. Learn about food.
While this is totally a "fad" it is super important. I've been learning a lot more about this recently, especially through a personal experience with detoxing. No gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and other various things. I still ate and was never hungry. But man, it's crazy how much better I felt. Lost some weight, so much more energy. Find what is right for your body!

21 & 22...Ok, I added these.
Turn technology off every once in a while. Go to dinner with your friends and play the phone stack game (everyone puts phone in the middle of table and first person to reach for their phone pays for everyone). At first it may be stressful, but it really is freeing. And if hiking on the Camino for 2 weeks with your phone on airplane mode is what it takes, I can hook you up. Technology is not bad. I'm not saying that. I'm actually really grateful for it. But make sure technology is a means to an end, not the "end."
Lastly, keep a journal. Record stupid small things and the biggest life-altering events. Write down prayer requests. Draw a picture. Tape movie stubs into it. But most importantly, don't forget to go back and read about how far you've come.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. 
Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 12, 2015

Camino: not the end

I can't believe that it has been 8 days since we got home from the Camino. Coming home was an absolute whirlwind, and it still hasn't fully set in. 
The Camino is an experience that, no matter how hard you try, is indescribable. This really frustrated me last year because I felt so inept trying to explain the thing I had just done; there are no words that are able to fully capture it. While on the Camino this year, Alissa and I talked to a man named Mark for a while. He had a friend do the Camino a couple years ago. When his friend came back, he was unable to explain what he had just done. Mark said that he became frustrated because he thought his friend was trying to hide something from him, but in the end decided he had to do the Camino himself to see what it was all about. That was last summer, and he had come back to hike again because there really is something about the Camino that you cannot find anywhere else. 
As I began to think about my transition home, I had to accept the fact that many people will not understand why I am so in love with hiking across mountains with blister-covered feet, meeting strangers and becoming family. It's not easy, because I want everyone to love the Camino just as much as I do...but that is not reality. In fact, this makes me even more grateful for those of you who have given me so much support through the process. The support I have received in many different areas is mind-blowing. I recognize that it is not a traditional missions trip. But I do want to tell you that God is working, moving and changing hearts. While it may not be feeding orphans or giving life-saving medicine to the sick, people on the Camino are fed, encouraged, and given care by the people you have sent. (I have yet to pop someone else's blisters, but I'll get there.) So I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU once more. This isn't just my story, it's yours too. 

So what now?!

As I'm sure you've gathered from previous posts and pictures, our group grew a bit while on the Camino. I have received Skype calls and many messages since returning to the States, and it's amazing. These are not relationships that will quickly fade, they are only beginning. (And let me take this moment to say thank you to Google're a life saver.) I am so excited to see where these relationships will go, as we continue to journey even in our "normal" lives all over the world. 

The Camino teaches so much. ((You should definitely take a moment and look two of Alissa's Camino follow ups here and here! They're great.)) For me personally, one of my biggest initial takeaways is that the Camino is really an example of how I should live my life each and every day. First I had to bridge the cultural gap between the cultures I had just experienced and here. In Portugal, and especially on the Camino, you greet everyone you pass. Everyone is so friendly (of course there may be a few exceptions to this rule, but you get my point.) Since being home, I had greeted a few people that I passed on the sidewalk or in a store, and the reactions I got were not the most pleasant. However, my favorite reactions are when people don't actually know what to do or say.
I was in Verizon earlier this week because I had a few questions about our phone plan. The guys in the store informed me that they couldn't answer my question, but were very helpful and gave me the number I needed to call to solve my issue. Now, I'm pretty sure the only time people every go into those stores is when they have complaints. So when the guy came over to tell me he couldn't help, he almost braced himself, as if I were going to throw a tantrum. However, I was grateful for the help they could give me, thanked them, and left. I'm not kidding when I say that he shot a glance at the other guy in the store, like he couldn't believe I wasn't upset.
Those are the types of scenarios in which we all have a choice: treat the person as we would want to be treated, or be the epitome of an American consumerist and care more about our problem than the other person. (I'm not saying this only happens in America, but you get my point.) The Camino teaches me more and more that every person has a story. Sometimes it's a really painful story; other times it's full of joy. Either way, we are all journeying through life. I want to choose to be a pilgrim and a person who brightens people's days and is encouraging, rather than being the angry customer  who ruined the cashier's day.

On the Camino, I don't walk around offering to carry the backpacks of people around me. I have my own. It is, however, an amazing opportunity for me to walk alongside them for a while, take their mind off the pain, help them process, eat a meal with them, and encourage them. So goes life. We can't always take emotional baggage from people. Each person has to work through their own issues, as do we with our own. But I believe it is our job as Christians to be different than those around us. Pay for someone else's coffee, be devoted to walking alongside a friend in need, cook a meal for a struggling family. We each have our own part to play. When we all come together, it is our differences, our stories, and our individuality that makes the whole picture beautiful. This was so evident to me through our family dinners on the Camino. At times, there were 4 different languages being spoken at the same table. It was a little chaotic, a bit crowded, but overwhelmingly beautiful. 
I need to stop walking with my head down, worried about my footing for the next steps ahead, and be able to look up, see, and experience all the people around me. I never would've met the people who sat at our table had I not talked to a stranger who needed some help, or attempted to talk to someone with which we had no language in common. Those are the beautiful, awkward moments that turn into big memories. 

(I know this is a repeat picture, but it just doesn't get old for me).
All in all, I'm sure you can see that my head is a bit scatterbrained. I have left a huge part of my heart on the Camino, and in the people I met all along the way. It is hard to come back to the States when a little albergue across the Atlantic feels like home. I am passionate about the role the Camino plays in my life and in the lives of people all over the world. I hope and pray I can go back to the Camino, and visit all those who are now part of my Camino family. In the mean time, I will ask that you continue to pray for me to find contentment with where God has me in this moment.

(I also want to give a huge shout of THANKS to my family and friends, who are so incredibly supportive as I continue to process through where the Camino fits into my life long-term. I love you all and no matter where I end up, with you will always be home.)

The summer is only beginning, and there are big things on the horizon. 

Buen Camino.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Camino: June 3

Today was a relatively uneventful day. We woke up and headed to a cafe before catching our bus to Porto. All the German girls stayed with us last night and came to see us off. Saying goodbye to them was so hard. They are great. We had to say goodbye to Kim and Ursula first. They are taking a bus to Finisterra before returning home. Then Birgid and Steph (pictured below) went to another cafe with us before departing. 

While at the bus station, we ended up finding two single pilgrims who needed a place to stay in Porto. We gathered them up with us and brought them to Abel's place. The Camino truly never ends. It's so fun. We arrived at the Refugio and just relaxed for the entire afternoon. The volunteers here made a wonderful dinner and now we are all heading to bed. Tomorrow we will be able to somewhat take our time before catching our plane at noon (we will arrive in Newark at 3:05pm US time).

Please pray:
Everyone traveling
The plane home will be on time (I need to get home asap because my brother Zach graduates at 7pm!)
Transition between all time zones

Camino: June 2

We began our final trek into Santiago this morning, long before the sun was up (5:55am)! I could definitely get used to watching the sun rise over the mountains. So beautiful. I spent most of today walking alone, which was great and terrible all at the same time. If I can complain for a feet were killing me. However after a while of whining in my head, I came to the conclusion that whether I walked fast or slow my feet would still hurt. So I walked fast. It was great because I found my pace that I could tolerate the pain but also keep on moving along quickly. I became really encouraged because I was on track to arrive in Santiago at 11...3 hours ahead of schedule! This would've been great except I totally missed an arrow and walked in the wrong direction for about 45 minutes before I was back on the Camino again (with the help of a farmer and an old man giving me directions). I watched the kilometer markets continue to drop and I was extatic when I hit the 10km mark! I kept pushing pain out of my head and just focused on arriving in Santiago. 

As I neared Santiago, I could almost feel the excitement rising. Each arrow was one step closer. Once I got into the city, the arrows became hard to find, but I found two other pilgrims and we found our way together. I finally arrived at 11:55am. I couldn't believe it. I could barely walk but it was worth it. Lenny and Lydia had arrived just a few minutes before me and Lenny was on backpack duty. I dropped my bag with him and headed in to the pilgrims' mass in the cathedral. It's an incredible feeling to be in such a beautiful service designed for people just like me. However, I was so determined to get there that I hadn't stopped to drink or eat all morning. About 40 minutes into the service, I began to sway and get dizzy. I didn't want to pass out so I ended up leaving before it ended. This would've been fine but then I found out that they swung the pumaferia at the end!! (They only do it if people make a large donation and so seeing it is pretty much all chance. I missed it last year too.) I was sad, but I doubt I would've seen it anyway because I would've passed out. Haha

As I was walking back to Lenny, I saw Milou. She is Dutch, and we had parted ways the day before not knowing if we would see each other again. So we went to the pilgrims office together to get our Compastelas! The rest of the group (except the Italians) had arrived while I was in mass and were getting their Compastelas when we arrived at the office. It was so good to congratulate everyone and celebrate our arrival! The line took a while so by the time I was finished, the Italians had arrived and were in line! It's so fun to see pilgrims meeting up with friends from previous parts of the Camino. Such a special and unique experience. All the Italians and I gave hugs and enjoyed the feeling of arriving. You don't know it until it happens. 

Some people from the group walked around, but I just sat and enjoyed the moment of finally being in the city. I didn't spend a single penny on souveiners (unless you count olive oil). We took pictures before heading to the albergue.

We all met back in front of the cathedral for the 7:30pm mass. All 25 of us went in and sat together. (It was a little rough sitting through the whole thing again...since I can't understand a single word of it.) However to add a little "excitement" to the mass, we heard a loud thud during it and we all look back. A man passed out and his head hit the solid rock floor so fast. It was a slight panic as people rushed to help. The mass kept going and he is ok, but it was so scary. The best part of the mass was that they swung the pumaferia again!! I finally got to see it! I have a video of the whole thing that I'll post sometime on Facebook. 

After mass, we all went to a restaurant near the cathedral and ate our last meal together. It was so fun but also sad because we knew it was the beginning of a lot of goodbyes. After we ate, Francesco and Magrone sang one last bout of "Good Morning!" with Alissa and me. (I got it on video. It's one of my favorites.) We said our sad goodbyes to the Italians before heading back. As we were walking back to the bus stop, there were men playing music so we stopped to dance. It was so fun to have one last night of celebration. We arrived back at the albergue and went to bed. It was a long day. But so so good. I still can't believe it's over. 

Please pray:
Our friends who are continuing on to Finisterra.
Our friends who are traveling home. 
Our group beginning to make our way back to the States via Porto. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Camino: June 1

We had originally planned for today to be our long day but due to many physical ailments on our team and within our friends, we decided to cut the day short. Tomorrow we will leave very early to finish our trek into Santiago. 
We stopped at a cafe this morning for everyone to meet up. Their small dining room had the signatures and notes from many pilgrims before. It was so cool. I signed my name on the wall (in the second picture). 

After the stop, we all travelled together to a school where Abel knows the teacher. Each time big groups of pilgrims come by, all the little kids yell, "peregrinos! peregrinos!" It was so cute. We each said our name and where we are from in the language we speak. There were 5 countries represented (Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Germany, and United States). Then we sang "Let It Go" from Frozen in English and German. It was so much fun. After that, the little kids sang us a song that names all the colors. Adorable. The teacher really stresses international learning and asked us to send post cards so that he can add them to the collection on the wall.

I walked alone to Pontecessures and it was good to have time to myself on the Camino. (Everyone should go on the Camino. And also, everyone should spend some time alone on the Camino.) I can't even describe how it feels. 

Once we got here, we decided to serve American food for dinner tonight...Philly cheesesteaks, caesar salad, and no-bake cookies. The Italians also made pasta carbonara. We have had a constant trend of having WAY too much food but it's always so delicious. However before we ate the dinner, we all held hands and prayed together. I think there was 25 of us all at one big long table. Abel explained in Italian (and then English) why we pray and why we are thankful. Then each of us went around and said thanks for what we were thankful for in our own language. It was such an incredible time. Abel finished in prayer and when we all looked up, there were multiple people with tears in their eyes. It was powerful. Certainly one of my favorite dinners EVER. ((I don't have many pictures from tonight because there wasn't a moment that I wanted to leave and go grab my phone. haha))

After dinner, we spent time together outside singing, laughing, and playing UNO, as always. We will have a normal morning tomorrow...leave around 6 and hopefully arrive in Santiago around 2!! Tomorrow we arrive! It will certainly be sad because we have made such close friends this time. It will be much different than my last Santiago experience. But this is one instance where technology makes these things so much easier. The Italians have had a GoPro recording a ton of our time together and it's going to be hilarious to watch later. Either way, we are doing what we came here to do! Thank you so much for your prayers and love. It's immeasurable. 

Please pray:
Strength to get through one last day!
Conversations to be fruitful. 
A great time of celebration together in Santiago. 

Camino: May 31

Today we left Pontevedra and headed for Caldas de Reis. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed our first day with clouds in the sky! 

Alissa and I walked and talked with a man named Mark. He is from Germany, but is well immersed in many languages and cultures. We can tell that you guys are praying for us. The conversation was amazing. From the impressions Americans make across the world, to gaining wisdom from movies, to searching for true religion and was amazing. He is a fast walker and we didn't realize how much our feet hurt until we parted ways. 

From there, it became a very hard day physically. We were both done before we reached our destination. This led to singing Disney songs in the forest...anything to keep us laughing and moving. We finished the walking part of our day with ice cream because what better way to made a bad day better?!

We stayed at a boarding school run by nuns. Abel knows people there so we had that connection. ((However, I could've passed on the freezing cold shower...but a good reminder of the things we count as "normal.")) 
Our group has grown to about 24 people. It's fantastic. We are loving being able to continue to be in relationship with the same people throughout the whole Camino. 

We went out to dinner at a restaurant Abel also has connections at (are you seeing a pattern?), and it was fantastic. We did all tapas, which basically means we got smaller amounts of MANY things. Alissa and I passed on most of it because we prefer to eat things that don't have tentacles, but it was a great experience. Afterwards, we got churros from a street vendor that were AMAZING. We did team devotions and headed to bed. 

Please pray:
Emotional, spiritual, and physical strength. 
Hannah-she went to the hospital (urgent care) for her sun poisoning. They gave her meds hopefully it will clear up soon!
Continued conversation as we only have a few days left together. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Camino: May 30

We began building our mileage today, and it actually felt shorter than our "short days!" We went over two mountains, but it was a gradual climb so not bad at all. We got a glimpse of the ocean while we were on the mountain as well. It was, of course, so beautiful!

We arrived at the albergue very early, around noon! This was great because we beat the heat and had time to spend with the other pilgrims here. We had to wait for the albergue to officially open so time was passed by popping blisters (the second picture is my disgusting food), dancing, and taking naps
Alissa and I also went to the supermarket to buy our lunch for tomorrow. It's amazing how much yummy food you can get for so little euros!! (We didn't actually buy ice cream though.)

Our devotion tonight was about silence and solitude on the Camino. Lydia did a great job challenging us with ways we can take advantage of the time we have while we are here. 

The Germans cooked us dinner tonight and it was INCREDIBLE. I forgot to take a picture so you'll just have to trust me. Cucumber salad, potato salad, and pasta with goat cheese. Yum.

We finished the night off with a few games of UNO. It is a very popular way to close out the night apparently. 

So now we try to fall asleep to the melodies of snores. Good luck. Tomorrow we will do even more mileage than today. However, it will be a slow-pace day in preparation for our long day on Monday!

Please pray:
A man in our albergue from Cyprus-he has an extremely high fever, has been throwing up, and also has terrible blisters. He will go to the hospital in the morning. 
Ursula (one of our German friends) had to go to the hospital today for her leg pain. It has been very bad and they gave her and anti-inflammatory shot. ("Fun fact"...pilgrims get treated for free along the Camino as long as you show your passport. Hopefully we won't have to use that.)
Everyone's soreness and blisters, etc.
That we take advantage of our last 3 days on the Camino!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Camino: May 29

I can't believe we are halfway done with our hiking days! It's so strange because the minutes and hours seem long but the days fly by. Today was a short day of hiking, under 9 miles. Sue hiked with Alissa and I all day, and it was fantastic. We had great conversation and it is amazing how the Camino brings people and opportunities together. Thankfully we arrived in the city just in time, because the albergue only had 35 beds. Only about 5-6 people were allowed in after us. 

While we were hiking today, we saw lots of new people. One of those groups was a large Italian family traveling together. They were all trying to get a picture so I offered to take it. Instead, they had Alissa, Sue, and I join in. To make a long story short, we are now friends with them. We also found out that the dad is the very loud snorer. Haha. Tonight, Lenny volunteered Alissa and I to help them make a large dinner. At 6, we met in the common area to go shopping with them at the market. Let me tell is very entertaining to go places with people you can't understand...AT ALL. Lots of hand gestures and laughing. We were cooking for over 20 people tonight so our cart was very full. We couldn't carry the bags so we had to push the cart back through the town to the albergue. It was hilarious. 

Alissa and I had a blast trying to figure out what we should do in the kitchen. The meal took a bit longer than expected because there was only 1 pot to make everything in and we ate around 9:20pm. "Family meals" are one of my absolute favorite parts of the Camino. Food is something that brings strangers together for a good time. 

So tonight we are resting in the beautiful town of Redondela before waking 12 miles to Pontevedra tomorrow. Our mileage will begin to build up to our long day on Monday!

Please pray:
Friendships that are forming
Healthy, minimum-blistered bodies
Good rest