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The Way and The Truth

It was in one of my solo adventures where I literally walked for 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Galicia , Spain , that the idea of Universality became even more apparent to me. I always believed in one Universal truth. Thanks to my early all- girls Catholic Asian education, I was not shielded from the Truth. In my youth we studied comparative religion. So I understand that despite our differences, the universal truth remains.

Here is a poem about my real life encounters and experiences along The Camino de Santiago


Along the way of St. James. I met people from all over the world

Though a Catholic pilgrimage, I have walked with and shared meals with people young and old

I have encountered a beautiful Israeli couple who walked the Way as their Honeymoon adventure

A young Jewish physician and her husband walking the path of St. James

Staying in Albergues instead of the Four Seasons.

I walked with an old Irish Painter with Parkinson's Disease

She walked The Way for a week or two along the path of butterflies and wild flowers

Everyone who saw her offered to carry her heavy backpack, annoying her

People, though well- intentioned did not know why she's there

I walked with her without even asking to help

She told me these people don't stop asking to give her aid

We shared a smile and a little laugh

No words needed

We walked silently along the rocky path

Shared a paella meal in

a Spaniard's family backyard

I shared lunch with German teen girls

Someone asked them why choose to pound their feet

day after day on the rocky path along the way

They could have spent their summer in places like Cancun

Meet boys their age, dancing in Senor Frogs, having fun

But one of the girls, wiser than her looks and age dictates

Simply replied, why not?

Along the way, I always encounter

An old American couple from the South

She was a special ed teacher and her husband an engineer

They have a ballerina daughter

Living in the Big Apple

They are decades older

But they always arrive at their destination earlier

For even a young New Yorker, could not keep pace

with these amazing old, retiree peers.

Over wine, cheese and sumptuous Castillan dishes

A middle aged southern Californian woman, an Asian and Spaniards

Had one of the funniest and most engrossing dinner conversations ever

Though heavy set, one can tell by the lines of the woman's face and countenance

That decades ago she must have been a model or a muse

Sure enough, she entertained us with her adventures

With a famous and iconic Spanish director

She was indeed one of the original American hipsters

Who travelled in the 70's to Costa del Sol

Unexpectedly became an extra

In a film set in Andalucia

We talked about religion, politics and romantic adventures

Not one of them asked why I travelled alone

or how I can afford to travel for so long.

I slept in the Convent of Sta. Clara

Founded in the 13th Century.

It was dark, silent, austere and gloomy

I woke and went to the bathroom middle of the night

Walked with a lamplight on my head

my irrational childhood fear of ghosts

was for unknown reason non-existent

Most of Pilgrims who walked the way got injured

Walking every day for so long can only take a toll

It was my career that prevented me from getting injured

knowing what I know, I did not succumb to

walking too fast to my destination

I walked too slow that when I arrived in town to rest for the night

I could no longer take another step from pain and fatigue

The nearest Albergues or hotels were all full.

But for some unknown reason,

I always found a home

Or a bed to sleep on

I may have escaped injury but no one chooses to walk The way

And go back home without being immensely challenged

Mine came in the form of a flea

I got bitten along the way

My face, body and limbs were itching

While walking along the highway

I cannot recognize my face

They were red and swollen

I went to the building with green cross

They have no medicine for such severe allergic reaction

I walked to the medical center where they gave me free injection

I slept well in room number thirteen

Of a beautiful boutique hotel

Woke up before sunrise

Walked 30 km in the rain

Like nothing happened

In Los Arcos, there was a big celebration

It was their fiesta and they always follow their old traditions

Had I walked in a few minutes later

I would have been running away from a bull

instead of leisurely walking in this tiny Spanish village

It was a celebration and everyone in town

Wore white tops and red scarf.

All pilgrims and tourists obliged

We were "entertained " with a bull fight

A fellow pilgrim and I were perplexed

Everyone was cheering

But we could not finish watching

The bull was not a fighter

He was just confused and afraid

He was the one clearly being attacked and taunted

I understand old traditions

I am not judging their culture

I take part in it and I am thankful for the unique experience

But I and few other pilgrims could not bear

To take part and participate to finish watching

A Bull being bullied.

I walked in a town and stopped for a lunch break

There was free bread on a basket

While waiting to order my main dish

I took a bite and froze

I just had the tastiest food that ever touched my mouth

I've eaten in 3 Michelin stars restaurants in New York and Europe

But no food there came even this close

It was an out of this world experience

I looked around the other diners

To see if they felt the same

But they were eating and chatting like they felt nothing

My experience was interrupted when

a nice family came to my table

curious about a "young " woman

who travelled alone to their little town

I walked in the souvenir shop in Burgos

and found my grandmother's cookies

I paid for it.

I got everything I needed

And a little something extra

In my backpack to give me energy

I had to stay an extra day

In this town because I got curious

I went to their white Gothic church

Appreciated it's architecture

Then visited museum of Evolution

To have Faith does not indicate

That science and religion should contradict

I walked in the light and in the dark

In the rain and under the intense heat of the sun

I walked alone along vineyards and highways

Through mountains, plains,

Forests , farms and cities

I encountered people from a meditating Hindu

who sits so serene in the lotus position

to a special disabled man

who just finds joy in getting stamps

on his pilgrim Passport

Not all who wander are lost

I did not walk alone because I had to

I have nothing to walk or run away from

I go home to a loving husband

Who respects me as an equal

And allows me to be me

I went back to work the next day

Doing the same thing I was trained to do everyday

I may have given a little bit of anxiety and headache to my loving family

And I will not be surprised when my little girl grows up

She will do the same someday

I have no expectations of her other than to be true to herself

To surround herself with people that inspires her

In life she will encounter all kinds of people and challenges

The only thing she needs to remember

is that their voices are not more powerful than the voice inside her

Some people choose their time to raise a family early

They chose to have children 2 or three

They devote their time to jobs maybe 2 or three

Those are noble choices

But I do not compare my life to them and should they to me

I made my choices because that is what my heart told me

I chose to walk The Way not to conquer fear

To boost my ego will lead me nowhere

I did not walk to race and compete with people

There was no medal to be won

or honor to restore.

Believe it or not

Love is the most powerful motivator of them all

Buen Camino!


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