Passing by a park in the middle of the woods, we met another hiker named Nora. She explained to us that she’d been a wonderer her entire life because of her career teaching English. It took her a while to admit her age because she said we would think of her differently if we knew how old she was and the stereotypes involved. We disagreed with her and liked her all the same when she told us she was 64. She informed us that, against popular belief, the French way was not the original way. When the Moors had taken over the lower portions of Spain, pilgrims were forced to walk along the northern coast, which eventually branches into “the primitive route.” Without knowing it, we’d been walking the historic pilgrim’s route all along. This made is even more happy about our decision to walk the northern route.
A big topic that Nora brought up is the healthcare issue in the United States. Being a born-and-raised American, she was rather disappointed with the lack of care given to American citizens. After living in several European countries, she realized the amazing benefits of having socialized healthcare for all. She said no one here complains about higher taxes or small amounts being taken out of people’s paycheck in order to contribute to the system, and it just seems to work flawlessly. She was really confused as to why people don’t look at health as being a basic human right, especially when were considered to be one of the most civilized countries in the world. Nora had very strong, yet meaningful opinions on many current problems facing the United States, and most of her beliefs really resonated with us.
We arrived at the beautiful albergue in Baamode quite early since we’d been walking faster than usual to keep up with Nora, an avid Camino-goer. It was still locked for the day, so we sat at a cafe enjoying some beverages while we waited. This two-story albergue was very homey and comfortable with large voids cut in the floor in order to create unity between the stacked spaces. Cold stone walls constructed the first story and golden paint helped the upper sleeping-level have a warm feeling. The treated plywood ceiling was peaked extremely high to let light in at each end. Chunky wooden beams spanned the length of the roof and hinted at the rustic feel we left back at home in Idaho. Vines ladened with green grapes wrapped around a large outdoor trellis, creating the perfect shaded seating-area. Lots of potted plants, flowers and cactus grew inside the albergue as well and it was nice to see the outdoors brought indoors.
We witnessed some other pilgrims making a huge leafy salad in the hostel kitchen and we thought we’d mimic their idea. The supermarket was closed for siesta, so we waited until 5:30 to get our supplies. We thought we would save money and calories by making our own salad and stealing clear of the menu del dia for once. However, after all the ingredients were purchased, the salad ended up being more expensive than restaurant food. We felt like we got ripped off because on top of paying more for our food, we also had to prepare and clean up after ourselves. Nora said that buying food here is almost as expensive as going out because Spain is in quite an economic slump currently. Small restaurants are lowering prices and giving away huge portions in order to increase their customer base and attract business. Grocery stores, aren’t hurting for business as much, so their prices have remained the same.
We heard a lot of laughter on the porch and decided to see what was going on. To our surprise, there was a large group of English-speaking people outside that thoroughly welcomed us into their group. They thought Aria and I were twins at first, and then decided to make a game out of guessing our ages. Most people thought Aria was older, probably because she’s officially almost two inches taller than me, and someone even went as far as guessing she was 35! She was rather offended by this far-off guess, but it wasn’t as bad as when I took her to check-in for sorority recruitment and the girl asked me whether I was her mother… Yes, I birthed her when I was 3, thank you.
The group revolved around a German birthday-girl. She was hiccuping violently and drinking wine from a box as she complained about being 31. There was a Mormon boy that was taking part in the celebration, but he was drinking non-alcoholic beer. Apparently, he had promised the girl that he’d drink beer for her birthday, and he laughed about how he got away with breaking his promise. Aria shot a few questions at him that she said she’s been dying to ask a Mormon. He fired back quickly and then we all had to endure a long spiel on Mormon beliefs. I did learn, however, that Mormons actually can drink coffee as the boy informed us that nowhere in their “book” does it mention the word “caffeine.”
Aria took out her retainer to have a sip of wine and the Europeans all looked at her as if she wasn’t from this planet. We explained to them that retainers keep your teeth straight after having braces. A few of them said they’d had braces, but never received a retainer. This was quite obvious because the fact that they’d had braces was impossible to notice through their once again crooked smiles. Now it has truly been confirmed that the United States is the only place where dentists push flossing, braces and pulling wisdom teeth. I can’t even explain the look of sheer terror that comes over people’s faces when they witness us flossing! The first day we met Antwon, we taught him how to floss with “the white elastic thing,” as he called it. He said it felt amazing and that he’s never even seen it for sale before? Such a stark contrast to the dental-industry that exists in the United States, where I almost get anxiety over having to choose between 500 varieties of toothpaste.