All through the night....~Journal Excerpt May 25, 2006
After dinner I waited a bit for my turn at the internet machine. It felt weird inserting coins for time on the internet. I always had the feeling that I should be awarded one of those super-duper bouncing rubber balls at the end.
When I finished, Ugo stamped my pilgrim passport and collected his fees for the lodging and meal. After he stamped my passport he stopped the waiter who was just trying to get by to the kitchen, pulled him to himself, turned back to me and said to him, "Look at this woman. Look at her face. She is a very nice, simpatica woman, do you see?" The waiter agreed with him, smiled, looked at me briefly out of politeness, and then went about his business. I didn't know what to do. I felt a little unglued or exposed. Had I not know that he was speaking directly to me I would have turned around looking for the woman he was referring to. With a meek thanks I made my way out of the restaurant and across the lawn into the dormitory.
Everyone was going about their nightly Camino rituals. I joined in. The Canadian woman was making the social rounds in the room. Xavier had tried to speak to her in French, but she quipped back that just because she was from Canada didn't mean she spoke French. As her loud chatting went on with various pilgrims, Xavier decided to give her the nickname of La Pie du Canada, which means, The Magpie of Canada. When she didn't understand she asked me to translate. After getting an explanation from Marc, I did. It was all in good fun and she took it as more of a reason to keep talking. We heard about the virtues of sleeping in a man's oversized silk shirt when on the Camino. We heard her asking everyone where they were going tomorrow. We heard her ask her immediate bunk neighbors if they snored. We heard her giving them a forewarning that she was going to wake them up if they did. I had heard it all before and just smiled as I lay there in my bag trying to tune her out and tried to tune in to how incredible the day had been.
When the lights went out and the last pilgrim was neatly tucked and stacked in their metal bunk bed, the expected snoring began. A few attempts at squirrel-clicking snore interruption were made, and a few whacks with walking sticks on the metal bars of the bunks as well, but resignation set in fairly quickly. A few moments later, a new sound was added to the pilgrim sleeping repertoire. For the prudish and/or squeamish, let me tread gently via the back door.
Now, if I were an owner of an albergue, and day after day, and night after night, I lived to clean and cook for 30-50 pilgrims, some of which could be unreasonably demanding, and in some instances down right rude and unpleasant, how would I, how could I, get any kind of self satisfaction, or, shall we say, compensation, for such behavior, without it being seen in any way, shape, or form as willful revenge? How could I mastermind something so unsuspecting that it would seem totally innocent, even so ingenious as to appear to be the fault of the pilgrims themselves, and, as a small bonus, also be rather economically advantageous? The answer, like all beautifully masterminded schemes of this nature, is so simple as to make you want to cry: Let them eat lentils.
If you haven't grasped yet what I'm alluding to, perhaps this will help: lentils are a member of the legume family. Beans are also a member of the legume family. Legumes are difficult for humans to digest. This difficulty in digestion has a side effect. This side effect results in the emission of a smelly substance, whose name, we often kindly refer to as flatulence. Flatulence can be loud or silent, virtually odorless or nose hair curling-ly violent ( I should know, I've actually woken myself out of a dead sleep because of it.) Yes, my dear readers (and some of you have been patiently waiting), the mighty sphincter strikes again, this time in Boadilla.
It's difficult to explain the effect of this "happening" that night, but I'll do my best. In keeping with my musical roots, and in an effort to remain consistent with my storytelling style (You may remember Fernando in Azofra), the responsorial chant comes to mind as a particularly apt metaphor. Let us first begin with a little musicology: the responsorial chant is a classification of chant based on how it was sung in its time. It was a chant that alternated between a soloist and a choir. That's all you need to know. And this is exactly how it was on May 25, 2006 in Boadilla En el Camino, only no one was using their vocal cords.
First we had the snoring, which for me functioned as a type of droning pitch, like bagpipes make in their lowest register. (Please do not be confused, however, the responsorial chant is not associated with bagpipes or Scotland, in any way that I remember studying. Chant music is usually sung A cappella.) Second we had the soloist, which began sort of like the first bird on a spring morning: hesitant and short winded at first, but once out and about and sure of the sun, it begins to sing freely. It's difficult to transcribe such sounds, so think of it like this: Oh mighty God, those lentils were fantastic and we wish to praise you! Pwuuuuuit! Third, we had the responsorial part, or the answer to the solo, which came in the form of the pilgrim full-of-lentils-you-bet choir. It went something like this: Yes, mighty God, your wonders are many! We wish to give thankssss for our daily (Thruguhbrrrrttt!) sussssstinance and praissssse you (Brrrrrrrrit!) with our lipsssss in (Pow!) ssssssong! Then the soloist would emit a new text and out would fly the answer to mingle amongst the burning incense, and so forth. The true responsorial chant could go on (like most chants) for quite some time and sometimes ended with a unison extolment on the word "Alleluia" and then a gentle, perfunctory "Amen." In Boadilla En el Camino we had an extolment on something phonetically close to the sound of Rat-ta-tat-tat-tat! with a gentle hissing that blended back into the droning of the snoring bagpipes. Something like that. In retrospect, it was kind of a nice, unanticipated nod to the bagpipes to fade away into the vapors.
It was difficult not to laugh, but sensing it would have perhaps destroyed the meditative atmosphere, I somehow, St. James help me, managed. And I'm not exaggerating one single toot when I say to you that every time someone sang a solo there was a response. Strangely, there would also be tossing and turning after each one. I'm not sure if that was a reaction on the part of the innocent bystanders (duck and cover) or if the members of the choir were trying to create a counter anti-detection sound screen of sorts (It wasn't me, can't prove it). It leads to a nagging question that has also left me at times awake at night. Was the "chanting" taking place in sleep or were the choir members just pretending? Was it a type of social permission or was it sheer coincidence? If everyone was actually sleeping, what kind of collective sphincter consciousness is that? Seriously, it does make a difference, and it's not as if I could really ask the next morning. Do you see my problem? Maddening. At any rate, I heard it all, all through night, and it was the only moment on the Camino that I became intensely grateful for the raging cold that was mercifully hampering my olfactory organs.
I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the folks at Boadilla En el Camino. I think they deserve some kind of Camino Nobel Peace prize for the most brilliantly conceived (un)revenge ever created by man. Alleluia ed (pwuuuit) Amen.
There are a few (very few) more pictures from Hontanas to Boadilla in the Picture Gallery that are not included in the entries for those who are interested.