we ate in craziness—the room loud, languages flying—an impromptu Happy Birthday for a 13 year old—a candle stuck on a twinky-esque looking thing. The 13 year old was clearly embarrassed—His mom making him stand up at the end, bowing, and then saying "Thank You" in 4 languages. I would have died. ~Journal Excerpt, May 25, 2006.
After a fully conscious siesta, I got up, visited the village, and returned to sit in the shade and write in my journal on the benches that lined the front of the sleeping quarters. The laundry line was full now, the boots were lined up everywhere: it was a full house. There were even pilgrims sleeping on mattresses that had been put on the floor in the area that was designed to be a little sitting area, complete with sofas. Outside there were pilgrims lying on the grass, amazingly enough even in the sun, and a few were braving the frigid pool. I heard a loud voice I knew. It was the Canadian woman that had walked with Renata and me at the very beginning of the Camino. She was coercing people to get into the swimming pool, and to much success.
Marc came out and sat next to me. I told him about
the woman from Canada. I then talked to him about our little situation. I told him what I thought that I felt I should just go on alone. I explained that I came on the Camino alone and that I was ok to go on alone. Marc brushed it off by saying that Xavier "just gets that way" and that I should just ignore him. He said he didn't want me to go away, that he wanted to "keep" me in our group of three. I told him that he should talk it over with Xavier and let him know what I said. I didn't want to be made miserable on my Camino no matter how much I was enjoying their company in between Xavier's tantrums.
We sat there and watched the other pilgrims in the yard. An entire group of Brazilians showed up and sat down in a circle directly in front and to the left of us. They all had a little mat and there was a leader talking to the group. They were having a group stretch session mixed with thoughts about religion. I was trying to listen and catch as much as I could because I have a little love affair with the Portuguese language. Xavier showed up and interrupted my concentration with some grumbling about how from here on into Santiago we
were going to have to pay attention to the schedule because we would be meeting more and more groups like these vying for space in the albergues. I looked at Marc.
The albergue offered a pilgrim menu (it is also the town restaurant) and we had readily accepted when we arrived. We went into the dining area. The walls had paintings created by the owner. We sat down at a very long table in the back of the room. Xavier had already met several French speaking people and we all sat together. I sat next to Xavier on purpose to try once again to show him I had no interest in playing favorites. Marc sat across from me. Next to Marc on his left was the wackiest Brazilian man any of us had ever met. He was trying to speak French, then he was speaking English, then back in French, but saying that he could not speak in French. That was hardly a crime, it happens to all non-fluent speakers. Let's just say that he was a little animated, but in a way that no one could understand. It was sort of like trying to talk to a hyper 8 year old in the body of a 40-something adult who could not stop talking, fidgeting, talking, questioning but not waiting for answers, talking, laughing and gesturing, talking, talking, talking. It was a workout just trying to follow him. All the French people were trying to be polite and to indulge his conversation with answers, only to be sorry
they did so seconds later because of his overeagerness at trying to hold a conversation.
In the meantime, the waiter, who might have been the son of Ugo from the looks of him, came to explain the menu. Out of the corner of my eye I had been sort of watching him as he went around to the other tables. I wanted to hear what was on the menu so that by the time he got to me I could answer. From watching him it was clear he had done this only a gazillion times before. He rattled off the menu choices in at least four different languages. He had the standard little block of waiter's paper and it was haphazardly divided into squares with tick marks which by the time he had reached our table, which was the last, was rather filled up and quite confusing looking. He began his lightening-fast, monotone, shades of Mary Poppins, soliloquy approximately like this: firstcoursevegetablesoupgarlicsoupCastelliansoupmain mealspaghettimeatstewwithlentilsmeatballsfishdesserticecreamcrèmecaramelfruityoghurt. (Repeat from the beginning in French, Spanish, German, and/or Portuguese.) The rapidity of his delivery was flustering for all us (one had to catch the language one understood and remember the choices for each course) and he had to repeat it several times, all the while rolling up his eyes
into his head when at the pause of the last item everyone at the table looked dumb struck and naturally demanded the list again. He obliged with kindness, but with no less rapidity. After about the 7th time, I couldn't stand it anymore and just cracked up and laughed through the entire performance. He looked at me amused and pleased, I think, that someone appreciated his little fun with the pilgrims. I told him quietly what I wanted. He smiled and made three happy ticks. He then turned to the rest of the table and taking a breath of slight exasperation but without losing a hint of his composure, said in English and with more volume, "Ok! French people listen up!" The list began again in French and when he said the word ragout, which he had to repeat several times, it went around the table "ragout, ragout, RAGOUT!," because the crazy Brazilian had asked what it was. Apparently the answer in French to the question "What is ragout?" is "ragout." Marc began to laugh. He knew a commercial jingle for dog food that focused on the word ragout and so he began singing it. A few of
the other French people joined in. At the same time the crazy Brazilian was saying to the waiter and to the French people at the table somehow simultaneously that he couldn't understand French yet at the same time he was speaking French. Then he started putting his arm around Marc's neck from time to time or alternately hitting him on the shoulder in some sort of gesture of camaraderie or support or something social scientists can decode only in the next decade. The waiter stood in patience and finally managed to extract the orders from our table. I turned to Xavier, wiping my tears of laughter, and whispered in Italian, "Aiuto." He made a gesture that I understood to be the opening of a trap door. On the other side of Marc there was another Brazilian man. Xavier had told him jokingly that if he wanted, he could sit by his countryman. The Brazilain man looked at me and said calmly but emphatically, "Oh no, even for a Brazilian, he's crazy!"
For the life of me, I have no idea how the waiter managed to make sense of the orders and to deliver them correctly, but he did. A lot of pilgrims had the meat stew with lentils.
Marc has just sent me these words:
Ragou toutou; le ragou de mon toutou j'en suis fou!