How fascinating the idea of death can be.
Too bad though, because it just isn't true.~Hafiz
These days. These days it's been difficult to know how much more to write. I could blame it on lack of time and it would be the truth, but it isn't the whole story. I guess you could say I needed time to let things sit and to ask myself if I was done or not. But I didn't intend the silence to be nearly a year either. At some point I came to the conclusion that the story was beginning to bleed into my present life more than it was about the Camino any more, and that perhaps it was a good time and a good sign to let go. Still, I've missed my days of writing, my train wrecks of grammar, my laughing at loud at myself for that and various other things, not to mention watching the comments and stats fluctuate over the time of this project. For all those who wrote in I thank you very much.
And as for being back in the United States...well I haven't really enjoyed being back in the United States much. The very things that I knew I wouldn't like or wouldn't have any interest in any more, are in fact, those very things. It's not that I love Germany either, it's more that I finally got to live in one place for longer than 2 or 3 or 4 years and knew narrow winding streets, and could tell you which stores went in and out of business, and had time to develop a favorite place to run, or a favorite place to eat, and so on. There are more serious things I miss like excellent health care, vacation guaranteed to you by law, fabulous public transportation, and excellent cheese everyone can afford. So repatriation has been unpleasant for the most part, and I have the nagging feeling that that is not going to change. I don't feel any more at home here than I did there. There's no feeling of being "amongst my own folk" or "at home." "At home," what's that? I can't really tell you.
And my life is certainly much harder now. Here I am, a middle-aged woman, having graduated at the top of her class three times over, and I work in a warehouse where I either pick stuff off shelves to pack, or pack the stuff I picked. A 10 year old or younger could do it. There are a lot of wonderful people there, who also don't want to be there, but there we are and it's hard at the end of the day to not feel like you've just wasted another day of your life. Sobering, humiliating, time draining, brain numbing, and most definitely unrewarding. The income is poverty level with no opportunity for a wage increase and it's not a simple matter of working hard to get out of there or to work your way up. It's a big problem.
That's most of the bad news, but certainly not all of it.
As for the Camino, Marc keeps somewhat in touch, although less. He has pronounced that he is an "old man" now. He has some grand kids, is expecting some more, and continues living his life in his beloved Provence much as always before. He goes on the Camino nearly every year. In fact I think he has gone every year since we met. He has asked me to go on the Camino with him again, virtually every year, and I have said no every time. It's not that it wouldn't be entertaining or interesting, or meaningful, it's just that I have neither the money, nor the vacation time, and for me the conditions of going with Marc have changed. Don't get me wrong, if I had the money, it would be tempting, but if I ever go on the Camino again it will most likely be as it was the first time, alone. I still think about walking the north route, and a longer walk of 3,000 kilometers or more, which would be very difficult to do alone, but I do think about it. I don't dream about it, I don't pine for it, I just revisit the thought of it from time to time—especially when I see photos. It would beat the hell out of packing boxes any day, even if I know I wouldn't be able to sleep for 4 months due to the snoring alone.
As for the Pants, he doesn't keep in touch. Not a word. Nothing. Things played out nearly as I suspected and feared and said they would, but that hasn't made it hurt any less.
Xavier is still in Corsica, the last I heard swinging from his hammock from time to time in the brutal summer heat, and I although I can't be sure, I suspect paella is never too far away.
Renata wrote me a short note this year. I hope to reconnect again with her soon.
The others, although I tried to keep in touch from time to time, have faded out of contact.
So my dear readers, I think I have about one more entry left in this story...