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The Camino Adventure: Day Nine

Tuesday October 1st, 2019: Azura To Amenal 

Luck of The Irish

There's no question The Camino has been life changing. A simple thing as walking across town and country side, through forest and mud, asphalt, rain and sunshine The Camino is a beautiful journey. However the most beautiful thing I've discovered is the people. The traveling community is overwhelming! If someone sees someone in need or looking to strike up a conversation there's no shortage of opportunities to meet and interact with the most wonderful people.

It's funny how you'll meet the same person or group of people at one point then again and again and again. Such people that have in such a gentle and subtle way have moved my heart is Mary and James from Ireland. When I had hurt my knee two days back a friendly lady named Susan gave me some medicine and a knee brace. I actually didn't even know her name at the time. Susan and her friend stopped to offer their help complete unprompted and then carried on down the road. However I had given them my business card. Because I figured why not?! I brought them so I could connect with people and it's been easily the greatest networking experience I've had as well. All that aside: the evening I had been given the knee brace, as I sat down for dinner at the hotel with my group I get this message from Instagram from a lady named Susan.

Turns out the lady that helped me, was named Susan and she was reaching out to see how I was doing. I replied and thanked her again. As I walked out of the restaurant this bubbly red haired lady waves at me to come over to her group. She's tells me her friends have all been praying for me and asked about my knee. I'm thinking how in the world do these people know my name or anything about my knee?!  Well the Susan that had given me the knee brace was friends with this bubbly red haired lady and her friends were all traveling together. It was just amazing that we they were staying at the same hotel and same restaurant as my group all at the same time. We had a brief chat as I was heading off to bed. But that moment was the start of a small connection that began many many more. Crossing each other back and forth a dozen times along the way I started to feel a strange pull. Perhaps God wants me to visit Ireland? It sounds beautiful and similar to the lovely green I miss from Oregon. Eventually I learn that the bubbly red haired lady's name is Mary and her husband name is James. Well today I while sharing a stretch of The Camino with Mary and James along with their friend Neil we get to sharing our stories. I tell them I'm here for healing and the prayers for direction. I uncorked about my divorce and heart break and depression and where I had stopped eating and wanted to even end my life. It was heavy stuff but that's the beauty of The Camino: here is where you unburden yourself. The four of us stop at a cafe and enjoy a bite to eat. Neil and I ordered the same thing and they gave him the last slice of the local dish I believe translates as tortilla cake. Neil insists on sharing his meal with me, joking that he was "literally taking food out of Jesse's mouth". So I sit down with Mary, James and a Neil and we have a great chat: laughing and talking about an array of topics. From religion to politics which can be a tricky thing to navigate but it was so fun, insightful and just downright healing to make some new friends. 

After lunch we part ways as I slow down a bit to reflect and process some more of my grief. I was here for a reason and I had still felt like I was aiming in the dark for me next step. Why was I here exactly? Was it just to process my pain? Which for sure has helped but I felt deep down there was more. As I was thinking and praying about these things I say hello to a girl using a makeshift walking stick, made from an actual walking stick. We strike up a conversation and I learn that her name is Yue, which means Moon, and she's from China. Her friends had gone ahead of her but poor Yue/Moon had injured her knee so she was trailing behind. I asked if it was ok if I kept her company? And she said yes and we enjoyed hours of conversation. This was Yue's first time in Europe and her friends were traveling on a similar soul refreshing journey. Eventually Yue and I sat down for a cup of coffee and funny thing we find out that we're way ahead of her friends. Her friends catch up with us and we all decided to travel together. So here I was this giant ginger bearded man traveling with these lovely petite Asian girls from China. The four of us have a wonderful time talking about all the cultural differences from Spain to our home countries. We talk about music and film and food. I find it hilarious and amazing that Yue and I both love listening to James Taylor, what are the odds in that?! One of the girls named Gabriel I gives me all the backstory for why they're there on The Camino; how they had been introduced to the Christian faith from an English tutor who had walked The Camino and how they had decided to make the journey themselves. There even was this absolutely beautiful moment when the three girls started singing in harmony a traditional Chinese song as we were trekking through the forest. It was just surreal, as if I was being teleported to another country. I just loved it!

As we walked I kept them company until they safely got to their place of lodging. And as I was walking back towards the next town I realized I had walked some distance off the trail, close to maybe a mile away. No troubles at this point you can't be in a hurry you're just walking and spending time with nature, God and a rainbow of interesting and beautiful people. Then it struck me that passage where Jesus say’s “if someone asks you to walk a mile with them to walk with them two”! I had literally walked that extra mile just out of the sake of friendship and didn't even realize it! I felt encouraged and moved again. I was here for a purpose! Finally as I was about two forests and two towns away I bump into Susan again! It was just her and a friend and we say hello as she passes me by. Well not long after then I get miss directed. And start accidentally walking again in the wrong direction. Then I hear someone hollering my name. I turn around and it's James and we start laughing! I had apparently wondered across the hotel that James and Mary and crew were staying at that evening. James here tells me that they'd like to offer me a place to stay at his and Mary's a few nights if I'm serious about visiting Ireland. And that's when it's cemented in my heart and mind. I'm supposed to visit Ireland. It's meant to be and in no small or subtle way am I being pulled there. I don't know all the particulars yet but as a freshly christen world traveler I'll figure it out on the way. 

To add even more luck of the Irish when I arrive at our hotel Amenal who do I see but the father and daughter travelers from Ireland, Morris and Catherine! Catherine writes for a media company and she actually spent a year in college in McMinnville Oregon! Which was just wild! We're both the same age and it's just incredible how you can find so many similarities from people far and wide. Her father Morris is a realtor and I funny enough was able to do a bit of research about estate and whatnot. Now all of these dozens of kismet happenings have started to add up and I feel on the precipice of some even bigger changes in my life.

I closed the evening having spent such a wonderful day feeling sad. I was sad that tomorrow would be my last day on The Camino, not the end of my trip, but the road proper. I don't want this time to end. I've had so many profound experiences and have met so many people and made so many friends. I'm going to miss them all so dearly. Tomorrow we walk into Santiago and tomorrow Lord willing I will place my wedding ring at the Statue of Saint James. Perhaps my new friend James is a parallel to what I anticipate tomorrow. While I was unburdening myself on a new friend I'll also be unburdening myself next to the bones of the very friend of my Lord and savior the Apostle Saint James.