Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Camino Day 31 (final day)

Day 31(final day): Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (20 km)

I started the day with mixed emotions. “Yes today is the last day and I will finally be in Satiago de Compostela in 6 hours.” I was happy to finish the walk and yet sad to end my whole journey. I entered the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral square with Joy and other pilgrims whose names I don’t know. Once I sat and lied down in the middle of the square I realized that I don't have to walk again tomorrow. It will be a new and different day. 

After spending some time in the square Joy and I went to the pilgrims office to get the last stamp on the pilgrims passport and the Compostela (certificate). The stamped pilgrim’s passport (Credencial del Peregrino) is proof that you have walked more than the 100 km necessary to obtain the certificate. I had more than 30 stamps on my pilgrims passport; each stamp from every albergue I stayed in on the way.  

There was a long line up (1-2 hours waiting) at the office. I looked for my pilgrims passport inside my backpack but could not find it. I searched every where in panic but my Camino passport was nowhere to be found. I realized I might have left it at the first cafe on the way where I had breakfast. (maybe in the bathroom). I asked one of the staff at the pilgrim’s office to contact the café. He tried but no one was picking up the call…

I went to a small chapel next to the office and sat down on the pew. I closed my eyes and prayed to God offering thanksgiving for every walk I have walked since a month ago. “Receiving the certificate was never a purpose of my journey.  I lost my pilgrims passport with all the stamps but it does not matter. My Camino is in my heart.”  I was completely fine after the prayer.  

I stayed at albergue Seminario Menor in a single ROOM (not a bed)! It was really nice to be able to spread out my belongings  

Next day: I got up 5:30 am in order to pack and get ready for a morning flight. Guess what I found as I was reorganizing things in the backpack. “The Camino Passport!” It had been hidden behind the sunscreen lotion in the top pocket. “My pilgrims passport was lost but now is found” I laughed  God is funny.  At the airport, while waiting for the flight Joy drew the last stamp on my Camino passport for me. 

I thank God for everything: my backpack, shoes and socks, poles, all my family, friends & church members praying for me, my Camino friends, and my God. There will be more stories to come from my Camino experience.  Buen Camino!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Camino Day 29 & 30

Day 29 Palas de Rei to Ribadiso (26 km) 
Day 30 Ribadiso to Pedrouzo (23 km)

Day 29: “Don’t try to take an easy way. Just follow the signs, accept whatever path is before you, take the challenge and walk  it.” This is what I said to Joy when she asked “why don’t we take a taxi to the next town. It will only take  20 minutes to Ribadiso by taxi instead of 7 hours!” It sounds like a plan. However, that is not the Camino. The young pilgrims in my team sent their backpacks by carrier service to Ribadiso. Each paid 3 euros for the service. They walked without the backpacks today.

Most pilgrims on the Camino carry their backpacks whether it’s just a small one or a big one. You throw all your stuff in this one backpack and carry it to the next destination.  To me carrying my own backpack is important. The backpack is my responsibility and the challenge I need to take to get myself to the next point in my life. Now I feel that my backpack becomes a part of myself and I don’t want to take an easy way out of this challenge.

I hope and pray that all my family members, friends, members of my church and community may gladly carry their responsibilities and face the challenges to the next level of their journey as faithful pilgrims. 

Day 30: In the morning I asked Joy to carry her backpack and challenge herself to see how far she could endure. I knew that she had an ankle problem since yesterday. I used my beloved duct tape to make an ankle support for her.  She continued walking with one flip flop on and finished her walk today. Carrying her backpack all day!  I am glad that she did it. Buen Camino. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

My Camino Day 27 & 28

Day 27 Sarria to Portomarin (22 km) 
Day 28 Portomarin to Palas de Rei (25 km)

The young and new pilgrims got up so early. 5 am! Maybe they could not sleep well last night because it was their first night sleeping at the albergue. Sharing the room and bunk beds with new people must have affected their sleep quality.   We started walking around 6 am. It was a 37 degree day but they walked really well. They had no problem walking 22 km on the first day!

My backpack was so heavy with extra stuff Joy brought from Toronto: running shoes, camera kit, and some instant food. We walked 6 hours today. Tomorrow will be another 37 degree day. 

On their second day of walking the young  pilgrims had a difficult time. It was certainly a very different day from yesterday. I tried to give them as many stops as possible but walking with their heavy backpacks was too much for them. And unfortunately, everyone except Chaereen had an upset stomach from the dinner last night. Poor kids.. At the end of the day all of them decided to send their backpacks to the next town for tomorrow. We stopped at a private albergue in Palas de Rei. The evening sun was so hot that we could not go to bed until after 11 pm. 

Today’s walk was all about my new team. The whole dynamic has changed. I now have to consider them as I plan for tomorrow. It’s an interesting experience to walk as a team. It reminds me that we are individuals living in community.  Three more days until Santiago. Buen Camino!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Camino Day 25 & 26

Day 25 O’Cebreiro to Triacastela (21 km) 
Day 26 Triacastela to Sarria (19 km)

In Triacastela, I found a quiet albergue with a small but nice kitchen. So I decided to cook my own meal today. I went to the market and bought a small bag of rice produced in Italy,  Japanese soy sauce,  tabasco sauce, onions & green pepper, eggs, pork ribs, and morcilla (I still don't know what this is). I made steamed rice with egg for lunch and stir fried pork & onion for dinner. It was delicious!! I have been missing a spicy food. The tabasco sauce provided sufficient hot spice for me.  I am going to carry the tabasco sauce and the Japanese soy sauce in my backpack. The food I eat each meal time during the Camino always makes me happy and satisfied. It's something I have never experienced before. Do you give thanks for your daily food?

Today (day 26) I woke up early because I was excited about seeing my daughter Joy and my nephew Jee-Hoon, and nieces Jee-Young and Chaereen in Sarria. Joy is my oldest daughter finishing high school. She is going to study architectural science at Ryerson Univ in Toronto from September. Chaereen is from California who just finished her second year at University of Pennsylvania. Jee-Young and Jee-Hoon live in South Korea. Both of them are studying at Yon-Sei University in Seoul. Jee-Hoon finished his masters program in psychology; Jee-Young in her third year in economics.   

Back in January this year, as I was planning for my Camino I invited them to join me to walk the Camino as a fundraiser for the Jane Finch Reaching Up building project. They accepted my invitation and flew from Toronto, California, and Seoul Korea. 

I arrived in Sarria an hour ahead of my planned schedule. I must have been walking so fast today. I had lunch at one of the restaurants in the town center, found an albergue right next to the restaurant and waited for them. They took a train from Madrid and arrived in Sarria around 1:30 pm. And finally we met! It was so nice to see them, my family. 

I am so privileged to receive support and prayers from my family; both my side and Lydia’s. I give special thanks and praises to God for all my family members. They are always in support of my work and ministry and pray for me everyday! Buen Camino!

Friday, June 23, 2017

My Camino Day 23 & 24

Day 23: Molinaseca to Villafranca (32 km). 
Day 24: Villafranca to O’Cebreiro (29 km)

I began to walk at 6:40 am and took a short cut to Ponferrada only to get lost in this relatively large town (pop 69,000). I had to ask three different people for directions and  finally found other pilgrims who started walking much later than I. (I won't take another short cut) 

I was met with a thunderstorm on the way but it cleared up later in the afternoon. I was exhausted after walking 32 km today. I usually walk the best for the first 2 hours passing everyone. However after the first 2 hours I was  passed by everyone. 

I arrived at an albergue in Villafranca around 4 pm just to be told they were full so I went to another one which turned out to be one of the best albergues. No bunk beds!!!   First time in 23 nights I am sleeping in a single bed

I met Chris from Bulgaria, a young man who just finished high school and is walking the Camino before he starts university in September.  I was impressed by his deep thoughts and knowledge.   I love it when young people are not afraid of challenges and become adventurous. I want my kids to travel the world with their backpacks and experience all different cultures, traditions and people when they finish high school. That’s why I bought a backpack and a pair of hiking shoes for Joy’s graduation. I plan to do the same for my other girls, Jane and Jubilee. Three more days until I see Joy and my nephew Jee-Hoon and nieces Jee-Young and Chaereen in Sarria. They must have arrived in Madrid today. 

On day 24, the last 6  km to O’Cebreiro was the toughest hike I have ever done in my life. The hot temperature and the steep slope gave my knees a lot of trouble. However when I reached the top, the view was unbelievable. I am so glad I came this far! Buen Camino. 

My Camino Day 22

Day 22: Rabanal to Molinaseca (26 km)

La Cruz de Ferro..  I have been carrying a small stone since the first day  of the Camino. The stone represents my church, Jane Finch Reaching Up, family, friends, and the Jane and Finch community.  It was given by Jessie, my dear friend & sister in Christ, an elder at UPC.  This small stone is all the prayers, wishes, hopes, and dreams of all people I know.. 

I placed it at the foot of the cross, La Cruz de Ferro, a cross built at the highest point in the Camino..
After placing it there I prayed for all my friends and family. It was a very hot but  joyful day because of this spiritual connection that I have with them.

Love you all, UPC and Jane and Finch. Buen Camino!  

My Camino Day 20 & 21

Day 20: Villar de Mazarife to Astorga (31.5 km) 
Day 21: Astorga to Rabanal (20.6 km)

One of the best experiences of walking the Camino is meeting wonderful people on the journey. I get to meet new people everyday and learn a lot from them. Today I got up so early at 5 am, went downstairs for packing and saw a lady doing her routine stretching. She is AJ from Minnesota. I followed her and thanked her for the stretching tips.

When I stopped for breakfast I met Chiara, a 20 year old girl from Germany. I shared my story and work. She asked whether she could come to Toronto and help with the Jane Finch summer camp as a volunteer. I told her that she can stay at my house.  We also talked about faith and God. I hope she felt the presence of God and is open to God’s leading for her life.

On my way to Rabanal I met Carlos again! He is suffering from multiple blisters. Carlos and I shared a bunk bed on the second day of the Camino. He does not speak English at all. I don’t speak Italian at all. But it does not matter. We can still communicate.

As soon as I arrived in Rabanal around 12:30 pm I left my backpack along with many other backpacks in a long lineup for a bed at the Gaucelmo albergue. This popular albergue operated by a church takes only 40 pilgrims each day. I was number 29. I attended a special meeting with one of the priests serving at the church. I had a blessed time learning all about the spiritual significance of the Camino. The main message was that the purpose of walking the Camino is to meet Jesus through the life and work of St. James. 

Yes, it’s a spiritual walk each day for me. I should never forget that. Buen Camino!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Camino Day 18 & 19

Day 18: Reliegos to Leon (26 km)
Day 19: Leon to Villar de Mazarife (22 km)

Again I am walking the way alone today.  There is something very special in walking alone in the open field as the sun rises. I feel the wonder and mystery of God. 

On my way leaving Leon I met a Korean couple who were giving bottled water, snacks, coffee, and cup noodles to all the pilgrims walking in the morning.  Mr. and Mrs. Lee have taken two weeks off to come all the way from Seoul, Korea to the streets of Leon. The only purpose is to serve the Camino pilgrims in the name of God. 

Mr. Lee was diabetes. He lost his eye sight because of it. However he wanted to move on and live his life sharing God’s love. He is grateful that he can do something for others in God’s love. What a beautiful life..  I received a cup noodle and enjoyed it very much in the evening.

Brother and sister let me serve you..  Yes, we are pilgrims helping each other.  Buen Camino!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Camino Day 17

My Camino Day 17: Moratinos to Reliegos (42 km)

In the early morning I met Walter from Italy. He is a retired medical doctor who walks the Camino every year. He told me that he walked 52 km to Burgos in one day!  He does not even use trekking poles. After the conversation with Walter I had this urge to challenge myself to walk an extra distance today. So I did really push myself hard and set a record of 42km. The best part was walking on the Meseta during the hottest time of the day (2 -5 pm). For almost 3 hours I did not see anyone at all. I finally finished the walk to Reliegos, checked in at the albergue around 5 pm, and passed out. It was a tough day physically but the best day mentally. Although I once regretted the decision, I am glad I did take the extra mile.  Thank God. Buen Camino!

My Camino Day 16

My Camino Day 16: Carrion to Moratinos (29 km)

Today’s walk from Carrion to Moratinos was peaceful. I chose to stop at Moratinos because it was a very small town. Only five people stayed here. I shared a room with four people I have never met before. It’s always interesting to meet new people. Thank you Lord for today! Buen Camino.

Friday, June 9, 2017

My Camino Day 15

My Camino Day 15: Boadilla to Carrion (26 km)

I woke up at 5:30 am and left the albergue in Boadilla at 6:35 am. It was a bit chilly but a beautiful morning. I heard many birds singing different songs. I was walking alone but never felt lonely. 
Yesterday's Camino blue's gone. God comforted my heart and encouraged me by showing all the beautiful flowers, trees, sky, and singing birds!

When I arrived in Carrion I found a good albergue run by a church in the village. To my surprise Augustinian nuns led a singing time for the pilgrims at the albergue. It was a lifting time for me. My soul was quenched by the Spirit.  I shared my story with others and prayed for a lady who was walking the Camino for her son who died five years ago. Today was her last day of her Camino. 

The songs were very touching and inspiring. I attended a prayer service for the pilgrims and received God’s blessing and anointing later in the evening. What a joy to worship God together. God is good. Buen Camino!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Camino Day 13 & 14

My Camino Day 13: Burgos to Hontanas ( 32 km)
My Camino Day 14: Hontanas to Boadilla (27 km)


I left the albergue 6 am, ready to walk again after an one day rest in Burgos. I filled my medicine bag with different kinds of compeed, antibiotic cream, antiseptic ointment, and more band-aids. I also bought a new sunscreen lotion. All for the famous walking in the Meseta region.  The Meseta is the section between Burgos and Astorga (180 km), flat plains on the plateau of central Spain known for heat and heat and heat... Some people skip that part. My friend Noel who walked the Camino last year strongly suggested that I should not skip the Meseta at all and buy enough supplies before leaving Burgos. That's what I did. 

I walked 32 km to Hontanas. The next day from Hontanas to Boailla (27 km). I was lucky to have wind and rain which I prefer to scorching heat. On the day 14 during my walk from Hontanas to Boadilla I experienced the Camino blue. I felt down and lost appetite. They say the Camino blue is a part of the Camino. I had a community dinner with other pilgrims. Although I could not enjoy the meal as I would like to, I thank God for daily food. Buen Camino!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Camino Day 12

My Camino Day 12: Burgos:  a Rest Day

I took a bus to Burgos, a relatively big town, found a municipal albergue and took a rest to take care of my feet today. I should be able to hit the road tomorrow. Here is my daily routine.

I get up 5:30 am in the morning.  I wash up, pack up, fill my two water bottles and hit the road by 6:30 am. I walk between 1.5 or 2 hours before taking a breakfast break. If I can find a café I stop for a coffee and either tortilla or croissant. I spend 15-20 minutes for the breakfast break and then I walk another 2 hours before a break for snacks. I become so hungry that I need to stop for snacks. I eat fruit or peanuts and drink enough water. 

I continue walking until stopping for lunch between 1- 2 in the afternoon. For the first week I had a very light lunch to save money but now I eat a full lunch because I need real food to maintain energy in my body. After lunch I walk the final stretch to reach the destination, my albergue before it is full. When I arrive at the albergue, I check in, pay the fee (5-10 euros), and go to my assigned bed. They assign a bed number for me at each albergue. I was given the top bunk bed 11 times out of 12 nights so far. Now I am more comfortable sleeping on the top bunk bed. 

I leave my backpack by the bedside and settle down a little bit.  I take a shower, wash my clothes, hang them outside (I am so glad that I brought 8 clothes pins), and take a nap for about an hour. When I get up from the nap around 4-5 pm I work on my daily video clip. 

Some people asked me how I make the video clips for my blog. Here is how I do it.  I use my phone to take pictures and video shots, edit them on the phone to make a video clip and upload it to YouTube and my blog. It takes only 20-25 minutes to do all this each day and I use only my phone and a selfie stick that I borrowed from my second daughter, Jane. (It’s very handy and easy to carry. Fits in the side pocket on the belt) I usually take 20-30 pictures each day and use 10-20 of them for the video clips. I save them on my phone and upload them to my blog whenever there is strong wifi available. I sometimes go 2-4 days without a good wifi signal. 

I eat dinner around 7 pm. Most of the time I eat the pilgrims’ menu either at the albergue I am staying or at a local restaurant. The pilgrims’ menu is a set dinner for the Camino walkers. The price is 10 euro. I originally planned to cook my own meal every evening but decided not to because it’s taking too much time. I spend the rest of day in reflecting and praying before going to bed around 10 pm. 

This is how I spend each day while walking the Camino. It’s simple but meaningful. I am enjoying this simplicity as I pray for my church and the Jane Finch community. Buen Camino!

Monday, June 5, 2017

My Camino Day 11

My Camino Day 11: Santo Domingo to Belorado (21 km)

I got up and started walking at 5:30 am. The blister on my right foot was not getting better in the morning so I decided to start the day early and walk very slowly. It was another beautiful journey with gorgeous morning sunlight and quiet wind. I thought about my relationship with God a lot today as I endured the pain on my right foot. A fellow pilgrim once asked me one of the most common questions we have: why does God allow pain in our lives? How would you answer that?

When I finally arrived at Belorado and settled down at the small but cozy albergue I learned that  I would need to take care of my foot in order to finish the Camino. So I got rid of my ego and decided to take a rest day tomorrow in Burgos. That means I need to catch a bus to Burgos in the morning and won't be able to see all my fellow pilgrims whom I met on the first day in Orrison. I will be one or two days ahead of them and they will not be able to catch up to me. I hope to connect with them one day in the future, but for now I am praying for God's blessings for each one of them: Reiko, Jan, Sam, Marilyn. Buen Camino!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Camino Day 10

My Camino Day 10: Najera to Santo Domingo (21km)

I was the last person to leave the albergue in Najera because I didn't think I was able to walk today due to the infected blisters. I checked bus schedules to the next town and went to a pharmacy for antibiotic cream and some supplies. However I decided to walk instead and I did. 
The scenery was so beautiful and I met some wonderful people on the road. A couple from the Netherlands was making a heart by the sign post. That was their prayer for all the pilgrims.
Buen Camino! 

My Camino Day 9

My Camino Day 9: Logrono to Najera (31 km)

I walked the longest distance today. I somehow missed the main route and took a side route to Najera which added an extra 2 km.  As I began the walk this morning I asked God to show me something beautiful so that I could be released from all the bad things from yesterday. God did show me many beautiful things on the way. Thanks and praises to God! 
Buen Camino!