Day 35 we woke up late per usual on Hana’s schedule. I stopped caring how late we wake up due to Santiago being in arms reach. We started our walk at 1pm. 1PM! That’s unheard of in pilgrim speak.
And we walked, and walked, and walked. And we didn’t stop walking until 40 kilometers later when it was midnight and we were both freezing and damp.
It was mostly woods. Pitch black, with nobody in sight. We sang and played music on our phones. We laughed nearly the whole way. Until the beer metabolized in my system and I ran out of water, all bars and hotels were closed….that’s when I started a slow decline into panic mode. I would see movement in my peripherals and freak out. Exhaustion and dehydration started to kick in.
We had to venture off the Camino path and stay at an airport hotel. The bartender kept giving us shots of baileys on the house. I was so drunk I nearly puked and I fell asleep dead tired and sick at the foot of my bed where Hana laid with me and brushed the hair off of my face.
The next day I got my period and walked the last of the Camino into Santiago. Crashing waves of nausea crippling me with every painful step. It was supposed to be only 10 remaining kilometers but I’m sure it was more. It HAD to be more.
Hana wants me to come live with her and she’ll act as my housewife. She actually used the term “housewife.”
“I’ll cook for you, clean for you….just stay. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll take care of you.”
Me- “I’ll lay around all day and play video games. By the end of day 3 you’ll be cursing at me in Korean telling me to get the fuck out.”
Her – “okay, I understand. I’ll change the subject.”
This whole trip feels like a dream. A horrible wonderful dream. Even the landscapes and the people are characters and scenery taken from a storybook.
When I catch a moment of me time, I start to wonder if this is really happening. Are these experiences really mine? Or am I glimpsing into somebody else’s life? And why me? What makes me so lucky?
I feel like Forest Gump. I’m doing my own thing, but life manifests into a whole other monster. A monster not everyone gets the chance to pet and tame.
It’s crazy how two people, insanely different from one another living on opposite sides of the globe can fit so well together. Spending each moment together, complete strangers in a strange land of jamon, tortillas and bocadillo’s with little else to choose from. Staying in cheap hostels where we meet intersting people, also strangers in a strange land whom we run into time and time again.
It’s just all so supernatural and surreal. It’s lovely and weird.
Hana just left. She’s on her way to Morocco for a desert tour. She was upset when I refused to go. There’s just no way. I have to make a pit stop home for a brush of thanksgiving feast and family time before meeting again.
I have to leave this hotel in 3 hours. It’s fully booked for today and they need the room. I’m spending my last night in Santiago staying with Janett, a Swiss girl I met a few days ago. She’s letting me crash at her hotel.
This has been by far the most magical, magnificent year of my life. I don’t get it. Why now? This is exactly what I worked so hard for and it’s actually happening, but now that it’s here it’s like, shit man. You know? Holy fucking shit, I arrived. And not just in Santiago but some place else. I can’t explain.
Yune, another Korean pilgrim we met along the way, cried all day yesterday because he didn’t want it to end. He used the word “jeong” which doesn’t translate well into English.
Me – “Is that like being sentimental?”
Him – “Yes, it’s like that.”
But I could tell it meant more so when me and Hana got back to our room, the quiet hours before bedtime, I asked her again what exactly jeong meant. And she described in-depth.
It’s like thankfulness, when strangers help you. It’s like love, but not love. It’s compassion, the guilt you feel if you do or don’t do/say something…it’s community.
There’s no simple definition of it, it’s a feeling that can’t be translated into words. It’s an emotion.
Me – “I think I feel jeong all the time but there was never a word for it.”
It’s not just love I feel, not just sentimentality or attachment. It’s jeong. Jeong describes the Camino and basically describes me. After all these years, I can finally put a word to it and pin it down.
I guess I should shower and pack my belongings. Janett’s hotel is literally right next to mine and all I want to do is sleep and dream and be alone and bask in the weirdness of this trip but I have a feeling she’ll want to head out as soon as I get there and drink some cervesa and have some lunch.
I love my life. I love (jeong) these new friends. I’m so freaking lucky man.
I hate the Camino but goddamned I’ll probably do it all again.