Monday, June 7, 2010

walking strategies

The snoring is getting out of hand. I´ve developed new strategies to cope with the noise, but you must overcome the fear of the bunk bedding. We speculate that they only change the fitted sheet of the mattress every week or so, and the same could be said about the pillow case. Sometimes it gets really warm in the hostel, and you have to unzip your sleeping bag all the way, and then at some point in the night you peel out of it like a bananna fully in touch with dreaded fitted sheet. I´m over this now. Some of the rooms we stay in are so hot that I pair down to only my boxers, joining the ranks of spanish men who casually lounge in their briefs throughout much of the hostel. So when I make enough turns in my sleep, it´s full contact.

To combat the snoring I deploy the head-taco, which consists of wrapping my head in the potetially nasty´s the only way. This is in addition to the little ear plugs I wear as well. Another technique is identifying potential snore-ers during ciesta, and either moving far away from them or falling asleep before they do. My observations of snoring during ciesta has fascinated me even more. First, I think its such an amazing human condition that the culprit is completely unaware of, you don't hear yourself snore. Second, a person only knows that they snore through word of mouth and then their subsequent judgement of the rumor. It has been interesting to watch this play out amongst Ellen's students, several of which snore, some worse than others. But they are easy to manage because we can wake up the culprit. There doesn´t exist an etiquette among strangers for this strategy, and certainly not across language barriers. When I imagine waking up one of the heavy-set spainards who is happily snoring the only thing I can think to do to get the message across is let out a big snort and point.

We're about 22 days in, and have covered more than 300 miles on foot. The community of pilgrims is still tight, but sometimes it loses it´s luster, sometimes it feels more like a big family with a lot of aunts and uncles you could do without. The best way to describe the scene in the hostel at night or in the morning is to imagine the locker rooms at the YMCA, and then to populate that space with bunkbeds. The nudity, the not so shaply figures, the odd smells of body odor and shower-fresh soapy aromas. It´s all there.

There is also a lot of gossip that goes on; which group is where, who has blisters, who shipped their bag ahead, rumors of thievery, etc. I think this is largely from what Jason Young would call 'action bias', the propensity to keep conversations light and moving along.
"hey how's is going"
"Good, and you"
....(this is an important lightness in the covnversation, you don't want to tank it by saying 'not so good, my uncle has cancer' or something deeply personal. Keep it light and keep it afloat.
"how was your walk"
"oh, very beautiful"

After so many of these conversations it seems like the walk as a subject of action bias gets exhausted, and pilgrims move onto to other subjects within the group. The most scandalous of them all is bed bugs. Several people have been bitten by something, most likely bed bugs, and the rumors spread like wildfire. One girl from Australia felt so weird about a string of three bites on her face she went a day ahead of the group, which is like leaving one family for another. One day puts you in a completely different wave of pilgrims.

In my immediate family circle there is Ellen, whom I walk with each day, but now we're trying new ways of walking, you could say. When my knee was bothering me I would walk backwards down hills. This worked well, releiving the pain on the joint, but ultimately stressed the achiles tendons quite a bit. Now I solomon down hills, zig-zagging to reduce the steepness. Ellen thinks this is funny and joins in like a skier trying to make perfect figure eights. Lately we've been doing solo walks, where we split up through a big chunk of the walk to clear the air of our thinking. It's pretty interesting how the stream of consciousness changes when you get out there by yourself. When you walk with someone it's easy to keep breaking the dead air with observational outbursts...."look at that bug!". When we reconnect, usually at a small town cafe, we report on our thinking:

For me, I started thinking about how cheap this trip is. If you think of the hostels in terms of monthly rent, I only spend about 150 euro a month on my housing. And if you eat out of the grocery store, that is about as cheap as you can go no matter where you live. Then it was on to thailand, where you can also live on the cheap in beach side bungalows for about $10 per night. Ted Christensen spent a week in thailand. Snorkling is awesome, but scuba diving is probably better. It´s probably smarter to buy your own scuba gear and bring it to thailand, scuba diving all the time and living in cheap bungalows. I should buy a scuba gear kit. This would be one kit amongst many that could fit into standardized boxes that are part of a larger box that could fit on a semi-truck like a big jenga puzzle. I already have an automotive repair kit, and a decent carpentry kit. I need a good metal kit with a tig welder, plasma cutter, horizontal band saw, etc. I should build plywood boxes for all of my kits that are forklift ready. I remember when my brother shipped a bunch of his stuff to ann arbor recently in a cube container. The semi-truck driver had a large forklift on the end of the trailer. It had beefy offroad tires and I wondered how he was going to get it off the bed; I didn't see any ramps. He started it up and the whole thing extended away from the forks, which were stuffed in the bed of the trailer. He kept moving away from the trailer until the whole machine was hanging off the end, he lowered himself to the ground and removed the forks from the trailer bed. What a good idea.

At an intersection in Villar del Mazariffe I met an older lady who spoke english. She had deep eye sockets and a pointy chin, and was very animated. She asked me where the hostel was and I pointed a block down the street. In a southern twang she asked:

"Are you from the michigan group"
"Oh, I thought so. Sam told me ya'll were staying down there, and the other one is full"
"Yeah, its pretty nice. Where are you from"
"Orlando, Florida" her eyes lit up with a big smile as if she had been waiting to say that. "But I´ve been living in Peru and Indonesia for the last 5 years"

She reminded me of a crazy grandmother, so fired up and cooky, and almost overly happy and enthusiastic. She was thin, and a little hunched over. She carried two walking sticks and a backpack, and headed down to our hostel.

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