Belorado, Snore Journal. The German word, schnarcher, better captures the enthusiasm of last night’s symphony. Mom began it. I wrestled with myself. I felt badly that others were hearing her snoring, and that I might – might – have an ability to stop it that they did not. I could go to her and wake her up and . . . what? Normally you ask someone to turn over (that’s all it takes with me, but I have been aggressively, conscientiously sleeping on my stomach or side here), but Mom has sort of developed the ability to saw logs while lying on her side. So waking her up might not work. Besides, I tend to take on more responsibility than is really mine (except when I’m assuming the victim’s role, in which case it’s the opposite). These people all signed up for the Camino, and paid a mere 5 Euros, knowing what they were getting into. So why was I responsible for their experience?
I had lost one of my semi-effective earplugs, so I used the iPod again. It works a little better at keeping out sound, though against the woman who took over from Mom, there was no defense. I want to be clear that I am not glibly comparing a perfectly nice human being to a farm animal here, but her snore did in fact sound like the lowing of a cow, particularly the almost inquisitive higher note the cow hits at the end of the moo.
I awoke feeling sick again. I normally don’t get sick even once a year.
But at least it was nearly dark in the dorm. In the albergue municipal in Santo Domingo, the builders had thoughtfully placed a Salida, or Exit, sign over the door, taking care, so that it would be visible in the event of emergency, to make it as bright as our own sun. I wore my eye patch, and Julio turned around in bed so that the sun was over his shoulder instead of in his eyes.
Belorado has really done a fine job of communicating its history to pilgrims and tourists. They have carefully placed Spanish and English placards in front of the various ancient buildings in the village – which like many villages on the Camino goes back about a thousand years and has the churches to prove it – and these placards lead the visitor on a self-guided tour of the village. On top of one of the village’s two small churches, or iglesias, as prominent as the bushy eyebrows of an old Greek man, there are four enormous birds’ nests. These belong to storks. We saw three of the graceful birds flying overhead a few days ago.
“Climb up there with my camera,” I said to Julio. “Let’s see if storks are the kind of birds that will defend their nests.”
He laughed mirthlessly. “They want more meat than there is on me. I am good only for a soup.”
We were waiting for the 9:30 bus to Burgos. Bus schedules are on a sort of best-efforts basis here, though, and it didn’t arrive until 10:05. At about 10, a little white van labeled Carneceria and Charcuterie pulled up right in front of us. “Carrie,” said Julio, “turn away. You don’t want to look at thees.” She didn’t question him, and turned away, but during the four, or six, trips the driver made with half a pig, cut length-wise, draped over his shoulder, she did inevitably see how the jamon gets to her plate. After the four, or six, trips, she also caught site of a white plastic bucket of pig’s heads.
She is now a vegetarian.
Two days ago we were walking on the Camino and found ourselves overwhelmed by the most foul stench. I thought perhaps the fields had been fertilized with animal waste. Then I thought we might be approaching an open-air sewage treatment plant, or perhaps the National Feces Factory. “This is where they produce all the shit made in Spain,” I said to Carrie, “up ahead.” She is required to produce a report when she gets back to school, and I try to be helpful. I next saw some granaries, so I changed my guess and said the smell was probably fermenting corn or something. But then I heard the oinking. More jamón.
Julio says that the Chinese have now developed a taste for Spanish jamón, the best of which is so good because of the dry climate and the oak pellotas the pigs are fed. “When that happens, jamón may get too expensive for most Spanish,” he said.
Julio and Marie Anne explained that there are about a half-dozen types of jamón, from the jamon de bodega grown in humid climes like his own Bilbao “that’s only good enough for frying or casseroles” to paletilla and jamon iberico (from the pig’s pata negra, or ham hock), which “melts in your mouth”. In Burgos he would seek out some of the paletilla for us, opting for the 47 Euro per kilo variety rather than the one that cost over 120 Euros per kilo.
It really does melt in the mouth. Carrie wouldn’t touch it. Then it was time to check in to the albergue. There was already a short line.
“Always Koreans at the front,” Julio said, and then addressed the Koreans in one of his signature phrases, one he has constantly applied to Mom and Carrie throughout the trip, “You are the best!”