The Non-English Channel

It is said (by important people) that one year olds can understand about 50 words & speak about 3, on average.  Smart aleck two year olds can understand 200-300 words but refuse to speak more than “no” (actually 50-75 words).  

Well, I (Connie) am about a 2-year old in German & French, and perhaps a 1-year old in Spanish & Portugese.  Donna, on the other hand, is functionally bilingual.  She is at the intermediate level in Spanish and she knows a smiggen of French.

Unfortunately, our brains don’t seem to maintain language-specific channels when we attempt to communicate in French.  This made for some weird conversations in Paris.

Bakery person: Bonjour. Que desirez-vous?

Connie: Eine bagette mit biere,  please.

Bakery person: (noticing we were two together) Deux baguettes?

Donna: Non, not deux (she points to herself, then to a croissant), uno.

Then there was a waiter.
  Waiter: Bonjour. Que vous desirez?

Donna: (in Spanish) I’d like a coffee and some water please.

Waiter: (in French). I’m not Spanish.

Donna:  (in English) I don’t speak French.

Waiter: (in English). I don’t either.

I really like France.  I love the vibrancy & diversity of Paris and the way people seem to live their lives on the streets.  I also love the beauty of the countryside and the strength of and apparent pride in the national motto of Liberty, Equality, & Fraternity (although I get a twinge of sadness for Marie Antoinette when I see it). Yes, we did visit Versailles!

But, on with our journey.  Yesterday we left Paris to begin our big adventure.  We immediately caught the wrong train.  Right track- right time – but wrong train.  It’s a special skill.  And because we were on the wrong train, we couldn’t access WiFi in order to see where the heck we were going. Silly of us to worry about getting lost on the Camino.  Lesson learned?  Ask questions.  We don’t like to bother people & to have to deal with the insanity of the non-English channel but we would also like to get where we are going.  Oh, and there are doors!  But, you may not see them for a while because internet is spotty and persnickety.

Oh my, we’re in Paris!

It doesn’t seem like we’ve been here already two and a half days, but apparently that is the case.  

It’s raining and cold, and we’ve both been missing some of our warmer clothes that we left behind, and we are tired from the flight and all the walking – and we are loving it!

We have a tiny apartment that is four (or eight, depending on how you count) LONG flights of stairs up.  It is cute and clean, and has every thing we need.  

The food here is great, as is the coffee and the wine.  We are happy campers!

We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, Norte Dame, the Arc de Triumph, Concord Place, Sacre Coeur, and some very cool neighborhoods, and we’ve been shopping!  And there is so much more to see and do.  

Tomorrow we’re off early to go on a castle and wine tasting day tour outside of Paris.  -Well, somebody has to do it.

There are perks!

Look at us, spending our 9 hour layover at the Hilton at O’Hare airport so we could take a nap!  Donna & I have traveled together numerous times over the years but traveling old does have it’s perks.  (As an aside, A security person at the COMO airport asked Donna if she was 75 yet – if yes, she wouldn’t have had to take off her shoes – ooooweee – someday).
Forty-six years ago we took an exciting trip together up the pre-pavement ALCAN highway – racing toward Alaska Methodist University to begin the spring semester after spending the Christmas holidays with our family in Missouri.  Our big plan was to alternate drivers, driving all-day, all-night, all-day – then to stop a night.  Why?  Because we had no money for the superfluous needs of sleep and comfort.  We did drive through the first night.  However, the frigid January weather in the Yukon bungled our plan on night two; we could not brake, steer, or see, so we had to stop.

But, now we are “rich” old people.  Who knew the Hilton kept napping rooms for $106.00.  Well worth it!  We considered traveling into Chicago to enjoy the sights but napping sounded far more desirable (and this is day one) – and it was.

I generally can’t sleep on flights because my C5 & C6 misbehave badly when they get stuck in one position – any position – for any length of time.  So, when I fly, I stay awake and move my neck around (row-mates love me).  Gotta love being old.

What if?

Our mother was a worrier.  I (Donna) remember one summer day when I was very young she came out of the house to call us in from the yard where we were playing.  She called:  “Kids come in.  It’s nap time.  It’s polio season.”  Well I as a young child had no idea of the fear and worry that parents across the country were experiencing during that polio epidemic of the 1950s.  It was just my mother talking – as she tended to do.  We all knew she worried excessively.  When I thought about it later the words, “polio season” ,  became to me a symbol of the needless forecasting of doom.

Guess who’s worrying now?  We’re 3 days out.  As I pack my bag and complete last minute errands, all these “what ifs” pop into my head.

One was potentially positive:  What if this trip turns my life around?  But that is actually kind of scary.  Would I want my life to turn around?  I kind of like it the way it is.

But most are not so much  – positive, that is.  What if we get bed bugs?  What if I have a serious, urgent need to relieve myself while out on the trail and there’s no place to hide?  What if I experience sudden onset dementia and get lost?  What if I don’t experience dementia, but get lost anyway?  What if both of us experience dementia and we can’t find or recognize each other? What if one of us sits down and really doesn’t want to get up?  What if one of us falls down and really can’t get up?  What if we both fall down and then get dementia and then we have an urgent need to poop?  OMG.  It’s polio season!

Donna What if I don't want to get up                        What if one of us sits down and really doesn’t want to get up?

Whose big idea was this?

In the fall of 2016 I got a text from my youngest son, Mark Golden. It said, “You and your sisters need to walk the Camino de Santiago. Look it up.”

I looked it up. I texted him back and said, “Are you crazy? My sisters and I are in our 60s and 70s, we’re not Catholic, and I’m not even religious.  And, for that matter, why in the world would we want to walk 500 miles for any reason?”  He said, “You just should.  Watch ‘The Way’.”

So I did more research, told my family about this idea and we all watched ‘The Way’.  Slowly the appeal of the idea grew.  There were lots of wild possibilities floated by the Johnmeyer siblings, (there are actually 7 of us: 5 sisters & 2 brothers) our children & grandchildren – seemed as if everyone wanted to go, but ultimately, available time, money, physical ability and competing interests sorted the pack.  We are now two old women walking:  Donna, aka child 4, and Connie, child 5.

We are only five days out.  Yikes!  So many “what ifs,” starting with, what if we don’t meet a Joost (reference to “The Way”).  I will be so disappointed.

The Way Collage

What to take?

We’ve been reading.  There are books; we have three because we wouldn’t want to miss anything.  I worry, “What if we get somewhere and need a spoon and don’t have one? OMG.”  But not to minimize, they are good books.  Also a friend of a friend, named Georgette, has been kind enough to tell us about her pilgrimage and to send us a written account.  She had some great tips.

So, at one week out, I (Connie) am going through my pack again and making changes.  “What was I thinking taking a sleeveless shirt.”  I have not experienced 60 degrees for awhile but I’d probably think a down jacket was warranted.  My goal is a maximum of 16 pounds.  I am pretty close.  I was at 13.9 last week but have since added important items.  Now I’m scared to weigh in.  I want everything I have packed.  Hmmm……

Today I had my last chiropractor appointment and I have yoga tonight.  I’m walking with an old vertebrae but doing the best preventive care I can think to do.  Nonetheless, as I hike with a pack, I often imagine (I hope it is only my imagination) my vertebrae compressing.  I may return from this journey as a short old woman.  Whose big idea was this anyway?  See next post for the answer.