Letters From Abroad

The Pilgrimage

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 4.17.15 PM

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me! We just finished the October vacations yesterday; they call it the Toussaint, which translates to All Saint’s Day in English. For high school, middle school and elementary students, that means two weeks of break, but for us hard-working college students, only one week. Still, it was a pretty excellent week, so I can’t complain too much.

I divided the break in two parts: first part of the week doing a pilgrimage, and the second part of the week in Paris with the Dickinson Program.

An unconventional choice, yes, but the decision to do the pilgrimage was definitely the right one. A group of us decided to hike/walk from a city called Cahors to another city called Moissac from Saturday to Tuesday; about 60 kilometers (or about 37 miles for you Americans) in total, and about 20-25 kilometers (12-15 miles) per day. None of us are particularly religious, but it was a really cool way to get to know France a little bit better, and to spend our break doing something that wasn’t spending money on getting drunk in some foreign city. The pilgrimage is part of Jaques de Compostelle, (according to Wikipedia, the way of Saint James), which actually ends in Santiago de Compostella, Spain. On the last day of the hike, I met another pilgrim who had actually done the whole pilgrimage and was in the middle of redoing parts of it with her daughter… seriously impressive.

The hike was hard, but made better by the French countryside. Rolling green hills, orchards, fields about to be tilled, green woods and grassy trails, it was just incredibly picturesque. It only rained the last day, and the rest of the time it was sun or clouds. At night, we stayed at hostels, talked with other pilgrims and nursed our aching feet. Reaching the last hostel felt amazing; for me, at least, it was amazing to know that my own body had done that, and to feel like I was part of something bigger than just the six of us. Doing the trail connected us to all the other pilgrims who had done it before us—through the Middle Ages to now—and to the pilgrims who will do it in the future.

The second part of the break was markedly different, but I’ll talk about that in my installment next week! As the French say, a tout a l’heure, mes amis!