Peyman and I shared a room with two other guys. One of them, a guy from Germany, snored so loudly it sounded like thunder. For a moment, I thought a tank was passing by. I reached for my earplugs, but at the same time, Peyman got up and put his phone near the guy’s nose to record the sound. What a guy.

After a hearty breakfast and coffee, we set off. Anne had left earlier to spend time thinking about her dream, and we didn’t see her again on the Camino. She arrived in Santiago five days earlier than us.

The Puente La Reina bridge, with swaying reeds, looked even more beautiful in the early morning sun. My legs still felt weary from yesterday’s record-breaking number of steps, so I walked even slower than before. We passed a guy from the Netherlands walking with his grandson, who taught me how to use hiking poles correctly. I hope to be that fit when I’m in my 80s.

The Dutch grandpa and grandson. The Dutch grandpa and grandson.

We walked with a guy from York, England, discussing our past relationships. We shared moments when we felt judged and hurt instead of being understood. Peyman recited this Bible passage:

Matthew 7 = “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

I loved this because I used to judge a lot. I become much more judgemental when I am tired, and things are on fire. I would lose patience, and the world centers around me. When I am relaxed, and things are going well, I am much better at accepting situations and dealing with everyday annoyances more gracefully. So are others. If someone judges me unfairly and harshly, my reaction used to be going right at it, arguing, and feeling angry, but I have been learning (or wanting to learn) that it might not be about me. Things could be on fire in their life, and I might be in the wrong moment at shitty timing. Also, when I judge people are such and such, and I am better and different, I remind myself I was the same way, doing and saying the same stuff not too long ago. I’m not in a place to judge them.

 I felt like I became a child again. I felt like I became a child again.

As we walked through the endless wheat field, a small town named Ciraqui on top of the hill appeared. We stopped for a small break, and I met a group of students from the University of North Carolina walking the Camino as part of a school art class. They painted the scenery as they walked, which was super cool. I wish my school had offered that kind of program.

Sprinkled (p)oppies. Sprinkled (p)oppies.

As we walked downhill toward Estella, my knee ached, and I slowed down, letting Peyman and Holly go past me. I walked alone for a while, and suddenly, a bunch of red poppies greeted the pilgrims along the road. The scenery, with rolling hills and a clear sky, was so beautiful that I almost teared up while laughing. It was a moment that made me feel like a child again.

I needed some extra push to arrive at Estella, and the Spaniards found me and gave it to me. Whenever I stopped to take a break and put my hands on my knees, they yelled, “Vamos!”

We saw a small river, and suddenly Estella appeared, with an impressive ruin of a church, atmospheric winding narrow streets, and beautifully preserved medieval buildings. I checked in at the Albergue, and Charlie, Raj, and Peyman were already there. The hostess welcomed us warmly, and I was happy to see the rooms with compartmentalized beds, like the capsule hotels in Japan.

Victory lunch and Estrella Victory lunch and Estrella

It was the first time I had finished walking before lunch, so I bought a round of beer for Charlie and Peyman. Charlie bought another round, so we got pretty drunk and knocked out. After a big nap, I watched Heung-Min Son score twice in the last game and became the first Asian top goalscorer in the English Premier League. I went downstairs to ask the hostess about my laundry, and she handed it to me with a big smile. I told her, “You seem to have the happiest job on earth,” and she concurred. She was so full of life and joy.

A bunch of pilgrims gathered for a picnic on the riverbank. The V-shaped Romanesque bridge and old buildings with colorful laundry cast a shadow on the shallow creek. The city’s plaza was full of kids and future Mbappes and Neymars playing soccer. Sometimes, the kids would kick the ball toward us, but otherwise, everything was so peaceful. Can every day be like this?