Day 11: Breakdown

We all woke up today morning for breakfast at 8:00 A.M. after a long night of plank contests and singing a very off-key version of “Happy Birthday” to Ben at midnight. It was his birthday today, but there was still a nervous energy swirling around in the air. A small rumor was going around that our professor, Liz, had mentioned that the eighth day of the Camino has always been the hardest in the past because her students have been prone to breaking down and getting mad or annoyed at each other at this point on the walk. Last night after singing to Ben, our group decided that we were not going to break down during today’s walk to prove the rumor wrong and to stay strong as a group. By the end of today, we had succeeded in staying strong as a group and not breaking down. However, there were many other things that broke in our place.

Naturally, the first thing that broke was at breakfast. We were seated at our usual long table, and Jamie was sitting just across from me. She was opening the cap on her orange juice that came in a glass bottle, and the bottle came just a little too close to her plate. Out of nowhere, a huge crack split the plate straight down the middle—she had unintentionally found the plate’s weak spot. The waiter comes over and gives a slight chuckle, taking the pieces away and not considering it to be a big deal.

The next break happened shortly after breakfast. We had just left the cabin and were on our way back to the town of Portomarín to continue on the Camino. The cabin owner’s dog, Toro, had been following us after Jamie coaxed him with her excitement and willingness to play with him. Toro even latched on to Jamie’s walking stick and wouldn’t let go for a good minute, so the two of them seemed to have a very close bond. Once we reached the gate to enter Portomarín, Toro was still following us and we knew he had to go back to his owner. Jamie was reluctant to let him go, but Liz was persistent and eventually, a sad Toro walked back home and an equally sad Jamie continued on forward with a broken heart.

Our third break occurs after lunch when we parted ways and walked the last stretch to our hotel in Palas de Rei. Hailey, Riley, Sebastian, Michelle, and I were all in the front, taking quick strides to reach the hotel so we could jump into the showers first. We stopped at a restaurant to get a stamp, and as soon as we exited, we saw a herd of pilgrims walking towards us. Since we jokingly mentioned before that it was almost as if we were in the show “The Walking Dead”, the herd of pilgrims were like the zombies we were trying to run away from. Therefore, when we saw them coming closer, our first instinct was to run. We jogged away for about a minute, and found ourselves breaking a sweat as we took a sigh of relief, having escaped the zombie herd.

Once we reached our hotel safely, zombies and all, we made a vow not to use the Wi-Fi until Ben had a chance to Facetime his family for his birthday. That was one of his birthday gifts from us, and the second one was a free load of laundry, courtesy of Liz. However, as soon as Ben was done, the rest of us rushed online all at once. It wasn’t long until the Wi-Fi crashed, adding on to the list of things we had broken today.

The last thing that broke was a piece of all of our hearts as we ended today’s dinner with a small celebration for Ben. After the meal was over, the waiter brought out a surprise birthday cake and we started singing “Happy Birthday” as it was placed in front of Ben. He even got his surprise present from home, which was a birthday card mailed from his family. At this point, the rest of us in the group became a little too emotional and were in awe at the adorable scene. The day had come to a sweet end, and more importantly, we had proven the rumor wrong. Even though many things broke today, none of us had managed to break down.

Nimi Patel, Physical Therapy