I am well!

I wrote and scheduled a blog post on a very dark day. Then I got better and forgot to delete it. Please accept my apologies! I am well and doing each day better. I know I have a multitude of messages to answer to, I will get to them, but please know:

“I am well, I am not in any distress, I am getting better every day.”

Please forgive me for any distress I have caused you, it wasn’t my intention!

More in an upcoming blog post tomorrow or so.

I am well, please stop worrying! And thank you all for your concern and messages!

Please don’t pity me …

First and most importantly, this is not a ‘please some pity for poor Sybille post’, instead read it as a post on how to get the help you need. If pandemic brain fog and similar doesn’t allow you to read it to the end, here are some starting points to get help:

  • Speak to your GP/primary healthcare provider.
  • If you don’t even know who that is: google ‘mental health + the area / country you’re living in’
  • Contact, it’s free! : https://www.befrienders.org/ and / or https://www.samaritans.org/ and they will help you AND point you in the right direction to get even more help!

OK, now for the long story:

20+ years ago I was diagnosed with clinical / chronic depression. And I managed just fine. With a daily routine and, yes, the occasional really long walk. Then Covid hit …

The pandemic really did me in:

I never got sick.

I never got Covid.

I always was ever so careful not to run any risk at all to transmit it to others.


Whilst I did the right thing to keep everybody safe, I myself went down. I ended up in social isolation.

And I didn’t even realise how poorly I was, until I got into treatment. I am better now, better, but not fine. And tomorrow I will have another appointment with my GP, called Dr. Camino (no joke!, real name!) and together we will get there.

Most of my days I feel overwhelmed by such simple tasks as answering an email.

ALL of my days I appreciate my friends that are sticking to me and don’t let me go.

What keeps me going:

Helping others.

Growing plants.

Just breathing …

I didn’t write this blog post to get any pity, I wrote it to tell that one person that needs to hear this:

“You are not alone! There is help available! The only thing you need to do is say: “Help!”

Hugs from Santiago!


PS That email or comment you sent to me will still take some time to be answered …

I want my doorbell to stop ringing

Not because I am too exhausted to help, but because I am so exhausted that billionaires spend billions to spend 10 minutes in space whilst so many people on earth don’t have a safe roof over their heads, nor clean water nor healthy food.

I quoted it before and I will quote the Dalai Lama again:

“We have enough for anybody’s need but not enough for everybody’s greed”

Dalai Lama
  • What is wrong with us humans?
  • How can we change this?
  • How can we make this earth a better place for all of us?
  • I am tired of hearing my doorbell ringing.
  • Do you have food?
  • Do you have basic things like masks and hand sanitizer to keep ourselves and our families as safe as possible?

It never stops, since more than a year now, and it will not stop until all of us change and live and support that every human being has the right to survive …

Every person on earth deserves:

  • A safe place to live.
  • Clean water.
  • Food.
  • Medical support.
  • Education.

And as long as I live and have the resources , I will give. BUT my patience grows short on those that don’t share what they have in abundance.

The ones of having the golden faucets and their own space transport.

I am so tired of those that don’t care about those that lack the bare necessities of living:

I am tired of answering the bell, but still I do, because it’s the right, the only way to live, helping others. But I am tired … that I am answering the door bell whilst billionaires are going to space …

I went to the Cathedral Today

I walked through the Holy Door.

I was blinded by all the gold, recently polished.

It was too much.

And all that glitter didn’t reflect anything.

I went to the Cathedral Today

I couldn’t go up to give a hug to my friend, but I could go down,

Kneeling on the cold stone floor before his tomb.

I went to the cathedral today

Praying for all of us.

Praying for those that I am not able to hug.

Holding in my heart those that need a hug.

Holding on to myself – barely.

Praying to be shown the next yellow arrow …

I went to the Cathedral Today

But I didn’t leave the house.

I went in spirit, but I was too afraid to go in body.

Perhaps tomorrow …

A Box of Kindness

Today I finally found a way to help the people in my neighbourhood despite of being in lock-down. I took a plastic box with a lid, filled it with surplus items I had around the flat, and put a sign on it that stated in Spanish:

“Please open the box and take what you need, but please, leave the box. Your neighbour.”

And left it outside my door. By the evening it was empty. I live on the crossing of two neighbourhoods, to my right middle class, to my left working class or even desperately poor.

I filled the box mainly with surplus cleaning supplies and cosmetics like soap, shampoo, and bleach. A few hours later, I was sitting on my balcony, a young woman I know from view, shouted up to me ‘Did you put the box out?’ ‘Yes’, I said. She waived the large bottle of hand soap she had taken from the box at me and shouted back ‘Muchas Gracias’ to which I responded ‘No hay de que’ (Don’t mention it/You don’t need to say thank you)

Because I was so happy to have found a way to share what I have. My whole adult life, and especially the last 20+ years I have been connected to the wonderful world of the Camino de Santiago has been about sharing. When the Camino closed down due to Coronavirus/Covid-19 I lost it, for a while. It seemed there was nothing I could do to help. Now I found a way to do so, helping the people that have lived, for generations, alongside the way. It is a privilege to be able to do this.

When, as pilgrims, we packed our backpacks, we held every item in our hands and asked ourselves ‘Do I really need this on my Camino?’ Now it’s time to hold up the items in our homes and houses and ask ourselves ‘Do I really need this or can this serve somebody else better than me?’ This is walking (stationary!at home!) the Corona Camino for me …

Tips and ideas for your own Box of Kindness:

  • It doesn’t have to be a box, it can be a table, a basket – or a box.
  • Fill it with things that are non-perishable and will hold up well.
  • Think outside the food box – cleaning supplies, cosmetics, yes, and toilet paper.
  • Add some so-called ‘luxury items’ – People may have the money to buy the bare necessities, so, put something in the box that really cheers up their day …
  • If you have a garden or allotment, share your produce.

If you can’t afford shopping for extra items, put the following in your Box of Kindness:

Inspirational quotes on nicely decorated paper.

A plant or seedling from your garden or balcony.

Anything really that would be of use to somebody and/or cheer up their day.

Anything really that would put a smile on your neighbours face.

Dare to be creative!

And do NOT put any prescription medication in it! You are not a doctor, just a neighbour!

Just fill your box with kindness and the rest will take care of itself.

As for handling the box, here is what I do with mine:

It goes out at sunrise and back at sunset.

I wear gloves to move it in and out of the house.

I wipe it down before moving it out or back in.

It ‘lives’ just behind the main door, never entering my flat.

It gets checked twice daily to see what needs stocking up.

It really ain’t rocket salad 😉 We all have things at home that we don’t need, but others will. Let’s share what we have, just like we did when we walked the sacred route to Santiago.

Until we meet again in person,

Buen Camino in your life,


Camino Chaplaincy Start Delayed

It will come as no surprise that we have postponed the start of our chaplaincy (planned was after Easter) at the moment. Chaplains are still willing to come but with travel bans popping up more and more, we really don’t know when they would be allowed to travel here and allowed to travel back to their own country after their stay.

I am obviously staying as I live here, so if you need help or just want to chat to get your mind of things, please feel free to contact me https://egeria.house/contact/

The last few days I have been kind of busy helping pilgrims find their way home, but now it is much quieter. I am, like everybody else, in lock-down and only allowed to go out for essential things, so I have time.

Please also, pray for us all here in Spain and for pretty much everybody else on our planet. And if you are not the praying kind send good vibes, thoughts and apply a lot of kindness to whatever you do …

We will have shared Eucharists and meals again!

A happy, happy moment and a lesson learned

A friend who volunteers here with the pilgrims’ office in Santiago leaves regularly some boxes with me. Things he doesn’t need at home, but needs when back here in Santiago. Today I put away those boxes and found something astonishing…

I thought it was lost, but now I found it and it taught me a valuable lesson …

Many months back I hosted a pilgrim who gave me the little basket shown in the photo above made by https://www.facebook.com/gypsea.eco/. It is made out of recycled fisher nets collected at the Costa de Morte, the Galician coast. I loved it, I cherished it, but I thought I had lost it. Today as I stored away my friends’ boxes, I found the blue basket in an empty card board box. I now know how this had happened:

When I first set up our welcome tea point at the ecumenical centre, I carried over a water kettle; for safe keeping in its own cardboard box. And the little blue basket in it. I put a scallop shell on top of that to use it as a donativo basket. But when it was time to go home, I realised that was just wrong. A Christian welcome should never, ever be connected to money – even if it is ‘just’ a donation basket. Freely we have received and freely we should give … So I put the little blue basket back in the empty water kettle card board box and carried both home. And stored the box under the stair case.

And forgot to take the little blue basket out. Thought it lost. Even, I admit, sometimes I thought somebody sneaked into the Ecumenical Centre whilst I was not looking and snitched it.

I was wrong.

It is back.

I learned my lesson.

People are good.

And btw both of the pilgrims connected to this story are called Tom …

It’s about time, by Johnnie Walker

I normally don’t review books on this website, much less putting them up as ‘recommended reading’ in the side bar, so why do I do it now? Simply because this book is so good, everybody interested in the Camino, and its spirituality, should read it! Ok, I am taking a step back now and get a bit less enthusiastic and more in ‘book review mode’ 😉

With “It’s about time” the author has accomplished a difficult task, writing a Camino book that is at the same time interesting for those that never have even heard of the Camino as well as those who have walked many. Short paragraphs explain the history of the Camino as well as practical matters like the Credencial and the Compostela. And it’s framed by a foreword by Camino author Joyce Rupp and a conclusion by Martin Sheen of ‘The Way’ fame. But most of the book is about the inner experience of pilgrims, more precisely how they felt called and answered that call.

The structure of the book itself is quite intriguing. The chapter headings are based on John’s own rendition of Ecclesiastics 3:1

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’

These are then followed by a pilgrim’s account how s/he felt called to walk the Camino de Santiago and the author’s account about his own pilgrim experience on many Caminos, starting from when he heard first about it and leading up to him living in Santiago, helping pilgrims. Answering also, among other questions, why somebody chooses to walk more then one Camino and/or pilgrimage.

The book focuses heavily on the Camino de Santiago, but also contains one precious story about the Japanese Shikoku 88 temples pilgrimage which the author undertook in 2014. And this one is my favourite story in the book. ‘Osettai’ is the custom to give gifts to pilgrims, be it food, drink or paying for their snack in a bar. It is a way for the giver to participate in the pilgrimage by helping and encouraging pilgrims in their difficult task. And for the pilgrim it is a chance to … (see chapter 7).

“It’s about time” has one main red thread running through it, the internal and external changes pilgrims may make in the way they think and in their daily lives through walking the Caminos. The author has struck a fine balance between taking the readers with him on this inner journey but not overwhelming them with too many personal details. This way, readers can easier identify with the story and see themselves in it.

All proceeds from the book go to charities that help pilgrims. Because the author is not accepting any fees or royalties the publisher is providing up to 2,000 copies free of charge, to Pilgrim Associations worldwide. Already books are on their way to many of them for them to sell to raise funds. 100% of what you pay for a paperback book bought from a Pilgrim Association goes to them to help other pilgrims. The publisher is donating 50% of all Kindle sales to a pilgrim charity.

So, It’s about time – you read this book! You can get your copy here:

Paperbacks: Camino Society (reduced postage worldwide)


Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk

For other ‘Kindle countries’ do a search for ‘It’s About Time: A call to the Camino de Santiago Kindle Edition by Johnnie Walker’ in your respective store …

Happy reading and Buen Camino!

Xohán Rompe – Hospitalero Extraordinaire STTL

I met Xohán for the first time in 2001. I was a hospitalera in O Cebreiro, he a hospitalero in Triacastela. On my day off, I walked down to “see the colleague in the valley” and we have been friends ever since. We have never been hospitaleros in the same albergue, but often in neighbouring ones. He was my SAPO, and I was his, more times than we both can remember.

“SAPO – Literally Spanish for ‘toad’ as like in ‘jumping in’ but also the acronym for Servicio de APOyo (Service of Help). Basically an experienced hospitaler@ that ‘jumps in’ for a few days into an albergue to help out and give some respite to the hospitaler@ on duty.”

‘Nena’ Xohán called me, which means girl in Galician.

“Nena, I show you how to prepare pulpo.”

“Nena, I am coming over to help with Saint John’s night and we are making Queimada.”

“Nena, let’s go to San Andrés de Teixido together.”

“Nena, come and spend New Year with me and my family.”

“Nena, I come over for Christmas to your albergue, let’s cook together and give our pilgrims a Christmas they will never forget.”

“Nena, let’s go to the aldea (ancestral village of the family) and spend a day in the countryside collecting mushrooms, chestnuts and herbs.”

“Nena, …”

Xohán was very much in favour of celebrating life and wouldn’t want to be mourned, to honour his wish here a few stories we lived through together. May those memories lessen the pain:

When he took me to see his ancestral home, a traditional Galician farmstead, he wanted to hang a new mirror in the bathroom. So he drilled a hole, right through the water pipe. It took us a while to find out where to turn the main water supply off and we returned to Lugo soaking wet. Thank God it was summer.

He not only taught me many Spanish and Galician recipes but also many songs. Our favourite was ‘Caminante no hay camino …’ and, most importantly, he never cared how badly I actually sing.

He was one of the few men, I wasn’t in a relationship with, I shared a room, and on a couple of occasions even a mattress with when we were on ‘Camino duty’. His snoring kept me awake, but that was it. We just were comfortable with each other.

One day, when he was a boy of six or seven, and spent time with his grandparents in the aldea, his grandfather invited him to help carry ‘sopa de burro cansado’ (tired donkey soup, bread soaked in red wine) to the barn where two pilgrims spend the night. That was in the 1950s and I will forever remember this story he shared with me as a first-hand account that the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela never truly died – and the hope that it never will.

And finally, a story that has nothing to do with the Camino, but all with Xohán’s beloved Lugo. He always said: “In Lugo, we are just half a metre away from the Roman empire.” Why? One day repairs on the sewage system before his mother’s shop were necessary but when the workers started to dig they found a well preserved Roman mosaic. The archaeologists were there for a long time, camping out in the entrance of his mother’s shop …

But Xohán was more than ‘just’ a hospitalero on the Camino de Santiago, he was also a social activist who put his money and hands where he saw a need, a gifted photographer, musician and writer, an exceptional actor – and so much more. He was my friend.

Xohán designed this logo for the Hospitaleros Voluntarios, a human being stretching out wide his/her arms to the pilgrims and carrying them all (as tiny figures) inside his/her very being. A symbol that is now worn by hundreds of volunteers …

I am sure we will meet again in the celestial albergue de peregrinos and if we two manage to behave ourselves perhaps the angelic hospitaler@s will allow us to take finally a turn together as hospitaleros. Cooking, singing, and yes, preparing Queimada for peregrinos as we once used to do.

But the heartbreaking thing is that only a few weeks ago I was in Lugo, visiting a pilgrim in the hospital. I contacted Xohán on very short notice, but we didn’t manage to meet up. Sometimes this happens. You see more of each other if you live in different countries as when you live only 100km apart. We were both busy, me with pilgrims here in Santiago, he with his family and social causes in Lugo. Xohán died Friday, 26th July 2019, just one day after the feast of Santiago.

Sit tibi terra levis mi amigo hospitalero, we will see again! Your Nena

PS Make time to see your friends and tell them how much they mean to you, you never know …

Estela the Camino Kitten

All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all. … And some of them even end up with me in Santiago 😉

Adorable, isn’t she?

Like a lot of stories, also this one began – on Facebook! At least for me, the kitten’s story started earlier, so let’s go back to the beginning. Once upon a time, there was a tiny kitten that lived alone in a big, dark forest. And there was a well traveled route passing through this forest, a route taken by thousands and thousands every year. The little kitten was too young to hunt and, even when it found some food scraps from time to time, always hungry, always thirsty, always scared, always just a tiny step away from death.

The kitten ‘asked’ many pilgrims for help and a few gave it a bit of their food or water, some even played with it for a short while. But then they moved on and left it behind. One day it met a pilgrim that was different. Somehow the little kitten felt that this pilgrim was her last chance for survival. So, it took all its courage in its little paws and ran up to the pilgrim, right up his leg until it had reached his chest – where the heart is. Also this pilgrim fed the little kitten, and gave it water, lots and lots of water, and also this pilgrim played with the little white kitten. But this pilgrim didn’t leave it, like so many others had done before him, he took the little kitten with him on his Camino.

I know there is ham somewhere! WHERE is the ham??? Eating with Esti being in the same room proved quickly impossible …

He tried to find an animal shelter that would take over, but no luck, no shelter had the capacity to deal safely with such a small kitten. It needed feeding every few hours and animal shelters are chronically overburdened with abandoned pets and understaffed with humans. So the pilgrim carried the kitten with him for ‘a few more days’. He also took the kitten to the vet. The vet shook his head and said there was little he could do. He could give the kitten some meds to get rid of parasites but for any vaccination, it was far too young, only around four to five weeks old and also far too underweight. There went the idea of boarding the kitten in a cattery, as those require their guests to be properly vaccinated, right out of the window.

And so the pilgrim and the kitten continued their pilgrimage. But things got difficult, sneaking the kitten each day into accommodation that doesn’t allow pets, caring for and carrying it, after two weeks pilgrim and kitten were exhausted. And so the pilgrim asked on Facebook for help.

 “Anybody here in Spain that wants to foster this adorable little creature until I have finished my pilgrimage and can take it home? Only for a short while, I promise!”

A friend of mine saw that post and tagged me in a comment. For good measure he also send me a message alerting me to it. I read the post and alarm bells went off. Sure, just for a short while and where does the pilgrim live? In the United States. It wouldn’t be easy to arrange that kind of travel at short notice … I politely replied and said that I was willing to help – if he couldn’t find anybody else. I had an idea that the Camino kitten, named Estela btw, would be more of a long term project than he thought…

And here goes a piece of spicy chicken …

All stayed quite for a couple of weeks, it was now mid-September, and I thought that the danger was over, when, out of the blue, I received a late phone call from the pilgrim. Yes, he had found a foster place for her, no it didn’t work out for various reasons and yes, could I take her like – tomorrow? I had the volunteers of the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy staying with me, so first course of action was asking everybody if they were OK with a kitten in the house. Everybody was happy, nobody was allergic, and so I gave the pilgrim the thumbs up and less then 24hours later, Estela arrived. God, was she still tiny! The pilgrim, by now accompanied by his wife, spent just an hour at the house and then they traveled back to finish their Camino. Saying that in a couple of weeks they would be back and taking Estela home to the States. I smiled …

Not the best picture of me, but a good one to show how tiny she was the day she arrived at the house.

If you have ever been at my house, you know it has quite a few stairs. Some of the stair steps are open at the back, I didn’t want the little one to take a really bad tumble, so it was carrying her up and downstairs as I moved around the house. She didn’t like to be left alone if there was action in the house, she wanted to be in the middle of it!

She soon learned to navigate the stairs carefully, giving me a few heart attacks in the process …

I must admit the first night I was afraid I would squash her to death, so tiny was she. But she survived and she ate and grew, and grew and ate. The pilgrims and I stayed in contact and quickly they realised that they had been ‘a bit’ too optimistic. No way they could start organising Estela’s immigration to the States whilst on the Camino, and, also, the rabies vaccination had to be done a certain amount of time before the travel and their flight was leaving earlier than that. So Plan A died a quick death and Plan B was developed. They would travel home and organise from there a transport with a professional company that picked Estela up at my place, did everything that needed to be done and transport her to her new home. I smiled again …

By now Estela had become quickly part of the life and on goings in the house and the chaplaincy. Many of the pilgrims that came in for a chat had either met her on the road, or had heard of her. And wanted to meet the ‘Camino Kitten’. So we got a fair bit of socialising done and when nobody else was in the house, the chaplains were always happy to play with her. And so it became October. And on Saint Francis Day she was the star, and only four-legged creature, at our pet blessing service.

Father Bob Bates blessing Estela the Camino Kitten on Saint Francis Day.

End of October saw the end, for this year, of the chaplaincy and the chaplains left and it was only me and Estela, and the odd visiting pilgrim friend in the house. Meanwhile Plan B had also died and we had arrived at Plan C. I would handle all the paperwork/vet appointments here in Santiago and the pilgrim would fly in from the States and take her back home with him. I smiled with a little bit more of optimism now.

And so it became November and, to make a rather long story short, here is what needed to be done to get her out of the country, on a plane, out of Europe and into the United States of America. And yes, over the weeks, Monika the vet and I became fast friends. Here is what the poor vet had to do to a rather reluctant kitten:

Apply another dose of anti-parasites liquid to her neck area. She really loved that! Nearly as much as having her temperature taken by the vet </sarcasm out>

Get a microchip into her, same neck area, with a horribly thick needle. She actually tolerated that quite well. The kitten, I mean 😉

Get her pet passport filled out and connected to microchip number and activate her registration. For this I needed a letter of authorisation of the pilgrim and all his contact info.

Get her her shots (rabies and another one I always forget the name of) and note and stamp them into pet passport.

Get her a health certificate that is not older then ten days at the time of traveling and check that microchip is still in place.

And we were done!

Oops, we were not done yet!

Monika the vet diligently checked everything and discovered that Esti, as I had nick-named her, also needed an export permission. Excuse me, a what? Correctly heard! Turns out that, in order to leave Europe and to travel to a non-EU country, little one needs an export permission. And so, the same day the pilgrim arrived from the States in the afternoon, I took an early morning train to A Coruña and to the agricultural department of the Galician government. The one that issue export permissions for little abandoned Camino kittens, and any other creature that wants to leave the country. Thank Bastet they didn’t wanted to see Esti, just her, by now substantial, paperwork. So me, a rather big stack of papers and a lots of prayers in my heart traveled up north by train whilst the pilgrim was traveling to Santiago. The civil servants examined all the papers, took various copies, asked a whole bunch of questions, stamped a lot of papers, asked more questions, and after half an hour I was issued that all important piece of paper that allowed Esti to leave the Kingdom of Spain …

And next day the pilgrim and the kitten, happily reunited, traveled to Madrid and flew home. Plan C had worked out and Estela the Camino Kitten is now ruling the pilgrims’ house over the big pond 😉 And as a little reward for being good pilgrim and good kitten, Iberia even upgraded them, for free, to business class! The little feral kitten was starting the next step of her new journey in style!

Do I miss her? Of course I do! She was great company and a really engaging little character. She has a zeal for life, and food !!!, very few cats I have met over the years, can match. Do I want a permanent pet? No, not at the moment! Would I foster a similar case again? Most likely, but I think I need to find another vet first. Monika warned me of that 😉

Look how Esti has grown in the two months she spent with me! This picture was taken shortly before she traveled to her furever home.

And here, congratulations that you made it so far btw! The checklist about what to do if you want to travel with a cat out of the EU/Schengen-Area, in this case from Spain to the US. For regulations importing pets into other countries, ask Auntie Google;-)

You need an export permission, issued by the agricultural department or, alternatively, at the airport IF that service is provided at the airport. Make sure to get that one right, if not … Oh, and you also need to make an appointment with them beforehand. And to get this Holy Grail of cat export, you need, in exactly that order!:

A cat 😉

A cat that is de-parasited.

A cat that is micro-chipped.

 A cat that has been vaccinated against rabies and whatever else is required.

A cat that has a health certificate that is no older then ten days at the time of travel.

And with all these papers, but sans cat, you need to go to the aforementioned office and, fingers crossed, you will get your export permission. Well done!

Any questions/remarks/jokes? Please leave them in a comment!

Greetings from Santiago, SY