Random Thoughts and Updates

It has been a while since I updated this blog, so here a list of developments here in Santiago, the Camino, Europe and my own life πŸ˜‰

Read on to discover what this photo means πŸ˜‰

Santiago (and basically also the rest of Spain)

We are now firmly on our way out of our sixth wave (Omicron) and all numbers are going steadily down: cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This wave has really shown us that, whilst vaccination doesn’t prevent illness and transmission 100%, it protects to a huge degree from serial illness and death, especially when combined with face mask wearing and being careful when socializing.

Speaking of which, our vaccination rate here in Spain is extremely good and Galicia is, together with Asturias, leading that list. We have already started to vaccinate the 5-11 years old here and many of us, me included, have already received their booster shot.

Speaking of face masks, they still have to be worn here at all times indoors (except when actually eating and/or drinking) and outdoors when you can’t make sure that you can keep a minimum distance of at least 1,5m from people that are not in your same household aka strangers and especially in large groups.

Camino

The Camino is more and more opening up after the ‘winter break’ and pilgrim numbers are increasing steadily, comparable to 2019 but lower than we would expect normally for a Holy Year. You can follow the daily numbers here: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/ and the monthly and yearly numbers here https://catedral.df-server.info/est/index.html

How numbers will be developing this year, only God and Santiago know! We might either have a crazily busy year or a quiet-ish one like last year. It all depends how the pandemic develops, the war between Russia and Ukraine and if the Pope really comes to Santiago in August, too many factors to be sure about anything.

Albergues

Three things to bear in mind: capacity in some albergues is still reduced, blankets are mostly a thing of the past (too expensive to wash after each pilgrim) and more and more albergues require proof of vaccination before welcoming you. Some, but not all, communal meals have returned and some kitchens have opened again, but Camino life is still very different from BC (Before Covid) times.

Travel Thoughts

As things are ever changing, here the link to the official Spanish travel website: https://travelsafe.spain.info/en/ If you plan a Camino, or travel to Spain in general, please check it out regularly. As I wrote earlier, our Covid stats are all moving in the right direction and things looking up on that front (if no new variant comes along!) but we have another problem here in Europe, the war between Ukraine and Russia.

This war is ‘only’ 8days old at the time of writing, but costed already thousands of lives. Nobody knows how the situation will develop and if the war will spread further or not, so PLEASE keep an eye on your own countries travel advisory website, register your travel with them (if possible) and plan enough money in your budget for unforeseen expenses like an earlier flight home. We all here hope and pray that this war will be soon over, please join us in this prayer for peace.

Now to the personal stuff

Depression

I am in treatment, both with medication and seeing a psychiatrist (never thought I would need on of these one day!) and doing much better. Not good yet, but better. The panic attacks are very rare now, the anxiety is manageable, but I am still depressed and have low energy levels. On a positive note, I recently managed to pull myself together and spend a long weekend in the south of Spain. It really helped to re-charge my batteries!

Neighbourhood Pantry & Neighbours

Before I went on my short break, I gave the necessary supplies for my absence to M. of whom I think as the patriarch of the families for distribution as they are all related. And it seems to have worked well. I might need to do something similar from mid-April onwards (more about that below). If you want to read up on what the Neighbourhood Pantry is and how it works, here a link to an old-ish blog post that contains a link to an even older one – reverse history so to speak https://egeria.house/santiago-day-neighborhood-pantry-fundraiser/

And some good news! We have a little newborn in one of the family, her name translates to ‘traveler or wanderer’ btw πŸ˜‰ And there was a little ‘coincidence’ for this family. Just days before I had received a donation of a gas heater which they could make good use of now with a newborn in the home. Sadly, they didn’t tell me earlier that they needed a heater, I would have found them one! But now all good and cozy for this little family.

Roundabout Room

The gas heater is a good example how my roundabout room works: A few days previous I got offered a sizeable material donation of clothes, shoes, glasses and yes, the gas heater. As I don’t drive I asked a friend, that does drive, if she could pick it up for me. And in one hour the goodies were in the house. As the heater was missing the tube and gas regulator, she brought me these, that she didn’t need anymore, the next day when she also brought me my fruit and vegetable box from: https://www.facebook.com/aHortadaAvoa Muchas Gracias, Cristina!

Allotment

And more good news, I found an allotment less then 5 minutes walk from my place where I will plant fruit and vegetables for and hopefully with my neighbours. All going well it will stop raining tomorrow and I get started weeding (see photo above ;-). I am already pre-growing plants like tomatoes and peppers in the house.

Moving

Yes, I have to move again, but thank God only in the same house, to the third floor. The reason being that I am only a subtenant in this flat. It was originally meant to be my ‘winter flat’ for 6 months in 2019/2020, but we all know what happened, so 2,5 years later I am still here. But the original tenants come back mid-April and need their flat back. Thankfully there is an empty flat (without a balcony, sigh) on the third floor that I can rent. And apparently the rent is even a bit cheaper, always welcome! That is why I wrote earlier that I might need to restructure the neighbourhood pantry system a bit, three flights of stairs are a lot with full food boxes every day!

Plans for this Year

All of the above, and helping pilgrims wherever and however I can πŸ˜‰

So, I think that’s all thank you for reading until the end!

BC SY

So here the promised updates ;-) I keep it short ;-)

Christmas Cheer

Like last year (yes, my little neighborhood pantry is now in operation since over a year), I would love to give my neighbors here in Santiago a little extra cheer for Christmas. Typical Christmas sweets like polverones, turron and the like plus some toys for their children and grandchildren additionally to the food and other basic household items I am already providing. Also, like last year, I would like be able to give them a small amount of cash (difficult topic, I know!) to buy gifts for each other.

Roundabout Room

Despite the Omicron situation and taking ALL the necessary precautions I have decided to open up the flat a bit more. I am now taking in in-kind donations of shoes, clothing, cutlery, crockery and small appliances. People can come to this room to pick up what they need and leave what they don’t need anymore but what could be serviceable to others. This is very much an emerging project in its infant steps, so please wish me luck! But so far it has gone exceedingly well!

Personal Update

As some of you know, I am in treatment for depression, anxiety and panic disorder. Apart of taking my meds and seeing my talk therapist starting January helping others really helps me. I am getting better by the day and feeling really positive about my future and my future work here in Santiago.

Donation Links

If you want to support this project, here are some handy links:

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/EgeriaHouseSantiago

https://egeria.house (near the top of right side bar)

For other ways to donate, please send me an email or leave a comment.

No matter how big or small your donation, it makes a REAL difference for ‘my families’.

Many Muchas Gracias, SY

PS Here some photos of the ‘Roundabout Room’ from today:

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.

BUT

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:

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

Hugs from Santiago!

SY

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

Biodegradable DIY Plant Pots

As promised on Facebook, I will share here on the blog the tips and tricks I have learned so far with my ‘balcony farming’ as a friend calls it. Please, meet my biodegradable, homemade, pretty much no-cost, seed or plant pots:

What you need:

  • Empty toilet or kitchen paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Kitchen or newspaper (tissue or toilet paper works as well)
  • A waterproof container
  • Soil
  • Seeds

Step by Step Instruction

  1. Flatten paper roll and cut horizontally in half, or, in the case of kitchen rolls, in threes.
  2. Make cuts, one in the middle and one at each side half way up the roll.
  3. Press back into shape and fold the cut bits overlapping each other, just as if you would close a cardboard box.

4. Place a tiny bit of kitchen paper or similar in the bottom to avoid soil leakage.

5. Put soil and seeds in it and place in any water proof container you have at hand.

6. Water well and then continue to keep soil moist but not soaked.

7. Place in a warm, sunny spot.

8. Watch seeds germinate.

9. When the plants are ready to be transplanted into bigger pots or in your garden/backyard/allotment, simply open up the folded corners at the bottom so that the roots can emerge more easily.

That’s all!

Not my idea, but as I forgot to bookmark the blog where I found it, I sadly can’t give due credit to the inventor(s). But the photos are mine and what is in these pots now are ‘dwarf winter beans’ that can be grown here in Galicia pretty much all year round.

A win-win for everybody and Mother Nature; we save money by recycling empty paper rolls and less plastic needed for these kind of growing/germinating pots that in the end would end up in the rubbish. The less plastic we use (especially use only once) the better for all of us!

If you found this blog post helpful, feel free to buy me coffee, you know to whom it will go to anyway: https://egeria.house/santiago-day-neighborhood-pantry-fundraiser/ And any further questions, just leave them in a comment below πŸ˜‰

Animal Feed

Food for the Camino …

In 1998 my life was crushed in an instant as my partner died before my eyes under horrific circumstances. It took me more then a year, and three suicide attempts, to find a way, any way, out of it. I found the Camino de Santiago, very little known at that time. By then I had lost everything. I was homeless and penniless. Shortly before arriving at Saint Jean Pied de Port, hitchhiking, to start what would result in the one thing that truly turned my life around, I entered a French bakery and asked: I am hungry, can you give me some stale bread from yesterday for free? The answer was chilling me to the bone:

β€œNo, we can’t do that, we sell yesterday’s bread as animal feed.” That moment I learned that for some people, those without money will always be less than animals.

I didn’t give up, I hitchhiked to Saint Jean Pied de Port, took a look at the Pyrenees and hitchhiked to Roncesvalles. The driver that had picked me up let me out a few hundred meters before the colegiata and I was worried. I knew that the albergue was a donativo, but I didn’t have a credencial and not a single penny in my pocket. Something caught my eye, before my feet lay a 50 pesetas coin, exactly the amount of money I needed to ‘buy’ a credencial and become a pilgrim. I filled out the paperwork and ascended the stairs to the albergue – Only pilgrims allowed, no tourists past this point. I didn’t feel I was either. I didn’t feel I fit anywhere anymore.

The hospitaler@s announced the program of the evening: Mass with pilgrims blessing followed by a pilgrim’s meal in the nearby restaurant. I went to mass, I needed all the blessings I could possibly get. I went back to the albergue, hungry. I wrote in my journal, another pilgrim shared the table with me, we smiled at each other, we both knew we were both outcasts – pilgrims that didn’t fit in.

The hospitaler@s passed by and looked at us and asked ‘Not at the Pilgrim’s Meal?’

‘No.’, we said quietly.

Shortly after they came back again and put a plate of tortilla before us.

‘Enjoy the meal, pilgrims.’, they said.

And suddenly we were human beings again.

Miraculously I made it to Santiago, and, over the next four years put my life back together and found a new reason to live, a new raison d’etre, I got my life back together but I vowed that nobody that would knock at my door would ever leave empty handed … As long as I have food in the house, I will share it gladly with whoever knocks at the door.

Fitted Sheet Folding

Tired of all the Facebook memes making fun of the difficulties of folding a fitted sheet and the dangers involved in it (apparently you might even become a ghost failing at it!) here is my fool-proof method. And no, you don’t need anybody to help you with this task, you can do it alone. You are more than enough to subdue a fitted sheet and force it into submission, sorry, into a a neat and pleasant shape that fits perfectly in your wardrobe, drawer or wherever else you want to store it. You are welcome!

Sorry, living alone I hadn’t anybody to take the photos of me doing this, so you can only see the steps the sheet went through, but not my hands πŸ˜‰

And now my easy to follow steps:

  • Take sheet out of the dryer or from the clothes line/rack and give it a firm stare – telling it β€œI will get you in a neat shape!” Reassure yourself that You Can Do This πŸ˜‰ Take a deep breath and JUST DO IT. And then follow the following steps …
  • Find a flat surface that is at least half as large than your fitted sheet, your bed is ideal, but any flat surface will do, in a pinch even the kitchen table and, with a bit of practise, your ironing board (finally a use for that one!).
  • Place fitted sheet upside down and short side up, meaning with the surface that you sleep on now touching the surface you are folding it on and the shorter side of the sheet on top.
  • Gently stretch the top of it until nicely horizontal by placing your hands inside the corners and stretching it. Don’t worry about the lower part here.
  • Turn the lower corners inside out and THEN tuck into the pockets of the upper corners. That’s the whole trick, the rest is easy-peasy!
  • Stretch, again, the horizontal top (now with your hands in the corners formed by both ends of the sheet) until it’s nicely straight.
  • Now gently, whilst keeping one hand in the corresponding corner, pull down each side.
  • Gently stretch lower end of half-folded sheet until it’s parallel to the top half and extended to its maximum.
  • Now you have trapeze shape. Keep your one hand in the top corner made up by both sheets ends end fold the lower half in just a notch narrower than the top half. Repeat on the other side.

  • From here you have two possibilities, the folded and the rolled one.

A) Folded: You should have by now a perfect rectangle that you can fold up anyway you like and that fits your storage space.

B) Rolled: Fold your sheet in half and roll it up for space saving storage.

You see, folding a fitted sheet is really easy and if we ever meet in person, I am more than happy to give you a free one-to-one personal workshop on how to do this. Until then you are welcome to buy me a coffee, you know to whom it will go to anyway: https://egeria.house/santiago-day-neighborhood-pantry-fundraiser/ And any further questions, just leave them in a comment below πŸ˜‰

Oh, and pat yourself on the back/shoulder, you have finally conquered the fitted sheet folding quest!

PS This blog post is the result of some hilarious exchanges on Facebook about this, expect more silly but hopefully useful blog posts like this in future …

Egeria House and Starfishes

When people hear for the first time of Egeria House, they often think of it as a big, established center with a huge sign at the door and paid staff, or something similar.

Truth is that Egeria House is more a way of life for me, not bound to a particular place and, no, there is no ‘staff’, only me at the moment.

Egeria herself was a Galician woman and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the 4th century. Not only that, she also wrote about her journey and the things she saw. Her account of the Easter celebration in Jerusalem is the oldest one that exists and has kept liturgists happy ever since.

When I lived in England, I was intrigued by the fact that many houses there, in addition to numbers, also had names. When I moved to Santiago, I wanted the place where I lived to have a name that was meaningful to me, so it became Egeria House.

As for starfishes, if you have ever met me in person, I will, most likely, have told you this tale already, if that is the case, feel free to skip to the next paragraph.

A man was walking at the beach early one morning, after a bad storm. He was saddened as he noticed the hundreds and hundreds of stranded starfishes that would certainly die when the sun came up and dried them out. As he walked further and further, he noticed another man coming towards him, but he was bending down, picking something up and throwing it in the sea. As he came closer, he realized that the other man was picking up starfishes and throwing them back. β€œYou fool”, he said, β€œthere are hundreds of them on this beach alone. You are not making any difference.” The other man bend down, picked up a starfish and said calmly: β€œBut I can make a difference for this one.” And throw it back into the sea.

And that is what we all can do:

Helping one ‘starfish’ at a time, because a multitude of small acts of kindness WILL change the world – for the better, keeping the Camino spirit alive in our own communities.

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:

β€œWe 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 …

Ongoing – Neighborhood Pantry Fundraiser

Please help me to continue to help my neighbors here in Santiago (background story here: https://egeria.house/egeria-house-version-3-or-so/ to have a great feast for Saint James Day and also to provide food security for them in the weeks and months to come. Every little helps – a lot!

What your donations will be used for:

Most importantly, good food like fresh fruit and vegetables plus stables like milk, pasta, rice, canned pulses and the like.

Daily box for one family … Covid-safe pick-up for up, four families a day at the moment.

One of my neighbors has special dietary needs due to diabetes and related complications (heart/kidneys) so a lot of special food (salt and sugar free mostly) is required.

Basic house cleaning products (washing up liquid, bleach, floor cleaner) plus face masks, hand soap and sanitizer to keep them and everybody in the neighborhood safe.

Diapers/nappies, baby soap and so on for their (grand) children.

I also want to move furniture, again!, to free a bedroom in the flat and to create a better storage space (the hallway is getting crowded!) and I would like to add more shelves to it to accommodate in kind donations of clothes, books, and toys etc that are already coming in via various sources.

Decent clothes are very important to maintain people’s dignity and to increase their chances of finding a job. Like it or not, clothes make the (wo)man – that is the reality.

I also want to continue to grow plants (herbs, flowers and edibles) for my neighbours to cheer them up. Low income families simply don’t have the resources to do that themselves but they really do appreciate the possibility to just pick up some free plants from the box on my door step. So far I have distributed 250+ plants this year, hopefully enabling kids to observe and learn how plants grow.

As it is the feast of Saint James this Sunday, I really want to add some extra ‘treats’ like Tarta de Santiago and children’s toys because I strongly believe that if you live in Santiago, you should be able to celebrate and enjoy this day, especially in a Holy Year!, no matter your income level.

As for pilgrims, I continue to help them online plus I have given those that ‘knocked at the door’ gear and food as needed since the pandemic started. Granted, very few did so, but those I helped were in need.

Once I am fully vaccinated, which should be end of August, I plan to offer again hospitality to pilgrims in need aka those without resources. I do NOT plan to make any competition to existing albergues/hostels/hotels and the like, as they are already fighting for their survival and that of their families. But if it will be the choice between ‘under the bridge/on the streets’, or Egeria House, I will be open for them in future with no questions asked.

Ways you can help:

You can use this direct link to donate via PayPal:chttps://www.paypal.me/EgeriaHouseSantiagohttps://www.paypal.me/EgeriaHouseSantiago

Or on this same website, go to the top right corner and you’ll find the donation buttons that allows you to donate directly with your debit/credit card or PP account.

If you prefer to use (Transfer)Wise just just contact me for my details via any of this ways: https://egeria.house/contact/

If you can’t donate, please share this post via social media.

Thank you in the name of my neighbors for all your ongoing help during this, continuing, challenging times for all of us, SY