Day 72: Aïda Guerrero Rua

 

Dear Aïda,

“You’ll meet people who will become just like family.”

That’s what everyone kept telling me … You walk 500 miles across a country and you’ll develop some relationships as close as your own kin.

With two-thirds of the journey complete, I’d decided maybe it just wasn’t true for me. There were great friends and wonderful new relationships, but family? Not really.

With Aïda and Sebastian after a wonderful night in Ponferrada.

A few days earlier I’d met a teacher from California with some really interesting stories. She was the first person I’d seen from the United States in days, so it was fun just speaking and hearing her tales. We parted ways after a late lunch never expecting to see one another again, but somehow came together once again a few miles past Cruz de Ferro. From that day it felt like Naomi White and I would walk to the end. If I’d had the blessing of a younger sister, I would have wanted her to be like Naomi.

So maybe my “camino family” would just be a small one, I determined.

Naomi (left) and Aïda. My Camino family in 2015.

A few days later you walked in a donativo albergue in Ponferrada joining us as bunkmates. No one ever said anything. It’s not like we created a pact or secret handshake, but something felt new, and permanent – like the final puzzle piece with a perfect fit.  A threesome was born. Everyone knew it.

Aïda – the fireball from Ibiza … the one with the friendliest laugh and a personality who lights up a room. That magnificent experience would’ve never been the same without you, my friend.

For the next 175 miles we were a wonderful team. Up and down mountains, braving a blizzard, through the mud, laughing, doctoring wounds, coveting that wonderfully warm room in Portomarin. The memories we created are among the fondest of that amazing life experience. On camino, I left some baggage behind. And I picked up two wonderful friends who are the closest thing I have to sisters.

You brought the most special dynamic to our family. Always at the front of the pack, yet always kind enough to turn around and look, even wait on the slower two behind. Chief organizer. Always bringing new friends into the fold and helping me understand things about the countryside I’d probably never have known or understood. There was something especially comforting about having you in the group. You made things complete.

I think of you and Naomi often, and consider what a blessing it was walking through Galicia with you both. You will always be my first Camino family.

Tu hermano y amigo,

Steve Watkins

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