Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Flight from Burgos

I deliberately want to invoke imagery of the Flight from Egypt, Mary, Joseph, and their infant son heading out to escape the sword of Herod. They must have been desperate indeed to seek refuge in a place that had historically been a land of slavery, terror, and oppression for the Hebrew peoples. Guided only by a dream, they must have been terrified. Yet, they found graces along the way.

We were pretty desperate leaving Burgos. We had no dreams to guide us, only the nightmare of bedbugs. We knew only where we were NOT going to be that night. So we left our pension on the down side of town, knowing only that we were getting out. We headed toward what we thought was a train station for RENFE, Spain´s ultra-modern fast train. Even though Spain stays up all night and wakes slowly, I hadn´t expected to see anyone on the streets. Certainly not anyone I would want to talk to.

As we made our way to the station, a young woman left a bar and began walking. I asked her where the train station for RENFE was. She looked appropriately concerned. "It´s way far away," she said, "you´ll need to take a taxi." And she directed us very carefully, both in gestures and in baby Spanish, to where we might find one.

We got there -- and found a cab waiting. We jumped in, explained where we needed to go. And the cabbie sped his way through streets we´d hiked in on to the proper train station. Young, he was gentle with us, deposited us in front of this very modern station.

Which we found cavernously empty. No one was at the ticket counter. In fact, there was pretty much no one there at all. Except a cluster of women huddled in a corner. They had backpacks and looked weary: pilgrims like us. We struck up a conversation. They were Spanish, just finishing a segment of the Camino and heading home. We explained our situation, and one of the women told us not to worry about getting tickets: "just get on the train. Ask the conductor if there are any free seats. You´ll probably get on. After all, it´s the middle of the night."

She had a point. My fear was that we´d fall asleep in the meantime. But thanks to the notebook Lisa had brought, stocked with movies, we hunkered down and watched "Leatherheads" with George Clooney. Good bedbug repellant.

As the train´s departure inched closer, I found one of the only security guards in the station and explained to him our situation. He followed us up to the track, and when the train came, he motioned us aboard.

We followed him through car after car until he located a couple of empty seats, sat us down, and went to find the conductor. We simply sat there -- and lo! the train started moving. We looked at each other: "Yes!" We were leaving Burgos and Bedbugs behind.

In time the conductor came by, asked where we needed to go. We said Ponferrada -- and held our breaths. He seemed concerned, but took Lisa´s EuroRail Pass, which we decided was a good sign.

When he returned, he had tickets. We exchanged money and official papers. We were on our way!

Four hours later we landed in Ponferrada, which at 7:30am was just shaking itself from sleep.

Our Flight from Burgos had ended. But as we sat sipping cafe con leche in the train station, we remembered the people who´d made it possible. Graces along the way.

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