© 2009 laurene

Tourist or pilgrim

I have spent today wandering and getting to know the downtown part of Santiago. I started at the cathedral let’s morning and it was like a market place: a babble of languages. There were tour guides, prayers, friendly chatter, excited sighting of fellow pilgrims all in different languages. I wondered is this the intermediary between heaven or hell.
I watched people in the street and classified them as local, tourist or pilgrim. Mostly this was easy to do but sometimes tourist garb can be deceiving. There are people like me – a pilgrim in waiting. But there are some tell tale signs: staffs, packs, shell motives & best of all – bandages on feet. Some hobble the streets feet clearly in pain. Some hold onto their staffs and I can’t tell if it us for need, for show or just the inability to let it go.
I went to the pilgrim office and climbed the stairs like all the others, but I was there as a tourist and they were seeking recognition for their labours. You didn’t have to see the throng, you could smell them. A human mass that shared a secret. As I left the building a young Japanese fellow entered dressed in yukata and sandals: two traditions of pilgrimage collide.
I decided that I too need a stick on thus walk. Partly for practical reasons (my shoes are slippery on stones in the wet) and partly to know what it like to walk this way. At first I thought I would find one but then I decided to buy one from the tourist shop. I call him stick & I took him to the cathedral to get him ready for our adventure
I did try to go and engage with contemporary Santiago culture today and went to the contemporary art museum. A provocative show about sexual identity but it left me cold. This kind of social critique is not where my head or heart are right now.