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Article in The Times Saturday 1st March 2008

lckgj

Active Member
#1
I have read with interest, both in the John Brierley book and on this forum, about mendicants - those people who have walked the camino and relied entirely on the kindness of strangers to sustain their journey. The following short article appeared in The Times today and thought it may be of interest......

"CALAIS. Three peace activists have abandoned a plan to walk to India with no money after failing to make themselves understood in France.
Mark Boyle had hoped to prove that it was still possible to make headway in the world on the back of peoples goodwill. However, Mr Boyle wrote on his blog that he and his two companions immediately encountered problems after crossing the Channel. "Not only did no one speak the language, they just see us as a bunch of freeloading backpackers, which is the complete opposite of what the pilgrimage was about" he wrote.
Mr Boyle,28, said he was advised by a few friendly French people to head for Belgium where people were "more likely to want to speak English". However, the trio gave up their quest "because the nearest decent-sized town in Belgium was 170km (106 miles) away and all we had was three tins of soup, a bag of trail mix and a chocolate bar to sustain us"

I cant decide whether I think their short-lived attempt at mendicantism is sad or funny but I do think they would have faired better if they had started out in Spain! Of course attempting to learn some French might have helped.....

Laura
 

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bjorgts

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos in Spain, France, Portugal, Germany since 2003. 2018: Finish Levante + Zamora - Verin
#2
Calling your own language "THE language" are perhaps not the best way of meeting the rest of the world!? In France "the language" is actually french! Coming from Norway, I can`t go far outside my country before I must speak other peoples launguages. Coming from a small country, you just know that that`s the way it is. You just have to manage with your different foreign languages your english, your german, your french, your spanish .... Walking for five years on different Caminos, I have found it one of the great pleasures to make people understand me, or understand other people in one language or another. It`s sort of a pleasure each time you are able to communicate with someone. From time to time I have met people having english, german or french as their first language, who take it for granted that all others speak their language. Sometimes it is irritating, other times I have felt sorry for them. We loose something if we do not respect the fact that the world is full of languages and we have to do a job to understand eachother. Then may be we also will discover that we are different in more ways than our languages, and that we even have to do a bit of training to understand and respect each others cultures as well.

.... and this is NOT perfect english, I am sure, but if I should wait untill then, I would never be able to speak with people outside my own country....
 

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
#3
Hear, hear!

To me one of the best experiences of the Camino was sharing - culture and language! Of course it was at times difficult and mentally taxing... but ultimately extremely rewarding. It gave me an entirely new impetus to learn more languages so as to be better able to communicate with my fellow Pilgrims.

As a language teacher (and particularly an American language teacher) I hear daily the lament of the young scholar, "Why do we have to learn.... (fill in the language blank)?" Since language and culture are inextricably intertwined, one cannot understand one without the other. And English speakers, particulary American English speakers are notoriously monolingual. Clearly everyone isn't a linguist, but I don't think it is asking too much to learn a modicum of the language of the country to which you are traveling.

Buen Camino,
 

lckgj

Active Member
#4
Bjorgts,
Jeg kan ikke snakker Norsk!
I worked in Western Norway for three summers (many years ago) and found it impossible to learn much Norwegian as every feeble attempt I made to speak your native tongue was replied to to in perfect English - even by the children! I found one of the best ways to pick up words was to watch the English language programmes on tv which were subtitled in Norwegian.

I LOVED Norway and miss it very much.

One day a new british arrival was being introduced to the other staff and was struggling to repeat the unfamiliar names. She was told the next persons name was much easier. "Muchesia" she repeated thinking this was another strange Norwegian name... needless to say the poor chap was called "Muchesia" by everyone forever thereafter and the poor girl only found out about her mistake months later!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#5
lckgj said:
I have read with interest, both in the John Brierley book and on this forum, about mendicants - those people who have walked the camino and relied entirely on the kindness of strangers to sustain their journey. The following short article appeared in The Times today and thought it may be of interest......
I also read the article in the Times and the failed mendicant who blamed the unwelcoming French for his troubles amused me. I have been planning my own walk from Canterbury to Santiago in a few weeks time and I'm making my contacts with people in French parishes, etc. in readiness for walking across France spending minimum funds, as the purpose is to raise money for a children's charity. The experience has been very encouraging so far. The French - like people anywhere - are welcoming if you approach them in the right way. The failed mendicant gives away his attitude immediately: he judged people, so didn't allow them to show their generosity.

The real mendicants on the Camino are quite inspiring sometimes. When I stayed at the 'Templar' refugio run by Tomas in Manjarin, a permanent wayfarer called Carlos was staying overnight too, and it was good to have the opportunity to talk with him at length. He carried a very small bag and walked with a puppy he had recently acquired. His pocket contained a full collection of dog-eared credencials, which he used to remind him of his whereabouts through the years, and a copy of the New Testament. He looked battered and prematurely aged from his hard lifestyle: he was clearly weak and his teeth were blackened, but his smile was unforgettable and his human generosity deep and genuine. The true mendicants on the Camino, when you meet them, are inspiring. Be generous to them for you are meeting Christ.

Gareth
 

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Arn

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#6
Here's a few thoughts:

1. Don't have a "political" agenda for your "reason" for the journey.
2. If you know you're going to travel through a country that's very BIG on their language "the French" come to mind. At least try to learn sufficient phrases to get by. They will be more willing to help. Considering their "political" reason for traveling to India...learning how to get a beer or a bed won't cut it. You must be able to effectively convey your intent and position.
3. Be aware that you'll probably run afoul of local criminal elements. The "Children's Crusade" in 1212 is a prime example. Since most folks walking to India used the Grand Trunk Road from the Khyber Pass in NW Pakistan to Bengal isn't the most hospitable...though I did walk it from Rawalpindi thru Lahore to Delhi in 1969.

Too little...too late...too bad!

Buen "better planning" Camino,

Arn
 

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