In June 2014, Washington DC Fellow Ariel Laguilles began his Fund for Teachers fellowship – a 200 mile section of the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from France to Spain. The following three years, he’s returned with his students from Gonzaga College High School.
Ariel’s goals for his FFT fellowship were twofold:
- Become a pilgrim walking one of the oldest Christian pilgrimage routes to reflect on his
personal, spiritual and professional life, and
- Research and create a unique upperclassmen Spanish curriculum for students to reflect on where they have been, where they are and where they hope to be.
Judging from his student’s final observation on the blog maintained throughout the 2015 journey, both of Ariel’s goals have now been met…
“We have arrived! Señor Laguilles, Mr. Szolosi and the boys have made it into Santiago de Compostela! The morning started off relatively early – 6 am – as the goal was to make it to the pilgrim mass at noon. After a short breakfast at a nearby cafe in Pedrouzo, we set out, with the two veterans quickly leaving the high schoolers in the dust.
Today’s mileage was nothing compared to earlier in the week, clocking in at a paltry 12.5 miles. After watching the Km markers on the side of the road slowly dwindle, the boys were excited to see the glimmering city of Santiago on the horizon. It was a shame that that horizon was cleft in two by a mountain. Hours of hiking later, we were finally in the city…
…which was a shame, because the cathedral (where the pilgrimage REALLY ends) was another two miles inward. It was kind of cruel, in a way. The streets of the city were filled with cafes of all sorts and citizens who were clearly not strangers to tired-looking Americans with packs on.
Then, we truly arrived at our destination. The cathedral of St. James, with centuries-old stone towers arcing into the sky, stood before us. The fact that it was covered in scaffolding didn’t faze us at all, as we were too busy congratulating each other on having completed El Camino. Maybe we were celebrating the last day of walking. I dunno.
However, with the end of the Camino only ended the trek. This trip has been full of unique experiences which I wager will come to impact me and my actions for years to come. Reflecting on the trail has been a common theme, and now it is time for us to step back and reflect on what this adventure has meant for all of us. It may be different from person to person, but that’s the magic of the Camino: it provides. Exactly what it provides is up to the peregrino to decide.
The Eagles are on their way home. I hope the plane and train rides pass quickly. I miss my dog.”
Read more about Ariel’s 2014 Fund for Teachers fellowship on the blog he maintained throughout his “walk.” Ariel is a Spanish teacher and Department Chair at his alma mater, Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. He taught in Managua, Nicaragua, as a Jesuit Volunteer for three and a half years and has been at Gonzaga since his return in 2004. In 2006, Ariel was recognized by the High School Principals Association of the Archdiocese of Washington as a New Teacher of the Year. Aside from teaching, he coaches the school’s cross country and tennis teams, and enjoys ultrarunning “to stay sane.”