Every year at the end of December, I like to go over the highlights and the shadows of the year that is about to end. Guess what!  This 2021 will definitely not be in the top ten years of my life. There have been many more shadows than lights.


We started 2021 with the announcement by Rick Steves of the cancellation of all of his tours for the year. Then, at the beginning of March, Pamplona’s City Hall canceled the festival of the Running of the Bulls. By the end of March, the Spanish Government prohibited gatherings to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week). Thankfully, by mid-summer COVID was slowly receding, and we thought that we had it under control. But then, the DELTA and OMICRON variants arrived and we went back to the starting box. Could somebody please tell COVID that we do not want to learn all the ancient Greek letters? We do not need any more variants…


Those are the shadows of this crazy year, but what about the lights of 2021? First of all I have to be thankful because all my loved ones are doing great and nobody has suffered COVID. Ainhoa, my wife, has proven once again that she is the real wonder-woman. Our kids are doing great in college and the little one, well he is a teenager…


On a personal side, I can believe that I have been able to write one article in this blog every single week, I have also overcome the fear of live broadcasts, and the most important of all I have been able to organize tours for 2022.


Realizing that 2020 has not been such a bad year, I understood that there is always somebody I can give a little hand to and I decided to do one of the customs that satisfies me the most every year, and that is volunteer guiding.

In 2021 I have learned how to see

When I started with my small local guiding company 20 years ago, I thought about giving back to my community. I didn’t have money to give away so, it was then when volunteer guiding crossed my mind. What is this? Well, every year I get in touch with a non-governmental organization and offer them the possibility to guide, for free, groups of people who would probably never hire a local guide.


We have guided for the gypsy community of Pamplona, the prostitutes of the city. We have also guided refugees, or the elderly people in town. The retired priests of Pamplona were a fun group. Last year as we could not gather people in the streets I did a digital tour of Pamplona for doctors and nurses in Seattle.


This year I have volunteer guided probably the most challenging and rewarding group I have ever done. I have done a city tour for the blind association of Spain (ONCE).


I must say that at the beginning I was very nervous. How do you describe the light that comes through a XV century stained window? I guess I was lucky, right in the moment we entered the Cathedral, the sun was projecting the light of the stained windows on the floor of the temple, so I made them stay in those colored shades. It was incredible to see them enjoy the red, the blue, the yellow. One of them asked me to join them and with my eyes closed, I felt the difference of the colors


Another thing that shocked me is that blind people know that they are blind, and they can joke about it. You cannot imagine how many times I used the expressions “look to your right”, “look to your left”, “as you can see” …. I was prepared not to say any of those, but of course they came out of my big mouth. The answer of them was “sure, I will turn my head in that direction, but you better give us some context, we are blind, remember?” They laughed their hearts out. As you can imagine I blushed as I have never blushed before. To top that, one of the young kids said “you are as red as a tomato, and I have no idea how red is” All the group laughed even harder


After the tour we all went to eat a couple of tapas and drink some wine. They all gave me a big hug and thanked me for that experience. To tell you the truth, I think I should be the one thanking them. Thank them for their strength, their love, for teaching me how passionately we should all live our lives. I especially want to thank them for the lesson they have taught me, no matter how dark the hole I am in, I have to “LOOK” for the bright side of life. Thanks for helping me see.