Not just the ones shut out by the holidays from refuges from Carrion de los Condes to Sahagun (like the French shepherd here in our salon). We now have returnees with us, Kim from Key West and Ariel and Jo from Australia, people who stayed with us before and came back to stay some more. They are nice people, helpful and chatty and mostly vegetarian.
They are engaging at a time of year when the weather can really get me down. They come along to the church to help clear away the holiday decorations. They take magnificent photographs of grubby old winter Moratinos, seeing the place with their fresh new eyes and forcing me to do the same. (these photos were taken by Ariel, btw.) They write nice blog entries about us, even!
This in turn has enabled me to take on something that might just be too big for me.
If you´ve read this blog for a while you know I keep myself occupied partially by helping to train new "hospitaleros," volunteer hosts for the many shelters for pilgrims on the Road to Santiago. I share a teaching method and materials with Tom and Mary, two teachers from Canada. Between us we´ve come up with a cookbook, checklists, a handbook, and an online course. The online course was picked up recently by the active Camino community in South Africa. They´re using it as a basis for their nascent hospitalero training program, which is all very flattering and fun.
The toughest part is getting the bosses at the Spanish federation to recognize the South African program and trainees as part of the big picture. They are happy enough to get new recruits to take on this thankless job... but first somebody´s got to sit down with them and show them, in Spanish, what is going on, what materials are being used, and how similar it all is to the original Spanish program.
I am not a teacher, but I can do okay in English. I still cannot get my head around preterite verb conjugations. I can chatter with a Spaniard for a good while, understanding about 80 percent of what he says. Talking, however -- explaining things? Woah. Challenge.
And these things that need explaining are important. People on three continents are counting on me. I know the material, and I like and trust the people I am meeting with on Saturday. But I feel just barely competent to navigate all the details and questions and concerns with my shatteringly bad grammar and less-than-precise understanding.
And I am ashamed of myself for not having gained much better language skills, especially after all this time.
Rather than beat myself up I focus on what is achieved already -- the hospitaleros who´ve learned their chops here already, the course I wrote last year that was so readily adopted in South Africa, and the international networking that made this all happen. That, and the pilgrims.
The pilgrims who find this place hospitable and homey enough that they want to come back again, even when they´re done being pilgrims. People who can be hospitalera to the hospitalera, so she can help make more hospitaleros.
It´s grace, multiplied. With a light sprinkling of chicken poo.