Friday, 8 January 2010


The pilgrims, pilgrims, pilgrims are here here here.

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!

They bring a gloss and glisten to the house that is not there when all the dusting and vacuum chores are left to me and Paddy. They do the dishes, so I can sit and read a while, or wallow in the rottenness of a sinus headache. They care for the Catalans and French and Korean pilgrims who stop in for lunch or coffee or rest. They play with the dogs and cat, and today they even cleaned up the chicken coop!

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.

Which all appears quite dull to those outside this arcane little Camino world. Until it becomes clear that the only person involved in this big push who is in Spain and familiar with the issues and who can meet with the bosses without requiring international airline travel is... Me.

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.


MermaidLilli said...

How wonderful to see Kim there once again. Please tell her hello for me!! LOVE to you all and happy new year!

Rocknroll said...

Happy New Year, Rebekah!
I'm wishing you a great 2010!

peter said...

You asked earlier how you were doing. I guess the repeat "business" has provided you with the answer. I hope your meetings go well.

claire bangasser said...

It looks like you're doing beautifully :-)
Sorry about the sinus headache!
A long and happy life to the Peaceable!

Johanna said...

Wow, that photo of me is really terrible.

How did you end up coping with the seven pilgrims? Was Paddy flipping out by the morning? Hopefully they were kind to you... and ate meat. :p

Lots of love!

Gary White said...

Great new masthead! But people with vision problems have trouble with reverse type. You might reconsider that.