Saturday, 30 April 2016

Stop Sending Me Money!

Mantra for 2016. Teabag wisdom. 

OK, kind people! You can stop sending money now!

We reached the 2,000 Euro goal with a big push at the end from the Camino Amigos group in Toronto, Canada. I have never gone to a group before for financial help, but maybe I should open my mind a bit... groups like to help out with worthy projects, and they can make a significant difference, especially when time is of the essence.

Rafa, the guy in charge at Foncebadon, is a pretty leisurely guy. It took him a good four months to say that yes, he really would kinda like to have some non-saggy bedding for on his albergue' shiny new bunkbeds -- preferable mattresses that actually FIT. The old ones are ten centimeters shorter than the bedframes.

I told Rafa to do some shopping, he found what he wanted at a great price, and once he gets it all squared-away he'll send us the bill, and maybe even some pictures. Not like bunkbeds with mattresses on them make for compelling blog-viewing, but hey. We have strange tastes out here in camino-land. Nothing looks finer at the end of a long day than a shiny new mattress to sleep on.

We have enough money to pay for twenty of them, and hopefully enough left over to seal the new mattresses with bedbug-proof covers.

Big gratitude to all of you. Now get yourselves out onto the trail and up to Foncebadon, so you can try out the bedding bought with your donations.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Misery, and Mattresses

Want to know what pilgrim misery feels like?

First, walk 30 kilometers uphill, in the rain. With 8 kilos on your back.
Arrive at the mountaintop, and realize you don't have the money for a 10-Euro bed, not if you want to eat, too. Go to the place that accepts donations.
Check in. Eat a nice hot meal, take a hot shower, roll out your sleeping bag, wiggle inside, and take that first deep breath that says, aaaah, sleep! Roll over.

That first deep breath tells you that mattress has been hosting pilgrim bodies for, oh, maybe a couple of decades. Probably longer. And then the mattress starts to sag, right down the middle. You're enclosed on either side, like a wiener in a hot-dog bun.

Every mattresses in the place is shot. The albergue lives on donations, and a lot of the people who stay at "donativo" albergues are traveling for free, leaving nothing at all in the box. New mattresses would run 2,000 Euros or so, and they don't pull in that kind of money there.

You sleep just fine, because you're exhausted, but you wake up miserable. Everyone in the place wakes up miserable. You are not wet or hungry, but you're stiff and crooked.

A decent mattress would have made the difference.

You can make that difference for a pilgrim this year, like you did last summer at San Anton de Castrojeriz. Up in the mountains of Leon at Domus Dei de Foncebadon, they need new mattresses on their 18 pilgrim and 2 hospitalero beds. A new, decent-quality mattress costs about 100 Euro. A waterproof, bedbug-proof mattress cover costs another 20 Euro.

Can you step up again this year, people?
Peaceable is still not a non-profit organization, but that's in the works. Meantime, use the PayPal button up to the right, and give what you can to outfit another worthy place with a better night's sleep.

We won't fly your nation's flag outside, or put up a plaque with your name on it, but hundreds of tired pilgrims will bless your generosity. Anyone who wants an accounting will be given one for the asking, as well as I can provide.    

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Heavy Weather

dormitory to be

Pilgrims hunch into the wind, their gazes on the ground before them, rain streaming and splattering off their plastic capes and hats. Miserable walking weather. But they're pilgrims. They signed up for it.
Some of them find their way to the Peaceable. A day ago it was a wiry Belgian walking east, on his way to Jerusalem. Today it's a Swede who met the Belgian last night in a shelter in Carrion de los Condes. He told her about our place, that it's warm here, worth an extra couple of miles in the rain.
It makes me feel warm, hearing that.
I got mail like that today, too, an email from a couple of pilgrim ladies who stepped up to the plate at San Anton last summer when the scheduled hospitalero couldn't make it on time:

So Lois and I spent one night there as pilgrims, and two nights as hospitaleras. And both of us have said it was the best experience of our entire Camino. We loved being able to give to pilgrims in that way, in a sense paying forward all the wonderful things that had come our way as pilgrims. The people we met, cooking and eating by candlelight, the singing around the table, welcoming visitors during the day. In fact, Lois said to me, after our return, "You know, if you would have told me before we left that the best part of our trip would be spending three nights in a place with no power or hot water, I would have never believed you." But there it is. 
So thank you, thank you, for giving Lois and I such a wonderful opportunity.

 It's that kind of goodwill that makes the camino hospitality network so miraculous: a sudden need, a realization that "Yes, I have the time. I can do this job."
And sometimes the job turns into something magical.

St. Francis of Assisi said it best: "It is in giving that we receive."

I am very happy that Ollie is here to help us these days. From the outside it doesn't look like I'm doing much, but here at my little computer screen I am going full-speed, juggling. Not just getting the new book to prospective agents and publishers, not just overseeing production of a little San Anton history... I am still trying to find two people to take two-week shifts at San Anton this July.
Now add this to the mix: I need last-minute recruits for a truly Green and Pleasant posting at FICS' newest enterprise: a spanking-new shiny pilgrim albergue in Grado, Asturias.

the new place, still under construction
It's the polar opposite of San Anton: the water is hot, the tiles gleam, the kitchen is fully equipped, and the town is an architectural jewel. Grado is the first day's walk out of Oviedo on the Camino Primitivo, a tough, 300-kilometer trek over steep green mountains. Almost nobody walks it in winter, so we'll close up through the coldest winter months. Even so, it's open March through October. And who gets to find volunteers to keep it going?
I do. Or I hope to.
I have written to hospitalero coordinators in nine different countries. Three have responded.
The place opens on May 15th, which is not so far away. I have a volunteer to take that shakedown shift: a seasoned Portuguese. But then come June, July, August... I need at least six people, experienced pilgrims and pilgrim hosts, people with some English and some Spanish, and two weeks to give.
The Canadians, God bless them, are taking September.
An Italian lady is taking the first half of October.
If you want to serve in summer, or you want to come and finish out the season, October 15 to 30, let me know. It's a sweet gig, hospi-wise. It's right up there with Salamanca or Zamora.
shiny kitchen

This all is worrisome. I am not a logistics person, I don't do details so well. I'm a founder, an apostle, not an administrator or pastor. Or so I think.
I don't get paid to do this work, but that doesn't matter so much. It keeps me sharp, keeps me interested and involved. It keeps me faithful.
It takes three hours to drive from here/ to Grado, over the mountains. I can't run up there from here to fill in the holes in the rota, not with San Anton another hour away in the opposite direction. Do I have enough qualified friends and acquaintances to keep two places running? What will I do when someone cancels out? How do I work this?  
This time it's not coming so quick -- Grado is an unknown quantity. It's up on a less-traveled path, it's not got the juju of San Anton. So my faith is being tested. Who will step up and take on the unknown? Who wants to be a camino pioneer?
? How did I get myself into this?
I could get worried. But so far, I hang on to the lesson San Anton taught me last year, a wise message that arrived on a tea-bag tag: "Let Things Come to You."
Last year, I had one month to staff San Anton. The volunteers poured in.
I needed $2,000 to buy new mattresses and bedding for the place. The money showed up, BANG!
Grado: the back yard

Who wants to walk across the plains of Spain, in the rain?
We are pilgrims, on a journey. We can't complain, not too loud. We signed up for this. I did.
At the end of the day is shelter, a friendly place to get warm and dry, a place to rest.
We can't see that, out on the trail.
But it was there for us yesterday, at the end of the day. We have to believe it will be there again today, and tomorrow, too.
And in between, we just keep on walking.