Hey there folks,
After my chance reunion with my Icelandic comrade in the town of Bercianos del Camino, we
walked ran the next 8km to El Burgo Ranero in short order, arriving before the local municipal, Domenico Laffi, had officially opened to pilgrims for the day.
As the two of us sat outside in the wind and sun, I took the opportunity to reflect upon how far I had come already this Camino. Sunday marked two weeks walking, non-stop, from St. Jean. Some days were brutal and long; some were relatively quiet and short. But each was a blessing unto itself, with trials and afflictions sharing the same path as alleviation and respite. Every day you wake up, comrades, is a day to appreciate.
The doors to the albergue opened precisely at 1PM, and the queue of pilgrims flooded into the spacious interior, eager to collect their stamp and claim a bottom bunk. Pilgrim priorities, you understand. We had arrived early enough to be within the opening salvo of pilgrims and were guaranteed a bed, so for us, there was no rush – fiaca as they say in Dalmatia.
As we checked into the albergue, I overheard the hospitalero explaining that he was on his lonesome. A generous pilgrim – who was staying in town due to injury – had offered to assist as best he could to check in pilgrims, but apart from this kind man, the hospitalero had no assistance. Through a cruel twist of Fate, his partner had failed to arrive, leaving him running the entire operation for an entire day. A whole day, you might say, doesn’t seem so bad. Oh, sure, a whole day dealing with 30 pilgrims of various nationalities and tongues, with 30 different problems and requests, and 30 beds to clean, an entire building to prepare for the next batch. Yeah, not so bad.
Yet, comrades, I believed Providence led me here to the sleepy town of El Burgo Ranero for a reason. Here was a man who desperately needed help, and here was I, a lonesome pilgrim fresh from his own hospitalero training. Over dinner with Beowulf and England (a delightful chap who joined our table), I pondered my options. I could very well go on to Leon, leaving the man to his lot, continuing my own journey. Or I could offer my help for a few days until relief arrived from base – no harm in asking, right?
Yet without reservation, I decided to ask the token hospitalero if I could assist him for the next few days.
We were both members of the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) as witnessed by our matching pins. He was experienced and I was merely a novice, a cadet fresh from boot, but eager to learn. After speaking to one another, he decided, on the spot, to accept my offer for assistance beginning immediately the following morning. I was ecstatic and could scarcely sleep that night.
I was going to be a real hospitalero!
The next morning, I bid farewell to Beowulf and wished him luck upon the remainder of his Camino – I am to stay in El Burgo Ranero for the next few days as a temporary hospitalero. Armed with mop, broom, stamp, and pen, I was given my marching orders for the day and helped to keep the municipal albergue in working fashion for the day’s masses.
How queer it is to be on the other side of the desk: to stamp a passport instead of handing it over, to explain the building’s facilities instead of utilizing them, to show someone a bed instead of hoping you get the bottom bunk. My, what a day it was for this monkey and his Rose! It has been absurdly gratifying – this day of hospitality – and I have a few more ahead of me afore I continue the Way.
Ah, merry happenstance once more.