Adventures beyond time

Adventures beyond time

Friday, January 11, 2013

Becoming Hospitaleros

Not at all sure how it got started, but it surely was sometime last Spring. We had decided to attend the Annual Gathering of the American Pilgrims on the Camino in Winter Park, FL, in March. The meeting lasts about three days, and there is an optional two-day extension; one can arrive early and be trained to be a volunteer hospitalero in a network of albergues along El Camino de Santiago. We saw the Gathering as a mini-vacation--a chance to meet up with people we knew from two years earlier and, especially, spend some time with our sister and brother-in-law, who are seasoned pilgrims and Gathering goers. Somehow a notion took hold; why not extend our little vacation and take in the hospitalero training? It should be fun, and we were curious about what it entailed.

So we took the training. It was interesting and fun, but we didn't volunteer last year, deciding to walk instead. As things turned out, we found ourselves walking a much more rugged and demanding route than expected, and that might have helped to make the idea of holding still for a couple of weeks seem more appealing. I don't know if it was then or sometime later, but the idea of volunteering gained currency, and last week we decided it was time to put our names in.

Our first choice of where to go was the famous Albergue Guacelmo in the mountain village of Rabanal. We informed the operators, the British Confraternity of Saint James, of our interest. We got an offer, but unfortunately the July dates they had available didn't fit with our plans at all. Our second choice was the municipal albergue in El Burgo Ranero (the Town of Frogs), a dusty village in the Kansas-like Meseta. We got the offer and the dates we needed, so we will be off next May. We've gotten a welcome and a few instructions, but it appears that, like most other things on the Camino, it will be an informal, cordial, and physically demanding undertaking.

El Burgo Ranero, including church with resident storks

The Albergue

The wetlands, home to the town's frogs

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