Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hospitalera in Corcubion

In 2007 I walked the camino Frances (3rd time) and wrote this on my blog after staying at Granon and Tosantos:
These ´donativo´refuges are run solely for pilgrims to Santiago and we find it amazing that people are prepared to volunteer to cook and clean up after us, out of the goodness of their hearts.
I decided that if I ever got back to Spain to walk a camino, I would volunteer in one of the donativo albergues. I was able to do a pilot online hospitalero course and was fortunate to be assigned to the albergue San Roque outside Corcubion on the Santiago to Fistera route. I should have started there on 27th June but whilst in Santiago I got a call to say that the albergue was closed for 4 days as there was a fiesta in the park and the stands were right up against the albergue building. I decided to walk to Finisterre and once there I was able to help out at the municipal albergue there for a day before being taken to the albergue San Roque.
From 4pm to 10:30pm I was assistant Hospitalera at Finisterre. Well, Begoña said that I was the hospitalera and she was the Police!
Walking around Finisterre, I met up again with the two Cape Town pilgrims I'd come across at Oliveiroa. We sat on the sea front for a while talking about home, the camino and other nostalgic things. We had our photographs taken so that we could submit them to the CSJ of SA for the newsletter.
Back at the albergue municipal I was put to work! I learned how to register the pilgrims as they arrived - queues of them waiting at the door at 4pm - handed out the Finsterra document, the disposable bedding, explained about the doors closing at 10:30pm but a side gate being left open until mid-night for late comers and that they had to be out by 8h30 which is when the municipal cleaners move in. No scrubbing toilets at Finisterre - that was still to come! One of the pilgrims in the queue was Conny (the Dutch girl I´d left at a cafe bar on the way to Finisterre).

I didn´t get to bed until after 11pm and was up and ready by 7am. At 8h30 it was time to chase up the many young peregrinos who had partied at the lighthouse until late.
"I´m looking forward to seeing how you handle this" said Conny.
I walked through the dormitory tickling feet and telling everyone in a loud voice to get up and get out because it was after 8h30.
"Why do we have to get up so early?" asked one sleepy pilgrim. "This is the end, we don't have to walk today".
"So that the cleaners can come in and scrub the showers and toilets and make your bed for the next pilgrim" I said.
"Arghhhh...!!!" he moaned, and put his pillow over his head. Conny looked at me and laughed. "Tell him vee hav vays of making them move!"
By 9am most of the peregrinos were downstairs in various stages of dressing. But when I went to check for a last time, there were clothes on the folding dryer, boots under a bed, a good collapsible walking pole in a corner and other paraphenalia in the room.
"Don´t worry" said Begona, just put it in the laundry room with all the other lost stuff. I was amazed to find clothing, shoes, sandals, boots, backpacks, hats etc in a large pile in the laundry. Perhaps being at the end of the walk many pilgrims can´t be bothered to carry all their stuff home so they just leave it behind!
Perhaps there could be a 2nd hand depot for pilgrims who can't afford to purchase all this stuff?When the cleaners came I went across the road to the cafe-bar and joined Conny for breakfast. We said our 2nd goodbyes and promised to email. Then I went back to the albergue and met Isabel who will be my companion hospitalera for 2 weeks. Isa is a tiny little thing from the Basque country and doesn´t speak any English - besides ´thank you´and ´good bye´ so I´m expecting my Spanish to improve in two weeks! It is also her first stint as hospitalera so we both felt a bit nervous when Francelino fetched us to take us to Corcubion.
The Albergue has such a good reputation that we feel like custodians and promise each other to do our best to maintain the high standard of cleanliness, warm welcome and love established by our predecessors. Judith met us at the albergue and after showing us the rooms up and downstairs, where we would share a room, the showers, First Aid box, how the stove and washing machine worked, how to stack the pantry, what the general daily routine was, she helped us make a grocery list, then she took us into Cee which is the village right next to Corcubion, to do shopping. We went to Carrefour, a large supermarket where we bought provisions. They have an excellent delivery service and the goods arrived at the albergue almost at the same time as we did.
On the way back to the albergue she took me to the Correos to collect the parcel I had sent from Santiago with my working clothes, rubber gloves and On-Line hospitalero notes prepared by Rebekah Scot. These were to prove really useful in the days to come.
Isa offered to cook lentils for dinner and I said that I would make the salad. By 2:30pm pilgrims were queuing outside. San Roque officially opens at 4pm but Judith suggested we use our discretion and if it is raining or someone looks really desperate, we could open earlier.
"We prefer not to have more than 14" she said, "But if more arrive, open the other room where there are beds for 6 more pilgrims."
It was a mizzy-drizzly day so we opened about 30 minutes early. I registered the pilgrims as they arrived, 19 of them in the end - almost completo. Isa helped question the Spanish pilgrims - age, profession, where did you start? I managed with those from Belguim, Holland, Germany using my Afrikaans skills. Under no circumstances are we allowed to accept even one extra pilgrim (even though there is stacks of room on the floor) because of the insurance rules.
We soon had all our pilgrims upstairs, showered, some resting, others reading or writing. Isa and I chopped and cut up vegetables for the lentil pot and I made a salad. A couple of pilgrims helped us set the table and cut up the bread. I stole an idea from Eunate and made little yellow arrows out of lemon peels to place on top of the three salad bowls. We turned them so that they pointed towards Finisterre. The pilgrims were delighted and most took photos. I asked the French pilgrims if they would sing Chanson du Pelerin St Jacques as the oracion and we soon had all 21 of us joining in the chorus. We had made three large bowls of salads, cut up 2.5 loaves of bread and had a huge pot of lentils and nearly every scrap of it was wolfed down by the hungry pilgrims. We served wine and water with the meal and desert was yoghurt, and then tea/coffee or hot chocolate. All of this including the overnight stay is donativo and we lit a candle next to the donation box which is kept on the fridge.
There is a guitar in the albergue and a Chilean pilgrim played and sang for those pilgrims who had stayed up. Eventually we were able to sweep the floor, set the tables for breakfast and get to bed ourselves by 11:30pm. Isa and I were pleased with our first day and felt a sense of satisfaction when we switched off the lights and closed the front door before tip-toeing upstairs to get to bed.

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