Thursday, September 17, 2015


17 September 
Robert left yesterday.  "Watch out for that one" he whispered to me as he left.  He'd found Kristine a bit bossy and controlling but I wasn't concerned.  She'd told me that her mother was a bossy and controlling women and that they had never gotten on.  I am not afraid of bossy women and will kill her with patience and stoicism!. 
Kristine and I are on our own for a few days until the Spanish hospitalera arrives on Sunday  We don't know anything about her except that she has served at San Anton for a week in September every year for the past 4 years.

The weather has turned quite cool and last night was freezing in the 'ice box'.  In the middle of the night I woke with a start and wondered if the people who had done the washing up had switched off all the gas burners.
I lay in the bed and listened to the wind and didn't feel like getting up and going out.  Then I thought of the 2 year-old, and his grieving parents and thought, "What if there is gas leaking out and the child dies in his sleep?  Or, all the pilgrims are dead when I open up in the morning?"  OMG! 
I got up and put on my down jacket, took the Waka Waka torch and crept out of the box. There is no electricity at San Anton and with no moon it is pitch black at night.  I unlocked the doors to the albergue and, of course, the gas was switched off.  I sighed with relief. 
I know I've locked and bolted the big gate into the ruins but then I remember the baby and the parents and think, "....not on my watch," so I go down to the gates and check anyway.

The Waka Waka has been a fabulous asset. Not only do I have a solar powered power-bank to recharge my phone or tablet, but it provides a bright light for us to wash up dishes, look for things in the dark, light my way to the ice-box and to the toilet. 

This morning Kristine burnt her forearm when she accidentally poured some hot water over arm when stewing the sheets.  It is quite a deep burn but being a nurse she knew what to do and how to treat it.  But, it does mean that she doesn't have the strength to wring the sheets so we do it together and hang them together.

People start wandering in very early.  Some peep through the gate, hesitant to step into the grounds, not sure if they are allowed in.  Others march up to the albergue and ask if we sell coffee.  'No, I'm sorry we don't sell anything here" we say and they peer into the dining room just in case we are secretly a café-bar after all. 
"Can we use the toilet?" some ask.  "I'm afraid not," we say, "we have very little water here and we can't flush the toilets until the tank has been replenished.'"  If someone is dancing a jig with their legs crossed, we let them use the toilet, but otherwise we have to say no. 

If you look carefully you see the water pipe running under the stones behind the bench this couple are sitting on.  The farmer next door pipes water to the albergue from his reservoir. 
Whilst Kevin was here, the tank ran dry and they had no water for a day.  They had to collect water in 5L bottles from the pipe at the canal in order to fill the cistern and boil some for drinking water.  If the water pressure drops we can't flush the toilets anyway so we have to restrict the use of the toilets to pilgrims staying at the albergue only.
There is a beautiful shower here but no hot water.  "That's OK, " I said to Kevin on my first night.  "I'll have a cold shower."  The men looked at me in admiration.  I stood naked and ignorant under the shower and thought, "I'll just have a quick one."  OMG!!  As the icicles hit me I thought I was having an asthma attack!  For 5 minutes I couldn't breathe, the water was pure ice!  There is a sign on the door asking people to save water by having a quick shower.  Really!  There is absolutely no risk of anyone wasting water under that shower of icicles!

I brought three black solar shower bags to the albergue from South Africa.  If they work in the African bush, they should work in this smart shower. They worked, sort of.  They would've worked better if we could've hung them up but we didn't want to put hooks into the owner's wooden beams without their permission so we balanced one bag on top of the shower wall and tied the ropes to the upright shelving unit behind the wall.  (You can just see the bags lying on the green table, water spouts hanging over the edge.)
 Each day I emptied the left over water from the bag into basins to use to water the plants. There are herbs and some vegetables as well as flowers that were planted here in memory of  Julian and Jose.  The crocus are just starting to flower - big beautiful yellow stars pushing through the scrubby grass behind the wash lines.

 Tonight we had an Italian pilgrim who asked if he could cook for us.  We accepted his offer gladly and he made pasta with a really delicious sauce which included some of the vegetable we'd bought the other day.  I asked him if he could sing as well (can't all Italians sing?) but he said no, definitely not.  After dinner I suggested that each person sing us a song from their country, whether it is a lullaby or their National anthem.    We had a beautiful Polish song, Hungarian, two Italian songs (even one from Ernesto after we plied him with red wine), a couple of English songs and Kristine sang Waltzing Matilda while I sang Inkosi Sikele iAfrica. 
Before I sand I explained how a decision had to be made after the 1990 political changes in South Africa on which anthem to keep and what a miracle it was that both the African song and the Afrikaans song were accepted, and how the words combine five of our 11 official languages  with Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English verses. Of course I don't know all the words so I had to wing it until I got to Die Stem but nobody would've known unless they could understand Sesotho!

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