Sunday, September 27, 2015

27 September - LAST DAY - SAN ANTON

I opened the gate extra early this morning because two pilgrims wanted to leave before 6am.  The moon was low in the sky and shone through the open circle with the TAU at the top of the gate. 
The walls glowed in the moonlight and I thought, 'How am I going to manage going back to cities and noise and closed spaces after living in a place with the sky for a roof, moonlight for illumination and only the sound of the wind or pilgrims singing?"    I was missing my family and wanted to get back to them, but I was torn between needing them and wanting to stay here longer.

After breakfast Angela, Kristine and some of our pilgrims went off to mass.  A young Italian pilgrim went with them but left his pack as he intended coming back later.  I did the usual housekeeping, and whilst I was shaking out the blankets a familiar figure on a bicycle came through the gates - it was Mau.  I was really pleased to see him and offered him a coffee.  He had brought tomatoes, onions and a the biggest zucchini I'd ever seen slung over his shoulder. 

"You are happy to be going home to your family?" he asked.
"Yes and no," I said.  "I am missing them but I am also sad to be leaving this place."  I almost felt like weeping, something I don't do easily.   He just nodded in understanding, and we sat and had our drink.  He is a special human being, gentle and kind and he told me about a visit he's had from his father who he's been estranged from for many years because his father didn't approve of or understand his choice of a way of life that was so different from his own.

Once Mau left I tidied the prayer box, set out the register and the first pilgrim of the day arrived, my first South African!  Well, they are not born and bred South African's but moved to Cape Town from Argentina and call South Africa their home.  She asked if she and her husband, who was struggling along the path behind her, could stay the night.  We are not supposed to keep beds for people on the trail but I couldn't refuse an injured husband with the wife sitting in front of me.  He arrived soon after and they chose their bunk beds.  The Italian pilgrim returned from Mass for his pack and he soon carried on walking to Castrojeriz.

A tour bus arrived and the guide asked if we had seen a group of German pilgrims.  No, we hadn't seen them.  He told us that he had lost a group of pilgrims outside San Anton.  "Is there are bar anywhere here?" asked a German sitting outside the albergue.  "Only 4 km away, at Castrojeriz," I told him.  "That's where they will be, : he said.

Two American pilgrims arrived - a young woman and her older friend.  They asked if they could stay.  Rebecca was thinking of doing a hospitaleros course and I told her that she could also volunteer, arrive a couple of days early and be shown the ropes at the albergue she was assigned to. 

A car pulled up outside and Rebekah Scot and her husband Paddy walked in.  Reb and I had a chat about the albergue, the bed bugs, about Angela and me leaving tomorrow and leaving Kristine on her own.
I introduced her to Rebecca and after a long chat, Rebecca and Lois agreed to spend the next two days with Kristine, after which Reb would join her for the last two days.  The universe had a way of making things right and everyone was happy!

Angela and Kristine returned and Angela told me that we had an appointment with the sisters at 4:00pm.  When we arrived at the convent she rang the bell at the revolving hatch and they passed a key to her for the door on left.  We went upstairs and sat down in a room, separated from another smaller room behind bars.  Soon a few nuns arrived, including two from Kenya and one from Berundi.  We had a great conversation about Africa, our President Zuma, polygamy and politics.  They were interested in my heritage and were surprised to learn that on my mother's side, the Dutch had arrived at the Cape over 400 years ago.  They were happy to provide a prayer box for pilgrims.

We hoped to hitch a lift back to the albergue but all the traffic was going to Castrojeriz so we ended up having to walk the 4km back.  When we arrived back the place was full and we only had two beds left. 

Angela, the South African pilgrim and Kristine started preparing for dinner and as I was signing in a pilgrim I looked up and saw a familiar person walking through the door.  It was Dean, a Ramblers pilgrim from Durban who had come to nearly every Camino workshop of mine since 2002!  He had finally got his act together and was walking his first Camino.  He wasn't sure if I would still be at San Anton and because he was walking quite slowly he was a little behind his planned schedule.
I was delighted to see him and we sat together at dinner so that we could catch up on news. 
This was my last night on the Camino and at San Anton and as I looked around the table at the pilgrims who still had over 450 km to go, I wondered how the Camino would impact on their lives. 
After the last song was sung, the last thank you said to the Camino, and the last prayer request added to the box, I said good bye to Angela and Kristine.  Pedro the taxi guy was coming for me at about 5h45 and I preferred to say goodbye now than wake them up and get them out of bed in the morning.  I left my down jacket for Kristine to use on her Primitivo walk and wished her well.  Angela and I promised to keep in touch.


I got up at 5h15 and quietly carried my big case to the gates.  Then I packed my things into my backpack and whispered good bye to Angela and Kristine.  I closed the gates behind me and walked up to the road.  The walls of the monastery looked different from the outside, the moon shining through the arch that spanned the road.  How many pilgrims have walked through that arch, I wondered?  Millions.  I could almost hear the shuffling of feet and the click-click of walking poles on the road.  The taxi arrived and we were soon speeding along towards Burgos.

I had time to think on the way to Burgos.  Besides the joy of serving pilgrims, very special pilgrims who had chosen to stay at San Anton because they wanted to experience the spirit of the Camino, what lessons had a I learned this time?  I have learned patience, tolerance and endurance, and not to give in to a bossy person, for the sake of peace, on issues that I feel are important or right.  I learned to stand my ground with a smile and not get into any disagreements or arguments. 
I have served with 7 hospitaleros and have fortunately have had a special, happy relationship with all but one - Mrs Bossy.  Even this relationship wasn't doom and gloom, more like stoically enduring constant fault finding and control.  Would I serve with her again?  Probably yes - if we could sit down on day one and agree that there will be no fault finding or bossiness.  They say an apple doesn't fall far from the tree and she has displayed the very qualities that she disliked in her mother.  The fact that she has been on her own for 27 years, raised her children on her own, is an occupational health nurse also contributes to her controlling nature.  She can't help it - in her world she is the boss-lady and she brought that with her to the Camino, and to San Anton. 

1 comment:

  1. Sil,
    I've always enjoyed and learned so much from your blog entries. However those regarding San Anton are most special. Thank you so much for sharing your precious memories of this unique spot.