Hospitalera Report from Loretta
I served at the municipal albergue “Domenico Laffi” in El Burgo Ranero (between Sahagun and Leon) the last two weeks of Oct 2012. I arrived by train from Madrid Chamartin Station to Palencia and then a regional train to the village. It was a short walk from the station on a gravel bumpy road where I immediately fell on top of my suitcase when the wheels got stuck. We had many comical experiences here, like the electricity going out, the roof leaking, the water stopped running, a bedbug incident, nearly running out of fire wood when it was ever so cold .... lots of troubleshooting to do and looking for solutions to problems. El Burgo Ranero village has a population around 800 people. There is a church, a school, a town hall (very helpful municipal staff for problems and supplies), a tienda, farmacia, medico, 2 bars/restaurants/hostals and two other privado albergues (which were closed at this time of year). The local folk were very friendly and interested in the comings and goings at the albergue. Many stopped by to say hola. Our albergue was a donativo albergue and it had 28 beds and we were full nearly every night and the overflow had to go to the private hostals, often grudgingly. It is unusual but at this albergue the hospitaleros sleep in a room at the back of the building next door in an add-on room. So every night at 10 pm we would close and head to our room. Over there we had all the supplies for the albergue, like firewood, toilet paper, cleaning products etc. Our albergue had a wonderful well equipped kitchen with many dishes and pots and pans, a washer and dryer and free internet. There was also free wifi at one of the bars and the school. Our wonderful fireplace kept our pilgrims happy and warm. Often we had communal meals in our lounge where people contributed what they had to the meal or pilgrims took a collection to buy food to cook for the group. The atmosphere was always welcoming and friendly. There was a lot of fun and fellowship.
Sometimes we went to the restaurant and bar with the pilgrims to eat, watch soccer and socialize, extending our closing a wee bit. The church had Mass nearly daily at 11 am or 12:15 pm on Sundays. The village not only had a regional train station but an Alsa bus stop, so sometimes our pilgrims who had to move on with transit were able to get on their way when tired or injured. Many interesting things happen while serving. One day we had a Korean choir arrive for the night (we were told of this group in advance by the Amigos del Camino de Santiago) and they, with costumes and musical instruments, put on a concert at the albergue for the pilgrims and some of the villagers.
Another time, some members of the Amigos del Camino de Santiago arrived to say hello. They were the group that cleans up the litter on the camino and were in our area to do their work. A Spanish hospitalero serving in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos came by and took us for outings on our time off, once to Sahagun on market day and another time to Bericanos to visit hospitaleras from Italy and Canada serving there.
Overall, with the daily routines of cleaning, registering and problem solving ... it was a very pleasant but tiring experience. This was my second hospitalero experience and I am thinking about number 3 in two years time again.... Loretta