Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tom's report from Spain

Hello Canadian-trained Hospitalero,
I want to combine a Merry Christmas greeting with a timely reminder that if you have time for travel to Spain or France and a desire to volunteer there,
I was walking a month ago and travelled from Sevilla to Zafra with a Camino sister. I then worked in Salamanca as a hospitalero for the last half of November and then put on my backpack and walked with 3 other friends for two days only to Zamora where I have worked before.
Following three days in Zamora where I backed up a hospitalera I trained last year, I went to Madrid to attend the Hospitalero Encuentro with 240 other hospitaleros as a final act before leaving Spain after 5 weeks.
I was invited to bring greetings from the Canadian hospitaleros and responded as follows:
I really love the theme of this gathering: “Nothing is lost; everything transforms” because I arrived in Spain almost 9 years ago as a tourist and hiker. However, by good fortune, due to the experiences in the country-side, in churches, shared  with friends, and from the work and influences of the hospitaleros in albergues, I left Spain as a permanent pilgrim.
My goal for doing our work is to create the change from tourist, hiker, adventurer or bicyclist to pilgrim. To do this, flowers, fruit and drinks on the table, music to greet, food to share and the smile of the hospitalero start this process. Obviously I love to sing with the pilgrims (nearly all of them had been singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with me on both Saturday in the Entertainment portion and Sunday as part of the mass). Also I always take opportunities to say a prayer with the pilgrims as follows:
In a world that is often cold and dark, we are grateful to follow yellow arrows to places of warmth and light. In a hungry world, we thank You for food for our bodies, our minds and our hearts. In a lonely world we appreciate the gift of family and friends.
Clearly the Camino, really the Caminos are also in a state of transformation right now.  There are more routes and more new albergues. More and more anglos are arriving due to the movie, “The Way”. I walked for only 10 days this trip but half of the albergues I stayed in are new this year. Most offered hospitality in our style of friendly welcome.
Therefore we have new opportunities and challenges. We must not be afraid of this change. Luckily we can smile in all languages. (I then demonstrated a Spanish style smile –with a kiss on both cheeks, an Italian smile with a hug and lots of hand gestures, an English smile with a stiff handshake, etc.)
I also brought a message on behalf of my America Pilgrim friends crafted by Martha Crites. I also noted that for the first time in history, more Americans had arrived in Santiago than Canadians and that their hospitalero participation had surpassed ours.
The Via de la Plata is poised to become one of the really popular Camino routes with many new and wonderful albergues opening which will only improve its popularity and viability for more pilgrims in the next few years. I also believe that more Anglos will start to show up so that an anglo hospitalero/a presence will be both helpful and necessary.  As always it never hurts to try to improve your Spanish and use what you have and the Via de la Plata is a much more pure Spanish experience.
It is worth passing on that HOS VOL now operates four albergues on the Via de la Plata, although sadly for me the two Castillo Blanco de los Arroyos and Alcuescar (not Salamanca and Zamora) were closed as I passed through in November. Hospis at the Encuentro who worked at these two really liked them. This tells me that our work is still needed in Spain and the late fall, winter and early spring are a great time to go and get other experiences in as well. I was able to take two weeks of language training in Salamanca for four hours a day and still fulfill my responsibilities in one of the world’s great cities in a really good albergue with the best location I have ever been in. Working in these quiet times is a totally different experience than the hustle and bustle of Holy Week through to the middle of October.
Please remember that your training does not have an expiry date. However, we have continued to add resources and information so if you are planning to serve, get in touch with Mary or I and we can update the information for you. We would also be delighted to post your first name and where you are serving as well as put you in touch with any anglos serving nearby. Remember too that we have anglo hospitalera contacts in Spain who can be called for advice, advocacy or to share a funny story.
If you are planning to serve next year, the best time to get in touch with Anai is after the second week of January as she takes a well deserved Christmas break. If you have already served, you will not need to fill out a carta tipo which is attached. Anai is able to understand English but generally prefers to communicate in Spanish.
We have also received an appeal from Alan Cutbush who manages the hospitalero/a postings at Miraz. Canadians served there with distinction last year and he wants to encourage our participation. With the recent physical improvements, some are calling Miraz the best albergue on the Camino del Norte. Of course the best albergue is also determined by having the best hospitaleros so that is why we want to put our Canadian hospitality on display for the world to appreciate. If you are interested and wish to apply please do so through Alan's e-mail.
Should you wish to serve in Rabanal, this posting is filling up a year in advance so asking for 2015 is more realistic than expecting a posting in the year to come. The application is found here:
If you wish to serve in France, we can also put you in touch with the individual who is filling those postings. Due to having only three albergues to staff, they will be filing their roster for 2014 now. Our last notice was that the following only are available: 
refuge d’Ainay-le-Ch√Ęteau, du 16 mai au 1er Juin 2014; refuge de Bouzais, du 1er au 16 mai 2014.
 Sadly, I have heard that Madame Chassain who pioneered the renewal of the route with her husband has had to step back from assigning hospitaliers and this is now done at this link:
If you have any questions or receive a posting, please let us know and we will supply you with more information and list your first name posting and dates on this website.

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