Hello Fellow Pilgrims and Hospitaleros, I sit in a couch in the Seminario Menor (albergue with both communal and private rooms) in Santiago de Compostela with wind and rain lashing at the windows. It is a golden opportunity to reflect and report on my gig as a volunteer at Quinta Estrada Romana, a private albergue in Portugal, 11 km south of Tui. My fellow volunteer, young Sara just graduated from Tourism and Business Management and said the job was described as 5 hours/day, 5 days a week. In fact we worked 16 long hours every day. I fell into bed at 10:30 PM with all my clothes on, rolled out of bed at 6:30 and continued working. At about 10:30 AM, when there was a lull, I showered and changed. I thought whimsically of the advice to take time for one's self, and turned a 2 minute shower into 4 minutes. There are 15 beds, 3 of which are double, so we had up to 18 guests + the 3 of us (including the manager Giuseppe), and one weekend Giuseppe 's 2 friends. We changed the fitted sheets (no top sheet) every day, the sheets and towels into W/M and the hung it all out to dry. This process involved a lot of stairs and took till mid-afternoon. At the same time we vacuumed and washed floors, cleaned bathrooms, made the beds, emptied garbage cans from each bathroom (not allowed to put toilet paper into toilets). We served breakfast and supper to guests; supper had to be appetizers, green salad or soup, choice of meat or vegetarian main meal, and dessert. At about 8:30 PM the 3 of us would have a 20 minute supper outside, then start washing (yes, by hand), supper plates dessert plates, wine glasses, water glasses and cutlery and of course all the pots and pans and serving dishes. All this was amidst really loud music playing, adding to the general chaos. The surprisingly positive thing was that Giuseppe 's favourite music is music that I listened to in my younger years!!!
The albergue is also a café so between breakfast and supper we served light meals, coffee and refreshments (all this while hanging up laundry).
We were put in the same space as the guests for sleeping, which for me meant no sleep at all. After 2 nights I moved into a tent outside, where, as the albergue is out in the country, all dogs in a 500 meter radius barked all night long!!!
I gained a reputation as Canadian because 1) I slept in a tent, 2) coerced the dog, which had been carrying a decaying rabbit in its mouth for 3 days (even through our kitchen) to give it up, and finally 3) knew how to set mouse traps. My two co-workers, both vegetarian, were happy to let George, the errant mouse, live in the kitchen forever, but I pointed out that George would soon become many more, not to mention the fact that days were getting colder and more mice would be looking for warm homes. Indeed, by the time I left, the place was overrun with mice... not a nice thing for pilgrims and guests to see.
The cast of characters was always interesting. About 80% of our guests were German. One evening a group of 8 burly red-neck Portuguese arrived in a fire truck. They made everyone wait with supper, were loud and rude and left the next morning without a word of thanks or even a goodbye. They were offset by the most lovely Italian/Swiss couple, true pilgrims in every sense; they were humbly grateful for our efforts. One group of Portuguese arrived at almost midnight. As I am a light sleeper, I awoke to greet them. A short while later Giuseppe arrived. He looks like a pirate in daylight, so I can't even imagine our guests ' reaction. Young Sara coloured everyone's stamp differently. Our brief rest in the evening when we had supper outside was always with wine and by candlelight. One evening 3 Italian Stallions arrived. Michelangelo's David could only have been carved in Italy. These young men were so hot, my eyes smoked whenever I glanced their way (for purely observational purposes). Giuseppe 's friend Vicenzo was a parody of what a North American thinks an Italian is. One night he was given a piece of parmesan to grate. A half hour later he was still talking passionately, waving his arms in the air, cheese still in hand and nothing grated. He would sit outside greeting everyone who passed by: (you have to say this with an Italian accent): "Buen Camino!!!! Come!.. relaxa yourself... hava fruita shake!" We had more café customers when he was there. There were 4 cash boxes: one for overnight guests, one for café purchases, one for tips and one for the fruit shake bar... and we were not allowed to mix them up. However, we never had change!!! People would pay for a 1 Euro coffee with a 20 euro bill. It was so frustrating!! One day I asked Giuseppe, who went to town every day for groceries, to bring a 50€ bill to the bank and exchange it for 50 X 1€. I had to explain this novel concept 3 times (even though he is a young 34 years). He replied that they don't do it that way. It was the same thing with appetizers. He always served them at the same time as supper. I suggested serving them 1/2 to 1 hour BEFORE supper (I know that pilgrims were getting hungry). He wouldn't even try it once!!!
And then it was 6:30 AM again, my quiet time as I got the breakfast table ready.
After this interesting interlude, I continued my camino, which had started in Porto. In Santiago I await the arrival of Sara. Together we will walk to Finisterre (amazingly no blisters!!). I have a second gig in Salamanca the first 2 weeks in November which is ONLY registering guests at 4:30 PM.
Happy Trails to all of you,
On Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 11:04 AM Mary Virtue, <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Begin forwarded message:From: Lois Stenberg <email@example.com>Subject: Last few days in Najera 😙Date: October 12, 2018 at 5:06:14 AM PDTTo: Mary Virtue <firstname.lastname@example.org>Hola Toda,Well here it is, 4 more days till the change over. I can't say time has flown by as days are long with a mixed bag of highs and some challenges. This is a big Albergue with many people so you an imagine anything can happen with a couple of pilgrims showing up with bedbug bites that we address with bagging their backpacks and belongings and leaving them in the sun all afternoon followed by 2 machine washes and then dryer. We also separate the pilgrim a distance from the others.Yesterday we had trouble with one of the men’s toilets which had been overflowing. So this morning some men came, along with Jose Luis who is one of the administrators, to clear out the sewage drains and they are just finishing now when we are supposed to open. You an imagine the smell :(We have delayed the opening by one hour, to give us time to clean up. I am not in agreement with my fellow hospitalera and hospitslero for the opening hour as I think we should wait a couple of hours for the smell to dissipate at least once the floors are cleaned, etc,. The trouble is they had to open up the floor in the dorm which compounds issues.However, I am trying to be patient as the majority is ruling. So my fellow class mates, I took time out and came to this lovely Bar for a good cafe con leche and 2 pinchos, which I am really enjoying in the sunshine and fresh air!The high today will be attending a concert at the monestery tonight which will be amazing, and another is the fact we don’t have to clean for the next 2 days 😀I have been in touch with my Canadian replacement and look forward to meeting him and his wife.I see the necessity of volunteering with a veteran Spanish hidpitslera/o as there have been several issues that came up that needed someone fluent in Spanish.The suggestions I have for this 90 bed Albergue are: 1-greatly reduce the number of beds,2- separate the beds as most beds are side by side and some female pilgrims have asked to change their beds, and 3- there should be 4 hospitslera/os here to lighten the load. Preferably with 1 team being Canadian 🇨🇦Time to go now to prepare for the opening. Let’s hope the plumbing stays working.Oh yes, before I forget, another high is that the WIFI is back today after yesterday’s power outage/ yahoo!Adios,Lois