The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
What a shame it is to be leaving Salamanca, the most beautiful city in Spain (according to guide books, & I concur) just when I was learning to navigate my way around this maze of calles and ruas without the use of GPS (10% of the time). I had it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly: the homeless guy who, as we know, is not allowed to stay at albergues (this saga includes a peregrino telling him where he could obtain a credencial, a visit by the police, and me staying up till 1 a.m. waiting for him to come downstairs, which he did twice, my eyes boring into him as if to say "I'm watching you, buddy); a juvenile delinquent with anger management problems who demonstrated this in a horrific outburst while his handler was out buying groceries (a lot of shouting and swearing in German that evening); the "ugly" Spaniard who went ballistic each time I explained one of the hostel rules to him - he even demanded the gate key so that he could return at night after the albergue was closed (needless to say I didn't give it to him). Thanks to Mary et al in Victoria, who prepared us for every possible situation. (I wonder if Kickboxing-for-Dummies could be added to the curriculum).
But then there were those magical moments that made it all worthwhile: the famous Korean author (who is the reason why so many South Koreans walk the Camino) who stopped by for a visit just so that she could lie one more time in an albergue bunk bed; sharing a bottle of wine in the evening with peregrinos while discussing art and politics in three languages; the young German woman who had absolutely everything she owned strapped to her bike, including her viola - she entertained us in the evening with some of her own compositions; taping together a raincoat (or more accurately raindress) from the thick blue plastic bags that are used for storing knapsacks (but which are then thrown out, not recycled) and giving a fashion show for the peregrinos complete with runway walk (the runway being the bicycle ramp into the albergue). I called my new line Helen's Camino Fashions. All this and more....... I had it all.
In concluding, I would like to share with you things they don't teach in hospitalero training:
1) The hospitalero hug is hugging on the left side (heart to heart) and holding it for 3 seconds.
2) Italian Stallions give you a kiss on each cheek when they leave. Try to pick yourself up off the floor with dignity.
3) The charming Spanish will hold your hand in theirs and kiss it, their liquid black eyes making you melt. Pull yourself together!
4) Beware of the French with their make-me-swoon accents. Try not to follow them out the door. (Next time I am definitely going to request an hospitalera gig on the French side of the Pyrenees).
5) And on a more practical note, the police will courier a forgotten passport or ID card to the next albergue.