Confession time – rather appropriate on a Catholic pilgrimage, don’t you think?
As we trudged up the hill to San Juan de Villapanada, we noticed three pilgrims striding up behind us. First the man powered past, and a few minutes later one of the women flew by without so much as an Hola or Buen Camino in reply to our greetings.
We reached the albergue, and standing on the front step, looked round for a half a second to see if there was somewhere to leave our shoes and poles near the entrance….and the third woman slithered between us like the snake we had stopped to video on the path earlier in the day. My thoughts towards her were not charitable. I guess she was not to know that we always offer others the first choice of beds, but honestly, did she think we were going to claim all the bottom bunks or leave her with just a mattress on the floor? At least she was friendlier than her compatriots and managed a smile when I Hola-ed at her.
As the supposedly mature and responsible adult in this party, I ought to be able to say my time in the confession box was now up. But, no!
As the three first-comers raced to claim their beds and grab toiletries so that they would be first in the shower, I did what all considerate pilgrims would do and calmly collected my own things and got in line to wait my turn. NOT!
I peeled off my socks and made no effort to argue with them when they walked out to the washing tub beside the building. If I remember correctly (and this occurred all of half an hour ago, so chances are quite good that I have my facts straight) I invited my merino gloves that have been worn for six weeks straight without a washing and my spare socks to accompany us in order to make sure I would still be scrubbing and rinsing when the first peregrina appeared with her pile of washing. I experienced a perverse sense of satisfaction when she stopped dead in her tracks to the tub. I know, so immature.
And before I leave the confessional, there’s an almost-white-lie to mention. In the early stages of today’s walk Micaiah asked, “Why do people ask you if you’re Catholic when they hear you have lots of children?” After a moment’s thought about all the directions this conversation could go, I bailed out with, “Many Catholics have lots of kids.”
Which reminds me of one more white lie (by crikey, it’s not been too good a day, has it!)……standing outside her house, a lady watched the kids file past and then asked me if they were a) walking and b) mine. Only language inability stopped a sarcastic answer to the first question, and the second received a reply that was only partially true. When I said, “Si”, she crossed herself and muttered something that prevented me from coming out with the whole truth!
On a more positive note, we met Domingo.
Last week A French pilgrim, Anna, had told us it was really worth staying here just to meet the hospitalero, Domingo. So we decided to. But we didn’t have to go to the albergue to meet him. I had left the kids sitting in the shade of a supermarket while I went in to find a box of icecreams that would charge us for the hill climb. I came out to a commotion. Five or six men surrounded the kids and were all talking at once. The ringleader turned to me and rattled off an explanation. Somewhat miraculously, I understood. A French lady had told him about us, the family from New Zealand.
“Anna?” I questioned.
“Si, si, si”
“Anna say me albergue Villapanada good,” I faltered in Spanish.
“I’m the hospitalero there,” the ringleader continued.
“Yes, I’m Domingo, that’s me,” he confirmed.
This was starting to feel less sinister!
Then he took the icecreams from my hand.
“Children don’t like icecream,” he told the onlooking men. They all nodded in agreement, but thankfully the kids know how to say, “Me gusta helado” and that did the trick! They got their already-melting helado.
They also got yellow arrow badges, kindly given by Domingo with an instruction not to get them wet.
Domingo’s little red van was sitting parked at the side of the road and he offered to take our backpacks in it to the albergue. Halfway up the hill we would be regretting turning down his offer!
Halfway up the hill he drove up beside us and asked Ella-Rose if she was sure she wouldn’t like him to take hers. Unfortunately she didn’t understand and he was raving about how strong she was!
After giving specific directions of how to get to the church on a not-too-distant hill and telling us to make ourselves at home when we arrived, he drove off, leaving us feeling like we had a new friend. Another quarter of an hour or so later, the little red van appeared again. Domingo leaned out and handed over a big blue bottle of fridge-cold water. What hospitality!
Sins met with hospitality, no penance!