Today, my walk was just that, a walk! Though through miles of vineyards and casual hills, the muy frio wind kept me moving. Churches were often closed, and the one I counted on seeing in Santo Domingo was priced at 5 Euro to get in the door, through the gift shop to the actual sacred space. I just couldn’t do it. (I know, judgmental right? Mia Culpa!).
But the true gift of today is about to happen, which suggests I’ll report back on my predictions.
I’m in Granon, a small village atop a hill west of Santo Domingo. Here lives the church of St. John The Baptiste with an Albergue housed right inside the church.
You climb a portion of the bell tower stairs, drop your shoes and poles on the ledge near the opened window (for good “shoe” reasons) then lower your head as you step into one large room with 24 vinyl mats, circa 1974, arranged on the floor with one aisle between 12 per side. That’s it! Claim a mat and stretch out your sleeping bag.
As I walked in, everyone who arrived before me looked up as if to say “another specimen” for this one night experiment of 20 countries worth of pilgrims all getting along. And we all knew we wouldn’t be arguing monetary policy or immigration, but a successful rotation of the one men’s and one women’s shower.
Still, the better gift was described to me after I did my own check in. (The place is run by volunteers who don’t have time for check-in and check-out.)
Here’s what happens at 6:00 pm:
Everyone is to gather in the main room (there’s only one) next to the kitchen, which is the size of a shoebox.
We’re assigned cooking jobs, table setting, whatever they tell us to do. I LOVE this stuff. I am that geeky guy that enjoys being thrown into a mix and getting a job done.
Here’s what happens sometime after dinner:
The small door (watch your head!) on the opposite end of the main room leads straight into the main body of the church, where we are given a special blessing. Friends of some of my “roommates”, who are days ahead on the Camino, describe this as one of their favorite nights.
What the blessing looks or feels like, I haven’t a clue. And, unusually, I like that.
That’s all I know for now. I’ve claimed my mat. I even got a turn in the shower, with warm water to boot!
And I’m sure I’ll bump into elbows, no matter what chore I’m gifted with.