May 23, 2011 Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Text from Luke saying he would meet me in Santo Domingo because he needs $s. Had warm croissant for breakfast and went to look for shoe repair for my boot soles to see if that might help my toe blister. Should buy sewing kit to thread my toe blister to help it dry out. Will have a very quiet day.

Met Renee at cafe near cathedral and had a talk, but her “high ‘I'” introvert meant she had little to share in return. A little frustrated that it was hard to draw her out. One thing I determined was that I would adjust to spend a little more time in solitude myself. Renee has clearly benefitted from more time alone.

My boots are an obstacle now, with wear on the outboard portion of each foot. This is pushing especially the toes of my right foot into the boot, causing the large blister. I had bought these boots in Burgos in 2008 and they already had 500 miles not hem. I will shop for new boots in Burgos again this year.

Over the last 24 hours have been thinking about drop-in program Sheila described at St. Boniface church in SF. People come to church from 06:30, have opportunity just to hang out. Mass at noon, then church closes for the day. They have 2 staffers during this time and 2 volunteers each day M-F. The idea of having the FH at our church used in this way is appealing. Could have nursing staff and case managers and visits from human service agencies for services. Perhaps mats on the floor for day rest for people?

Sitting in bar at Santo Domingo waiting for Luke I met Ann of South Africa. She showed pictures, told of her children and grandchildren and described her branch of Christnity start by Rudolph Steiner. Focus is on mysteries that have been suppressed by the church over the centuries, especially Holy Grail, etc. She also shared story of working with Winne Mandela in preparation of house for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. She was wearing apron, serving Winnie at Soweto the day he came home after his release from prison. She noted how white woman was serving a black family. Also told story of her struggling farm and desire for God to help in midst of her lawsuit.

There is a lot to be learned from just sitting by the side of the road and hearing stories of pilgrims.

Wen to get some vaseline, came back and who should be there but Monique. Returned to the cafe/bar and had long conversation with her. Then got credentials and toured the church ,museum, and tower. Got phone call from Luke that he was in town at the albergue so arranged rendezvous at 20:00 with him, the girls, and Monique and others. Long dinner at restaurant on main drag and recited history of Israel with Gal and Lila. Monique was sleeping in their room at the albergue, so I deposited them all at the door of the albergue at 22:00 then off to Parador for a quiet night with Rocky.

June 3, 2008 Santo Domingo to Tosantos

Back on the camino now I was ready to reintegrate myself into pilgrim life and was determined to make friends along the way toward Santiago. After an overnight at the Santo Domingo Parador I headed out to walk the path to Burgos that I’d seen from a taxi window over the previous days.

After Santo Domingo the camino rises up from the vast fields of grain toward the Montes de Oca. I walked along the path and took photos of the steeple at Grañon that rises just above a ridge, seeming to sprout from the earth like the grain itself. After Grañon I came to Belorado and considered stopping there at the albergue with a swimming pool. Instead I trudged farther, to Tosantos, and there had one of my most delightful albergue experiences.

As I walked into this three-story, parochial albergue in the quaint and tiny village of Tosantos I was introduced to Tomás, the hospitalero. He began to lecture me about the history of the region and about the camino. My college Spanish skills allowed me to catch about 1/4 of the words, but the general impression was that he was very excited about the camino and proud of his albergue. He instructed me to leave my boots on the main floor and choose a sleeping pad in the main sleeping room on the second floor, then told me all pilgrims were asked to help cook the evening meal and were invited before dinner to tour the cave above the town that held its statue of the Virgin Mary.

I finished my laundry out on the albergue’s grassy lawn, hung it up to dry, then joined other pilgrims in peeling potatoes and cutting up carrots for our dinner. At about 18:00 we headed across the highway to the parish church where a kind woman walked us up the hill to the cave chapel. The interior was quite chilly, and we pilgrims shivered as she gave us a lengthy explanation of how the Virgin is carried into town in the spring and returned to the cave in the winter (or vice versa). We were all happy to excuse ourselves and return to the sunshine outside and the warm stew awaiting us at the albergue dining room.

When we arrived we sat down to a delicious and plentiful meal of stew and salad, followed by cups of yogurt, all accompanied by loud conversation and the sounds of Taizé music played on the boom box on a shelf near the table. I learned from this experience that it is a great joy to share in cooking and eating a meal together with other pilgrims, and I appreciated the care and pride with which Tomás carried out his role as hospitalero.