Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Christmas Eve on the Camino...almost no room at the inn

On December 24th, Daniel, our fleet afoot French Canadian friend, and Good Shepherd, was talking to a couple of women in the plaza front of the albergue when we arrived in Santo Domingo. J and I both looked at each other and said "this does not look good!". The albergue was supposed to be open, but was closed and there were no other places available for us, now growing colder, pilgrims. A local young lady assured us that she would try to find someone to help us. I sat down on a cold stone bench and started to pray; "Hail Mary, you gave birth to Jesus this night, please be the mother of us all." The young lady did find someone, an elderly gentleman who possessed the key to our deliverance.  But he said that he did not have the authority to open the door unless it was approved by the hospitalero. We informed them there will be more pilgrims coming this way who will also need a place to stay. He should expect a total of 8 pilgrims. He then made a call and a few minutes later opened the door of the albergue, and fired up the heat. As we were taking off our boots the hospitalera arrived. During the registration she said that the door will be locked and no one will be allowed to leave the building once all 8 pilgrims have arrived. This meant no Midnight Mass for this Christmas Eve! My heart sank but there was nothing I could do other than be thankful that we found shelter on this now very cold night. When we finally claimed our beds, after climbing three flights of stairs, another urgent thought came to my mind. What about dinner? There were no restaurants open. We hurriedly cleaned up and set out looking for a store to buy food for dinner.  After a few disheartening moments we did find a supermarket that was still open. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I was at that moment! Yes, we were disappointed that we couldn't attend the Midnight Mass but we were determined to make this is a special night. In the end we decided to purchase and prepare dinner for our fellow pilgrims. I made leek soup (using a plate as a cutting board and with a table knife), pasta bolognaise and an array of canned and jarred side dishes, cheeses and meats, and of course, a few bottles of wine. There were J and I, Daniel from Canada, Rox and his mom Grace from Mexico, Haelee from South Korea, Susanne from Germany, Ken from Tennessee. The room was filled with laughter, and the table abundant, as we each introduced ourselves and shared the reason for our presence here at that moment. After about ten thousand 'saluds' Rox offered to sing a Mexican song, as his Christmas gift to all of us (see video from my i phone above). It was indeed a memorable night in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. A group of strangers whose lives happened to intersect in an unfamiliar town, found shelter with help from other strangers, became friends, shared a Christmas Eve meal together, and laughed until we couldn't anymore. I wondered about a common saying that I often hear; "we are all so different". Are we really, and are we really strangers? I now wonder...

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