A curious pilgrim happening at the albergue in Marinhas led to important life lessons

Day 22 – 1st November 2016 – Estela to Marinhas

Hello friends!

A note on on animal messengers

Well, I managed to get safely back to our cabin, after the slightly odd meeting with the black cat in the shower block on Halloween. Perhaps it was bringing me good luck or a message.  This took me back to my first Camino, when I remembered a black cat had crossed my path on the Meseta, on the Camino Frances. In fact, I experienced a few encounters with animals on that first Camino and I jotted down my reflections about them in Symbology along the Camino de Santiago as I do believe they often give us encouragement, reassurance or warnings at particular times in our lives.

Silent punctuation

Anyway, Brett and I treated ourselves to a lie in (marginally) and then we left the cabin by 8.30am. We enjoyed a more leisurely Camino walk through intensive farmland, on cobbles, along forest trails and back along a river estuary. We paused briefly to go into one of the churches along the way for a moment of quiet reflection before continuing on our journey. To me, these are  ‘silent punctuation’ marks in otherwise sensory filled poems for the feet, mind, heart and soul!

We had to walk inland a fair way in order to cross over the river through picturesque Esposende and back out to the coast again. Sadly, no board walks comforted our weary feet in the afternoon though! The trail brought us to several small villages. We no longer referred to the Camino Portugues guide, as the version we had with us followed the inland route from Vilar do Conde. However, we will keep it with us to read when we eventually turn inland from the coastal route to pick up the featured trail from Redondela in a few days time.

Instead we used the rough notes we had made, when we discussed our route with Pedro at the albergue in Alvaiazere. After a relatively short trek of only 15 km in all we chose Marinhas for our destination and headed to the Red Cross office to pick up the key to albergue San Miguel, a white-washed building on a quiet road round the corner.

There were two large dorms containing 14 beds and a notice advising that the upstairs showers leaked so it would be better to use those downstairs only.  Instead of a set charge for a bed for the night, pilgrims were invited to give a donation or ‘donativo’, which we gladly did. Our settling in routine is a simple one – take a look around to get our bearings, find a bed, make up the bed and unpack a few things, sometimes handwash clothes and hang them out to dry…then food!

Brett and I wandered back into town and found a great pizza restaurant, which was excellent and just what we needed to refuel! Crowds of people thronged in the cemetary at the end of the road. I wondered whether it was a funeral of someone, who had led a very prominent life in the community or an outdoor service for All Saints Day.

A self portrait in sand

Not wanting to intrude on a private occasion, we quietly walked by and followed a little track over the dunes to the sea, where we spent a restful afternoon on the beach. I paddled in the water, the cooling sea water soothed and refreshed my aching feet…ahhhhh such a simple but uplifting pleasure! Brett played in the sand and constructed a self portrait tee hee.

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Brett’s self portrait in sand…a good likeness don’t you think?

A curious happening led to some important life lessons

On returning to our albergue we discovered two Spanish chaps were in the other dorm so we greeted them and a few minutes later another pilgrim arrived and came into the dorm we were in and we said hello to him. He seemed a little bit reticent and crossed the room to the far end, selected a bed, then proceeded to rifle through the blanket cupboard in the hallway and came back with an armful. He inspected the mattresses of several bunks around him, covered a few of them with blankets and then spread all of his belongings on the blankets adjacent to him. This seemed a little bit over the top (OTT) but not to worry, we thought at the time…there is plenty of room and ‘each to their own’ on the Camino for it brings many souls together, each with his or her foibles and habits.

All was well until a couple more pilgrims arrived. An older man took a bunk  on one side of the pilgrim, who had just settled in and the other, a charming Italian young pilgrim called Pepe, whom we had met on the route previously, turned up and opted to take the bunk on the other side. However, OTT pilgrim then attacked Pepe verbally, with lots of shouting and arm waving. Clearly, he didn’t want Pepe to sleep in the bed next to the bed where he put all his things and went off the deep end. Pepe, calmly tried to reason with him but was also firm in his wish to sleep in the dorm, especially since more guests had arrived by then. Brett and I tried to intervene to calm things down a bit, when OTT pilgrim got even more heated but unfortunately nothing we could say helped to resolve the apparent conflict.

OTT pilgrim gathered up all of his gear and stormed off to sleep in the lounge. This act, of course, served to displace other guests from using the lounge at all and we were left wondering what on earth had just happened. The whole incident seemed such a shame and made me feel uncomfortable.

The Camino brings to each one of us lessons we need to learn in our life path. For myself, this flagged up two lessons immediately for me:

i) I know I need to become more tolerant and

ii) less judgemental of others i.e. not to jump to conclusions about someone e.g. OTT is only my perception, a snap judgement, for I had no idea of what that guy was going through in his life at that moment in time.

I realised my uncomfortable feeling cropped up because I hate conflict of any kind and tend to avoid it rather than engaging in it. Often in my life I have gone into myself during arguments or apparent situations of conflict as I felt at a loss of how to express my thoughts and feelings to ‘be heard’ or ‘understood’ (the desire of the ‘ego’).  Yet, paradoxically, much of my humanitarian work has taken me right into the heart of conflicting parties in chronic, complex emergencies, where aidworkers endeavour to adhere to a code of being ‘impartial’ and ‘neutral’. However, I wondered over the years, whether it is actually even possible to be ‘impartial’ and ‘neutral’ in conflict at all as there are always nuances of perceptions, how we attach ‘meaning’ to thoughts and actions, as well as unconscious bias to contend with.

Perhaps I found myself repeatedly in conflict situations, precisely so my soul could learn these important lessons and so it happened again. Therefore, the third lesson I probably needed to learn by now is:

iii) avoidance of conflict is not necessarily the best thing, because there are ways of non-violently engaging, e.g. mediation, peace-making, which can diffuse and transform a situation.

The fourth follows neatly on from this:

iv) but the act of mediation itself must be desired. Hence, our apparent failed effort.

Lastly, the fifth life lesson I have concluded from this incident is that:

v) sometimes we must discern when to intervene and when not and ask the hard question of ourselves, when setting ‘ego’ aside, are we part of the life lesson process that someone needs to learn at that moment in time? 

It’s a hard one to work out. Each one of our fellow pilgrims has his or her own lessons to learn on the Camino. It is quite possible that the verbal conflict we were witness to amplified some aspects of the life lessons that Pepe and OTT pilgrim needed to learn themselves.

On that note, I wish you all

Peace, love and light until next time…

Sarah xxx

Distance walked today = 15 km

Cumulative distance walked so far = 498.88km

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One thought on “A curious pilgrim happening at the albergue in Marinhas led to important life lessons

  1. OTT pilgrim was truly over the top. He attacked this young Italian pilgrim, screaming at him until I stepped up and said I was going to call the caretaker and have him removed. He then shut up and stormed out, taking up the whole lounge area and locking all the other pilgrims out. Pepe, who was disabled and walked very slowly did not back down at all and continued to be reasonable throughout. I was glad to have the OTT out of our room and Pepe was a lovely chap. You meet all kinds on the Camino. Mostly good people, and a few strange ones. Sarah was amazing throughout the encounter and I commend her.

    Liked by 1 person

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