I am sitting in a little house in the Czech countryside and in a corner of said house are sitting three very full backpacks trying to make the most of my maximum luggage allowance of 69kg. The rest of my belongings, mainly books, will stay here in the tender-loving care of Rick – until we find a way to get them to me in Santiago de Compostela where I will have my new home. As a pilgrim I am used to live with very little out of a much lighter backpack for weeks, or even months, so I hope I will manage to do the same as a ‘stationary pilgrim’.
Rick retired on the 30th April 2017 and we decided to keep our different plans for our futures to ourselves. In the end it is our life and we decide what we do with it. But there where some curious coincidences about our two houses and when/how we found them:
- The same day friends in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, found a house (for rent) for me, he found a house (to buy) for himself in Stará Oleška, Czech Republic.
- The same day as I confirmed that I want to rent ‘my’ house, his offer to buy his was accepted.
- His house number is 44, mine will be 4.
On the 15th May 2017 we three, Rick, Šárek the cat and I, moved together to his new house in Stará Oleška, near Děčín, in the Czech countryside. The next 8 days we will work together in unpacking boxes, putting the house together, getting the cat used to his new surroundings and so on. If you want to follow his adventures in the Czech countryside, you can read his blog >here<.
On the 24th May 2017 Rick will drive me back to Prague where, in the evening, I will take the plane first to Barcelona (Happy Night at the airport to me!) and on the morning of 25th May 2017 I will board a second plane that will bring me (and hopefully all my luggage!) to Santiago. Landing time is 08:20. What comes after that is still pretty much a project in the planning state or, as I prefer to describe it, ‘fluid’.
There will be a lot of administrative stuff to sort out during my first few weeks, such as registering with the foreign police, switching my health and social security insurances to Spain, opening a bank account, register with the Spanish tax authority Hacienda etc.
I will also need to give my contact details to a variety of people in Santiago like the Pilgrims Office, Pilgrims House, the Franciscans who run a small donativo albergue during the summer time – in short to everybody that could come across a pilgrim in need of help.
As for the house itself, yes, it has two guest bedrooms, no, it is NOT an albergue. These guest bedrooms are predominately for (pilgrim) friends and family that come to visit BUT if I have a free bed and find a pilgrim in the street that needs one, I will certainly take him/her home!
Other plans for the house are even more fluid and will evolve over time and depend on having first spoken with those friends that are already living in Santiago. Here a few ideas I have had so far:
- Providing ‘skeleton services’ on those days >Pilgrim House< is closed.
- Getting involved with the Forum Meet-Up of the >English speaking Camino Forum<.
- Hosting the occasional bring and share pilgrims breakfast.
- Having the door open for a few hours (nearly) each day to provide ‘pilgrims day care’ with coffee/tea/cookies/biscuits and a listening ear.
- Hopefully finding pilgrim-priests that are willing to celebrate the Eucharist ‘around the dinner table’.
- Organising/hosting/helping with a Camino-Clean-Up/Ditch Pig Event later this year.
- And generally running around Santiago like a headless mother hen, helping to sort pilgrim problems out. You know, the small stuff like the toddler of the pilgrims family that has lost his favourite teddy and the parents don’t speak Spanish and can’t find the ‘lost & found office’ 😉
If you have any other ideas what I could do, please leave them in a comment!
I am renting the house in Santiago for a year with the aim of living there AND providing a helping hand to those pilgrims that need it. The four languages I speak, plus bits and pieces of life/pilgrim/hospitalera experience must be good for something! In a year’s time or so I will evaluate if I stay in the same house continuing what I was doing or find another place either in Santiago or elsewhere on the Camino(s). Oh, and if my luggage really weighs exactly 69kg, I will know at the airport – my guess it is a wee bit less.
Last, but not least, a quick note regarding the photo that accompanies this blog post. I took it Spring 2016, after I had walked the Via de la Plata, in the Museum of Pilgrimages in Santiago. It shows the moment of Jesus ascending into heaven – as I will arrive Ascension Day in Santiago, I felt it was the perfect picture for this blog post…