BootsnAll Travel Network

Camino de Santiago No. 5: Volunteering at A Monastery In Trinidad de Arre

I arrived in Tinidad de Arre feeling relaxed and blissful. The walk there from Akerreta had been, for me, one of the most beautiful parts of the walk so far. Red poppies, tiny blue butterflies, old falling down stone barns and beautiful views combined with absolutely perfect weather made the entire morning perfect.

On arriving in Trinidad de Arre, I lingered on the beautiful Romanesque bridge, which was in incredible condition. Right after the bridge was the monastery, with enormous doors and I rang the buzzer while examining the beautiful wrought iron work.

A little man came out, who introduced himself as Raul. I pointed to my ankle, and he motioned for me to come in and make myself at home. We went into his office, which was a sort of long, narrow room with a tall ceiling and some of the most beautiful paintings of Christ and Mary on the walls. The entire wall space behind his enormous desk was taken up by one painting alone-and he looked even smaller in his office, dwarfed by both desk and painting.

Raul was quite a charater, and once my pilgrim passport was stamped, he took me on a tour of the place. I was quite lucky to be let in, as the place wasn´t supposed to open for hours yet. He had let me in he said because of my ankle-they always let in hurt pilgrims early.

Interestingly, Trinidad de Arre is one of the few places along the Camino that still have laws regarding the treatment and care of pilgrims from the Camino. Raul explained that the town has a tradition of helping pilgrims with problems, and that this is one reaosn they are open year around.

The tour of the place was somewhat limited-people still live on the premises, so much of the place was off limits. The chapel, however, was a very sweet place. It had gorgeous art, covered in gold leaf, and so on. Unfortunately, it was particially destroyed at some point, and so part of it was rebuilt with different materials and attention to detail. The original parts of it are well worth visiting, however.

The chapel is connected to a hall, which leads out to an enclosed garden. This peaceful garden is walled in with beautiful stone walls that go up quite high. The garden walls are in fact what remains from the original pilgrim hospital from the past.

The whole place was magical, and had a lovely sweetness which made me want to stay there forever.

I decided to take a nap on my bunk after making a snack in the kitchen, and when I awoke, several other pilgrims had arrived, one woman from the USA, and one man from England. They, too, seemed to be suffering physically from their walk.

I fell back asleep, and when I awoke, I decided to go down the street to try out the ¨Pilgrim menu¨at a local restaurant. Once there, I ran into the Englishman (Peter), and the woman from the USA(Patricia). Patricia and I hit it off marvelously, and I found her to be a vey interesting woman. We had dinner together , which turned out to be a very bland meal of fried fish and french fries(this fried thing seems to be the norm for these dinners, I am discovering!). It was somewhat disappointing, but on the other hand-what am I to expect for 6 euros!?

The next day, Patricia asked Raul if the three of us could stay another day. Raul said yes, and all we needed to do was help out around the place. He also said one could volunteer along the way, working for one´s keep, at most of the refugios. This was great news for me-perhaps doing the Camino slower and without so much expense would be possible after all.

After cleaning the bathrooms and in the morning, I was in a bit of shock. It was really terrible how the pilgrims left messes behind when they left the refugio-it was actually embarrassing to me. People left trash everywhere, left the kitchen a mess, left beds disgustingly dirty, left showers filthy….and they aren´t in a five star hotel with someone paid to clean up after them, they are in a place that costs at most 6 euros a night! I gained a whole new appreciation for the work it takes to keep these refugios up and running, and I also learned that the work is done by volunteers or very lowly paid workers, who rarely get the appreciation they deserve.

I spent some time thinking about this state of affairs, and how I hadn´t really taken this into account myself-the work involved in supporting pilgrims on the Camino. I actually(no doubt, like many others) hadn´t thought about it at all.

Once again, the hurt ankle proves to be a blessing in disguise, causing me to slow down and get another point of view on the Camino.

So, I talked to Raul some more about volunteering along the way, and it seems that it really would be possible-as well as a good way to keep reminding myself of why I am here, and what my journey is about-being of service around the world. Funnily, this was going to be the part of my trip not involving being of service, but obviously it´s not up to me!

So I´m embracing this new view of the Camino with real happiness, and excited to see what spiritual growth comes forth from it.

After cleaning the place, Patricia and I took off to look around the town-which is now really a suburb of Pamplona. These suburbs just stretch as far as the eye can see, but, somehow in the middle of it all, we came across a beautiful display of graffiti art on a long wall.

Graffiti art? Yes, well, it´s art. Or, at least, it can be. The graffiti here(and there is alot of it) is very political..and very interesting. We spent most of the afternoon photographing it, much to the amazement of the locals walking by, who seemed embarrased of it and walked on as if it wasn´t there.

We also found some old abandoned buildings, which we happily photographed until we realized it was not the safest spot to be! But the graffiti inside these buildings was spectacular and it was somewhat humbling to be in these buildings, obviously inhabited by people who had no real home. One thing I have been acutely aware of here in Sapin is that in spite of all the old beautiful buildings, art, and so on, there are alot of homeless people, people who are not born into a life with advantages, people who are on the fringe of society. You don´t see too much of it along the tourist Camino trail, but, nonetheless, it is there, just like everywhere else.

Patricia and I spent a long time talking about how amazing it was that the Camino itself goes right by all of this art-the graffiti, the churches, and so on-and that people on the Camino don´t even know it´s there. Or if they did, would they even stop anyway? As we talked and laughed and photographed, Camino´ers hurried by us, anxious to get to Pamplona and beyond.

In the evenings, when I would go get something for dinner, I´d sit near the groups of people playing games of cards(men play with men; women play with women), a game which has cards picturing saints and uses polished stone pieces as part of the game. I´d sit there and watch, everyone talking to me and being so lovely and friendly.

We all ended up spending 3 days there-Peter, Patricia, and myself-volunteering alongside Raul and Moses, the other custodian of the place. Being in the monastery and the surrounding town has been a highlight of my around the world experience.

On my way out of town, numerous people stopped me in the street and shook my hand. They loved that I had stayed in their town for so many days, had gone to all their places, had bought bread where they bought their bread, had drunk coffee where they drank their coffee…

¨Buen Camino!¨, they all said.

Yes, well, it´s been very good so far. Slow, lovely, and very good indeed!



13 responses to “Camino de Santiago No. 5: Volunteering at A Monastery In Trinidad de Arre”

  1. Thelma says:

    Hi Gigi.
    it was great to see you! sounds like you are doig well at this point. Same old here
    i hope you continue to do well. I plan on keeping up with your blogg.

    much love to you


  2. Jim P says:

    Again, I echo my last comment. “your Camino” is turning out to be only half the story. The other half is “the Camino’s you”.

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