In my last post–a long time ago–I wrote that my progress on El Camino de Santiago was delayed in the little village of Rabanal because of food poisoning I picked up in an albergue near Astorga. That experience led to my earlier comment that there are angels everywhere. We spent the first night in an albergue in Rabanal; a really rough experience when you are sick. I wanted to continue walking the next day, but once we stepped out on the street, I knew I was going nowhere. One of the two small hotels had one room available, and the owner allowed us to check in at 9:00 a.m. The next day we had to move because of room reservations, so we went to the other small hotel–and again got the last available room. As I lay in bed that day it occurred to me that there are two pilgrimages: The one you plan; and the one you actually take.
On the third day I was concerned that I wasn’t feeling any better. There is no doctor or pharmacy in Rabanal, so the hotel owner called a taxi in Astorga for me. It was a shock to ride back to Astorga in less than 20 minutes since it had taken us a good part of a day to walk from there to Rabanal. We would have had a very difficult time finding the large medical center on our own. When we arrived there the driver took us in, helped us through the sign-in process and then led us through a maze of offices to the doctor I had to wait to see. He then told me he would return at 12:30 and take us back to Rabanal. I tried to pay, but he said, “not now.” I can’t imagine that would happen with a cabbie in America.
When I finally got in to be examined by the doctor, he wasn’t saying much. He asked me if I spoke Spanish and I told him “un poquito.” He said he was sorry that he couldn’t speak German. “But, I’m American,” I told him. He showed me on my admission paperwork that the receptionist had written down that I was from Aleman (Germany). She had examined my American passport when we arrived. Small wonder I never received a bill from the clinic!
At the end of his exam, the doctor said I would be better in one or two days; and he gave me a list of what to eat and not eat. We were just preparing to walk toward the entrance when the taxi driver showed up. He took us back to the hotel in Rabanal, went in with us and explained my dietary needs to the owner and the barkeep.
I was feeling better by early afternoon, so we sat down for lunch. The owner refused my order and said to wait a few minutes. She brought out white rice and a grated apple that was the best applesauce I had eaten for years. The world IS full of angels.
For those of you planning to walk the Camino, this experience helped me gain some valuable insights: 1. There are people all along the way who will help you; 2. It’s better to let the Camino have its way with you than trying to conquer it; 3. The Camino–like the universe–is a benevolent place if you view it that way. For those who are not planning a pilgrimage, you are nevertheless on one; and the same “rules” apply.