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French pilgrims' poor experience in El Acebo

A

Anonymous

Guest
I have just received the March 2009 pilgrim bulletin "Camino" and it contains a rather sad experience of two French pilgrims in their seventies who seem to have been very poorly treated in the parocchial refuge at El Acebo. Given the strength of their complaint, I felt it would be worth giving it wider publicity, and also to see whether anyone on this Forum has experienced similar.

Chers amis jacquaires,

Avec mon épouse nous étions partis du Puy et en 5 tronçons, nous venons de terminer cette année la partie Burgos-Santiago. Dire les joies et les richesses des rencontres ajoutées à la merveille des paysages traversés est une vérité que nous ne cesserons de proclamer. Pourtant une ombre est intervenue que nous voudrions diffuser car elle nous a traumatisés.
Le 11 septembre ( ! ), nous cheminions vers El Acebo après avoir franchi la Cruz de Ferro sous une pluie battante et un vent très fort, scénario un peu catastrophe mais bref c'est le chemin. Vers 14h nous arrivons à "l'Albergue Parroquiale de El Acebo". L'hospitalero n'est pas là, mais une espagnole nous dit d'aller prendre une douche et de nous installer. Ce que nous fîmes car nous étions trempés comme des "soupes, les chaussettes à tordre". Un peu plus tard, l'hospitalero arrive et nous engueule (il n'y a pas d'autres mots), nous aurions dû l'attendre ! Il nous a pris en grippe et a tout fait pour nous gêner, voire nous inciter à quitter le gîte. Il nous a interdit d'aller manger dans la salle à manger, encore moins de nous faire chauffer un plat à la cuisine. Nous avons tous les deux 70 ans et nous n'avons jamais été traités de cette façon. Pour faire tamponner nos crédenciales, il nous a fait attendre 3/4 d’h, faisant passer les jeunes avant nous. Vers 19h sont arrivés 3 français dont l'un n'avait pas de crédenciale, il les a jetés à la porte, menaçant même de couper les sangles d'un sac à dos avec une paire de ciseaux ! Ce comportement est inadmissible surtout dans une albergue paroissiale où est diffusée de la musique religieuse et où l'on trouve sur les tables des images pieuses !
Nous avons appris par la suite que cet homme nommé Juan Carlos est un " cas " mais protégé par les religieuses qui l'ont mis là pour lui donner du travail : c'est une grosse responsabilité qu'elles ont pris là.
Nous pensons que ce genre de fait est à dénoncer car c'est lourd de conséquences en pensant aux autres pèlerins qui risquent de subir les mêmes agissements. La joie et l'émotion d'arriver à Santiago sont immenses, ce chemin est à l'image de nos vies, fait de doute et d'espoir et surtout un chemin de tolérance. Annie et Yves DAUCHEZ 49000 Angers.

I see that there are positive comments about the El Acebo refuge elsewhere on this Forum, so this may be an isolated incident. However, any complaint of this strength deserves to be looked at seriously. The original can be seen in "Camino" which is free from: bulletinCamino@aol.com If you do not understand French, please Babelfish the passage.

Gareth
 

ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
Funny, was just thinking about you! Wondering if there was time in your current schedule to check in here! Lo and behold .. I log on and there you are! The only up side to the story is that at their ages, they were able to put it in perspective as an isolated incident. But truly a sad state of affairs, hopefully something has already been done! Many thanks for the reminder about Babel fish...savior of those of us w/only a small bilingual ability...and for me...french ain't it!!

Happy (!) Lent. from chilly snowy....grumble grumble... NJ, USA

Karin
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Perhaps this hospitalero was just there for a two week stint or something - hopefully not too many others had this experience, especially not others in their 70s.

I met several elderly couples during my Camino last year, all of whom inspired me. I have a very clear memory of an Italian couple in their 80s, who regularly still walked in the Dolomites near where they lived, and who were walking their seventh Camino. They were leaving all us young'uns behind in their dust, in the nicest possible way. And they joked as they walked about who was in charge in their relationship. Clearly this 80 year old man still adored his spouse and it was just a delight to see them in action.
Margaret
 

ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
lorax said:
What is babelfish???

As in Tower of Babel ! Terrific website, but do allow for idiomatic problems! But great to get the gist of what's being said.

K
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
As in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy":

The Babel Fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and simultaneously translates from one spoken language to another. When inserted into the ear, its nutrition processes convert sound waves into brain waves, neatly crossing the language divide between any species you should happen to meet whilst traveling in space. Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.[1] Arthur Dent, a surviving Earthling, commented only 'Eurgh!' when first inserting the fish into his ear canal. It did, however, enable him to understand Vogon Poetry - not necessarily a good thing.
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
To return to the experience of this French couple, I think - and hope - that they unfortunately fell upon a difficult hospitalero. We stayed at the albergue on 2nd June this year, when a Swiss lady was in charge (by herself). We found the albergue good in every way. In fact I would place it in my list of top 10 favourite albergues! It was well appointed, clean and airy. The hospitalera was pleasant, communicative and helped everyone make breakfast the next morning.
The French couple was not new to Camino, having walked, be it in various stages, all the way from Le Puy in France. I'm sure that they had reason for complain and wonder who exactly were this hospitalero's superiors (from the parroquia de El Acebo itself, from Ponferrada, or where)? Hopefully he will be put on the "black-list! I wonder if anyone else on the Forum stayed there during the same period and what were their experiences?
Anne
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Interesting. I don´t know the nasty fellow, but I do know the Swiss hospitalera of whom you speak so kindly. I find her a lovely person, too. But I´ve heard other people complain about her!

Seeing how difficult the job is, and how hard it is to find volunteers, it´s a wonder there are not more nutty hospitaleros out there. (there are a few nutty pilgrims, I am here to tell you!)

Different people, different moods, different days of the week.
 

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
I stayed in the parochial albergue in O Acebo last July and it was one of the most memorable of my Camino stays. The hospitaleros , brothers, made us a paella, took us to see the "acebo" for which the town is named and then showed us one of the most magificent sunsets I have seen on the Camino. Nothing but good things to say about them!
Buen Camino,
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
ksam said:
Funny, was just thinking about you! Wondering if there was time in your current schedule to check in here! Lo and behold .. I log on and there you are! The only up side to the story is that at their ages, they were able to put it in perspective as an isolated incident.

It's kind of you to be thinking of me, Karin. :) I certainly find time to check the Forum regularly, even if I'm not contributing much at present.

Regarding the French couple's experience, it is good to see that there are many positive comments on the El Acebo refugio. And this is what you would expect, for the personnel are constantly rotating and different experiences will be had by pilgrims at different times. It is nevertheless important, I think, when pilgrims have had such an experience as this (relatively recently too: September 2008) to flag it up. For most of us, most of the time, we have mainly warm and positive memories of being welcomed as pilgrims by many kind and (amazingly!) patient people. That is precisely why, when a story emerges about a quite extreme encounter with such a volatile hospitalero, it is good to have the opportunity to compare notes and see if other people have encountered similar experience in that place. Then it could be a signal that something may need to be dealt with. As with anything involving people, there are usually two sides to any story, but the behaviour related by these French pilgrims is described in detail and seems to be stated in a very reasonable way.

Gareth
 

Caminando

Veteran Member
I hope that people remember that this is one account, one side of a situation. It may be true, equally it may not be true. None of us posting here knows the truth, so maybe it would be wise of us to avoid negative comments on this hospitalero.

It seems that the truth of the matter is being judged on the tone of the French couple's email. Is this fair? I would be very hurt if the hospitalero were me, to be viewed in such a way, if I had done nothing wrong. I think all of us would.

Reb's post is illuminating, where a fine hospitalera she knows is criticised by some. Dealing with the public can be heartbreaking at times, so we should hold our fire till we know the facts.

Do unto others etc.....?

:arrow:
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
One thing I've learned with age is that a little compassion goes a long way also.
Who of us hasn't had a terrible day?
Think of the stress on a hospitalero, with pilgrims (?) making demands for this or that, complaining, having to turn away people you know are exhausted and need help, and I'm sure a long list of things that may make a person wonder if they were out of their mind the day they volunteered.

Enlightenment came to me about this in a 3 minute exhange with a grocery checker who was being unbelievably rude! I almost bit her head off, then stopped and thought about it, and instead, I said to her, "Gosh, I'm sorry you're having such a terrible day."

She heaved a big sigh, apologized profusely, and with tears in her eyes began to tell me some of her troubles. I have to say, they were some seriously disturbing events that would have brought most of us to our knees. Bottom line was that she had a lot on her plate and was just having a bad moment. She thanked me for understanding, and went on break - hopefully coming back with a better disposition.

A kind word... may make a difference... even if you're put out a bit by the hospitalero's mood.

I realize we can't always do this - sometimes we just lose it - but we can at least make an effort.
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
Thank you for sharing the French couple's experience. When a single instance of abuse is encountered, it can easily be overlooked. What is more disconcerting is the experience when the whole time there the abuse continues. Had these two people been my parents, or my grandparents, I would have felt disheartened and pained. It would be appropriate to attempt to share the story with El Acebo and let them reflect on it. It appears that this was not the permanent or main hospitalero. The great thing is knowing that this is the exception and one seldom if ever encountered by others.
MIke
 

elzi

Active Member
Hi, whilst it sounds like a terrible experience for these poor pilgrims I can only hope it was an isolated one. I stayed in this place last year without incident. What I will say about it though is that being the first place as you come down from the mountain it gets more than its fair share of pilgrims (presumably many inexperienced or ill-prepared ones) who arrive in a terrible state having made the long walk over the cruce de ferro etc often late at night and in bad weather.
When I was there there were still pilgrims arriving very late at night in a terrible state (long after most albergues would have shut!) and asking the poor hospitaleros to call them taxis etc. I imagine this happens frequently at this albergue and I wonder how much sleep the poor hospitaleros get!
I guess you get good people and not-so-good people both pilgrims and hospitaleros and hopefully the many wonderful other experiences on the camino tend to make up for when you meet the odd not-so-good person....
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
If you set your expectations low enough, no hospitalero/a can ever disappoint you.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Low expectations? How about NO expectations?

The hospitalero isn´t usually paid for his work. The pilgrim is usually paying next to nothing for his bed and use of the place. Those who find the state of things not to their taste, I default to The Blues Brothers fine and wise refrain: Waddya Want for Nothin´?

Reb.
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
The Camino is a teacher. At times we may be abused, disrespected, and rejected by those we think would know better. For a Pilgrim, we remember that He went through the same things. The weak response would be to strike out verbally and not tolerate such rude behavior. The wise pilgrim would smile, thank the individual for the service provided, and move on with a greater understanding of our Master's trials.

On another note, may we never evaluate how hard we work by how much we are paid by others. Rather, let us seek to do the very best we can at all times and in all places.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
MichaelB10398 said:
The wise pilgrim would smile, thank the individual for the service provided, and move on with a greater understanding of our Master's trials.

Errr... yes but! It's good you have such saintly recollection and inner peace, but how about letting other pilgrims know? Wouldn't you want to do that? :D

Gareth
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
Gareth, sorry if you felt I was being overly...simplistic. My intention is to act in such a way that contention is avoided as much as possible. I meant to comment only on the actions we all would seek at the moment of conflict. I was not suggesting that this type of behavior not be discussed; just the opposite. I feel it is near sacrilege when this type of abuse is perpetrated against any pilgrim.

I also understand that everyone has a bad day and all of us behave badly under certain circumstances. If this type of behavior is a common occurrence, then each pilgrim should be made aware of it and avoid this hospitalera for a season. We can call learn to turn the cheek, but that does not mean we make others aware of a bad spot along the way. Does this make sense?

Mike
 

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