Sunday 21 June 2009

Camino People - Rebekah Scott - The House of Welcome Moratinos

A life in the day of Rebekah Scott - The House of Welcome, Moratinos

Every year over 100,000 pilgrims walk to Santiago along one the many Camino routes. They experience a simpler way of life. Everything they need is on their backs. They carry few clothes and no luxuries. At the end of each day they enjoy simple, hearty meals often in the company of others they have met along the way. The Camino is time out of regular life into a world where needs are separated from wants by the weight in their rucksack.
In addition to hotels and hostals, pilgrims are supported by a network of albergues, which provide a bed and washing facilities. Many only ask for a donation, a donativo, or a small charge of a 3 euros. They are staffed by people who welcome and care for pilgrims. They are volunteers called hospitaleros.
Many pilgrims are envious of their way of life, living in Spain, working with and for pilgrims, doing something worthwhile.
I have yet to meet a pilgrim who hasn’t fantasised about giving it all up to move to Spain to live permanently and run an albergue.

Most don’t, but that’s exactly what Rebekah Scott and her husband Patrick did.

What's the story? Here are her answers to my questions:

Rebekah, how did you two meet? Where did the idea of living Spain come from? How did you do it?”

We both worked at The Toledo Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, USA. Paddy and I both enjoyed Spain greatly, started keeping company, and vacationed in Spain together a time or two. When I made my camino in 2001, he stayed at my house and watched my then-teenage children. He saw the effect the Camino had on me, and went and walked it himself in 2002. In years since we became hospitaleros, and kicked around the idea of retiring to Spain someday... and after Patrick retired officially in 2003, (and we were married), we thought we´d look seriously at retiring to someplace on the Camino. The actual move took LOTS of courage, and years of planning, saving, and stripping away all the worldly goods accumulated over many years. In retrospect it was a perfect moment to retire from newspapers and the American economy in general! We sold the house in 2006, gave away almost everything, and came to Spain in June to start looking for a new place to be whilst hospitalero-ing in promising sites all over the caminos.

We found Moratinos via an Irish couple who were hoping to open an albergue here. We came to visit them that summer, but they weren´t home. The townspeople were still very welcoming, and invited us to their fiesta the following month... We came. And that´s when one of the families said they had a finca for sale on the edge of town. And Et Voila!

It took almost two years, a million tears and gray hairs, and many thousands of Euros to make the place into what we (thought we) wanted. It was basically a barn and sheep-fold compound that hadn´t been lived-in for two decades. Now it´s a nice, almost-American style house with room for six guests and two hermits.

How did the villagers react to you two? Was "integration" a slow process? How long will you be "outsiders"?

We were welcomed wonderfully from our first day visiting here. The story is long and touching, and I hope to write it into a book sometime soon... We continue to integrate, and are now listed as one of the town´s eight “households,” and as such have responsibilities and rights and a voice in town meetings. We provide needed services in the town, (including plenty of comic relief!), we party and are invited to parties, we are seen working hard around the place and we have a wifi access open to all. We will always be “outsiders” in some peoples´eyes. A woman from the next village who called us “foresteros” was corrected immediately, told that “no estan foresteros... ellos son vecinos!”

Could you say a little bit more about your vision for the place? If it isn't an albergue how do people get there?

Our house (aka “Peaceable Kingdom”) is NOT a pilgrim albergue. It is our home. It´s not open to the public on a daily basis, but we do have a word-of-mouth and internet-buzz presence. In Camino parlance we´re a “casa de acogida,” a “house of welcome.” Pilgrims who are worn-out, injured, hurt, lonesome, or otherwise need of a break can stop in here and stay a while. Most only have a cup of coffee and a sello. Some take a nap, or a shower. Others stay overnight. A few, usually skilled laborers in need of work, or seekers in need of stationary solitude, stay for days or even weeks! We´re donativo all the way, but we are still working out how to balance that with our limited resources. (As Paddy says, “I´m not here to subsidize European middle-class freeloaders.”)
We don´t advertise our presence beyond the listings in CSJ and Paderborn Guides, our blogs, and a sign on the church porch telling pilgrims we are here. (The neighbors send anyone to us who doesn´t speak Spanish!) So far, it´s working. We go for days without having guests, and then will have a full house for a week... pilgrims seem to come in waves. It evens out.
As for the future, we are letting the place evolve as needs arise and funds are found to meet them.

What happens on a typical day?

The time I get up varies wildly. Depends on the season, weather, noise level, who else is in the house, and how late I stayed up the night before. There are no routines around here. Every day is different. The only constant is a good long walk for Una and Tim, the dogs. And coffee.

Do you have lots of pets?

Una and Tim, said dogs; a cat named John Murphy; a canary named Bob; and five red hens. We´re now considering a goat.
What are your hobbies?
Trying to make vegetables grow; cooking ethnic meals; local history; blogging; reading Tarot; writing; horse riding; Spanish wine (we have a bodega cave!); long-distance walking; traveling around Spain; editing camino trail guides and other publications; trying to improve my spoken Spanish.
Is that all?
I've also been a hospitalera since 2003, most recently at the CSJ refuge in Miraz, but over the ages also in Rabanal, Eunate, Fuenterroble, Ourense, Ponferrada, Salamanca, and the Benedictine monastery in Sahagún. Been training new hospitaleros since last year via the Canadian Company training program.

What do you usually do in the afternoon?

Plan dinner, hoe the garden, meditate, take a siesta. I am a night person, and do most of my productive work after 9 p.m.

Tell us about a memorable dinner with pilgrims as guests - what was on the menu, who was there, why was it memorable?

One balmy evening last year I had a lovely great gang of young men stop in and decide to stay over. They´d walked from Carrion de los Condes, almost 40 km., but still had energy enough to chop a great pile of wood and move some heavy timbers for us. We then fixed a huge meal of gazpacho, fettuccini alfredo, fruit salad and yogurt (a couple of them were vegetarian, one was a Buddhist monk); much wine was taken, songs sung, etc.
They traveled together and helped one another. They were from Germany, South Africa, Australia, Italy, and USA. And as the South African was Jewish, and the following day was Yom Kippur, we all agreed to join him in his daylong fast. They spent the morning here. We sat in meditation, talked about atonement, judgment, and grace, and the Kol Nidre was sung. I blessed them all the Anglican way when they left the house. Lovely. And with fasting pilgrims, there are no dishes to wash! I felt like a part of something wonderfully international and interfaith.

And recently had a visit from your mum. What does she really think of the whole adventure?

No one knows what my mom really thinks. But after an itinerant childhood, following my dad from one military posting to another, I guess the traveling got into my blood. Mom was upset when I first told her I was moving so far away. “I realised, though, I was being selfish, I just wanted you near for my own sake,” she said. “But you have to go and follow your dream. You´re just being the child I raised.”

Rebekah's Blog

Read stories of Rebekah's life and adventures in Spain on her fabulous and popular blog:
Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo -

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