A post from Joe, who was in Puente la Reina yesterday, and is on Camino with 8 pilgrims:
To Pregunta or not to Pregunta
For us English-only speakers it is challenging to perform even the simplest things we take for granted in our homelands. We pilgrims come to a romantic land filled with ancient monuments as well as novel technological innovations that can serve to connect us to the our loved ones back home but also tend to direct our attention away from "where we are in the moment."
Take a seat anywhere along the Way, and you will see table after table of persons not speaking to each other, but instead heads down and eyes focused on smart phones and tablets communicating with people who are not there.
In English we can express ourselves at a level that displays intelligence, sophistication and wonder. But with only a handful of phrases in Spanish, French or other tongues, we feel perhaps isolated and inadequate in comparison to the natives who navigate the waters of communication with profundity and musical elegance. It is natural to shrink into the background to avoid seeming less brilliant than we actually are. Our experience is thus diminished thru our own choice.
But in casting aside timidity and attempting to speak with an unfamiliar tongue we can provide ourselves with valuable data to crack the secrets of the Camino and bring smiles to the natives who enjoy our halting efforts to meet them on their own terms.
For example, here is a photo of a habitaccion keypad at Albergue Jakue in Puente La Reina. You slide the magnetic card thru the pad and the door to your bed and shower is unlocked. In theory.
You slide and slide but nothing happens. Many others pass you in the hall happily on their way to tapas, cerveza con limon, and other delights. Finally you try to turn the key-card in a different direction and sure enough you hear the click of the door latch opening. Que milagro!
You push the door but nothing happens. What the!!
Finally frustration and exhaustion move you to turn to the next person you see and ask, "ayuda me."
In return you get a smile and a one word answer:. "Mira"-- your redeemer of the moment pulls gently on the door knob, and then easily pushes the door wide open. First you must pull, then you must push.
But how would you know this without first the Pregunta?
Here at Jakue last year we many pilgrims spent hours and euros trying to use the computers in the sala. But Nada. This year we ask if the computers are working first before feeding them with coins.
The question brings an engaging light to the face of the hospitalero. Yes, the computer are muy malo. So this year one need only ask at the reception desk and a tablet is provided for your use free of charge. Perfecto. Now we can get online to share stories of our adventure in the land of castles and ampollas. But only after the Pregunta.
There is risk in leaving behind our comfort zones. There is risk in mangling an unfamiliar language. But in risking the question, we may find the holy grail of a cooling shower and a refreshing descanso. And much more. One other Pregunta led to us learning that next year there will be a new hot tub in the beer garden!