Jeff has hit the nail on the head. After living in Galicia for more than three months, we understand why it’s so different than any other place we have ever lived. And why we felt so comfortable here, from the first moment.
We were welcomed in to this community almost instantaneously. So much so that we asked ourselves ‘Is this place for real?’
In the US, people live mostly in the suburbs of large cities. They often commute long distances to work. And when they get home they pull into their garages, lugging their work acutrement into the house. If they have kids, they might have picked them up from daycare or after school care. It’s time to get dinner going so they can all get into their nighttime routine, maybe some reality tv, then into bed. All, so they can wake up and do it all over again. Interacting with neighbors doesn’t rate in the top 10 priorities on a weekday night.
Our friends were mostly people we met at work. We had no time to make friends outside of that. Sometimes, we met people whose kids played on the same sports teams. But usually, those relationships lasted a season or two. Until our kids moved on to select sports or school sports. Because, between work and commuting, there was no time for idle get togethers. Raising a family in the US was, for us, about scheduling everything. Especially having three kids. It was about trying to get from one commitment to the next. You fell into bed every night, exhausted. I’m tired just thinking about it.
So moving here, and having everyone stop in and extend a hand, unbidden, has been a breath of fresh air. And they didn’t wait to even get to know us before reaching out. They just turned up and introduced themselves. Then told us to tell them if they could help in any way. Remarkable.
When our water heater and water pump stopped working, Diego and Fernando-and the guys – turned up and repaired them, multiple times. At no charge. ‘Just call us and tell us if you have other problems.’ And when we finally had to replace the water heater, I didn’t have cash in my hand bag.
‘Don’t worry, Kelli. You can pay us later.’ After they had cleaned up and made to leave.
Three weeks later, they finally debited my account for the hot water heater.
It was the same when we bought the tractor. They delivered it, then told us to come by the shop ‘Sometime’ and they would give us the bill.
In the beginning, we were always trying to make payment before delivery, or the work being performed. But now, we just wait until they tell us. Mostly, so I don’t have to hear ‘Traquila, Kelli.’
Today, Jeff went with me on my morning walk to Melide and back. On the way home, we stopped for lunch at Parrillada Ribiera Sacra – the best barbecue place we’ve found in Spain. It rivals barbecue in the southern US. Approach the building, even on a full stomach, and the smell alone will make your stomach growl. The sellers took us there for lunch the day we took possession of the house.
Today, we were their first customers, and the owner, Adriana, waited on us. She speaks ingles. Her children were born in London. She is a loud, brash business woman. And her business is booming. They seat 300 inside. And another 100 outside. It’s always packed.
Normally, we drive there and park in the lot. But today, because their back gate opens on to the Camino, we came on foot. The three course lunch was mouthwatering. Order a vino tinto and they’ll plop down a bottle. Have as much as you like.
The bread is traditional Galician, craggy and chunky. Served with a homemade garlic aioli, and this vinegar tomato oil to die for. Jeff just eats it in silence, with his eyes closed, for 20 minutes before the first course is served. Like we’re in church.
The first time we met Adriana she was brusk. When she had a break in customers, she came over to our table.
‘You are Pilgrims, yes?’
We said we were not. And I explained where we live.
‘Oh! Why do you want to live here?’ She asked. Everyone in Galicia asks us this.
I gave the usual answers. It’s beautiful. The people are wonderful. We love it. She smiled.
‘But you need friends.’ She said, matter of factly.
‘Of course. We always need friends. ‘ I told her.
She pulled her mask down ‘Then I will be your friend. Come here and talk to me any time you like. I will be happy to be your friend.’
We were both taken aback. Pleased, but surprised.
Today, I had forgotten that they don’t take cards. Cash only. So at lunch, right before dessert and coffee, was when I realized we had no cash. Jeff volunteered to walk the rest of the way home and get some money. It was 2 kms (1.2 miles).
I sat and enjoyed the wine, when Adriana asked me where Jeff was and what he wanted for dessert.
‘We forgot you don’t accept cards. We were just on a walk so Jeff is walking home to get money.’
Her eyes got wide. ‘Why did you not tell me? You could always pay another time. Uf!’ She waved her hand and shot back inside.
I told Jeff about it when he got back to the restaurant. He laughed.
‘This is because here, they trust you first. Until you break their trust. In the US, we trust no one, until they earn our trust. Because we have no time to extend trust. So much of our life there was transactional. Here, people will know you your whole life. We plan to stay here for good. We might know these people for 40 yrs before we die. And they’ve all known each other, and their families, forever.’
I looked over at Adriana, standing on the patio greeting every family with shouts of recognition. (No double cheek kisses, because Covid) Like the old friends they are. It was then I realized Jeff and I are Gallegos at heart.
When we opened this campground for Pilgrims, everyone, including the Pilgrims, asked why we were doing it. Like we were crazy to take strangers in. I just laughed.
‘You need help. We have the means and can help you. And we are. That’s the only reason. One human being to another.’
No trust, but verify. Just trust. Many people told us to be careful. ‘There are bad people in the world.’ Which is true. But I know how we have been treated from the moment we set foot in Galicia. Even back when I crashed my car and got stuck in Lugo for 2 weeks last November. People went out of their way to help me. And now I get to pay it forward.
I’m sitting here smiling. I’ve asked Jeff countless times how the heck, after everything, we have ended up on a farm in the far Northwest corner of Spain? It seems so random sometimes. But now it makes total sense. Secretly, unbeknownst even to us, we’ve been Gallegos all along.