Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pueblo Living

Our street in Sobrado
One ordinary September day, I was walking through our village of Sobrado do Bispo, minding my own business. As I was walking, I came across a group of three elders, talking about who knows what in their Galician language. I continued on without acknowledging them, as I always do when I'm in Ourense. Last year, I quickly learned that smiling or acknowledging people as you pass them by is not standard Ourense behavior. Acting in such a manner provokes strange stares from women or, worse, big overtly friendly and slightly suggestive smiles from particular older males.

So, as I said, here I am innocently walking in Sobrado, and I pass by this group of elders. I continue walking, their voices serving as background music to my little Cynthia world. I'm about 20 meters away and the voices are still quite loud. 40 meters away, still loud. Doesn't sound usually get quieter as you distance yourself from the source? I turn on my "Spanish active hearing" (yes, I have been here for two years but I still have to actively listen in order to figure out what people are saying), which, in reality is only half useful because the elders are speaking Galician. So my Spanish active hearing detects something along the lines of  "HEY. Why don't you say good afternoon?". Oh f, they're talking to me! I turn around, laugh nervously, and send a "buenas tardes" their way. From that point forward, I have never passed by someone in the village without greeting them. You should see me nowadays. I'm now the one who will call out from across the street "hola" to someone who doesn't even realize I'm there. I just want to keep my bases covered.

A pretty vineyard in Sobrado
I'm not sure how many people live in Sobrado, but I would guess less than 200. There are two bars and a grocery store, but other than just a bunch of houses with huge vineyards and other big green fields. The experience of this daily life is totally distinct from that of living in Ourense. I wake up in the morning and hear a rooster crowing. When I gather the courage to run around the inescapably hilly terrain I come across some farms that reek of a manure that only induces nostalgia of days in my youth, visiting my family in Mexico. Everyone in the village knows everyone else in this village. When I come across someone new and they ask me where I'm from, they say "Oh yeah, you must be Eddie's girlfriend! The American!"

Magosto en Bentraces
Living in this village twenty minutes outside of Ourense does have its downside: the commute. The first few weeks of getting used to it were kind of awful. I've always been highly reliant on using a car and arriving wherever I want at whatever time I want (late) and thus leaving at whatever time I want. But after getting used to the commute, it's just another part of my day! What's even better is that I recently applied for a special card that allows me to buy the bus tickets for half the price. Cha CHING. Another interesting thing about the bus commute is that by riding the bus every day, I have gotten to meet some of the other daily commuters. One nice older lady, for example, commutes every day from the same bus stop in Sobrado and so we always exchange friendly hellos, or if she's carrying lots of groceries I offer to help her out. She has told me she travels to Ourense to spend time with her two daughters, but then she likes to come back to her own house in Sobrado and have her own freedom, a.k.a. she is a PARTIER!!! Just kidding. I met another man recently who lived in New York for twenty years, was too shy to speak any English to me, but told me to knock on his door anytime I'm around so we can chat. So essentially, the village people (heh heh) I've met so far have been super friendly!

Me and our friend Brais at Magosto
The community has been very welcoming, and it's been nice to see this kind of environment as opposed to city people doing their own thing in Ourense. I saw part of that community atmosphere during la vendimia (my previous post about harvesting grapes for wine) but I also saw it during Magosto. This is the chestnut party of Ourense during November, and I kid you not I have asked various born-and-raised Ourensanos and none have known the origin of the party. Last year I went up on Montealegre mountain with a bunch of other people to make a  bonfire and eat chestnuts and chorizo and drink wine and licor cafe. This year I opted for a more tranquilo event, which took place in the village next to us called Bentraces. There was also roasting of chestnuts and meat and lots of drinking of wine and licor cafe, but in a more controlled environment. Everyone from the village and surrounding villages met up in this club house-type building to eat, there was live entertainment and people began to dance eventually, too. There was also a funny older lady who was a dancing machine, going around asking all the younger guys to dance. It was very cute to see the community come together and everyone seemed to take advantage to catch up with neighbors they hadn't seen in awhile!

People who find out that I live in a village seem to be surprised that I opted to do so. I won't lie, I am also surprised that I was persuaded into doing so haha! But I can honestly say that life out here is superior than city life, in my opinion. I don't wake up to my windows shaking from the traffic passing underneath my window. I don't have a bitter landlady sucking me clean of all my euros. We have privacy that you don't get when you're sharing an apartment in a building. I love going on walks and inhaling clean fresh country air. Shoot, I think I just might be a country girl at heart!