A Home Away from Home

Spring break–or “semana santa” in these parts–has come and gone, and I’m back to the grind in the big city after spending almost a week with my t-oigo family. It’s been about two weeks (give or take) since I returned to the concrete jungle, so I’m more than a bit late in updating…but between being sick/having some sort of stomach problems, picking up an extra 4 hours of tutoring per week, and needing to study for an exam, I think I have a good enough excuse for the lack of posting. ¡Entonces! A quick update before I detail the events of semana santa: 1) I’m feeling much better, thank you for asking; 2) Despite feeling especially exhausted at the end of the week, I am glad for the extra hours/money from my new tutoring class; 3) I have officially booked my plane ticket to MOROCCO, as well as a one-month Eurail pass–that means travel updates over the summer!! Words cannot express how happy and excited I am to have this opportunity. NOW – on to semana santa!

I was blown away when my t-oigo family invited me to spend Semana Santa with their family in Galicia (a province in the northwestern part of Spain). From everything they described about the town we would be spending our time in, it sounded exactly like my little home in Humboldt–small town on a bay with lots of rain, trees, and seafood–and I was eager to experience something other than the city for a change. Thus, when Tuesday afternoon rolled around, I was packed, dressed, and ready to go HOURS before I was picked up. Heading northwest by car toward Galicia, it took us about six hours to reach Viveiro, the fishing village in which we would be spending the next six days. As we drove into town, I immediately fell in love as I saw hills of green trees, fog, rain, and a great big bay with the ocean in the distance…it was absolutely perfect.

Viveiro, Galicia
Viveiro, Galicia

On our way to Galicia, Loly had casually mentioned that her family’s house (where we would be staying) was rather big, I didn’t quite understand exactly HOW big she meant. In all honesty, I had to hide my shock as I looked around. The “house” reminded me of  an old, three-story hotel with its high ceilings, doors separating the floors from the stairwell, and huge wooden staircase. When Agata started showing me around, she took me upstairs to the second floor, where I would be sharing a room with her (well, alternating with she and her sister, Claudia, that is). I had such an eerie feeling climbing those old, sturdy stairs that she climbed with such joy and ease! I couldn’t help but wonder how many generations of people have climbed these same stairs before me…it’s absolutely mind-blowing to consider.

While in Viveiro, I met not only Loly’s immediate family, but I was also privileged to meet Loly’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends–the family alone numbered over twenty! Every single afternoon we would go out to meet up with a different family member or friend for a beer and conversation, followed by an epic lunch back at the house with a good part of the family in attendance. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed “traditional” Spanish food until that moment. Loly’s mother and aunts prepared  the most delicious home-cooked meals that I have ever had the pleasure to eat. Though each meal was phenomenal, my absolute favorite was the seafood paella we had for our last day in town. I truly wish I were back in Galicia for the delicious meals alone!

Our evenings were generally spent without Claudia and Agata, as we were meeting up with either Loly’s cousins or her friends most of the nights to enjoy a wonderful meal, drinks, and conversation. Though a good number of people knew English, I was really happy to find that they were so willing (and actually encouraging) me to speak Spanish. I loved that I was given such a great opportunity to learn about Spanish culture straight from Spaniards. Fun fact: though Spain is a Catholic country, most Spaniards practice birth control; in fact, only wealthy families have more than one or two children! Again, the food in Galicia was awesome. Though the food we had when we went out for dinner was a little less traditional than our lunches at home, my mind was still blown by how delicious it was. Fresh ingredients really do make a difference, and since we were eating seafood daily in a fishing village, I was being spoiled rotten. Though the majority of the dishes I sampled were traditional to Galicia, we even had some dishes that were a little more creatively put together, such as pizzas with meat and cheese, octopus and shrimp, or tomato and goat cheese. But my all-time favorite dish has to be pulpo gallego. Words cannot describe how delicious it was!

pulpo gallego
pulpo gallego…yeah, that’s octopus!

As per usual, I am always surprised at how nocturnal Spaniards are. Despite being anywhere from ten to twenty years my senior, we didn’t often make it home before morning on our nights out. However, I definitely preferred their style of outings compared to the young people I have met in Madrid, as they were more concerned about good conversation, drinks, and chilling at pubs instead of clubbing until dawn. Though it generally meant that I was sleeping in later than usual AND taking a siesta, I had the most amazing time and made some wonderful friends in the group we were spending time with.

One of the most memorable parts of my semana santa had to be the processions that I was able to see. Normally (and especially in Viveiro, where the Spanish tourism board specifically promotes it), cities in Spain put on grand processions over the course of the week preceding Easter Sunday depicting the events of the Passion. Unfortunately, weather didn’t permit the viewing of the majority of the processions, but we were able to see the Procession of the Virgin Esperanza and the Procession of the Resurrection  Though both were beautiful and moving, I was especially touched by the Virgin Esperanza procession, as all of the participants (those wearing green and white, that is) are women, including those carrying the Virgin through the town…absolutely amazing.

La procesión de la Virgen de la Esperanza
La procesión de la Virgen de la Esperanza

I wish that I could properly express exactly how grateful I am to my t-oigo family for their generosity and for allowing me to join their family on the excursion of a lifetime, because for the entire time I was with them, I was a foreigner living as a Spaniard, instead of being a foreigner on the outside looking in. [By the way, if anyone can help me figure out an appropriate thank-you gift for the family, I’d be much obliged!]

Well, only one more month until the end of my semester. Crazy how time has flown! I need to start a bucket list of things I want to do in Madrid before my time here is out. Until next time!!

-Dex

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