I grew up in a small town in Northern Italy, and although the fields were never far away and I visited many friends who lived in the country, I always considered myself a (small) town girl. Then came Venice, Seville, Madrid… I even didn’t learn how to drive until well into my 30s because the cities I lived in were either good on foot, bike or underground.
Since I moved full time to Galicia, December 2013, the countryside was a place to go on holiday, or for a picnic in the sun. Even in Negreira, 4000 souls in the rainy hills near Santiago, I lived in a flat. The woods were close, but the living was urban.
Fast forward to Cabo de Cruz, spring 2014. I’m living, for the first time in my life, in a house. A proper, single, detached house. With a garden (actually of 3,000-square-meter-field), a fence, an attic. And neighbours, and animals, and all sort of things I’d have heard of but only now, at the tender age of 41, I’m living in first person.
Some things take some adjusting. The neighbourhood way of life has its own rules and language, and it’s taking a few weeks to get used to it. The plus sides are definitely more than the down sides: people who know the place and know how these old houses work and are happy to lend a hand to fix minor (and major) problems. The feeling of community is strong here, and one wants to fit in as much as possible (without losing my guiri identity, which anyway it’ll always be there so…). Another great thing of this whole rural-neighbours-thing? Food.
Most people have some ground – and if they don’t their aunt, cousin or grandfather do. There’s always a surplus of potatoes – and Galician potatoes are really something. It seems to be difficult to get good potatoes in shops, in Galicia, just because people grow their own. If yopu need to buy them, it’s because you don’t have them in your backyard.
We haven’t had the time to plant potatoes this year – it will have to wait for the next season – but our neighbours are looking after us, and nowI have a few kilos of great, yellow-meaty potatoes in my kitchen.
The other thing you often get through neighbours are eggs. Most people have a few chickens, and they always have too many eggs, which are regularly distributed through family and friends.
Animals are part of the deal, of course. I don’t complain, I like animals of all kinds, at least until six legs. Eight or more it gets a bit tricky, but they’re here to stay so I’d better get used to them. This giant spider (over 7 cm!) welcomed me on my second morning in the house. It was probably living in the water boiler and it came out when we started using it.
Spiders and centipedes aside, I’m beginning to understand birdwatchers: I’m fascinated by the birds we have, those I see and recognise (the usual robin, blackbird, ravens and seagulls) and those I hear and wonder (there’s especially a night bird I’m very curious about). In the backyard we seem to have many moles and some wild rabbits as well. In our walks we find horses and goats in the middle of the path and our house is a safe haven for the cats and dogs who wander through the village. Since with the erratic schedules of our jobs we can’t keep animals, visiting pets make us really happy!