Galicia is a the region in Spain right above Portugal in the northwest corner of Spain. This region has an incredibly dense history and intricately woven cultural fabric. I learn new stuff about it everyday and will continue to post insights as they come. I won't bother restating what's already online, so if you want to read more by someone smarter than me, click here. Gallego is the regional language here, although everyone speaks Spanish as well. It is a mix of Spanish and Portuguese. The languages are very similar-so much so that I don't understand how children keep them separate when they learn them. The government has mandated that schools use both in class. Public documents and signage come in both which makes for a bit of a confusing time for us sometimes. The kids in my class often speak to me in gallego, and my teacher has to continually remind the, "Por favor, speak Spanish to her."There is a series of advertisements made by a grocery chain here that are on youtube. Here is one (click here) and if you watch them on youtube, you can click on others in the series on the right hand side of the page. These are in gallego so I don't understand it all, but they have been explained to us by several Spaniards. They are a celebration of all things that make Galicians unique (much like a video in the south would focus on the use of y'all, grits, front porches, hunting, etc.). Some of the points they poke on: -Galicians are super laid back and answer everything with "Bueno…" (meaning good, well, yeah…) -They are so laid back you never know if they're coming or going -They always state the obvious (where the little granny says "You fell down.") -They always answer a question with a question -One saying they always use is "Malo sera"--kind of like a "Don't worry, it could be worse." And of course they end with the battle cry "Vivamos como galegos!" (Let's live like Galicians!)
We have been inundated with their hospitality. Most of the time when we ask where something is, they say, "Bueno, just walk with me," and totally change their direction to just escort us there. The generosity of families like my director's and the Morales Iglesias has made all the difference here. People are always patient with our fumbling through our Spanish. Many times when we thank someone for some act of kindness or their help with something they say, "Well, if I were in a new country, I'd want someone to do the same for me." Mastery of the golden rule. This means one of the biggest things I will take away from here will be that if I ever meet a new foreigner in the states again I will have a much better idea of how I can help them.
Vigo In terms of geography, Galicia is one of the most beautiful, mystical places I've ever been. Vigo (the nearby big city) is on the bay and is pretty industrial with a large industry centered about shipping/ship building (I think?). Our first few days were spent there enjoying being able to see the Atlantic flash through cracks in buildings as you stroll the streets. The drive from Vigo to Ourense (whole post on Ourense coming soon) goes through rural areas in the mountains. Because of all of the rain here, everything is lusciously green. It's sort of like Oregon greenness meets Alabama ruralness combined with some of Colorado mountains and rivers. It is called the Land of Rivers. It rained a lot of the fist two weeks, which is normal for here, but we have had almost a whole week of sun. The first time we saw sun after so much rain, I almost wept. We have made every effort to be outside this week to take advantage of the light. Everytime we talk to people about how we're new here and will be here through May they say, "Uff (a super common expression), el invierno aqua!" (Ah, the Winter here!). I can't lie to you, this strikes fear in me every time. I'm hoping it's over-exhaggerated because I don't do cold weather well! My main hope is that I can see the rain with their eyes here because they say, "La lluvia es rate" (The rain is art)--and I like art.
The regions of Spain all have very distinct cultural elements. Therefore, much of what I have seen is mores "Galician" and not necessarily "Spanish." When I venture out into Spain, I'll report back on those differences.