Galicia is gorgeous, and somewhat deserted. The scenery was breathtaking, the towns nigh empty.
In an ancient, falling-down town made entirely of cobblestones, I met an old woman I could barely understand, who gave me water and oranges before beckoning me to come sit, take a load off for a moment to chat with her and her equally elderly husband in their cool, stone house inundated with flies.
They let me use the bathroom, and her great-granddaughter showed up, a tween who showed me their new baby cow and a few of the puppies, the offspring of a couple of their 36 (yes, THIRTY SIX) dogs, of whom they are so proud, whose names they all know.
They are the only people left in this village, them and the girl’s grandmother. The girl is just visiting for the weekend. These old folks — the tween’s great-grandparents with the flies and the orange — have never even left the village, they tell me. It’s not the first nor the last time I’m asked if I’ve walked over from America; the isolation of the older folks in these villages appears to be so complete that they really have no concept of where “The United States of America” even is.
I am amazed by this: me, who grew up in a suburb where one “village” abuts the other to the degree we don’t know where one stops and the other begins; who hopped trains to New York City and was taken to the theater, even in childhood; who boarded an airplane alone at 16 and has never stopped exploring.
I thanked them for their hospitality, and walked on, amazed that there are still people who live like this in the world, amazed that I’ve been lucky enough to meet them, to glimpse into their lives, if even for a moment.