How a Small Town in Galicia Became My Home

This article has been a long time coming. A year and a half, to be exact, since that’s how long it took to finally get here. Since I talk a lot about Galicia on this blog, and will continue to do so, I wanted to share the story of how a small town here became my home. I’m sure some have already guessed it: I fell in love with a Galician, and then with Galicia. But what I doubt you guessed is that it all started with a conversation about gay dogs. Really.

I was back in Spain on a trip to revisit Murcia (where I studied abroad) and to spend a week with my Galician friend in the north. It was February and my first time in Galicia. My friend and I arrived in her tiny hometown of Noia on a wet and freezing Friday and headed out to grab a drink with her friends.

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He was standing right there in the middle of the plaza, waiting for us. He was the tallest man I had ever seen in Spain. My friend introduced us. “This is Dani.” He closed his umbrella and had to bend down to give me the traditional kiss on each side of my face, removing his Chicago Bears cap as he did. “Encantado.” They quickly switched to chatting in full-speed Galician, so I just tagged along behind. His umbrella caught my eye. He was carrying it on his back, the handle hooked to the collar of his jacket. I remember thinking it looked very strange. I’d only seen old men carry their umbrellas like that, which still looked weird when they did it. I stared at it quite awhile as we headed to the bar.

Six more friends joined us at the restaurant. Dinner went like this: Fast, indecipherable Galician and Spanish conversations. Me, sitting quietly, too intimated to speak my subpar Spanish. We were seated at a long table; I was at one end, my friend was next to me, and Dani was across from me. I caught him looking at me more than once, but he had a sort of confused look on his face. I couldn’t tell if he thought I was a martian that had landed in Galicia – I definitely felt and looked foreign. Finally, the conversation changed to something I understood and knew all too well: the show Trailer Park Boys. I jumped on the opportunity. “A man’s gotta eat, Mr. Lahey,” I quoted, and said how much I loved the show. Dani laughed, but the conversation ended as quickly as it had started. For the rest of the night I didn’t talk much more than that.

All day Saturday I was kind of bummed. Mostly I was disappointed in myself for not trying to speak more Spanish, and I was worried my friend’s group didn’t like me. In the south of Spain, people always try to start talking to you, especially if you look foreign, but it only takes a second to learn Galicia is not Andaulcía. That night when the topic of going out again came up, I told my friend she should go without me. She wasn’t having it. “You’re going! You’re only in Galicia once. Besides, it will just be Dani, his friend, and us.” Reluctantly, I agreed.

That night we went to a restaurant straight out of the Middle Ages – literally. It was in the historic part of Noia, built somewhere around the 14th century. Dani and his friend ordered two kinds of shellfish and invited us to eat. This time the conversation was mostly in English since my friend and Dani’s friend spoke at nearly a native level. As far as I knew then, Dani couldn’t speak English.

Then all of a sudden, completely out of nowhere, Dani said this:

“In Barquiña, my little town next to here, all of the dogs are gay.” I nearly spit out my drink.

“WHAT!? Did you say gay? Like gay, gay? Wait, you speak English!?” I didn’t know how to begin to respond or react to that statement. I was sure it was a mistake due to a language barrier.

“Gay, like homosexuals. Like my uncle’s dog, he tries hump the neighbor dog who is also a boy. All the dog’s in my town are gay.”

I was laughing hysterically at this point and couldn’t stop. The mental image I had was priceless. I’d heard some pretty ridiculous ice-breakers before, but this was by far the boldest move I’d ever seen, or the weirdest. It obviously wasn’t some feeble pick-up attempt, but I was hooked. Intrigued. I needed to know more. He was different from other guys, not worried what anyone thought of him and just…real. Who was he? Who throws out that wild card when first getting to know someone? And why were all the dogs gay? I had to talk to this guy.

Since that night, not a day as gone by that I haven’t talked to Dani. I can’t tell you the whole story since, like I said, it’s a year and a half long. That following Monday I left Galicia and by Wednesday I was back in America. We spent the next 7 months apart. I decided to take a chance and signed up to teach English in Galicia. I got placed in Ferrol for the school year, so we spent the next 8 months seeing each other only on the weekends.

After all that, I’m finally living here in Noia. I pass by that plaza every day on the way to work. As for the dogs in Barquiña, it turns out they were all male, though no matter how many times I ask, he doesn’t have any idea why he told me that story. And remember that friend of mine? She now lives in Indiana where I’m from. She met one of my best friends and fell in love with him. (What is it with these Galicians, right?) I guess we can call this one even.

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I’m an American expat living in Galicia. I want to inspire travel, learn a dozen languages, and try every food in the world.

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