I’ve spent the last eight days in a Spanish Pueblo.
The residents are mainly retired. There are a few (very few) young adults, working adults and young families (all moving to the town because of affordable housing) – but the majority are retired pensioners. Watching them live, really live (and love) their life has been an eye opener.
Most of the town’s residents worked hard their whole lives and are only now getting to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
One resident said to me, “When I moved to “El Pueblo”, I said I would never live my ruled by a watch again! For forty years, my clock/watch would wake me at an ungodly hour. It would then stress me out – I was constantly keeping an eye on it to make sure I got to the train station on time; checking it again to ensure that I didn’t miss my connecting bus; and then hoping the next time I looked at it, it would tell me that I wouldn’t be late for work. I’d then do that all again at the other end of the day to make sure I got home at a decent enough hour to have some me time, before having to do it all over again the next day. Watches caused me so much stress. The day I got to the pueblo, I took my watch off and I refused to let time rule me like that again. I was going to do things in my own time and for the last ten years I have!”
Living in “El Pueblo” isn’t only about not adhering to time (because there still is a little time keeping). It is about living life and connecting with what’s important in it – other human beings.
I am a stranger in this town but am never made to feel like one. My family and I are embraced by the locals because we are important to one of their own.
We are stopped for chats as we walk the streets – many of the locals trying to learn a few words of English so they can communicate with my husband and kids (mainly to tell them to learn Spanish). When words fail them, they turn to a game of charades to communicate – all so my family can feel welcomed and included; my kids are spoilt with play and affection; my Spanish mum was given three jars of Kalamata olives because one of the locals heard my mum is Greek and thought I might like a reminder of home; a neighbour knocked on the door with some gluten free bread because she heard I was running low and might not be able to make it to the neighbouring town to buy some more (because one of “El Pueblo’s” biggest tragedies is to be without bread).
“El Pueblo” is a place where no-one in the community is made to feel less worthy because
of their age. Everyone is included in everything. Age is not an exclusion. Children are embraced and enjoyed – yet scolded and pulled into line (by any adult in the pueblo) when needed. Adults look out for each other. And the elderly are cherished, revered, and very much included. Fiestas start at 10pm and people of all ages are expected to be there enjoying the festivities and each other’s company.
Food and drink are a delight – they are not the enemy! Food is fresh, many times straight out of a neighbour’s garden, and it’s marvelled over. It is a source of happiness for their stomachs and souls. Sharing food with friends and family is a time where many great, fun and sometimes not so life shattering conversations happen.
The people of “El Pueblo” are not embarrassed to take times for themselves. The siesta is still seen as an important part of the day. There’s no shame in having to recharge the batteries and getting some you time.
I love walking through the streets of “El Pueblo”. People take the time to acknowledge your presence and you, theirs. A mere three minute walk to the local bread shop can take forty five minutes as you stop for chats with many of the locals you encounter.
Everyone knows everyone’s business. While sometimes this can be overwhelming, it ensures that no-one is ever alone. No-one is stuck. No-one is afraid to call on neighbours/family/friends for help. Even if you are one of the shier ones, afraid to call out for help, someone is there before you get a chance to pick up a phone or knock on a door.
There are drop ins for chats; drop ins to say I heard you were looking for this; drop ins to find out how doctor appointments have gone; how the family is or just to catch up on the goings on of “El Pueblo”.
The people of “El Pueblo” are connected to one another. Many people (myself included for a while there) would say that they couldn’t think of anything worse than people constantly interrupting you. But it’s not an interruption. It is genuine human connections. Human love and concern. Love being shown in many different forms and depths – and that is never a bad thing.
The people of “El Pueblo” are happy and content. That’s not to say that “El Pueblo” isn’t without it’s problems, politics and gossip – because there’s plenty of that. Or that it is not without heartache, sadness and disappointment. What gets them through all of this is that even though sometimes they may be alone, they’re really not because they’re part of a community who have their back.
To paraphrase “Coccoon”:
Ben: “We’ll keep an eye on each other. You watch him. (Pointing to Joe)
Ben: “You watch him. (Pointing to Art)
Ben: “You watch me”
After being her for just over a week, I’m trying to figure out how we bring a piece of “El Pueblo” back to the our big towns and cities to ensure that we all start reconnecting and remembering that together we can make this world a better, loving, wonderful place to live in.