On Friday I had my first big Spanish test – I was going to the Central Mountains with my Puerto Rican neighbour S! I was a little nervous, but not as nervous as when I invited her for a fika a few weeks ago; I had baked some chocolate & coconut squares (moccarutor / Kärleksmums) but was too shy to make a phone call so I invited her by mail 😉 In the end, we spent over two hours having coffee and talking [in Spanish] so I knew that we probably wouldn’t have any problem finding things to say during the excursion… However, the issue here was rather would I be able to say whatever I wanted to say??
We started off quite late in the morning, and our destination was S’s hometown Barranquitas (translated into Place of Little Mud Slides), which is small mountain town towards the east of the island. The town is famous for being the home of two Puerto Rican statesmen – Luis Muñoz Rivera (LMR) and his grandson Luis Muñoz Marin (the San Juan airport is named after LMM). The Lonely Planet compares Barranquitas to Windsor Castle in the legacy that it has given the island!
On the way we stopped at one of the roadside restaurants that you can see all over the island. S bought arroz con habichuelas (rice with beans), bacalao frito (fried dried cod) and some fried meat that we packed into the car and continued our drive on the steep and very zig-zagy mountain roads. She was very worried that I would get car sick but I told her that I am used to the roads in the Alpes… We only drove through Barranquitas on our way to S’s brother’s place – she pointed out LMR’s house, but it looked like an interesting town and I will make sure that O and I visit soon.
Finally arrived at our destination, I got to meet some of S’s nephews and nieces, her niece’s young son M, her brother of course and the funny dog Pelusa. They live in a big house on a steep mountain sloop with pine trees (!!), avocado trees (not avocado season at the moment unfortunately) and mango trees. I asked our host if they are not worried about land slides but he said that the mountain is supposed to be safe. All the houses around have their own generators in case of power cuts* (especially during hurricane season when the central mountains take the brunt of the winds – fortunately for us in San Juan…).
We had a great big lunch with all kinds of traditional food – they made me taste 4 or 5 different root vegetables that were boiled just like potatoes; yautía (taro root??), batatas (Puerto Rican sweet potato, not to be confused with patatas – potatoes in Spanish but in Puerto Rico called papas) and some others whose names I don’t remember… It was a very starchy meal together with the rice and beans, and two kinds of bacalao; bacalao frito which was like a hot salad and cold bacalao salad (bacalao, boiled egg and tomatoes). I also got to try a corn pastele (almost like the Mexican tamale). Read more about Puerto Rican cuisine on the following links; Wikipedia post and vocabulary of Puerto Rican cooking. S has promised to teach me how to cook Puerto Rican food and I will make sure to ask her to write down all the names of ingredients and dishes.
After the meal, S took me and her great nephew (who took his afternoon nap in the car) along a part of la Ruta panorámica (the scenic route that cuts across the central mountains from east to west) and at el Mirador Villalba-Orocovis we admired the views both to the south – it was a bit hazy but we were supposed to have seen Ponce, and to the north towards San Juan. Another place that I want to show O, and there are great picnic opportunities with tables and benches overlooking the flat south coast.
It was a great day, and I really enjoyed talking Spanish to everybody – I notice that both my understanding and ability to make myself understood are improving even though I get very frustrated with the verb conjugations… It is exhausting though and I was taking a late nap when O came home from work at 19.00 on Friday evening 😀
This week I am going to watch a telenovela (a soap opera, usually from Colombia or Mexico – people are crazy about them in the hispanic world) for the first time as part of my Spanish homework and our first Spanish visitors are arriving on Wednesday so I will get lots of chances to practise more…
*) We have had at least 4 power cuts this morning while I have been writing this… Our building also has a generator but it takes a few seconds for it to kick in and in the meanwhile my computer dies as my laptop’s battery is gone, and I have restart the computer every time – arrrgggh. The weather is CRAP, rainy and so grey that I have had to turn on the lights!