Clases de español

What’s both helpful and difficult about practicing Spanish in Puerto Rico is that in San Juan, where we live, a solid 80% or more of the people are bilingual – like really bilingual. You can start out speaking Spanish to someone, rummaging around your brain for the words, but they’ve already switched to English because you’re taking too long. As long as you stick to cities and major towns, you could easily navigate Puerto Rico without learning any Spanish at all.

But that’s no way to live, so we are now in the midst of our third week of Spanish classes. They were surprisingly difficult to secure. You can’t swing a (purely proverbial) dead cat around here without running into an advertisement for English classes, but since everyone already speaks Spanish there’s not nearly as much availability.

Luckily we were able to locate private tutors, which come in a symbiotic set: Eddie is a native Spanish speaker and Geraldine is originally a French native who now speaks Spanish and English; she serves as our bridge both in language and in her ability to get into the mindset of a non-native speaker.

Much of the class is precisely what you’d expect: some verbs, some tenses, some practice. What really makes it valuable is the opportunity to converse in Spanish, slowly, groping to say what you want to say with the words you have and then finding out from the teachers if you made any sentences worth keeping for later.

Meanwhile Minxie and Ruffian have learned no Spanish whatsoever. They are cultural ignoramuses. ¡Las gatitas son tonta!

The iguana at the end of this post

This Saturday’s adventure involved a trip to Piñones, just outside San Juan. It’s a little more off the beaten path, lined with little bars and food stalls. Here, have this video I should’ve filmed horizontally but I didn’t so let’s call it POV.

The beach on the near end of Piñones is somewhat craggy – very picturesque but not as good for lounging about. Pretty though.

We grabbed lunch at a place called The Reef, which was… not very good, food-wise. Pat later read that a lot of these places make all their food in the morning and then slap it under a heat lamp for the remainder of the day. But it was an excellent atmosphere and a nice place for drinks. Here I am modeling Medalla Light, a native Puerto Rican beer. It tastes like beer.

Don’t forget to tip your roosters.

After lunch we drove further down the road to a more comfortable beach, featuring an old coral shelf protecting a quiet ocean pool of sorts. We were able to wade over to the reef and check out the ocean on the other side.

So that’s Piñones. Anyway, here’s that wild iguana I promised.

Easter report

Hello! Easter, as far as we can tell, is honored in Puerto Rico by anyone and everyone heading to the beach. For fear of losing our parking spot, we’ve stuck close to home, and by consequence have minimal new stories to tell.

However, a few things have happened. We ran into Benecio del Toro, for one. Pat held a gate open and said “Buenas” to him, and he said “Buenas” back.* Here ends the tale of our encounter with Benecio del Toro.

*Pat is anxious that you know that in PR it is common to simply say “Buenas” as opposed to the full “buenas tardes” etc.

Additionally, Dan and Andrew came to visit. We mostly confined our time to grabbing dinner, as Pat and I have had to spend our weekdays working, but we hit up some new spots with them, including Casita Miramar.

Now we are back from our traditional Easter dinner: tacos and margaritas at La B de Burro. Cheers!

Viejo San Juan

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Old San Juan, the historic quarter of the city. In many ways it is aggressively tourist-y, but is also unarguably charming, with all the pastel buildings, mission tile, and cobblestone streets you could ever hope to see.

It also has many Puerto Rican flags:

Not enough umbrellas:

An extremely unsanitary pigeon-feeding business for the mainland visitors who have somehow never seen pigeons before, which is apparently most of them:

A bar called Cafe Teatro that offers swing seating:

Caribbean cherry margaritas:

Pat’s all-time favorite window:

And Tattooine:

Doubtless we will be back. Pat really likes that window.

La primera semana

A pristine panorama!

Week one of our Puerto Rico residency might be best classified as a modest success.* Pat spent all 5 work days in an employee orientation performed entirely in Spanish, of which he feels, in more optimistic moments, he understood 33% percent. Combined with his 100% understanding of governmental bureaucracy, it’s a solid start.

* This is one step above mild success and two steps ahead of what NASA once termed a “successful failure.”

Teleworking is going fine for me. More than fine, exceptional even, if you’re a big fan of cats sitting on your notebook, laptop, mouse, and keyboard. If so, I have a Ruffian you can borrow.

We’ve been lucky enough to hang on the beach for about an hour a couple days after work, but this weekend we were finally able to really leverage our location. On Saturday we rolled into the nearby Isla Verde district to scope out the real estate, enjoy the beach, and allow Pat to try a surf break on for size.

Then on Sunday, after knocking out some grocery shopping (avocado status: still ginormous), we got in some serious time at the beach right by our temporary apartment. In addition to sunning ourselves* we tried out the beachside bar, Numero Uno Beach House, whose menu includes such items as seared ahi tuna and watermelon margaritas with fresh watermelon juice. So you could say we like it there.

*Before you ask, the answer is yes. SPF 50, actually.

The recurrent tragedy that is Sunday night now weighs heavily upon us, but we persevere. Tune in later this week for more details about adventures!