Friday, February 25, 2011


Today’s Spanish lesson came in the form of a river rafting trip near Puerto Varas, Chile, half a day on Río Petrohué with the Ko’Kayak company. There were snow-topped volcanoes. There was whitewater, there was blue, blue water, there were boulder-lined riverbanks with green hills beyond. Rie stayed home because of a bad experience once on an Idaho river (her sons can fill you in), so I was the sole gringa on the outing. Both guides spoke English well, but if you’re going to yell commands as your raft plunges through the rapids, spray splashing in everyone’s face, you’re only going to yell them in one language.

So I had to learn fast. “¡Adelante!” meant paddle forward, “¡Atrás!” meant paddle backward. But then it got more complicated. If the guide yelled “¡Izquierdo, atrás!” those on the left of the raft were supposed to paddle backwards and those on the right forwards. If he yelled “¡La derecha, atrás!” the opposite was true. A real challenge, given the level of both my Spanish skills and my athletic abilities.

But it was fun, and wet, and the kick in the pants I needed. I have to
 admit I slumped a bit after Perú, sad to leave a country I loved, unable at first to quite see Chile’s charms. This afternoon, though, when we made it through another set of rapids, the guide would call to the eight-year-old crouched in the bow, “Martín, how was it?” and Martín would call back, ”¡Perfecto!”

It was.


No comments: