Monday, September 19, 2011

Lost in Translation - Gerês, Portugal

My language skills are bad. They are nearly non-existent. Actually, my language skills are so infinitesimally small, they should be considered non-existent. I took a couple years of Latin and also Spanish which I mandatory continued at my university for one more year. I could read, write, but my listening and speaking skills were awful;. So, of all the non-English speaking countries I could have gone, I fortunately arrived in Portugal.

There are many English speakers here in Portugal. The students are willing to practice and receive instruction in mostly English. American movies and television shows also feature Portuguese subtitles instead of dubbing. If any translation needed to occur during swing dance classes, Abeth would translate. I quickly learned to speak slowly and enunciate better (though I could still slow down), demonstrate better, listen for certain Portuguese dance related words, and become more observant.
However, all this English meant I was spoiled. A spoiled Kenny could and did lead to a lazy Kenny. Though I'm perfectly content sitting through a dinner or a party with Portuguese language swirling about, I'm missing out on so much. My typical defense is to A. Read a book. Anyone that has attended a party with me knows this is typical. B. Get lost in my own thoughts. C. Find someone willing to speak English with me. D. Hope someone draws me into conversation.

The new defense? Just learn the language. This is my third trip to Portugal and I enjoy it here. The city is really compact, so it's easy to navigate via walking or metro. The winding streets aren't the most pleasant, but you eventually get used to them. Then there are areas like Aliados (pictured above) that open up nicely. You should have seen this area after FC Porto won the championship.
Have I mentioned they have beaches? And people dance or do aerials on them?
However, I'm digressing off subject. This is about language and discovering Peneda-Gerês National Park. The above image features my weekend language instructors, Nuno and Helena. As you can see, they take themselves very seriously, demanding that I stay focused as they are. The language lesson made the drive seem very short. I asked for key phrases, Helena provided. Nuno picked apart polite forms, Helena picked apart my handwriting, and they both picked apart my pronunciation. I need work, but it was fun, they were patient, and my notebook has translation information along with conjugated verb forms.
This was the payoff. Welcome to Gerês, home to rocky mountains, hot springs, waterfalls, livestock, and more. Our first destination was a crystal clear pool of water that alternated between warm and cold depending on your location.
Fortunately our path was marked by obvious cairns. Sometimes, as Daniel discovered, there were too many cairns.
Notice the super clear water as you peer through a rock opening. This was the ideal way to enjoy an afternoon lunch. We swam, ate and soaked up some sun.
 Afterward, we decided to go off course and discover a new path. Along the way, we discovered three horses grazing which led to me planking in one of the few manure free zones.
There were some moments when we had to evaluate our next move. However, this led to new discoveries such as more crystal clear pools and small waterfalls.
Though a fun adventure, climbing back out resulted in my right arm looking like it lost a fight with a fierce kitten. Following this river was not looking like a good idea. There were too many steep drops where we would have to take another route, so we searched for higher ground.
This direction led to finding scattered quartz along with this uniquely uniform straight quartz line. Notice how far it extends.
Finally, we discovered a two tier waterfall with a segmented pool. The pool was divided into three portions by two rocks that extended end to end about 20-30 centimeters below the water's surface.
You'll see what I'm referencing if you follow Nuno's sight line. The water was cold, but well worth the exposure. There was river god posing, planking, Portugal's planking version (not sure what to call it), and more.
It was a successful hike overall. We capped it off by discovering castanhas (chestnuts) and riding on the back of tall Nuno's van. We spent the rest of the weekend camping, laying in the sun and kayaking. Here are some more pictures.
Some Portuguese wildlife for you. There were grazing cows and horses and many elusive lizards also.
Portugal planks upright!

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