"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, July 7, 2014

West Virginia Adventure II

Continued from West Virginia Adventure I:

We pulled up to El Gran Sabor...but it turns out they don't have lunch hours at all on Saturdays so they were closed! Dammit...

We decided to go run some errands in the meantime and return at 4:30 pm, when they opened for dinner.

Errands included grocery shopping and Liz had the brilliant idea to stop at Dairy Queen for some ice cream first. You know, so we wouldn't buy ALL THE THINGS at the grocery store because we were starving!

Liz was going to take us to Dolly Sods to see the sun set and in exchange for gas, she had asked if we would cook dinner for her. Of course! :D My first idea had been to make Rancho Luna chicken, a Cuban recipe that my mom found a few years ago and modified. However we needed to Mojo Goya, a Hispanic marinade that is often easily found in most Walmart Supercenters.

Liz took us to the Elkins Walmart, where we picked up chicken tenderloins, limes, onions and capers for the recipe, as well as plantains, and went to look for the Mojo. Well, it turns out that the Hispanic foods section of the Elkins Walmart is basically all Mexican so there was no mojo to be found. (For those who have never tried them: Puerto Rican and Cuban food are actually very different from Mexican food: Mexican is spicy whereas Cuban and Puerto Rican are salty. Similar ingredients, yes (beans, rice, etc), but VERY different flavors.)

My brain whirred with a Plan B. I really wanted to make this particular recipe for Liz as it is amazing. I asked her if she had Italian dressing at the apartment. She did. Okay, we could make do. I knew, however, that she was able to buy adobo (a Puerto Rican seasoning) in Elkins. It was nowhere to be found on the Walmart shelves, which is where we have always been able to get it in both FL and MD. "Where do you buy the adobo?" I asked Liz. "At the health food store," she said. Wait, what?

So Liz took us to the health food store. And indeed they had adobo. And sofrito. They had a good selection of both Asian and Hispanic seasonings. But they had no mojo! (If you want to experiment and can't find these at your local Walmart, you can buy any of these things from Amazon if you go to the links I included in this paragraph. :) ) However, they DID have Sazon Goya! Ok, we could definitely make do.

While we were there, I also picked up some Cafe Bustelo Supreme Espresso coffee (nowhere near as expensive as on Amazon, fyi) and spent way too much money on local honey (honeysuckle, tulip poplar, and goldenrod. We have all of these flowers in MD also). Because 1 tbsp of honey from local flowers will help keep allergies away. True story.

We headed back to Liz's apartment, where we showered and changed into hiking clothes. I seasoned the chicken tenderloins with Liz's adobo, squeezed the juice from a whole lemon over the chicken, and set it up to marinate in the Italian dressing. Put the chicken away in the fridge and we hopped into Liz's 4Runner again with Kenai so we could stop by El Gran Sabor for lunch.

We arrived maybe 10 minutes after 4:30 pm, their dinner opening time. We sat outside so Kenai could hang out with us.

Best Husky in the world. Note that there was no leash.
And ordered butternut squash soup. And cachapas with rice and beans. OMG I'd been dreaming about those cachapas since last summer! And we also ordered some beer by Mountain State Brewing. Charles loves their Almost Heaven amber ale and I love their Miner's Daughter oatmeal stout. You can only buy this brand in WV.

We all ordered another round of cachapas for breakfast the next morning. It turns out that $40 will buy you food for two meals + 2 rounds of beer for TWO people in Elkins, WV. In the DC suburbs area, $40 will buy you a round of beer and an appetizer for two people.

We got back into the truck for the 1.5 hour drive to Dolly Sods.

I literally went into a food coma on the way there. One minute Liz was talking to me, the next I was out out out. My subconscious rose to the surface a couple of times as Liz and Charles continued with the conversation, but my eyelids felt heavy as lead. I slept for over an hour of the drive to Dolly Sods.

I woke up to the 4Runner flying down a dirt road. Charles and Liz said, "Welcome back!" I sat up and looked straight ahead at this very long dirt road that was a straight shot all the way to the horizon, lined by woods on each side. "Tell me if you notice something weird." Charles said. I looked hard at the road, at the woods. I knew there was something that was off about the scenery but I couldn't identify it. "What is it?" I asked.
"The road," he said. "It's straight."
I looked at it again. It was. It was the longest straight dirt road I'd ever seen, and it was especially unusual after driving around all of the curves and bends of WV roads.  "This is the longest straight road in West Virginia," Liz said.

Note the road rising up into the horizon. Isn't that cool?

Liz followed the road to its very end, where it culminated at an area called the Bear Rocks Overlook.

We got out of the car and followed Liz through the trails that wound through the bushes and over the rocks. She wanted to show us a particular spot, but we took our time stopping to take photos along the way.

Charles took this one. There is a skinny trail that winds through the bushes.
It had rained so it wasn't long before our pants were drenched. It was a good call to wear sandals.

Liz's photo

Kenai pretends to be a timber wolf

Liz's photo
I can't explain to you guys what experiencing Dolly Sods did to me nor why. It was so...different. I knew it was different from seeing Dom's photos last year and it's the main reason why we had asked Liz to take us there. But it was an entirely different thing seeing it in person. It has a haunting beauty unlike anything I've ever seen before.

I had this weird urge to go running into the sods barefoot, even after Liz described the black boggy mud that you will find in the lower parts of the area. I wanted to live it, to be a part of it. Does that happen to anyone else? To continue with the ocean references, it's like when you arrive at a new and gorgeous beach with clear, blue water, and you just want to run into the waves, dive into them head first. Submerge yourself in them. That is what I wanted to do at Dolly Sods. And we only got a tiny glimpse of it. I hope we can visit again.

This photo. <3
Don't ask me why. But I do.

Charles living on the edge. Literally. :)

Liz taking photos of Kenai!
So, so beautiful
My face says it all.


It's funny how the mind fills in the blanks with familiar things when you're looking at something new for the first time. I kept doing double-takes when I looked at the rocks: the bits of quartz in them kept looking like barnacles or seashell fossils to me, and the pebbles surrounding the rocks reminded me of the coarse sand on some of the island's beaches. It's fascinating to me how much the ocean becomes a part of you when you live for 18 years in a land surrounded by it on all sides.

You can see what I mean about the tiny white pebbles in this photo and the texture of the rock.
The main focus of this photo, though, is the lichen. There are many different types of lichen at Dolly Sods, many of which you only find in the Arctic.
I mean guys, really: dem's are tide pools. In the mountains. Just sayin.
They looked exactly like tide pools, but of course they were from rain.
My brain was in this weird overdrive, juxtaposing what it knows against this truly alien landscape.
I couldn't get over the beauty.

Tiny fern growing in a hole
Water droplets on the leaves.
A different kind of lichen

The landscape was more like something you'd find in Canada or the Arctic in the summer.
As the sun was setting, Liz took us down the closest trail so we could see how diverse the Dolly Sods habitats are. Just a quarter mile down this trail, the scenery changed completely.

The sods for which this area is named

Liz leads us into the sunset
If you click on this photo you'll see how the golden light of the sun was delineating the short grass on the trail, every rock and pebble, and the leaves on the bushes. It was so pretty.

Dolly Sods bog
My preciousssss
Celebratory beers. Cold Trail is also by Mountain State Brewing.

Back at Liz's house, I cooked the Rancho Luna chicken that we'd left marinating in the fridge. I sauteed coarsely chopped onions, set them aside, then seared the tenderloins, adding a dash of Sazon Goya as I put them on the skillet. Once they were golden on the outside, I added the sauteed onions, capers, and some more Italian dressing mixed with water (so the chicken wouldn't stick to the pan while it finished cooking), as well as squeezing another lemon over the cooking chicken. It came out tasting pretty much exactly as if I'd marinated it with the mojo!

Charles helped me make tostones. The plantains were as green as they typically are for this dish, though I personally prefer to use them slightly ripe so they are sweeter. They came out good though, and I added some more flavor to them by squeezing a lemon over them as well, Cuban style.

Kenai and Hodor being cute together.
We scarfed and went to bed. We would be waking up at 7:00 am the next morning to go white water rafting!

Hodor is adorable

My alarm for whatever reason never went off, but thankfully Liz was already awake and she made sure we got going in time. We heated up the cachapas and ate while packing our stuff back into our car. We'd be following Liz to the white water destination in Albright, as it actually would place us an hour closer to MD.

We picked Mike up at work (he is working 24 hour shifts) and began the trip to the Cheat River Canyon.

A friend of Liz's and Mike's was originally going to take us down the river by borrowing equipment from the outfitter that he works for. We would be going on a route used commercially, so we weren't just randomly winging it. However, Liz's and Mike's friend's schedule was changed at the last minute and Mike scrambled to put the adventure together for us anyway. He was able to enlist the help of another friend who worked for this same outfitter who took the trouble of coming out on his day off to guide us.

I almost backed out of this experience. Almost. The Cheat River water level was unusually low, which meant that what would have normally been a 2-3 hour trip was going to take closer to 6 hours. In my mind I added an extra 2 hours to that, and decided the very latest we could get out was 7:00 pm. We wanted to get over the mountains while there was still daylight and I had to stop by the barn before getting home to set up feed for Lily and Gracie and check on them. I'd originally really wanted to check on them with daylight because the last few times we've gone out of town, we've returned to some problem or another with either of the mares. Example: when we got back from the OD, Gracie had a knee the size of a grapefruit due to a cut, with tendrils of swelling extending above and below it. The cut had abscessed, causing massive cellulitis, and I had to have the vet out to drain it and start her on antibiotics. She was fine after, but trying to schedule a vet visit when you have a weird work schedule and your horse needs prompt medical attention is no fun. It wasn't an emergency, but it was also not the kind of injury that you want to sit around and wait on.

And then the guys started joking around about how despite the low water level, the hazards were still Grade V, and I felt the blood leave my face. Liz was able to calm me down, pointing out that this was actually impossible with the water being as low as it was: it meant that the Grade V sections would be more like Grade III-IV. River guides use scare tactics and this is all that was. T was with us for this expedition and she was in the same situation as I: she had never gone white water rafting before and was as apprehensive as I was. It was 11:00 am. She cracked a beer open and passed me one.

I don't normally resort to chemical methods of relaxation, but there are exceptions to that rule and this was certainly one of times!

I have always loved the water. It is my element. I love many water sports but have aversions to others because of the huge respect I have for the power of moving water. Water is a fickle creature over which you have absolutely no control. I loved bodyboarding because you had to learn to work with the ocean, the currents and the wind in order to ride the best waves.

White water was indeed on the bucket list. I'd wanted to try it since my dad promised we'd do it when we went to Wyoming together, and we never did get the opportunity. Plus I knew Charles really wanted to do this: he'd done it before in Costa Rica, but that was years and years ago, way before we were together.

As we paddled out, Mike and Liz pointed at the water, showing me how to recognize some of these dangers and what to do to protect yourself if you fall overboard and get caught in one of these hazards. It's not just about getting smashed on the rocks, you also have to be careful about not getting sucked down into the water as a result of the currents. You have to watch your feet if you fall out of the raft because they can get stuck on rocks. There are things you can do to work with the current so it brings you back to the surface.

We kept the groups small: Mike, Liz and I were in one raft with Mike as our guide, while Charles and T were in another, with Mike's friends JC and Mr. Kitty as their guides. There were two other rafts as part of our group: one was a group of newbies who had purchased a raft and wanted to learn to navigate white water on it, the other was a group training to be guides. All 4 rafts stayed within sight of one another and if any raft had problems, the others found a way to stop and wait until the issue was resolved (mainly getting stuck on rocks. It happened to each raft at least once. Again, because the water level was so low.)
While we were on flat water at the beginning of this adventure, I was shown how to properly sit in the raft when going over rapids (sort of in a lunging position), correct paddling technique, and Mike rehearsed the orders he would give us: "Paddle forward, please." "Paddle backwards now," etc. Liz and I were to paddle in unison. Otherwise, we were to just enjoy the ride.

The Cheat River Canyon is gorgeous and we had the opportunity of seeing lots of rock formations that we otherwise would not have seen if the river had been at its usual level (not complaining about that at all!)

Photo of the Cheat River Canyon by APC Albright Paintball Club
We went through the first few sets of rapids uneventfully before the group stopped for a break about one or two hours into the expedition. Break time occurred in a section where there was a nice wave formed by water washing over rocks and a cross current in front of it. This section is called Cue Ball. Mike showed us what white water surfing is like: the raft is taken down the small waterfall then turned around to face it. The cross currents basically keep the raft in place, like a surfboard coasting along on a wave. I'm sure there is a proper explanation with proper terminology for this.

This is an example of surfing on kayaks (aka hardboaters) on the Cheat River in a section called Typewriter.
With a raft, you'd face upstream and ride the waves.
After about a 30 minute break, we all got back into the rafts to continue on our way. This time Mr. Kitty rode in our raft with us which was probably a good thing, as Mike had just confessed to Liz and I that, while he had been a white water raft guide for 5 years and had guided on the Cheat, he had not guided this particular section of the Cheat River before. Mike could certainly read the water but Kitty was able to tell him alternate routes when necessary.

Liz pointed out at the beginning of the trip that you knew when a particular section was going to be rough because the guides would strap on their helmets. She said that they were all talk until it time for business: that's when they became focused and you were to do exactly as they instructed.

Liz's man is a great river guide. Even after Kitty was in the raft with us, it was Mike making the decisions as to where we were going and how. Kitty knew this part of the Cheat but Mike has more experience as a guide. He was amazing at making the raft pivot in the water and using the rocks to bounce the raft off of to slow our downward speed on the rougher portions of the river. Slower speed = less momentum = less likelihood of the raft tipping over or people falling overboard. He preferred to take some of the gnarlier portions backwards which I initially found disconcerting (I like to see what's happening) until he explained that taking obstacles backwards makes it likelier that passengers will stay inside the boat. He was absolutely right: it somehow increased the central gravity of the boat, making us more likely to fall into the boat if we lost our balance. Liz fell out in a particularly nasty spot but Mike had her back in the boat in a split second. I fell out much later.

We had just passed one of the most difficult areas of the river. I think it was the area called High Falls? You know it's a tough spot when both guides are simultaneously firing out the same orders! We were on the following section of rapids, which wasn't quite as bad. We were coasting backwards down a particularly technical part of the rapids when Mike warned that there was going to be a bump on my left (I was on the left side of the raft) at the same time as I saw the rock he was talking about. We were going down a series of bumps and I must've tensed up upon seeing this particular rock because I literally got popped out of the raft. I came up out of the water feeling somewhat panicked, automatically fighting the river. While somehow holding onto both my paddle and the one that had been on the boat...I'm still not sure how the second paddle ended up in my hands. We'd been told to hold onto paddle if tossed unless of course our lives were in danger, and by golly I hung onto both paddles in a completely subconscious decision. And then I remembered I was wearing a PDF and it would be fairly hard to sink with it on. I tried to grab onto the nearest rock to stop my momentum down the river as our raft went past me and I tried to reach for it. It was going too fast in the current. Mike instructed me to swim towards them. Finally remembering the instructions I'd been given at the start, I stuck my feet forward and lay on my back, expecting the river to take me to the raft. It didn't work: I was stuck in the eddy behind the rock! I propelled myself forward with my arms and shot forward into the current. Both Mike and Kitty held out the handles of their paddles and told me to grab one of them. Mike's was the closest to me so I grabbed his. He yanked me out of the water and dumped me inside the boat as if I weighed no more than your average trout. We all burst out laughing. I'd lost the spare paddle but still had mine with me. No time for a break: we still had more rapids to negotiate so I got back into position as quickly as possible and continued paddling.

It's like with horses: after you fall for the first time, you realize it's not so bad.

Another part of the Cheat. This section is called Coliseum.

The Upper Coliseum
None of these photos are mine; sources are in the links. We tried getting pics with Mike's phone in its waterproof Otterbox, but the Otterbox turned out to not be waterproof after all...
Things were exciting for what seemed like a long time. We finally hit a flat water section where we took turns jumping off of the rafts into the water.  We all stopped for a second break shortly after. We'd been on the river for about 4-5 hours by then. I was able to catch up with Charles, who had been within sight this whole time so he had seen everything, including when I'd fallen overboard.

There were some more rapids after this but nowhere near as challenging as that middle section. What was interesting was that by this point, after being so long on the water, I started to be able to see what Kitty and Mike were seeing. I started to be able to predict in my mind which routes they were going to choose. It was so cool: once you understood the movement of the water, you lost a good chunk of your fear.

After that, it was literally smooth sailing back to the Jenkinsburg Bridge area, where we would finish the trip.

We had started at about 1:00 pm. We made it to the bridge by 7:00 pm.  Liz's truck had been used as one of the shuttle vehicles so we packed most of our two groups' rafting equipment into it and on top of it, and then crammed 7 people into the truck: Liz and Mike in the front, with Charles, T, JC, Kitty and myself in the back seat. We looked like a clown car as Liz sped up that gnarly road as fast as she could to take us back to Albright. We got some funny looks: I was sitting on Charles's lap and T, who is taller than me, had had to lie across both Kitty's and JC's laps so she wouldn't hit her head on the 4Runner ceiling every time the SUV hit a bump (which was often. I told Liz we were doing an OD look-alike with her truck!) So T basically had her head out the window of this car that was crammed full of people. She cracked jokes the entire way back to Albright while we howled with laughter. As if all of that wasn't enough, we made a point of waving at passers-by.


Did I regret going? Not at all. I'm really glad we stayed and did it; we had so much fun! Would I do it again? Yes. But not sure about Grade V yet. Haha..

Back in Albright, Charles and I said our good-byes and headed back to MD. The road would take us through Morgantown WV where we stopped at a Burger King to grab some food. We were starving. The ladies at the drive-through were really nice, apologizing for our 1-minute wait and giving Charles extra extra onion ring sauce. He decided he liked West Virginians much better than he did Marylanders. Not that Marylanders are bad (especially when compared to South Floridians...), but West Virginians are really nice people in general it seems.

I slept like a log most of the way back home while Charles drove. He'd later say he really enjoyed the drive because again, it reminded him so very much of PR. We made it to the barn at 11:00 pm, where I set up the mares' feed and checked on them with a flashlight while they stood in the field. All 8 legs looked good and both mares were fine.

It was yet another epic weekend with Liz.


  1. Here is the Canyon: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/2347/

    Scroll down for info on each of the rapids, photos form higher levels, and descriptions of hazards that result from floodwaters (posted on this website so others can see and then avoid/help to remove later).

    Mike had guided the Cheat Narrows (different section of the Cheat) but not the Canyon (part we did). So he knew those lines, but not the ones we did. Ultimately, like you and your brother with rip currents though, he could read the water which helped.

    Photos of the canyon: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/2347/#tab-photos

    The photo labled "Typewriter!" has a good image of a surf hole with some hardboaters in it. Another photo labled "Jason Miller..." shows a hardboaterd doing cartwheels with his kayak in a surf hole. End over end, just like a cartwheel. The two images below his image show a blue hardboater surfing in a big wave; those kinds of waves are what playboaters (wee little kayak with big man in it) love; theyll throw loops (front flips) and a myriad of other crazy things. Google Jackson playboaters to find some videos of those crazies. My buddy Adam Johnson has traveled the world playboating. He's been to every continent except Antartica to do it!

    I'm glad you ate your fears and came rafting, and I hope you'll do it again. Class V isn't really so bad. And in a bigger raft, the effects of the current and each hump and bump along the way are dulled. You were in the smallest commercial raft out there (as I'm not counting a shredder as commercial in this instance). There are rafts nearly 2 and 3x the size of the one we were in. They are far more resilient to what is going on, and when you have upwards of 9 people working them down the river, it's even better. You navigate obstacles easier with that kind of power; and bigger rivers have fewer rock gardens to be stuck in!

    It's scary, it's a thrill, and it's totally worth it in the end!

    And OH, did Charles get the idea that Morgantown was bigger and maybe like it more? You probably drove right by both hospitals up there! There are also many many bars and several clubs. It's quite the different kind of city for WV due to the university.

    1. Information edited accordingly and photos added! Thank you for all of the info! I can see why you referred to hardboaters as a special kind of crazy...haha...wow!

      We had so much fun. I'd love to do it again without the time crunch!

      We did drive by the hospitals in Morgantown! Mike had told Charles that one of them was a Trauma I hospital and he was keeping an eye out for it. He was impressed with the size of Morgantown My own personal fave is still Elkins though. Haha...Some day you'll visit PR with us and I'll take you to my family's hometown and you'll see why. :)

  2. What a great white water trip. Glad you didn't die a horrible death on the water.

    1. We had a blast. The part where I fell overboard was supposed to be funny...it was a little ridiculous when I realized I had TWO paddles in my hands and here I am trying to swim towards the raft...I hope it reads that way.

    2. Not quite comparable to what you did, but I went kayaking last week and understand what you mean by reading the water, or my lack of ability to do so. Several times, I'd just lose control completely and it would spin me in a 360 as fast as it liked. I could never quite predict that, except, well it happend when I was trying frantically to course-correct.

      "Filling in the blanks" - my mind does this with the lack of snowy mountains here. I see puffy clouds on the horizon and my brain says, "Mountains" and I think, "Hm, which ones?" and look closer just to see, yah, clouds again *sigh*

      Thank you for the photo comparison of your home and WV - amazing similarity, and nothing like I've ever seen.

      I've actually been to Maryland though. I saw my first bluebird and I remember the rocks on the trail were sparkly. A jeweled trail. I remember thinking how strange, here we are on the east coast, and the woods are as empty of people as back home.

      You'd truly suffer here with the lack of food ingredients. I cannot find pinto beans, cilantro, or fresh jalepeno unless I go to a Palestinian shop in the next city. But I can find lemons, and I often do what you did, just squeeze a lemon on whatever.

      I nominate your blog for the good grammar award. Not too many bloggers write in an educated fashion. I'm losing that, but I blame Germany.

    3. Reading water is a fascinating thing. It was interesting to see that a lot of what I had learned surfing applied to whitewater as well. Though some things that looked exactly the same were different: shallow water on the ocean has a particular look to it, flat and sort of dimpled. Eddys on the river looked exactly the same way, though they weren't necessarily shallow. They were simply spots devoid of current.

      Your mountains...the first time I saw the Rockies I was awed so much. They were like nothing I had ever seen before. I couldn't believe their size, the fact that there was snow at the tops of them. It was like having a painting come to life...I loved that we had the opportunity to hike them, to be a part of the painting. I can see how cloud shapes will subconsciously remind you of those mountains. I can imagine how much you miss them!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the photo comparison! The main difference in some of them will be that the mountains in PR will have palm trees blended into the vegetation, but otherwise a lot of the flora is the same. It still astounds me that this place of 4 seasons reminds me so much more of the island than Florida ever did.

      The trails here can get quite packed on the weekends, but it also depends a lot on the park. Patuxent, aka Redneck Park, is usually pretty quiet because it's so huge.

      I miss having weekdays off, when riding on the trail meant you didn't have to worry about coming across hikers with dogs or cyclists! And you're right: there is a lot of white quartz here! You'll come across white quartz rocks and boulders on the trails every once in a while. Some horses think they are carnivorous. :) Lol

      Jalapeno in a Palestinian shop...that would be unexpected. But this is precisely one of the reasons why I enjoy your blog so much: you live in such a different world!

      I laughed at the nomination for the good grammar award. Thank you! Especially because English is my second language! But that's also why I make an effort to write correctly. I love that when I read your blog I hear the German accent, even though you are originally from the US. :)

    4. When you go back home, do you find that you say things wrong because your English has become so natural? Does your family tease you about this like mine does? : ) I would never have guessed that English is your second language. If I ever notice anything quirky about the way you use the language, I will have to let you know. So far, nothing.

      Oh, I forgot to mention the complete lack of chilis in this land. I cannot find green chilis fresh or canned, not even at the Palestinian shop. But I find myself stumped when I try to cook recipes that call for something as simple as condensed chicken soup. No such thing here, not even close. You probably didn't read back when I had to use beet juice to color Christmas cookies, cuz you know, red #40: )

      So it was quartz on the trail we saw? Sparkly goodness.

      I was giving English lessons to a kid a few years, and he learned the word immigrant. He said, "You are an immigrant." I said "I am not." He was confused, and I said, "I just live here." I'm a foreigner, and an American passport holder. Ever since coming here, I feel a special bond with other foreigners, even if I don't know them.

      How you say your name - it's how my husband said it when I asked him to try. That is the German pronunciation.

    5. Oooo I remember that post about the beet juice! Because red #40 is illegal or somesuch in Germany. They are so weird over there. I was fascinated when you wrote that post about the soda bottles.

      It's funny with the two languages...I used to be happy to switch to Spanish if a person I met in English turned out to be fluent in Spanish. Now, if I meet you in English, I'm going to keep talking to you in English even if your first language is Spanish mainly because I hear myself speaking differently, like what happens to you. I wouldn't be surprised if now I have an accent when I speak in Spanish, though it helps that Charles is Puerto Rican so at home we speak our Spanish with our slang. A unique thing about Puerto Ricans is that, since we are considered part of the US and English is the national second language of the island (our cable TV is in English for example, and we are taught English class all the way from Kindergarten to college), we have incorporated a lot of English words into our Spanish. "Spanglish", if you will. I think in English most of the time but my brain switches to Spanish when speaking in Spanish...and also when I'm tired, which can make it difficult (and often quite funny!) when talking. So I completely understand the problem you have when you return home and people think you are speaking funny! And I also totally get the feeling a special bond with other foreigners even if you don't know them. Same thing happens to me as well!

  3. Wow your conversation in the comments with Lytha was so fascinating!! I really enjoyed reading about your trip to West Virginia. It sounds like so much fun! I was getting all excited about the rafting, thinking I want to try it someday and then you said you fell out.... maybe not LOL!!!!! I'm glad you had fun though!

    1. Haha It's always fun talking to people from known countries who live overseas. Other cultures are so different and we don't really get to truly experience them until we are actually living within them 24/7 as residents. I love when people ask questions and are curious about my country/culture/etc. It's interesting to see how what they've been taught or heard compares to reality, and I also enjoy sharing the knowledge. A good friend of mine from work was telling me about her husband's notions of what PR looks like. I laughed and pulled up photos on Google of Puerto Rico in the 1930's, when there were still grass huts, horse-drawn carts, and people wore Panama hats. My coworker laughed too: that's exactly what her husband was imagining! A lot of people think that's what the island is like to this day. I then pulled up photos of PR in the 2000's and she was impressed. It is very much like Hawaii. Except without the volcanoes and the grass skirts. ;)

      The rafting was a ton of fun. I would have been happier without the scare tactics of the guides, but I really do recommend it. We were on the smallest commercial rafts which are not as stable as the larger ones that are more commonly used. I'm sure you'd be fine! :)

    2. PR sounds wonderful!! Maybe I can visit someday. I've never been out of the U.S. before so I'd like to go somewhere someday! I will definitely make sure it's one of three bigger rafts if I try it!