November 9, 2011: Naming the kitchen

Why is that I always spy the best photo opportunities when I’m running late? At any rate, here are some lovely sunlit leaves from the white-flowered Fabaceae trees that grow everywhere. (I’ve decided that my initial assumption that they were honey locust/Gleditsia triacanthos was wrong, and I feel like a bad botanist. Now I think they might be Robinia pseudoacacia, or white locust. Also, while researching, I found a nifty booklet about the invasive plants of Chile, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Whatever kind of tree they are, they're beautiful.

Having satisfied my photo-urges, I headed to class, where we continued talking prepositions to death. During the break, we walked to a nearby coffee shop; I had a real mocha, hallelujah! The coffee shop seems very gringo, but it’s sunny and comfortable, so I plan to return there with a book some afternoon.

As we were wrapping up our Spanish lessons for the day, a student protest formed in the plaza. They started marching shortly before I finished classes, so I ended up needing to walk alongside the march in order to get home. It was interesting and relatively peaceable; I wrote about it in a separate blog post because it seemed tidier.

In the afternoon, I sat in the sun and snacked on toast with dulce de membrillo, which is a sticky block of quince paste. You can slice it up and put little bricks of it on bread, or cheese, or your pets. (The supermercado had a whole section devoted to dulce de membrillo. I had no idea what it was, so I brought home a tiny cube of it. Not bad, actually.)

Valpo moon.

I had dinner plans with MH, the Chilean niece-of-a-friend-of-a-friend whom I met last weekend. I hadn’t taken the micro (bus) to Viña del Mar alone before, and I had asked the driver to stop at a particular place in Viña. As too much time passed, I edged to the front of the lurching micro and asked the driver: “So where is this place anyhow?” — “Oh, we already passed it.” Well, damn. With the phone assistance of MH, I grabbed another bus to backtrack to where I was supposed to meet her.

She was waiting for me at the bus stop, and we walked up the hill to where she lives with her brother (GH). They have a lovely apartment, scattered with assorted books and his artwork. I met GH in passing, as he headed out to another event. Then, I lurked in the kitchen as MH finished preparing a dinner of pasta, curry, and zucchini.

We talked extensively over dinner, and then I kept her company while she washed up. We started naming all the objects in the kitchen, from tazitas to batidoras. Occasionally I’d toss out ridiculous neologisms as guesses; once or twice, my wild guesses actually succeeded (for instance, a large bowl is bol). We giggled a lot, and I think that some of the new vocabulary will actually stick in my brain.

At the end of the evening, MH walked me back to the main road. We met her cat on the way out: a handsome, extraordinarily vocal fella. I immediately turned into a six-year old child: “Helloooo kitty! Aren’t you a loven! Aww hi! Beauty darling pie! What a sweetie-poo!” (I might be suffering from cat withdrawal. I miss my own dear cats.)

After noticing a purple mustard-esque flower near her front door, I started thinking about plant taxonomy. Since MH is currently working on a degree in Agronomy, I asked her if she knew many scientific plant names. Why yes! For the remainder of the walk, we geeked out about the plants we encountered. She is very good at tree identification (I’m not), and I recognized a few horticultural plants new to her. Even though our pronunciation of the Latin names differs slightly, botany is still a superb common language.

Did you know that Chile’s stray cats enjoy eating spaghetti? It’s true.

This cat defies all your cat-diet assumptions.