Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Down By the River

I very much enjoy taking walks along the Rio Uruguay, or rather the River Uruguay, which is about 5 blocks from our apartment. There is a little paved trail that runs along the water just for such walks. The view is spectacular.


The first week we were here we went down to the "beach" to swim a bit. The beach wasn't exactly sandy. It was more muddy and pebbly, but we braved the mud and sand to take a dip in the water. Then, as we were getting out we realized there was a big sign with a picture of a swimmer with a giant red line through him/her. Of course--the universal "no swimming" sign. It figures.


No worries though; I've seen other people swimming in the river when I'm on my walks. The sign must be there, simply because there is no lifeguard, not because there are man-eating fish in the river. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Vista de la Ventana

Perhaps I mentioned the windows in our apartment in a former post. I love the big glass windows we have. I keep them open to let in a cool breeze, since the little thermometer on my night stand reads 93 degrees Fahrenheit (which is indoors in the shade). I thought it was supposed to be autumn here? But I'm not complaining. This is my summer.

From the windows I love watching people walking along the street below. One entire wall of my room is a window with a railing so it is more like a balcony. It's great (minus the the noise from autos, loud advertisement vehicles, and mosquitos that get in). My view is great.


I like the noise from people milling around down below too. Makes me feel like I'm really in Latin America (especially when Uruguayans start singing Cumplianos Feliz at 2 something in the morning). There's something comforting about sounds of life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My First Day of Elementary School

One of our assignments while here is to work 3 days a week with teachers in a primary school on English instruction. My school, Escuela Numero Uno, is wonderful. The students had a special welcoming ceremony for me where they sang songs and read poetry in English. It was so special.


I can't walk down the hallway without 17 students yelling my name and running up to give me hugs and kisses. The kids are so adorable. I want to take them home with me. Watch out: I may end up coming home with 250+ kids.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Moving In

So we finally found "un apartamento" although we really only had one acceptable option in the entire city center. That is not to say I don't like our place though. It is fairly large with big windows that flood the rooms with sunlight during the day.

This is a picture of our dining room.


The apartment is actually located on the top floor of the hotel we first stayed in upon our arrival in Salto, right off the principle street. Unfortunately, there were only two rooms for three of us, but we were able to turn the living room into another bedroom.

However, my biggest complaint is that we don't have an oven or stove in the kitchen. There was a clause in the lease that made us promise to not cook. Seriously? How frustrating. They said it had something to do with the smell; but really, I smell food all the time wafting in my window from the restaurant across the street.

This is my room.


All in all, I'm happy with our living situation despite the fact our rent is comparatively high for the city we are in. I suppose I should be thankful; with the rent divided between the three of us, my part is still less than half of what I was paying to live in Maryland.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Apartment Hunt

We spent all day searching for apartments in Salto. It was next to impossible to find anywhere to stay!

We'd arrive at the places, tell them we want to rent a furnished apartment for three months and they'd give us an incredulous look that said, "You want what? and for how long?" Apparently month by month leases do not exist and furnished places are rare.

Several of the places we looked at would be struggle to stay there for 3 days let alone 3 months. One had a nice big dead roach to greet us behind the door. Another had a sink in the bedroom that doubled as the "kitchen" and bedroom. Hmmm. It's amazing how exhausting searching for a place to live can be. Goodness. At least we have one place that may work. There is a glimmer of hope.


Then this evening we went to the Museo de Bellas Artes, Museo Maria Irene Olarreaga Gallino. The architect who designed the building invited us there for a dedication of the garden outside. We met several important people from the city but actually didn't realize that is what we were going to beforehand, hence why I was wearing the same sweaty clothes I had worn all day to go apartment shopping. Nice. On the bright side I loved the art. There was a hominage to Leandro Silva Delgado whose oil paintings I enjoy very much. He was born in Salto, painted lots of natural scenes, designed a bunch of gardens, and then died in Spain. He was a great Uruguayan artist.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Calle Uruguay

Calle Uruguay is the major road running through the city of Salto. Here, everyone congregates to eat, drink, shop, walk, chat, or people-watch. It's a happening street.


Uruguayans frequent Calle Uruguay to see and be seen.

To the Provinces

Today we traveled from Montevideo to the province where we will be teaching for the first 3 months--Salto.


Salto is in northwestern Uruguay along the Uruguay River; a six hour bus ride from the capital. Salto is the second largest city in Uruguay with a population a little over 99,000; however it is considered a rural area (which is hard for me to conceptualize, considering my hometown of Shippensburg, PA has a population of less than 6,000). However, Salto does have a distinctly different atmosphere than Montevideo.

I am looking forward to experiencing both Salto and Montevideo. Hopefully I will be able to capture the essence of both rural and urban life in Uruguay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arrival in Uruguay

So in case you wondering:  I made it to Uruguay!


I arrived in Uruguay after spending over 24 hours in the airport or on planes on Sunday.  Two of my flights were delayed, but that wasn't so bad.  I am here now.

For the past three days the other ETA's and I have been having orientation in Montevideo.  We are learning just exactly we will be doing during our time in Uruguay.  Everyone I have met has been super friendly and so welcoming.  I know I am going to like it here.  

Tuesday we took a tour of Montevideo, specifically visiting 
  • Ciudad Vieja (Old City, Historic District)
  • Plaza de Independencia (Independence Plaza where a stature pays tribute to Uruguay's national hero, José Gervasio Artigas, and also where his remains are guarded 24/7) 
  • Palacio Parlamento (the Capitol Building, or rather where their legislative body meets)
  • Torre de las Telecomunicaciones (Telecommunications Tower, the tallest building overlooking the city)
  • Opera Solis (Opera House)
  • El Prado (ritzy neighborhood where the president lives)  
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on the tour, but I did sneak out for a quick walk to snap some photos of the coast line along La Rambla which is basically the beach nestled against the Pocitos neighborhood where our hotel is located.


Wednesday we wrapped up our orientation in the capital by meeting with our mentors who will be assisting us in Salto.  I think I'm going to be working with some great people at some great schools.

Tonight we had a delicious catered dinner at one of the Fulbright director's houses where we rubbed shoulders with a bunch of very important people and got to watch hired performers dance the tango for us.  It was so beautiful.  Sigh.  What a lovely evening.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Countdown

The countdown to my departure from the United States has begun.  Only 4 days left.

I still haven't had time to really get prepared.  I honestly can't remember a point in my life where I've been in this much of a time crunch.  I'm starting to feel like it's not going to be humanly possible to leave by Sunday, but alas, I must.

I have to continue attending my classes until Friday.  I have a paper to finish researching and writing.  I have a giant pile of mid-term exams and papers to grade.  I have to move out of my apartment.  I have to drive home to Pennsylvania.  I have to pack.  I have to tie-up loose ends.  I have to run errands.  I have to say goodbye to everyone.  And these are only the BIG things.  Throw in a million other little things and you see my predicament.  

How am I going to get this all done in only 4 days?

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Officially Official

Well, it's official now.  After visiting the doctor's office a million times to get a rather extensive (and unfortunately expensive) physical for medical clearance, the Fulbright commission was finally able to book a flight for me.  Harrisburg to Philadelphia to Miami to Montevideo.  13 hours in-air travel time.  

The surrealism is just now starting to sink in.  I am really doing this.  I am really up and moving to Uruguay in less than a week.  I can't wait to find out what the next 8 months of my life are going to hold!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How It All Began

Wow!  It's amazing how fast life can change.  A few weeks ago I was living life like normal, working toward my master's degree at the University of Maryland.  I figured I'd spend the rest of the semester in College Park happy as a lark.  I even was planning on spending my first summer in MD working in Washington DC doing something political.  That would've been great.  I would have been one hundred percent content.  But life has a way of twisting and turning into beautiful unpredictability.

Within the past few weeks I was notified that I received a Fulbright grant to Uruguay.  I could hardly believe it.  Really, I didn't think that it could be real.  I had applied to Argentina way back in the fall of 2007 through Shippensburg University even before I applied to graduate schools.  I made it to the final round and then got a letter saying that I was not accepted.  Bummer.  I managed to put that disappointment behind me; thinking it wasn't meant to be.  Then, I got word that funding may open up in Uruguay in February of this year, almost a year and half since I had originally pored over the (lengthy and detailed) application.  Not much later, the assistant director for US student programs of the International Institute of Education told me that I was offered the grant.  Seriously?  That was my first thought.  Seriously?

Of course I want a Fulbright grant.  It's a FULBRIGHT grant.  People don't turn those down.  People dream of these sorts of things.

The craziest part however, is that the grant starts in mid-March, not more than a few weeks away.  I have to leave mid-semester here.  My department is amazing though.  They found someone to teach my courses, solved my tuition remission, and are working with me to figure out what I want to do regarding the courses I am taking.  I am so thankful for their dedication to helping me realize this dream.  Seriously?  How often does a Fulbright grant fall into one's lap.  That just doesn't happen.

But then again--maybe it does.