Monday, August 31, 2009

Tormenta de Santa Rosa

The weather here has been amazing...until today that is. This weekend I spent two days soaking up the sun on the warm sand of the Pocitos Beach only 7 blocks from our apartment. I still can't believe I was laying on the beach in my swimsuit during winter. The temperatures got well into the 80s fahrenheit. Yeah right, "winter".

Apparently, however, close to every 30th of August, it gets warm and then takes a turn for the cold with the legendary Tormenta de Santa Rosa (Saint Rosa's Storm). And lo-and-behold, we had a storm today. Lots of rain and cooler temperatures than during the weekend. The stats for the past 8 years seem to suggest there's some truth in this old meteorology legend.

Nonetheless, I still rejoice that the days of hovering over the wretched gas space heater are forever gone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Narrow Escape in La Boca

Last weekend when my dear friend, Emily, was visiting me from the states, we hit up all the toursity stuff in the Montevideo and even made time to head over to Buenos Aires for 2 days. I think our favorite part of the city was La Boca despite our little "incident" in this neighborhood.

The houses are brightly colored and tourist shops, restaurants, and tango bars warm and welcoming. You can feel the spirit of Buenos Aires in the air of this neighborhood. The Museo de Bellas Artes de la Boca "Benito Quinquela Martín", was a great fine arts museum showcasing some excellent artwork of emerging Latin American artists and and of course the works of Quinquela Martín, one of Argentina's most beloved painters. His works are especially vibrant and expressive. I love his representation of color and water. His style is regonizable almost immediately. The museum is where he actually lived and worked overlooking the port. A must visit in my opinion.

However, as we were attempting to catch the bus back to the the city center (in broad daylight mind you), two boys popped out of nowhere and demanded that we give them our cameras. We didn't understand what was happening at first so they repeated their request to which I responded, we don't have cameras. What did they think we would do? Say, sure, just a minute, let me get out my camera so I can give it to you? I can't imagine what would have happened to us, if I didn't know any Spanish. They then started grabbing our purses and reaching in our pockets, but we resisted and ran across the street to where other individuals were walking. Fortunately, we escaped unscathed and with all of our belongings.

I have to admit that I am a little paranoid of shady-looking teenage boys now. Almost getting mugged in the streets of Buenos Aires can do that to a person.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Independence Day

As I mentioned in my last post, today, August 25th, is the Uruguay's Independence Day.

Like almost every other person in Uruguay, we danced our feet off last night for the Noche de la Nostalgia, so we didn't get home until after 5:30 AM--and that was early in Uruguayan terms. I must say that I didn't exactly know all of the songs they played, especially the ones in Spanish, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have fun. On a side note, I've been humming Rod Stewart's I Don't Want to Talk About It all day so I suppose la noche de la nostalgia lives on in my head.

Happy Independence Day Uruguay! On August 25, 1825 Uruguay declared independence from Brazil. Felicidades!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Noche de la Nostalgia

August 24th is apparently one of the biggest days in Uruguay's calendar. Deemed the "Nostalgia Night," both old and young, leave their houses to go dancing to oldies music, yes that's right hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and more. And it is said to be the party of year. Originally, I think the party was intended to be on August 25th, Uruguay's Independence Day, but somehow nostalgia night has come to overshadow that official holiday.

A lot of places charge big covers (anywhere from 200 to 1000 pesos) to get in and get your groove on. We are going to wander around Ciudad Vieja until we find an appropriate place to dance to U2, the Beatles, Bon Jovi and The Police among many others. Hmmm, this all seems strange to me.

Fortunately, I have been informed that people do not dress the part. And I was going to wear tie dye...guess I dodged a bullet there.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm a-leavin', on a jet plane....

Special post by guest blogger, Emily

So here I am, on my last night in Montevideo, and I was thinking, "Have I gotten enough from my week in South America?" Obviously, the answer to that is a resounding 'no'. But I don't think a person should have to see every single thing in order to feel fulfilled.

Every time I travel, my goal is to leave with a sense that I'm going back home not only with souvenirs (I swear, I don't spend the whole time shopping), but also with the sense that I've experienced things the majority of people back home will never encounter. With that said, I realize it is my responsibility to encourage traveling, especially internationally and especially with the young. You are never too old to love traveling, but it is when you are young that you can fully appreciate taking advantage of what the world has to offer.

I find that it is especially imperative for younger generations to travel and experience different cultures. There are so many reasons why! It broadens your view of people, expands on your range of knowledge, makes you thankful for what you have, makes you thankful for what you don't have (ahem, Dengue and swine flu), it connects you to the world!

Knowledge may have condemned Adam and Eve and curiosity shamed Pandora, but it now promotes tolerance and acceptance of others. I've come away feeling that I've learned more in a week than a semester at a desk. I cannot even fathom the number of connections my neurons have made between each other because of everything that I've taken in.

What I have seen had been beautiful and enlightening.

The world is your cup! It is up to you whether or not to drink from it.

p.s. I had a great time! Don't touch the wild dogs, be careful feeding the birds, and see the beach at sunset!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shop Until You Drop

Uruguayans are darn proud of their shopping malls. I don’t even know how many times I have been asked if I have been to such-and-such shopping center with great sincerity. And interestingly enough the word “shopping” has not been translated. So I hear something like, “Has ido a shopping?”

The malls are hotspots where everyone seems frequent and to rave about amongst one another. In Salto, the Shopping Center (which also doubles as the bus terminal) was the pride of city. In Montevideo the shopping locales seem to garner the same praise. When we visited Florida, the people were trying to convince us that Florida is a great town even though they don’t have a shopping mall. I got the vibe they might be a little embarrassed about the lack of a shopping center in their city, but to be honest, I could care less. What is a shopping mall? Don’t get me wrong—I love shopping. I even love shopping malls, but I’ve never thought of a shopping mall as anything really special. It’s just another place to me, as shopping malls probably are to most Americans.

I think the shopping mall frenzy is reflective many social, economic, and even political factors. For one, the novelty of stores in a centralized location under one roof makes buying goods much more convenient. Shopping at the mall also functions as a way to signal status. The stores in the shopping centers are usually those of higher caliber and so higher price tags. These stores are mostly chains that have stores in multiple locations (abroad and/or within Uruguay)—anything from Zara, Manos de Uruguay, Levi, Nike, To-To, Tienda Montevideo, to Daniel Cassin. Not just anyone can afford to shop at the shopping mall. Also, it seems that the malls are proud displays of modernity.

The buildings often are large, well-designed structures, definitely better than some shopping malls I’ve been to in the States. The atmosphere is also very consumeristic (of course, it’s a shopping mall) which I would argue is close synonym for modernitistic these days. The ability to shop for luxury items on a Friday or Saturday night is not something that Uruguayans were always able to do. Built in 1985, Montevideo Shopping boasts about being the first shopping center in the Rio de la Plata. It's no coincidence that the dictatorship plaguing the country happened to terminate that same year. Shopping malls are emblematic of the free society Uruguay is today.

At the risk of sounding patronizing, I find the fascination with shopping malls endearing. And at the same time rather troubling…

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I forgot to post about our trip to an estancia back when we were in Salto.

We visited a ranch that belongs to the aunt of one of the professors from the CERP. Tia Sara was 90 plus years old, and she was very sweet.

This place was literally in the middle of nowhere. We drove down "roads" that were nothing more than muddy trails through fields and tangerine orchards.

The house was gorgeous. Big enough for a very very large family and then some.

It was also full of antiques from to top bottom.

Centuries of family treasures abounded in the house. It was almost like a museum.

We spent our afternoon exploring the ranch, sipping mate, and eating delicious pastries. What could be more Uruguayan?

Overall, we had a lovely time on a beautiful farm that hasn't changed it's looks in well over a hundred years! The Uruguayan countryside and rural lifestyle is well-worth preserving.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mercado del Puerto

If you have ever asked, Where's the beef? you will be happy to know I have found the answer. The beef is at the Mercado del Puerto in downtown Montevideo.

Imagine steamy grill after steamy grill lined with meaty delectables. Chorizo, Asado, Sausage links, Rump Roasts, Ribs, Chicken, and cuts of meat I don't even want to think about.

The people at Mercado del Puerto were super friendly. The men at our parillada insisted we come around the table to take a photo with the grill behind us. They handed us pitchforks of meat and we just kind of stood there smiling awkwardly and profusely.

Later, after our delicious meat dinner, we wandered around the market chatting with a few locals and enjoying the sounds of classical Uruguayan songs by meandering guitarists.