Uruguay: the Oregon of South America.
Hello friends! It’s time for another update on Argentina. First, just in case you don’t get past this first part here are the most important things you need:
NEW photo website: http://flickr.com/photos/a_mesaros/
Address: Cespedes 2539 Piso 7 Depto D
(1426) Capital Federal
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Send me letters and postcards! But no packages, it’s a long process to pick them up at the post office :(
OK, now for the update! As you probably know by now, I am here with AIFS, a group of 15 students from the US. This past weekend, we all went to Uruguay together. We had been to Uruguay before, to a small town called Colonia, which is just about the cutest thing ever, and this time we were in Punta del Este and Montevideo.
I was talking to my dad the night before we left, and he said he thought Uruguay should be hotter than Buenos Aires, and that got me thinking about how it is a bit closer to the equator, but not so much that it would make a huge difference in temperature, you know? And then, it hit me: it’s JUST like going to Oregon from Seattle. It is indeed closer to the equator (just like Oregon in relation to Washington…) and we flew there in about 40 minutes which is just like flying from Portland to Seattle. And then I started seeing all these similarities that are really there between the northwest and the Argentina/Uruguay situation. The people here and in Uruguay speak with the same accent, and have a lot of the same traditions and customs, the weather is similar…Montevideo is a smaller, less popular version of Buenos Aires…You do see the connection, don’t you? The similarity is striking. Something for all of us to consider.
But getting to what we did there…we flew over there last Friday, and it was cool because this is a group of people I wouldn’t normally travel with, but they were really fun nonetheless. (We’re going to Iguazu falls in 3 weeks together and that should be really fun too!) When we arrived in Montevideo we took a bus an hour and a half to Punta del Este, which is the town on the very corner of Uruguay where the Rio de la Plata meets the Atlantic ocean. We walked around town for a bit and then chillaxed until going to dinner. Dinner that night totally rocked. We went to this little restaurant down by the water and I sat with a group of girls on a couch in the corner and we sat around chitchatting and eating for a few hours. We were with Valentina, a coordinator for our program who is our age, and it was the first chance I’d had to have a really good talk with her, and it totally rocked. Especially because it was in Spanish.
I feel like I’ve sort of hit a wall with Spanish. I’ve been here over 2 months now, and I have about 2 ½ left, but I feel like I’m not getting enough practice. My roommate Kim and I decided last week that we’re only going to speak Spanish together, which lasted about 3 days. I will make her start again tonight for sure. It’s been hard to meet argentines, and the first people I knew here were students from the states, so generally that’s who I hang out with, you know? I’m working on it though, I promise! I just feel like its so much easier to meet people when I’m traveling. More updates to come on that :)
Moving right along, I have been accomplishing a lot of firsts here while studying abroad (rappelling, feeding pigeons, snowshoeing, whalewatching…) and now…gambling! We went to a casino after dinner on Friday night, and I lost $10 on electronic blackjack. I totally didn’t even see it coming; I had been doing so well. Next time, I’ll win it all back I’m sure.
One of the best parts of the trip was the people we met by the harbor in Punta del Este. Meghan and I were just walking along on sat. afternoon and met Mariana, an artist. She paints scenes of Punta del Este and puts really good quotes on them by Spanish/latin American authors. They’re hard to describe, but really well done, so I bought a bunch of them for World Markets. (World Markets is a non-profit run by my friend through UPC, my church at home, and they support artists by selling their art in the states).
After chatting with Mariana for awhile, we moved on down the water a ways to where the fishermen were cleaning their fish, and there were sea lions hanging out there waiting for the fish scraps. There was a guy that just seemed really at home there, and he started telling us all about the sea lions, and we thought he was a fisherman, but it turns out that he was just there visiting with his wife from Montevideo. We ended up talking to them for about an hour without even noticing! The sea lions were really fun, and so was the couple we met. The woman was carrying around a half-empty bottle of wine, which should give you an idea of just how fun she was :)
I had some of the best meat of my LIFE in Montevideo on Saturday night. It’s called matambrito de cerdo, and it’s the upper-side area of the pig. The seasonings, saltiness and tenderness of that dinner was so heavenly. When I got in bed that night I told Meghan I was still thinking about my food and how it had changed my life. I’ve never enjoyed a piece of pork so much.
Sunday we went to a huge flea market that had everything from gold fish to puppies to underwear, to jewelry and produce. We wandered around there for awhile and then held the most unhealthy puppies I’ve ever seen in my life (wow, sounds like a lot of extremes—best pork, worst puppies—but I guess Uruguay is just an extreme place, who knew?!). I was holding a little baby yellow lab, and I told the vendor that she was thirsty, and his response was “O, ok, I’ll give her a coke, hahahahaha.” Pretty much not ok. Whenever I set one down in their box, they didn’t move around at all, they just laid there exactly how I left them. That would not go over very well in the US, but I could not write an email long enough about all the differences I’ve experienced.
The rest of the time there we hung out at the beach, which in Montevideo is actually at the river, not the ocean, but still good. The beach was super crowded and a ton of people were playing soccer and drinking mate (maté). There’s a wall along the road separating it from the beach, and it was completely covered with people sitting along it, and other people brought chairs to just chillax on the sidewalk by the wall. It was 30 degress C, or 80 F which was nice, but pretty humid as well. Also, there was a big dead fish problem. In both Punta del Este and Montevideo, the Atlantic and the Rio, there were dead fish EVERYWHERE. So we didn’t so much go in the water, except to say we’d been in the Atlantic in Uruguay.
I hope you’re all doing well, and enjoying the last little bit of official summer time up there. I realize that I mostly tell you all about my travels, so I’m going to come up with some fun stuff from my everyday life in Buenos Aires, since that’s where I spend most of my time. I’m going to Chile with 4 friends next week, leaving on Thursday, so you’ll be getting more updates about that when I get back! I also just have to tell you that right now it is raining harder than I ever remember seeing it rain. I’m in the library at school, and if there wasn’t an underground tunnel to my class, I really don’t know if I would go.
Anywho, as always, I love hearing from you, and I’m thinking about you all! I could use some prayer for continuing to build solid friendships and more people to have one on one conversations with in Spanish—its SO important!