Hello my long-awaiting readers! My deepest apologies for the long delay between this post and the last one. One thing led to another and I found myself so engaged in my life here that every time it crossed my mind that I should be writing more entries I found new things to do. In any regard, I’m going to try to give a recap of some notable past events; no guarantees that it’ll be in the correct order of when they actually took place, or that I will remember everything, but it’s better than nothing, right?
We took a weekend trip to Uruguay that was an absolute blast. We had to cross the Rio de la Plata, which is the river that separates Argentina from Uruguay (remember how I said they call the “dialect” of Spanish here castellano rioplatense? Well that rioplatense part refers to the area around the Rio de la Plata). I had no idea how big this river actually is; from the skinniest part it is about two miles wide but it can reach up to 140 miles wide! It turns out that there are two options to cross it, both of which are by boat. You can take the fast one or the slow one; the fast one crosses the river in about an hour, the slow one takes about 3-4 hours. Going to Uruguay we were on the fast boat, which allowed us to cross the river in no time at all. We visited two towns in Uruguay; the first was a small pueblo called Colonia del Sacramento which is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. It was founded in 1680 by Portuguese settlers and still has many remnants of its past inhabitants, including the walls and cobblestone streets. It was quite the quaint village, and it was completely dead. Apparently it is a summer vacation town for many Uruguayans and Argentines and because it was winter (and very cold and rainy while we were there!) there were not many people around. However, there were plenty of street dogs! They were quite entertaining and once we got over our original hesitancy about them they turned out to be fun partners. While our group did some silly games on the beach, thanks to staff member Goyo (who is a physical education teacher) the dogs watched us and tried to get involved. They more or less integrated us into their pack as well, which meant that as we were doing a walking tour of the town, they were constantly by our sides and always sought to “protect” us from any threat. This included chasing after and barking at passing cars, and almost getting into some gnarly fights with rival street dogs. They were quite sweet though to us, and even stuck around the hotel so that any time we would leave to go get food or walk around they would be right outside waiting for us. We stayed in a Radisson hotel in Colonia which gave us access to wonderful amenities that we don’t normally experience: for one, I got a full-sized bed, which was a nice change from my single in my host mother’s house. Also, the continental breakfast was to die for; a huge spread with all sorts of fruit, pastries, and most importantly, eggs (Argentines do not eat eggs for breakfast, or have large breakfasts in any sense, so it was a nice piece of home) was waiting for us the next morning.
The next day we took a bus to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Along the way we passed by gorgeous beaches and waterfront apartments. Apparently the city is quite the vacation spot for Uruguayans and Argentines alike who flock to the area during the summer to lie under the sun. In Montevideo we received a walking tour of the city by a guide who was very informative and showed us around the city. To be honest, it very much reminded me of Buenos Aires but a much more relaxed version. In Uruguay, in contrast to Argentina, drivers will actually stop to let you cross the street and the people there were much more friendly and willing to talk to us. Perhaps the fact that Buenos Aires is a big city, like New York or Paris, and bustling with people means that people are too much in a hurry to take the time to talk to foreigners but I certainly felt more at ease and calm in Uruguay. We also got to see the Presidential Executive Tower, which is where the President of Uruguay works. It is quite the sight; it is a modern glass high rise that is in the middle of the main city square, not behind fences or anything! The President of Uruguay, José Mujica, is also an interesting character. A former guerilla fighter, he has rejected any sense of a life of luxury and refuses to live in the presidential palace. Instead, he and his wife live in on a small chrysanthemum farm where they farm the flowers to make money due to the fact that Mujica donates 90% of his salary to charity. He drives a very old Volkswagen beetle and is publically an atheist. Such a thing could never happen in Argentina, a very very Catholic country. In any regard, I would love to spend more time in Uruguay and see more of the country, and of course eat more of the food! I ate my first chivito which is a Uruguayan sandwich that has beef, a fried egg, ham, lettuce, tomatoes and a mixture of other toppings. And it was fantastic!
Moving on, we also had some tango lessons in Buenos Aires that was quite a fun experience. I’m certainly not one to go dancing, but since it was an activity put on by the group and I’m in Argentina I couldn’t pass it up. We went to a dance club held inside an Armenian cultural center where we received lessons by two Argentine tango pros (any by pros, I mean pros, they were unbelievable to watch). I learned the basic tango steps and we all switched partners a bunch to switch up the dancing. I felt as though I was pretty competent at the basic tango steps but trying to do some of the advanced moves that our instructors demonstrated I realized that Yo soy de madera (the Argentine equivalent of saying you have two left feet, it means “I’m made of wood”). After our instructions in a private room we went downstairs to the actual club to watch some regulars dance the tango. The club serves as a local dance venue for people who live in the area and they regularly come to dance. The tango is certainly a beautiful dance and those who were very proficient at it amazed me with how smooth they could move around the dance floor.
I also signed up and attended the rugby game between Argentina and England. While I know nothing about the sport of rugby it was great fun going to a stadium filled with people to watch a sporting event. I made sure to wear blue (to support Argentina of course!) and while I didn’t know what was happening on the field, I made sure to cheer whenever the Argentines were cheering and to throw my hands in exasperation whenever the British scored a point (I’m sure it’s called something else though…). One notable experience from this trip was the reciting of the Argentine national anthem at the beginning of the match. Unlike the US national anthem, which is sung very solemnly by a sole singer while the audience stands in silence, the Argentine anthem is very much a participatory event. Seemingly the whole stadium was jumping up and down and chanting the anthem together which was quite the spectacle to see. To be honest, I rather preferred this performance because it brought the crowd together in support of their team and animated the crowd.
Obviously there is much more that I’ve been doing but as finals are due this week I can’t devote too much time to going over it all. I thought at the very least I owed you all a little taste of what I’ve been doing and I will certainly elaborate more upon my return to the States. Cheers!