Alyssa in Uruguay

Jasmine (left) and I

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Last night and the plane

My last night ended up being really nice. There is a modern-looking place near Ryan and Kendall’s apartment (they moved back into their apartment by the way) that we had been wanting to go to for awhile. It is in Positos and is the only place we have seen in Montevideo that has valet parking. For my last night we just went there and hung out for awhile. I ate gnoccis at home with Maria so I didn’t eat. Instead I ordered my last drink before I go back to the states, a daquiri. I won’t be 21 for a month after I get back. After dinner at that place I just walked home and was in bed by 1:30. Which was good because I had to be up fairly early the next morning.

It’s more like I couldn’t sleep. I woke up at 6 and then for good at about 8. I got up and took a shower since I won’t be able to for the next day or so during my plane rides. Maria sat down and had breakfast with me. I am going to miss the little old lady. She got me an amazing last postre (dessert.) It had cream on the top and dulce de leche in the middle. She sat down and talked to me for a long time. Then I had to run to meet Ryan and Kendall.

This morning there was a 4th of July celebration at the American Ambassador’s house for resident Americans here. It was amazing. His house is gorgeous. It was nice to go to an American function right before I returned home. There is nothing better than seeing the American flag when abroad. Hearing the National Anthem with an American flag when you are thousands of miles away is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Not only was that wonderful, but one of the men working at the embassy is from Waco and went to Baylor for 2 years! I talked to him for awhile and then he told me that there was a large group of students from ACU in Abilene doing a medical mission trip. He introduced me to them later and I talked to them for awhile. They will only have been here a month when they leave, but it was so ridiculous to have people from po-dung Abilene, Texas, in Montevideo, Uruguay on the last day.

Now I am sitting at the Carrascas airport in Montevideo waiting to leave for Santiago, Chile, and then go only Dallas. It was sad to leave Maria. She made me sit down and eat more before I left and talked to me for a long time. She teared up when I left and gave me plenty of besos before I got in the taxi to leave. The taxi driver told me my Uruguayan Spanish was good. Too bad it won’t help me too much in Texas! I can’t believe I am waiting for a plane to go home. I was just on my own and getting used to it here. I guess that’s life for you. Just when you get comfortable, you are thrown somewhere else. I life is a story of culture shock. Don’t feel bad for me though; it’s self imposed to be sure!

My last day in Montevideo

My last day of Montevideo, Uruguay. It’s hard to believe. I woke up this morning for my last time to watch Dawson’s Creek at 10 a.m. over breakfast. I am hooked to that tv series now. I think I may ask for it as a present for my birthday next month.

The past few days while Jasmine and Jo have been leaving have been long, and at the same time short. Today after breakfast and packing up a little I went to have lunch with my coworkers. Every 29th of the month Uruguayans eat gnoccis. It’s the only day they are allowed to have this pasta. It was potato in the middle. It’s very good. I couldn’t eat all of mine, but my old boss decided to eat any that I had left. It would never fly in the states for a 60 year-old boss to reach over and eat your leftovers. Hilarious.

After lunch we went back to the office and took last pictures. They were all sad to see me go. One of them told me that she had always thought that North Americans were rude, cold and distant until I came along. Hearing that made my entire trip worthwhile. I was sad to tell Florencia and Valentina bye. My boss gave me a letter of completion and said that if I needed a reccomendation I could let him know anytime.
Florencia has a house at Punta del Diablo, my fav place in Uruguay. Like everyone else in this country, they told me to come back in the summer. After seeing them I was really sad and I talked to Maria for awhile. She told me that many of her past tenants have returned and I could do the same. Then she said the same thing about making sure that I come back in the summer. At least I know Valentina is coming to San Antonio at some point so I can come see her. I will still be e-mailing all my coworkers too.

Yesterday I walked around to the stadium where I have seen 2 soccer games. I never knew it before, but it is where the first World Cup game took place. That night I watched the high schoolers from the school put on a Uruguayan play in Spanish and then went home to pack the rest of the night. At least I got most of my packing done.

After lunch with my coworkers I walked along the Rambla (along the beach) with Kendall. It is sad that I will not be so close to the sea very soon. I really cannot believe that I will not be here at the same time tomorrow. It is time that I leave, but at the same time I am sad to go. I will miss the incredibly slow pace of life here and the fact that since it’s winter everyone just sits around. I am glad to not be a white ghost anymore after I tan, but I will miss it here. I will miss it a lot.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Last day of work / Jo's last night

My time here really is drawing near to an end now. Yesterday I had my last day of work and this morning Jo left for Ecuador. Now all I have left from the initial group who was here from Adelante are Ryan and Kendall. And I need to start packing!!

I went into work yesterday after walking around for awhile with Kendall to find the local Harley Davidson store. I was at work for about 30 mintues when my boss, Miguel, came by and said that they were bringing in a new computer to my desk for one of my coworkers to use. I told him that if I was given the e-mail, I could e-mail him my English-Spanish transcription work and it could be my last day at work since I was finished already.

I stuck around while they installed the computer to talk to them and then I had all of my coworkers take a picture with me. They may be chatty cathys and talk and drink mate more than they work, but they are still very friendly people and I intend to stay in touch with them. Valentin has relatives in San Antonio and she promised me that she will e-mail me if she comes to visit. They invited me to have gnoccis on Friday since it will be the 29th of the month (it's a big deal to have gnoccis only on the 29th,) so I will see them one last time. It can be my packing break.

Last night pretty much everyone from the school went out for Jo's last night to Baar Fun Fun. I even talked Walter, one of the sponsors here with the high schoolers, into going. Everyone came...Linda, Walter, Jo, Tito (the cab driver she made friends with here...oh Jo,) Haylee, Igor, Kendall, Ryan, Rachelle and Rafael. Rosanna was there singing like she always does Wednesday night. She is so good! We were there for several hours relaxing and having wine. It's Jo's favorite place to go and she went every Wednesday night so I had to go there with her on her last night.

Afterwards of course she wanted to go to Peoni Pisador, a boliche/bar that is not too far away in Ciudad Vieja. There was a live band there playing salsa and tango music. They even played a couple English songs (even though they'd make of the words-it was hilarious.) Haylee, Walter and I ended up staying out until 4. It was a lot of fun. I actually gave my real number to a guy there. I figured it was one of my last nights out in Montevideo and we had been laughing at each other while we danced for awhile. His name is Nico. He was very complimentary (all the Latin men are.) He asked me to go to the theater Saturday night. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was leaving. Oh my goodness, I'm leaving!!

Stephen, the older businessman here, wanted me to go with him to Punta del Este the other day to go out to the nicest restaurant in Uruguay. I felt really guilty when I heard that he had waited to make plans with me all the night before and the next morning. But this morning I heard that he never came back last night and now I don't feel so bad. There are several creepy men here. Last night Igor got drunk and was hitting on me so terribly that he tried to play footsies. ugh. There's a new older guy here who smokes weed and is usually drunk who apparently enjoys looking at me. Great. It's a blessing and a curse to be a young woman.

I think I am about to go to see a museum with Walter. The high schoolers are leaving for Buenos Aires tomorrow. I just gave one of the sponsors tips. I feel like an old-timer here now telling them where they should go and do here and in South America. It's a good feeling. Tonight the high schoolers are putting on a play. It's the last night I will see them. It all really is coming to an end!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jasmine leaves

Jasmine is gone!!! Today was sooo sad. It had never hit me that she was leaving until we started walking away from the school to go home from her saying bye to the students and teachers there. I went to work an hour late after having a glass of wine. Neither of us could believe that our 2 months of Uruguay were at an end. At some points it seemed to drag on forever, and then towards the end it went much too fast.

Last night Haylee (new girl with Adelante from Cali,) Stephen (from Austrailia,) Walter (with the high schoolers from Virginia,) Jasmine and later Ryan and Kendall went out to the Radisson (the best hotel here) to hang out for Jasmine's last night. It was really nice. They had a piano bar and Stephen got some champagne for us. We talked about our experiences in Montevideo and what we liked and didn't like. It was really nice. A great last night for my roomie.

Afterwards we walked around in Ciudad Vieja and then went to have hot chocolate and waffles with dulce de leche on 18 de Julio. This morning Jasmine and I took a picture with Maria and after she said her goodbyes she was gone. Stephen wants to take me out somewhere nice before I go, but other than that I am counting down the days. It's just not the same without my roomie!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires was amazing. Even though it is about 7 times as large as Montevideo, there wasn’t any dog crap on the sidewalks and the air was incredibly clean. It was also very European. For me it was a cross between New York City and Rome. There are Italian restaurants everywhere. It made me miss Europe.

We left for BA via Buquebus at 7 a.m. Friday. We had to take a 2 ½ hour bus to Colonia and then took an hour ferry to BA. We all slept the entire time. We purchased a package at Buquebus that included a hotel stay with transporation to and from the hotel. It was a pretty nice hotel with four beds. They had advertised that they spoke English, but of course they didn’t. They were still super nice so we can’t complain.

After checking in we just walked around BA. We saw the Obelisk which is the landmark of the city in the center of their main street. Then we walked to Plaza Mayo where the Pink Palace (their government building,) cabildo and main cathedral are. We also walked along the port and eventually went to eat at Friday’s which is near the green Mother’s Bridge (which reminded me of the millennium bridge in London.) It was nice to all sit down and eat American food together. However, we all had shakes and they didn’t end up making us feel too well. Kendall was really sick by the end.

We went to the Buquebus headquarters 3 times to try to find Norma (the woman who works at the Spanish school here) to ask here where the cheap places were to buy Puma, Polo, etc. She works at immigration at the Buquebus port, but we never did find Norma. We did go to a huge mall there (where I ate Chinese-it was a big deal.)

Saturday morning we got up early to go on a 3 hour city tour. It was a pretty nice tour. We went to see La Boca where there are colorful buildings and old tango bars, we went to Plaza Mayo again, went to La Recoleta, and through several neighborhoods. Jasmine and I got off at Recoleta to go to the huge cemetery that is there. She is a crazy independent New Yorker and would just walk off so we ended up splitting up because I wanted to go in the old Spanish church. The cemetery was stunning. The Recoleta cemetery is where all the rich of BA are buried in huge houses. Many of the graves have plants growing inside of them. I got lost in the cemetery, but eventually I found Evita Peron’s grave. Apparently her being buried there is extremely controversial because she was not rich or of one of the famous BA surnames.

Eventually I ran into Jasmine in the cemetery and we walked to see the solar flower. It is one of the signatures of BA in addition to the Obelisk. It was designed by an Argentine architect. It is a huge steel flower with petals that is solar powered and opens up during the day and closes at night. Jasmine went off again and we ended up walking all around the flower. New Yorkers; they’re crazy. Or maybe I’m just a Southern Belle. Stephen from the school here always calls me “princess.” All I know is that I would have never just walked off on my own if I was with someone else…I just don’t get it. They did say this program was 50% Cultural immersion.

After walking around in Recoleta we walked to meet Ryan and Kendall at the Zoo at another end of the city. We walked for what seemed like forever. They have a subway system in BA, but it doesn’t go to some parts of the city like Recoleta. Line A of the subway is actually the oldest in South America and the carts were wooden and looked like they really were from the late 1800s.

Jasmine and I couldn’t find Ryan and Kendall when we got there so we decided to go inside since we had walked all that way. The zoo was incredible. They had all sorts of animals. It was kind of annoying that you had to pay extra to see the aquarium, rainforest, etc, but I’m glad I went in all the same. There were animals just walking around everywhere. I have never seen so many peacocks, and never seen so many chased. The S. American kids were hilarious chasing animals and feeding any animals that were fenced. I felt sorry for some of the animals. We went into the aquarium and I wanted to cry. They had about 4 penguins and their habitat smelled bad and was much too warm. They looked so miserable, especially comparing it to the penguins in South America. The polar bear was completely out. I think they had drugged it. It was a ghetto, but still an amazing zoo. I had lost Jasmine at some point and found her when it started to get incredibly cold.

We went to eat at Hard Rock CafĂ© that night. I always went to Hard Rock with my friends while we were touring Europe when we could find it, so it was wonderful to go to one. It was nice to hear rock music that wasn’t in Spanish too. Jasmine got a migraine so we didn’t end up going out, but BA had ended up being more expensive that I had thought so I was fine with it.

We walked around for a couple hours the next day after having a long breakfast at the hotel. Everyone followed my lead in eating bread with dulce de leche and kept going back for more. It’s so good! We walked back around the Obelisk and the large mall to find souvenirs and then went back to the hotel to be taken back to the port to go back to Montevideo.

We did NOT want to go back to Montevideo where the air is dirty, there’s dog crap and trash everywhere, and people think it’s too cold to go out (although I can’t really blame them-winter has definitely arrived.)

On the bus from Colonia there was a guy from Florida dissing the states to a guy from Brazil in English so Kendall said something to him and his response was, “well I hate Bush and I hope he’s assassinated.” Wow. Buenos Aires had Argentinian flags flying all over the city. Most countries in Europe were the same way and had a lot of national pride. I know most Americans are disappointed with Bush, but I think we don’t have enough national pride. I am going to buy an American flag when I get back.

Today is Jasmine’s last day here. This morning she packed while I worked on writing for the blog and catching up on my journal. I can’t believe she is leaving tomorrow! Maria pretty much told me that I did something to her hot water bottle that she sometimes gives me on cold nights. I hadn’t used it last week so I have no idea where it could be. Jasmine said she just switched some around and she is probably just trying to get me to buy her a new one. I don’t know. Oh Maria!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Latin Men

Latin men, like Italian men, are usually depicted as wildly romantic tall, dark and handsome types. When I studied abroad in Florence I couldn’t wait to get away from the greasy and skinny Italian men. For the majority, they were not cute at all and instead of being suave they were creepy and would either yell at you, stalk you for a couple blocks or grab you if you resembled a female. I made the same kind of discoveries with Latin men.

I have been out with my friends from the school a few times to go to the boliches or just out on the town. I’ve seen and met several locals. On the whole Latin men here in Montevideo are better looking than the men in Italy. They aren’t all dark, tall and handsome though. A lot of them look so American or European that I’m tempted to talk to them in English. *Note the picture of one of the bolder locals*

I’m not interested in meeting a guy in a different country. I’ve only really talked to one guy, Alan, who works at a pharmacy in Pocitos. He’s nice and knows a little English. We just text every now and then half in Spanish and half in English every now and then, but I’m not planning on meeting up with him before I leave. He looks incredibly American in the first place.

If any girls do come here looking for a Latin Lover, Buenos Aires has the more aggressive men. Montevideo is a great deal more conservative than its neighbor and the guys here a lot more timid. It’s a huge deal for them to walk up to you. They usually try talking to you if you are walking past by pulling you away from the group you’re with. I’ve only had a couple guys come up to me and ask me for a drink. It simply isn’t done in Montevideo very often. However, in Buenos Aires there is a huge European influence that continues in the men. They act very Italian and will come up to you and grab you. So if you want a Latin Lover, head to Buenos Aires.

Enough of Latin men. Yesterday morning I walked to Ciudad Vieja to buy the rest of the souvenirs I needed. It was a nice, long walk there, but on the way back it started pouring rain. By the time I got home I was completely soaked. It was great. Then I went to work for the first time this week. Florencia randomly told me that I had an interview at the Spanish school at 6:30, when I usually get off work. Fernando (the Adelante director here) works doing PR kind of stuff where I work and picked me up at 6:30. He explained to me something completely different than what happened.

He interview was random and happened much later than they said (of course.) Kendall was at work, but they wanted Ryan, Jasmine and I to sit down with all the people from my work (they publish several prestigious magazines here) for an article. Miguel, my 70-year-old creepy boss, walked into Jo’s room where Jasmine was straightening her hair twice to get her to come down. Old men are so creepy here. Rodrigo, a local who’s about my age, had a friend over that kept stalking me around the school. It was such a hilarious experience. Eventually they got us all in a room and Florencia asked us questions about why we came here, what we thought of the people, etc. Then they took pictures of us (I looked like a drowned rat from walking in the rain earlier, mind you) and the interview was over. It was so strange.

Yesterday was so random. After walking around in the rain, having a random interview at the school and whatever else, Jasmine had randomly texted me that I was going to go with her and Stephen to dinner at the one Mexican restaurant in Montevideo. So we randomly went to the restaurant at 9 and Kendall and Ryan met us later. Stephen covered Jasmine and I. He wants to take me to the piano bar at the Radisson, the best hotel here, sometime. He’s an older businessman from Australia and is here investing in hotels and businesses here. While we were at the restaurant he wanted to talk business with me. He is currently looking into investing in El Corte, the restaurant where Bush ate when he visited. He told me that he wants me to go home to school and then come back to Montevideo over the Christmas break with marketing ideas for a restaurant to implement. He is so random. He told me he would pay me to come back, pay for housing, etc. Australians are ambitious and crazy.

Today we have an appointment at the American embassy at 2:30. There is an international ballet gala at Teatro Solis and I tried to get tickets yesterday, but they were out of tickets. There is another performance the last night I am here by a modern youth dance company from the Netherlands so hopefully I can go then. Jasmine leaves Tuesday so I may go with her one last time to the tango thing tonight.

Tomorrow morning Jasmine, Ryan, Kendall and I are leaving on a bus at 7 a.m. for Buenos Aires. I am sooo excited to see it! I have been reading a Lonely Planet book about everything there is to see. It is supposed to be very European, which is wonderful for me. I miss Europe more than I had thought. Apparently this weekend is the celebration of a famous tango singer in Buenos Aires so the city is supposed to be full of tango celebrations and pilgrimages to his grave. I will also be able to see Evita Peron’s grave, which is very controversial. I will give more information after I have seen it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Uruguay Roadtrip!

Yesterday I had another fabulous day. We were all in pain from the super-long horback ride the day before, but it did not stop us from driving all over the plains of Uruguay.

Jo had rented a car (thank goodness she knows how to drive a stick shift. Apparently that's all they have in S. America.) I didn't decide that I was going with her and Jasmine until about 11 the night before. Jasmine told me that Jo wanted to leave at 7 a.m.

I was incredibly tired, of course, when we left on the trip. I haven't been up that early since my 8 o'clocks this last semester. It was worth it when we got to watch the sun rise over la rambla e la playa (beach) en Montevideo. We were in the car literally all day. We drove through about 4 departments (kind of like states) and had to pay tolls at each border.

Uruguay has everything as far as nature goes: thermal pools in Salto (in the North,) sand dunes (saw it,) beaches (everywhere and beautiful,) marshes (saw it,) palm trees (the cows graze surrounded by them-that was strange,) hills, waterfalls (saw it,) and more. Gauchos are one of the main past-times and symbols of Uruguay. The meat here is amazing, especially when they cook it asado (barbecue) style. I am from Texas, but the meat here just can't be beat. I can understand how for some locals, all they seem to ever eat is meat.

On our journey we followed the rambla (road along the beach) to Punta del Este and then onto Rocha. Once you leave Montevideo Uruguay is just a bunch of land and cows, with a few gauchos thrown in here and there. Most of the cities along the coast are fishing villages that live without electricity, running water, etc. My favorite place during the trip was Punta del Diablo. It was a small beach village with all sorts of wildly colored houses on the beach. It was small and quaint, but still amazing since the beach was right there and beautiful.

We went and ate at some random hotel restaurant we passed by since we were in the middle of nowhere. After that we decided to go to a waterfall. We had to drive 10 km on the worst roads I've ever seen on steep inclines (and I've been to Africa where the roads are terrible.) It was getting dark so we feared about getting back from the waterfalls, but seeing the sunset from the top of the hills made the journey worth it.

The waterfall was pretty at the end, but it was also pretty small. After that it was really dark so we started to head back. They don't believe in signs that help with directions so we got lost in a couple towns, but we got back at about 9.

Most people back home would have been bored with such a road trip, but it was nice to get out of the city (again, since I did horseback riding too.) The countryside actually looked a lot like the Texas countryside with all the cows (except for the palm trees, that was just weird.) I miss my car and driving to the lake house. Yeah, I'm a hick.
Today is a national holiday. It's the anniversary of a past president's death (Artigas.) The president came out to make a speech at 11 in Plaza Independencia. I'm not sure if I have work today since I didn't go yesterday, but I would guess that I don't due to the holiday. The high schoolers are here now. There is also a guy my age who has an internship doing campaign work in Buenos Aires after he goes to the school here for awhile. He's from Houston and is fluent in Russian and wanted to work on his Spanish since he's from Texas. Sounds familiar. The high schoolers are from Virginia. The people you meet when you are abroad never cease to amaze me. I'm going to go enjoy my holiday. Hasta luego!