Thursday, July 28, 2011

El Mate!

7/27-Well today was an exciting and mood-lifting day! I had my first day of orientation for exchange students this morning and it was amazing to see how many people are going to this University for this semester or the year. There are probably a good 30 or so students and I met people from Guatemala, Colombia, Spain, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, and of course the United States. It was amazing! I think the coolest thing about it was that regardless of where we are from we our common language is Spanish, talk about throwing in loads of different accents! It was also funny to see people grouping together who share the same first language; for example, people from France were getting together and talking in French and by the end of the day hardly any one was still speaking in Spanish. It is a struggle sometimes to get the point across when talking with people in Spanish, but its exciting at the same time!
Today was filled with Uruguayan foods/ beverages. After orientation a group of us went out to have lunch and I tried Asado for the first time, which essentially delicious grilled meat. I am not sure exactly what it was, but it was good! Then when I got home Lucia and I made MATE! Mate basically has a world and culture of its own here. So there are a few parts (I am stilll learning but these are the basics) and steps to drinking mate. 1) you need a Mate which is the little round/ brown looking cup you see 2) Yerba is the tea that you put inside. you fill the mate almost completely

full with yerba. 3) Un termo (thermos) is a necessity filled with almost boiling water, some people will take hours to sip on their Mate 4) the silver thing sticking out of the top is a straw/ filter/ spoon looking thing called a bombillo It was definetly very strong and a different tasting drink. I didn't love it, but I would try it again.. I was told its generally not something you like the first time, but gets better with time :)
Then I tried their chocolate milk and this jelly type stuff they put on toast. It was a cultural experience with food this afternoon and quite enjoyable if I do say so myself. I am just glad I walk the 1.8 miles home after school instead of taking el omnibus! ;)

7/28- Day two of orientation and things are looking up. We got information about choosing classes, which is actually harder than I thought it was going to be. Since I have basically taken all of my general education classes, it is hard to find classes offered here that will really count for anything. Right now I am looking at taking: Spanish Language, Uruguayan Literature, Philosophy of Language, the Phenomenon of Religion, Uruguayan Culture, Art 1, History of Uruguay and this Region, and a Community Service class/ project. I am obviously not going to take all of these, but they are my options for now. I have to make a decision for classes to start on Monday but I can change and drop classes until August 10th!
I still need to figure out the timing of el omnibus... yesterday I got there so early I waited for almost 15 minutes. Today I decided I would go out about 5 mins later and I missed that bus and had to wait about 15 minutes again for the next one. So, tomorrow I will go out somewhere in between those two times or try a different bus!
 I am becoming more comfortable getting around now. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am going with people, or I am going with a destination where I will be meeting people. Its comforting to know that someone is expecting me, even though it probably doesn't make a difference.
Tomorrow I have an exam to test my level of Spanish which will decide what level Spanish class I take, and then starts my first weekend with other students actually around! Exciting times ahead :)

Un besito

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

La Rambla

Yesterday I went exploring a little more with Lucia, we went to and walked down La Rambla, the street that runs along the ocean essentially. There are always a lot of people out and about running, walking dogs, sitting, and chatting. I enjoyed getting out in the "fresh" air a little bit and seeing more of the city. We walked down there since it was only about 9 blocks away and let me tell you that pants were a mistake. Since I have gotten here the temperature hasn't been above 60 degrees, when we got down by La Rambla I saw a sign that said it was 23 grados = about 76 degrees and here I was in pants and long sleeves. Luckily there was a nice breeze coming off the water, but I'll be sure to pay more attention to the weather before I make that journey again.

My walk down to the beach helped me think a little more about what has made the adjustment harder than I expected and so far this is what I have noticed. I have never lived in a city bigger than Eau Claire which I would say has roughly 50,000 people, however, I live right in with all the college kids and it is what most would consider a college town. I am now living in a city of 1.5 million and I have been afraid to go anywhere alone (I have left the house once by myself so far) and as of right now I haven't met people outside of my host family because school hasn't started. Aside from not constantly being on the go, when I do go places the sounds, sights,  smells of the city are somewhat overwhelming.
When I was standing looking out over the water, a pretty sight no doubt, I couldn't help but feel yanked back into city life with the constant honking of horns and revving of car engines. I haven't found a place of tranquility, everything is so fast paced and when I am outside I smell burning gas and car engines.

This is a little bit of a rant but I hope it gives anyone reading a sense of all the different things I am trying to take in and adjust to, not just the language barrier. I don't mean for it all to sound bad at all, its all new and exciting! I am very happy that I came, this is a wonderful new experience that will test my limits and help me grow as a person. I have not yet been here for a week, which means I just need to give it time.

Un besito

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Wow. What a day it was, spent a lot of time in the house again, but at least this time I had company! Lu and I walked to the Super to get the stuff we needed for lasagna and I helped/ watch them make that for lunch. Gerardo’s son Martín is here visiting since it was Fathers Day. After every meal we eat something sweet whether it is a dessert or fruit but something, well today it was fruit and the fight for one leftover Ricardito. Pause. Rewind.

Last night I tried a new candy or dulce as they are called, Ricarditos. I really don’t know how to explain it at all but the box says meringue covered in chocolate on a wafer. Meringue is almost like the marshmallow gooey stuff you can find in some candy in the U.S. but waaaaay better, I don’t even really like marshmallows, but this was good!

Okay, back to today. After last night there was one lonely Ricardito left and everyone wanted it so we tried picking numbers twice except we realized that my host mom wanted it too and she was choosing the number! So then ripped up a napkin into 6 pieces and wrote “RICARDITO” on one of them and whoever got it won. After we all picked one we opened it up and my host mom of course had it so she proceeded lavish in winnings in front of everyone. It was quite funny if I do say so myself.

After lunch people started gathering in the street to watch the big game! I didn’t realize until later that people would be watching the game from the front of the building across the street. Kiddie-corner to the apartment is basically City Hall and they played the game on a screen outside and THOUSANDS of people came to watch. There were fireworks, flaires, car horns, drums, you name it. Lu and I went down to look at the festivities before the game started, but watched with the family (including grandma, grandpa, an aunt, and their cousin). Every time a goal was scored the entire street erupted below us and everytime we went to the little balcony to watch. This was the first soccer game I have ever watched in its entirety and what a first time it was!

Uruguay ended up winning the game 3-0 and the streets went craaaaazy! About ½ hour after the game Lu, Caro, Martín, one of their cousins and I went down to the street and people were essentially just screaming and singing songs that apparently are related to Celeste. Again we didn’t stay too long or go too far, but what an experience to be among the crowd. My family thought it was the same in America for football or baseball, but trust me, what we do as fans has no comparison!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Te gusta helado?

7/22/11- I don’t have very much to relay to everyone, things are kind of slow right now since I haven’t really met anyone outside my host family. I am definitely ready to go to my orientation and meet more people  in my situation that will want to go out and explore the city. I think I will feel a little bit better about things once I have that because right not I get little boughts of homesickness and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am used to having someone I can go do things with all of the time and I am generally in a city where even if I don’t have someone to go places with I am comfortable going by myself and I have not reached that point yet. I did go out for a little while with Carolina down Avenida 18 de Julio which is the street that runs right in front of our apartment. There is a lot of commercial activity on the street, a ton of shops and vendors everywhere. We followed the street to the beginning of Ciudad Vieja, the oldest part of the city, but we turned around there and headed back. I got a few pictures but needless to say this isn’t much of a tourist area and I didn’t want to attract too much attention to myself. I did stop and have my first ice cream cone (helado) I had dulceleche granizado which is essentially  sweet milk with chocolate flakes. It was delicious.. then when I got back I realized there is the same ice cream shop directly across the street from the apartment.. I could get used to that :D

7/23/11- Today was a much busier day for me, I got to see a little bit more of the city and get to know how things work a little more. After breakfast I went with Gerardo to the shopping center because he needed to get a new phone and I ended up finding a little pay as you go Nokia phone for about $60 (including 300 units?) and a Spanish novel! So now I have a phone I can use to get in contact with anyone that I meet here. Then, I came home and relaxed for a bit, read some and waited to go the the Spa with the family. Now don't get too excited... it wasn't the kind of Spa most people would think of it was actually a gym and I did a spin class, very different from the one I did in Texas, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I couldn't help but think of all my SOL girls I sat there cycling to Club can't handle me and Shakira, took everything I had not to hop off my bike and bust a move right there :D The gym was very nice and afterward we spent a little time in the jacuzzi! Then I went to el super (the grocery store) with Andrea to get things for tomorrow and dinner tonight. Tomorrow is Fathers day here and the finals of El Copa de America (HUGE soccer tournament) and Celeste is playing in the finals. I am sure I will have plenty to say after that experience! Ciao for now

Un beso

Friday, July 22, 2011

Buen Viaje

Well.. I made it!
I flew out on Wednesday night from Chicago and embarked on my first ever 9+ hour flight solo. It was a little nerve racking at first, especially because I was on a direct flight headed to Brazil and everyone around me was speaking only in Portuguese.. which I cannot understand at all. Luckily it was an overnight flight and I was able to sleep majority of the way.. the movies playing really helped with that :)
Once I landed in Brazil I had about 5 hours until my next flight and that had to be the most confusing airport I have ever been in, so once I found where I was supposed to be I found my own little corner of the terminal and sat there. I think the weirdest feeling was being virtually cutoff from everyone, I was sitting in a airport where I couldn't understand anyone, I was unable to use the internet, I had no calling card, no cell phone, and you cannot make collect calls to cell phones apparently, so I read a book and took a nap until it was time to go.
The second flight was only about 2 hours but it seemed so much longer than that! (partially due to the couple who couldn't seem to stop making out for more than 5 minutes the entire flight) Anyway I finally arrived and I was greeted by my host mom (Andrea) and her mother (didn't catch her name). Once we made it home I was greeted by Juan (age 12) and Lucia (age 17) two of the three siblings I will be living with. No one really speaks English, but I am okay with that because it is putting my Spanish to the test... so far, so good. Eventually I met Carolina (age 15) and my host dad Gerardo. Last night and today there isn't much going on just learning the ways of the family and trying to get my bearings straight. I am living on the 8th floor of an apartment building in the middle of it all (El Centro). It is going to be an adjustment to get used to the sounds of the big city right outside my window but I think it will be alright. I don't have to go to school until Wednesday so I have about a week to get things straight. Tonight I will be going out with Carolina to explore the city a little.. an update and pictures to follow!

Un beso