Sunday, August 28, 2011

Haciendo el dedo en Minas!

It was quite the adventure in Minas this weekend!

On Friday morning our bus was scheduled to leave around 9:45am so we were meeting around 9:30am.I didn't get on the bus by my house with very much spare time and I decided to stay on the bus for one extra stop, just for fun, and I strolled into the terminal 9:42am. The driver loaded my bag and we were on the road as soon as I took my seat- close call! Once the bus got rolling I tried reading for awhile but soon enough I was sleeping and I sleep majority of the two hour ride, which made the trip go much faster. We arrived in the bus terminal and shortly after we were greeted by our friend Rodrigo who actually grew up in Minas and decided to take us under his wing as our guide for the weekend. We walked down the street a little ways to the "hostel" he thought would be good for us to stay in, but it turned out to be more of a Hotel with more commodities and a higher price than we were really looking to pay. Back the bus terminal we headed to the tourism/ visitor center to see if they could suggest something else. We got information, maps, and ideas of things to do for the weekend and headed to hostel #2 to see what they had to offer. It was a nice place and much cheaper, so we crammed all 5 of us in the 4 person room and managed to get another bed in there and made that our cozy little home for the weekend.

Oh and I should probably mention the five people I spent the weekend with: Rachel (North Carolina), Sam (Kansas), Eva (Austria), Zuzanna (Czech Republic), and our guide Rodrigo (Uruguay). It was an awesome mix of people and it forced us all to only speak in our 1 common language all weekend: Spanish!

The crew
Once we were settled we started out on our first journey to Cerro Arequita. Cerro translated means hill or basically an elevated point, but not a mountain. That is the best way I can explain it I think. It was a very relaxing and beautiful place.

 It had a little bit of everything: when we first started off it was an open grassy hill, then we passed under a tree and into a clearing which was actually the beginning of an Ombu (the tree I am sitting in)  forest. We walked along through the forested area for awhile, climbing higher and higher, until we finally emerged on a flat grassy/ rocky area on top of the cerro with an excellent view. On the other ridge of the cerro we were accompanied by cows, they were a fair distance away, but it was kind of crazy to see them up there as well. I should have known, the entire way up were were careful where we stepped!
On top of the cerro we walked around, took in the view, took in some SUN, and found a place to eat our lunches we packed. After looking around, soaking up the view, and basking in the silence we began our decent to walk through the countryside a little bit. We knew of a place that was about 1km (.6 miles) from the cerro that we wanted to check out, got there, and we were told we would have to pay to enter and with only about 45mins of sunlight left we decided that it wasn't worth it and headed back where we had come from. Then Rodrigo told us of a camping area that was about the same distance away and after hopping 3 fences, walking through a pasture past some grazing cows, and through some trees we came upon the camping area just as the sun was setting. The sky was a brilliant pink-orange color and we walked around and waited for our taxi to come get us. While waiting I managed to make friends with a very friendly country-dog, he was a little dirty but I just could resist those puppy dog eyes he gave me when he rolled over on his back and begged for his belly to be rubbed :)
That night we ate at the Ombu restaurant in Minas and I had my first Chivito complete with: steak, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, and mayo. It was a cultural experience in itself- I see them advertised everywhere and they are very common but this was my first. Conclusion= may not be very healthy but it was delicious! This was followed by us all going back to the room and sharing 2 Liters of Dulce de Leche ice cream and playing a new card game Rodrigo taught us.

The outdoor church we came across
while walking
Saturday morning we woke up and first glance outside we knew it wasn't as warm because it was a VERY windy day and mostly overcast, but we had plans to go to Villa Serana and so we headed to the bus stop to get our ticket. Rodrigo decided not to go because it might rain and he was sore from the previous day so off we went without our guide. Villa Serana is about 21 Km (13 miles) from Minas= about a 20 minute bus ride. When we got off at our stop we had another 5 Km (3 miles) walk on the gravel-dirt-grass roads into the area we wanted to see. Even though it was windy, the weather wasn't bad and the view as we were walking was wonderful once again. We finally arrived at one of the to-see destination which included a small lake, a damn, and a park area where we decided to eat under the trees because it had started to sprinkle. We took our time eating just waiting for the rain to pass, but little did we know the weather was only preparing to get worse as we sat there chatting.

When we finally decided to leave the rain was coming down steady and we were trying to prepare ourselves as much as we could for the  1 1/2 hour back to the bus stop. About 20 minutes into our walk and soaking wet we heard a car approaching from behind and Zuzanna had decided enough was a enough "hace el dedo" we were going to hitch-hike to our stop. Low and behold it worked and the 5 of us sat in the bed of a truck as we got a ride from a family gracious enough to pick us up. Once at the stop there was a small concrete wall with a roof that blocked some wind and most of the rain, but we were already soaked. Shortly after laughing about what had just happened we checked the time and realized we had almost 2 hours until the bus came and it was time to make a decision: freeze for the longest 2 hours or what would seem like the longest 2 hours ever OR try our luck again at hitching a ride back to Minas. Well you guessed it, we waited and watched 3.. 4 cars pass without looking twice. Then to our surprise another truck type vehicle stopped and again we climbed in the back for a long ride back to Minas. The rain was coming down accompanied by thunder and occasional lightening but we couldn't help but laugh at the situation. Here we were in the back of a truck in the pouring rain, freezing our butts off, and there was nothing we could do about it.
Once we got back to the hostel dripping wet and cold, we made clothes hangers out of anything that had a handle, corner, edge, etc in order to hang up all of our clothes. We opened the window, cranked the heat, left our door open, and turned on the fan in hopes of 1) drying our clothes 2) avoiding turning our room into a musty smelly sauna in the process. It was more or less a success. We spent the rest of the night lounging around the room under blankets, watching movies, and eating. It was a good way to finish off the day!

Today, Rachel and I spent the morning at a little sweets store while the others decided to walk around a little more. We had had enough walking for one weekend and we spent our time playing rummy and waiting for the next bus to arrive. All in all I would have to say that was a weekend well spent :)

Un Beso

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Just a quick post before I head out for the weekend because I am sure my next one will be quite long...
I went to my first EVER (I know I am lame, but in case Tracie or Jess ever try to tell you otherwise- I do know what the World Cup is...) soccer game today with Lucia and Carolina. 
I do not have any pictures to add to this blog because, well soccer games are not the best places to have a camera. It was two teams for Uruguay and I was told I am cheering for the team in BLACK and YELLOW= Peñarol. I didn't know all of the rules, well really any of the rules, of soccer but I think I understood most of the game. This was not a big game at all, not even important enough to know the name of the other team, but of course the Peñarol side of the stadium was very full. The energy coming from the stadium was amazing, really made me miss playing sports! Huge shout out to my SOL girls.. I was thinking of you today :) 
I have a new, what is the right word? Respect? Fascination? with soccer after today. First off, the players on the field literally run, not jog, but sprint for 45 minutes straight- incredible! I mean I knew this before, but watching it in person just makes it so much different. Second, they are more than willing to take a ball that is kicked at them straight to the head.. I didn't realize how often that actually occurred in a game. Not to mention when there is a penalty kick? maybe? they line up, hook arms, wait for the guy to kick the ball and JUMP into to the air hoping to... stop it with their face. That. I couldn't believe, very valiant on their part.
Anyway it was a very new and exciting experience. I cannot wait to go to a game of more importance... perhaps Nacional vs Peñarol?? = The two biggest teams in Uruguay by far.. you are either for Nacional or Peñarol.. nothing else. And I have been told my <3 must lie with Peñarol if I with to remain a member of this household, so there you have it. :D


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cuba vs URUGUAY!

I had my first session at the school with the little kids and I have a feeling the upcoming weeks/ months are going to be an absolute blessing with them! They were kind of quiet at first, a little shy, but once we got things rolling I could tell that in reality they are not a shy bunch. They all have so much energy and are so eager to learn things.The first day wasn't anything too complicated: made name tags, introduced some simple English words, then introduced ourselves. When we were talking about the United States there wasn't a sound to be heard in the classroom beside our voices, its refreshing to see people so intrigued about something. Afterward, the only two questions that got asked were about how much snow there is where we lived, they were quite shocked to hear that where I live we have snow higher than cars! It was a lot of fun, next week we start the Alphabet!

One thing I did not know was even semi-popular here was Basketball, but I was able to go to a double-header on Monday night. The first game was Argentina vs Venezuela. There were hardly any people for that game, when we first got there the stadium was almost empty. As the Uruguay game began more people filed in, but it was no where near full. You will notice that even though we are inside I am still wearing my jacket, there was not any heat in the building. Some of the players from Cuba and Venezuela were wearing spandex, long sleeves, or very high tube socks while playing to keep warm and majority of them put on a jacket if there weren't on the court. 
Lucia even ended up putting on an extra pair of socks in the middle of the game! Driving by the building I never would have known it was a stadium, but apparently they have other things there as well. Lucia told me that sometimes they have various shows, such as Snow White on Ice or something similar that will come. It was a very different experience for sports and as always the game was intense! 
The game went back and forth the entire time and with just over a minute left in the game it was tied. Uruguay fell behind two points, then they were ahead
by 1 point with 11 seconds left in the game and managed to maintain the lead for the win with a final score of 67-65. It was no where near NBA status, but I rather enjoyed it. During the Argentina v Venezuela game the buzzer on the backboard went off before time had actually run out and both teams coaches started yelling (one of them was actually cursing them out in English?). They ended up having to put 2.5 seconds back on the clock, but they couldn't just put that in, they had to rewind the clock from 15 mins and the guy running it missed it twice. I was laughing, but the players and coaches didn't seem to think it funny for some reason... The game finally ended a little after 11:00pm and I headed straight home for bed because I had my long day on Tuesday again. Luckily I wasn't quite as exhausted last night as I was the Tuesday before. 
Tuesday night I was talking with someone and I found a place about 3 blocks from my house that has Salsa, Jazz, and Tango classes. I might splurge on some dance shoes for myself and take some serious classes! The classes are not very expensive and it is very convenient that it is so close.

Tonight is Noche de Nostalgia- and it is just what is says Night of Nostalgia! All of the bars have a theme or era of music: 70's, 80's, 90's and everyone.. EVERYONE goes out! It is really geared for those "older" folks who don't get to hear music from their era very often in the bars. Then tomorrow is what has been deemed "National Hangover Day" (as suggested by someone). Just kidding. But in reality, nothing is open on Thursday and no one has school because August 25th is Uruguay's day of Independence from Brazil. Which means that my weekend officially started at 3:45pm today!
This weekend I am going on a grand adventure with some friends, we bought our tickets to a little place called Minas today and we are going to spend the weekend exploring the area. It is about a 2 hour bus ride from Montevideo, I am excited to get out of the city again and see a new part of the country! These little weekend trips are one of the things I have been looking forward to the most. City life is nice, but I want to really get to know the country and life in the interior is much different from city life. I will try to get some good pictures and give a nice recap when I return :)
The back patio of the school.
I hope all is well there and that everyone's families are safe and sound with everything going on up there!


The picture ---> is the only picture I have of the Uni so far, my camera died during photography. I will be taking more in the upcoming weeks so you all can see where I go to school! The Lego mural is actually the backside of a parking garage :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Feliz Cumple

Okay- that recap from Festival Tango I promised. The name is a little deceiving, it wasn't much of a festival and it hardly had anything to do with Tango, but it was a good show. There were 3 "acts" if you will. The first was an Argentine Candombe (kind of like what I saw at the student gathering the other night). The music had a very carnival feel to it, it is hard to explain. It was the kind of music that really just made me want to dance in a very unorganized fashion if that makes anysense. That is kind of what the dancer you see in from was doing. There were two girls dressed in very bright colored carnival clothes with bright make-up. There was dancing and confetti being thrown while the Candombe continued their rhythm.
After the Candombe, there was a couple that came out and danced the only Tango I heard or saw in the 2 1/2 hours I spent at the theater. It was was a very traditional version of Tango and different from any of the Tango I have seen. It is hard to describe, especially because I know very little about Tango, but as always it was a very passionate dance. The couple's heads were touching at the forehead and the girl, instead of looking away like I have usually seen, was actually looking down with her face facing his. It was interesting and I have yet to take a Tango class! So that is moving up to the top of my "to-do" list this week. They also danced Milango, those two dances are the two most traditional dances in Uruguay I was told.
The last of the acts was probably my favorite. I am not sure exactly what kind of music it was, but the band consisted of a piano, cello, drums, marimba, and an accordion. The piano player was an 81 year old man and he was astounding. I don't think I have ever seen a piano played like that before. I don't have a video of it, unfortunately I do not have a camera that takes video, but his playing was heavenly. It was indescribable really... his hands and fingers were moving so fast they were essentially nothing but a blur for most of the songs.

On Saturday I went to my first Fería, they have a couple every weekend. They are a street market where artesans or stores come out and sell their products, much like a Farmers Market, but with way less emphasis on food! There are tons of people selling Mates, clothes, hand-made goods, children´s books, and a few fruit/ food stands. I bought a couple things, but I decided I am going to go look around and some of the other Ferías these upcoming weeks. Looks like a great place for unique gifts and Christmas presents! This weekend I had my first Chorizo sandwhich (a very popular food I have found) and now I know why... It was DELICIOUS! I thin I might make a weekly or bi-weekly habit of heading tot he Fería for atleast that :)
After the Fería I headed home because it was Andrea's birthday and I told her I would make cookies for the get together she was having.  I decided to make chocolate chip cookies per request of Caro and Andrea's brother and they are simple enough that it wouldn't take me very much time. What I didn't realize was that although we take a Chocolate Chip cookie for granted, they are a rare delicacy here. I made a fairly large batch, took me about 1 1/2 hours to finish them... took them about 10 minutes to eat them. I managed to eat a couple, but more than anything it was a lot of fun baking them and it made me extremely happy that everyone liked them so much! I will definitely have to bake cookies more often now. I think next on the list of cookies will be Snickerdoodles .Along with the cookies we had a peach cake, strawberry cake, dulce de leche pastries, various galletas (or small cookies), Coke, and sandwhiches. It was a very enjoyable night and I got to meet a lot more people in the family!
Sunday was spent catching up on sleep and homework. My friend Rachel came over for a bit and enjoyed some leftover cake with me. Then we walked around a little, but almost nothing is open on Sundays around here so she headed for home and I went back to get some more work done.
Monday was day one of week 3 of classes and everything is starting full swing! I finally got assigned the service project I have been mentioning. I am going to be working in a school with 8 and 9 year old kids in a very impoverished community helping them with English. I went and saw the classroom and kids with the other students I am working with, they are all adorable and I can't wait to start our first session the coming Monday! Tuesday was my first 13 hour day of the semester, photography and samba both started. All of the people in both were very nice and I think it will be good to spend sometime with people who are interested in similar things as me. I even met 3 girls that are in their 2nd year of school studying social work here; they are in Samba and like to go dancing. Hopefully we will all be getting together to go Salsa dancing or something in the upcoming weeks.
Thanks for reading all the way through.. I know this was a long one! I will try to be better about posting sooner next time :)

Un beso

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ñoquis on the block (had a bunch of hits)

I found this post saved in a draft that I apparently never finished if you care to read what I was thinking two weeks ago about my classes starting: 02/08/2011 (2nd of August)- Day 1 of "real" classes and I am learning how to write the date :)  I was a little confused when I thought my class started on February 8th, 2011. I tried out three classes today. The first of which was Philosophy of Language at 8am. I am not sure if I just wasn't awake enough to take it in or if the class is going to be way over my head. I have never taken a philosophy class, but I have studied language with linguistics and such, so I thought maybe it would be okay? I am starting to take back that decision and I am debating whether or not to stick through it or choose something I will better understand. The second class was art, which actually turned out to be Art History. Meh.. I wasn't all that interested in the professor or the conversations in that class. I have no doubt that Art History can be interesting, but sometimes the teachers can make or break the class for you. Finally I had my Psychology of Religion class, provided that I can keep up with conversations, is going to be the most interesting in my opinion. I am taking that one for sure :)
And now back to present time. I have just finished up week two of classes (the weeks are starting to go by more quickly, I feel like I just wrote about my weekend). The final schedule is: Spanish, Uruguayan Culture, Psychology of Religion, History of Uruguay and the Region, and (literally translated) Techniques and Activities of Camping- essentially some form of outdoor education I am hoping. As of right now, I still think Psychology is going to be a very interesting, and difficult class. Enough about classes though, that isn't the only thing going on down here!

Wednesday night there was a gathering of Latin 
Singers in carnival costumes
American students at the plaza across the street from my apartment, so I decided I would go take a look. I met up with other exchange students there and we were surround by music, bands, and dancing! There were various types of bands and music being played, one of which is called Candombe. Candombe is a Uruguayan drumline essentially with girls that dance, it was really interesting! Unfortunately they didn't play very long, but we got to hear Cumbia and other music as well. Our group of students took to dancing with

the group of Argentinians as the night progressed and it was a good time :)

Thursday I spent a lot of time at the school after class just sitting around playing card games, talking, and waiting for Kelsey and Ali to get out of class. After school we all walked to Kelsey's house to make dinner talk for awhile. We were greeted at the house by Kelsey's cousin Juan and some mate. We sat around talking for  along while and then thought we should probably get to making dinner: Ñoquis (gnocchi), ensalda de espinaca (spinach salad), verduras cocinadas (cooked vegetables), and vino (wine). We made the gnocchi and everything from scratch, it was such an amazingly fresh meal! We bought most of the vegetables from a little stand on our way to her house as well. It felt really good to actually cook something again, I miss being to choose/ make dinner almost every night, that was something I definitely took for granted living in my house last year!Oh, and for those of you who didn't get my title reference here is a link to one, of many songs, we decided the word Ñoquis would fit into, just fast forward to about 25 seconds and it will alll make sense!
Last night (Friday) I went to Festival Tango.. pictures and recap to follow soon!

The AMAZING package my parents sent me :)
The Reese's were a hit and I enjoyed my first bowl of Cheerios this morning!

P.S. If anyone has any questions or things they would like me to write about PLEASE leave a comment and let me know :) Sometimes I feel like I am just talking to myself when I am writing this Blog and some things that seem so obvious to me, maybe I have not shared with you all, so let me know!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Aire Libre

How to sum up this last week?
Well, I went and tried out all of the classes I was interested and at the beginning of week two I have finally

decided! I am not taking one of the classes that I really wanted to, Philosophy of Language, because I think it will be a little too much. I have never taken Philosophy before and the think the theme would be challenging even in English, so the class I am taking to challenge myself this semester is Psychology of Religion. I didn't want to take all easy classes, but I don't want to take so many challenging ones that I miss out on all of the other things I want to do while I am here.The classes that I am taking with the Uruguayan students present a different kind of challenge as well. The content of the readings, although they  may take a little longer for me to get through, I have no doubt I will understand them. Where I fear I will fall behind is during in class conversations. I tried my hardest this last week to keep up, but it gets difficult when 2..3..4 people start talking about a topic. It gets especially hard when the person is passionate about their statement, the more they mean what they are saying the faster and louder it gets= much harder for me to keep up! I guess in the end this will be a good thing, but for now it is something I am really going to have to concentrate on.
A glimpse of the countryside
 Along with classes I have signed up to do community service here, I am trying to get in on an after-school photography club/ class and samba. Unfortunately they both have limited openings and I am not sure if I got there in time, but I put my name down anyway and I will see what happens. I am also actively researching places I can take Tango lessons! I found once place really close to my apartment, a little expensive, but then again when else am I going to be able to take Tango lessons in one of the Tango capitals of the world!?
View into backyard

This past weekend I spent time with three friend I made at Uni, Harriet and Imogen are from England and Paul is from Germany. We went to Paul's family's house in Punta del Este to spend  sometime away from the city, take in a little aire libre (fresh air) and just relax for the weekend. Punta is basically surrounded by the ocean and right now, since it is winter, there is hardly anyone there. Many of the shops, restaurants, and bars aren't even open right now. As disappointing as that may sound, it was actually awesome to get away from the crowds of people. What we thought was going to be a tiny 
vacation home turned out to be a beautiful house
with a spacious back yard and two swimming pools (not that we could use them in the 55 degree weather). We were fortunate enough to see the sun while we were there and we went walking along a few of the beaches. The waves on one side of the island were amazing, there were a lot of people out surfing when we went by! There is also an amazing bridge there and if you drive fast enough its almost like a rollercoaster :)
    On Saturday night we managed to find a bar and a club that were open so we went out that might. I mustered up the strength to stay up until a little after 6am.. not as late as some, but its progress. Then on Sunday we spent the say lounging around, reading, watching movies, and eating ice cream. I would say that was a day well spent!
And now I begin week two of classes: ready, set, learn!

Un beso

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waffles y jugo de naranja!

I guess it has been a few days since I updated everyone? Well. Let's recap :) First of all just let me say that its cold here, very cold. I  know I am from Wisconsin and I should be used to it BUT I'm not. It has been some where around 7-10 grados (about 45-50 degrees) making leaving the house and wandering the streets somewhat of a daunting task as I severely dislike being cold.
Anyway, this Friday night we had a girls movie night. Me and my two host sisters rented two movies, ate some chocolate, and just hung out for the night. We rented Charlie St. Cloud and Comer, Rezar, Amar (Eat, Pray, Love) and watched them at the house. Even more important though is the fact that I watched TWO movies in a row that lasted until 1am and I stayed awake! Quite an accomplishment if I do say so myself.
The view of Montevideo right outside the restaurant
On Saturday I went to lunch with most of the family at this nice restaurant that over looked the water. It was extremely windy on Saturday so there were a lot of waves crashing on the shore. I tried a mojito for the first time and it was pretty good. Something that is kind of popular here too is gnocchi which is what I had for lunch. It was decent but I think I prefer other kinds of pasta. Saturday night after dinner I ended up meeting up with two other exchange students and we went out to a club in Pocitos, which is the name of one of the neighborhoods. Pocitos is where most of the students go out because it has a lot of bars and nightclubs. We went to a club called Asia de Cuba which ended up being a discotech. There were fog machines, strobe lights, lazers, and a lot of techno music. Not my favorite kind of music but I liked the atmosphere, it was a very clean club. I am also learning that night life here is, well... a little different. Bar close is around 6-7am. I was told that it is common for people my age to nap around 10pm, go out for dinner maybe around 11pm-12am and then to the bars around 2am to return home between 7am-8am. We shall see about that though.. I don't know if I am cut out for that kind of work :D
Sunday was a good day of relaxing, I "slept in" until 11am, but I didn't go to sleep until about 4:30am. I went over what my class options were and did some reading. Then early evening Lucia and I made waffles (actually pronounced wah-flays for you English speakers out there) and jugo de naranja or orange juice. It was a lot of fun, even though it took about 1 1/2 hours to make them all one by one. Oh, also we didn't have a waffle maker so even though they look like pancakes.. they're actually waffles. Don't let the pictures fool you :) and as you can tell from one of the pictures after 14 pancakes I became a pro at flipping them without a spatula. No big deal.
Today, Monday, was my first day of class. I only had one, Spanish, which is just with all of the exchange students so it wasn't anything too new. Tomorrow I have my first regular class with all of the students from Uruguay, I am sure that one will be a little more exciting. I also went to the gym today, I think I am going to get a membership there. They have a lot of interesting classes from 7am-10pm so I will have plenty of opportunity to go. Anyway, I think that is all for now.

Un Beso