Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2 semanas y Carmelo

 I don't know who's keeping track- but this weekend officially marked my 1/2 point in my stay here in Montevideo and I can hardly believe it. I feel like just a few weeks ago I was writing about how hard it was to adjust and how December seemed so far away.. now it's right around the corner! I can't believe the things I have learned since I have been here- and we are not just talking the language and books. So far I have had such a wonderful growing experience, granted I haven't enjoyed every step of the way, but I appreciate all of the lessons I have learned. I have started making a list of all of the things Montevideo/ living in Uruguay has taught me. I will save that post for later on this week possibly when I don't have quite as much to write. I feel like two medium length posts are better then one GIANT. So for now.. I know it has been forever since I have written and I am going to spare you all of the details I usually include or I would bore everyone immensely so here is a recap on what I have done in the last few weeks... Just as a heads up- this will probably be exploding with pictures :)  I have been on a picture taking spreeeee!

Well first and foremost Spring has officially started down here! Flowers are blooming, trees have leaves, and the sun bares it's face much more frequently. I have even found myself walking around in shorts and a tank-top a few days! It has been wonderful because I am much more motivated to spend time outside just walking around and exploring a bit more. Its helpful when its above 60 degrees and sunny!! I have spent some time sitting on La Rambla looking out at the ocean/sea/river whatever you want to call it and just enjoying company with friends and my family here. It is a wonderful place to take in some sun, drink mate, and really just enjoy the day. I also walked almost the entirety of Ciudad Vieja with Ali one day. Ciudad Vieja is the oldest part of the city with many street vendors and a place called El Mercado del Puerto that is essentially and giant garage filled with different food vendors. I hadn't eaten there yet so we decided to make a day trip of it. We bought hand made hats from a lady making them in the street and continued on to eat some wonderful food and we tried Medio y Medio. It was so good! Medio y Medio is 1/2 white wine and 1/2 champagne- don't knock it till you try it- quite tasty!

I have also learned how to bake homemade Alfahores, another baking skill to perfect when I return. Depending on how things go they might even make it in the running for the Christmas cookie baking, but we will have to see about that. They have a lot of trial and error to go before they are just right- and I may be lacking in the Dulce de Leche department.... That is going to be unfortunate. It truly is a staple down here, if all else fails put dulce de leche on it! That should be a slogan here. I was thinking about learning how to make that as well, but apparently it takes hours to do and no one here seems motivated to take the time when they can walk 5 minutes away to the store and have their pick. I guess that is another battle for another day.

Another thing I got the opportunity to do was go to Lagomar where Ali lives and see what is like to live in the "suburbs" of Montevideo. It is a decent bus ride to her house I will say that for sure, its nothing like me hopping on the 15 minute city line to my house. Really nothing about where she lives is similar to where I am- the are really polar opposites. Lets compare: her neighborhood is quiet with very little traffic, I live in the middle of the commercial center of the city; she's in a 2-story house with a backyard and 3 dogs, I live on the 8th floor of an apartment building; The Rambla is about 1/2 a block away from her house with a wonderful beach. the Rambla is about 10 blocks from me with an awesome view but no beach. I think you get the picture- both places have a ton of pros and cons for sure. As much as I would like to say "I wish I would have ended up some where like that" I can't say it with confidence because the amount of time she has to put into planning her day around going home/ coming into the city would have made it very easy for me to isolate myself from the happenings on Montevideo. I now understand the effort she puts in to participating in things and I must say I am impressed. Oh also, she lives in a GREAT spot to see the sunrise which we took advantage of when I stayed. It was beautiful!

The big trip I took since my last post was this last weekend to Carmelo with Kelsey to visit her family (a different part) and what an experience! Carmelo is a little over 3 hours up the coast from Montevideo where the Rio de Plata and Rio Uruguay meet. It is a pretty small town, but Buenos Aires is easily accessible from their little port so it attracts a decent amount on tourism in the summer. We arrived in the later evening on Friday, ate dinner, and got our butts kick in Chinese Checkers by Kelsey's grandma. On Saturday we spent the day at el campo (literally means the country). Her family has land and a farm that has been in the family for many generations. They have horses, sheep, cows, and huge wheat fields. I am so glad I got to go after Spring made it's appearance because everything was flowering and green. The area is truly magnificent. Kelsey overcame her lifetime fear of horses and we spent a good couple hours just trotting around the area taking in the sights and smells. The fresh country air was so crisp and had the aroma of all the plants blooming, a person can't really ask for anything more.

The original staircase
Then there was lunch. Oh lunch in the country. I know I have talked about asado a lot and raved about how good it is, but really I was just naive. I had really country made asado this weekend and it blew my mind- anything I previously said was the best has now been overruled. I don't think I will get any better than the food I had for lunch that day. The asado was grilled to perfection, we had salad with the lettuce we had just cut out of the garden, fresh cheese, Coca-cola.. followed by homemade dulce de membrillo with more cheese... a lunch to be remembered that is for sure! Sorry to anyone who hasn't eaten before reading this post- my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
After that we took a walk back into the wooded area, over two streams, to the location where Kelsey's great-great grandfathers house once stood. The only thing remaining now is the original stone staircase. We ventured around, did some exploring, and just kind of took it all in. It's hard to fathom how truly "in the middle of nowhere" he lived because the area now isn't close to anything at all... I can't imagine what it was like then. Kelsey then had her first time at driving stick-shift. But wait. This was no ordinary first time- she was in the middle of a pasture surrounded by cows, lucky for her the only things she could hit moved before any accidents took place!
A little after sunset we headed back into Carmelo, I learned a new card game called Escoba, and had a very tranquil evening. Sunday Kelsey and I spent the day walking around Carmelo getting to know the area a little better. I ended up buying a t-shirt that a guy hand paints scenes onto- mine has the Uruguay flag and a candombe drum that says Carmelo Uruguay on it. I was pretty excited about that. OH. and we went to a park that had an awesome slide, it looked like so much fun. Unfortunately there were tons of kids on it so I didn't get to try it out. Maybe next time.
That basically sums up the last weekend and my last two weeks here (besides the boring school things)

WAIT I forgot one thing- I gave my first (and hopefully only) presentation in my Psychology of Religion class this past week.

 I was nervous to speak in front of an entire class of native speakers, but they were supportive of my efforts and overall it was a good experience.
I shouldn't have anymore problems with presentations in English from here on out right?

Un Beso

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