Oh, sweet Uruguay! If I could count the amount of lessons I’ve learned within the past week, I would (hence the Friends-themed title). The best way to go about explaining my Uruguayan Thanksgiving would be to break it down, day by day. So I apologize in advance for the novel of a blog post, but my blog is my journal as well, and I don’t want to forget anything!
Thursday (a.k.a. Thanksgiving)
This was certainly an eventful morning! We got to the bus terminal bright and early at 7 AM, and went right to the front of the line. Only to find out that we needed copies of our visas to get to Uruguay. Now, I know this sounds like it should’ve been obvious, but the woman at the bus company explicitly told us that we did not need to bring our visas, even though we are on student visas here. We had a few options: try and go home to get our visas (which I did not have, as it was still at my program’s offices, which does not open until 10 AM) or pay 300 pesos ($75 USD) to get across to Uruguay. We figured out that we would not have enough time to go home and get our visas without changing our boat tickets, which might have cost about the same amount of money. So we just ate the 300-peso charge and started off our Thanksgiving trip feeling very frustrated and suddenly extremely low on money. We finally got onto the freezing cold boat and got to Montevideo safely. From Montevideo, we took a 2-hour bus to Punta del Este, where we got on another bus to go to our house. Pleasantly surprised would be the understatement of the year to describe our reaction to our AMAZING condo that was RIGHT on the beach! We spent about the first half hour running around our amazing condo, taking pictures, and screaming excitedly as found new rooms, new bathrooms, new windows, new views, and other new discoveries. Don’t worry, there are MANY pictures to follow. After running around like the giggly girls that we are, we headed to the supermercado to try and do some grocery shopping on our low budget. Amber, Erin and I decided to make slapitos (sloppy Joes) for dinner on Thursday, as that was our night to cook. We got lots of meat, bread, rice, and veggies, as well as other foods for breakfast and lunch. After that, we headed to the beach! After spending an afternoon lazing around and toasting in the sun, we cooked a delicious and hearty dinner, and tucked in.
Friday (a.k.a. An Uruguayan Thanksgiving)
Since all NINE of us girls wouldn’t be in Punta del Este until Friday, we decided that Black Friday would be our Uruguayan Thanksgiving. Amber, Erin, and I, forced to improvise due to the limited selection at the grocery store, bought some pudding and cookies, as well as pasta and cheese to make our contribution to the dinner. In the morning, we headed straight to the beach and spent a wonderful day outside, preparing the pasta and the trifle throughout the day and after lunch so that we wouldn’t have too much to do that night. We prepared macaroni and cheese (with provolone, since cheddar was not an option) and a delicious trifle that consisted of a layer of chocolate cookies, vanilla pudding, lady fingers, chocolate pudding, and then crushed chocolate cookies and lady fingers on top. YUM! Other dishes on our Thanksgiving table included mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing (made with LEEKS, a great surprise ingredient if you ever want to try it!), Miss Patty’s Cheesy Corn Surprise (I wish I could remember all of the ingredients in that one…), honey-glazed carrots, and another dessert, a sweet potato casserole. Unfortunately, there was a ridiculously huge swarm of gnats flying around the table, so we had to put towels over all of our food so they didn’t eat more than we did, but the dinner was still successful and delicious! Before dessert, as we were stuffed after dinner, we spent a while going around and saying what we were thankful for (which seemed to be a tradition in everybody’s family). After being very thankful, we had great and hilarious conversation over dessert, and nobody was in bed before 2 AM that night! All in all, a wonderful (albeit late) Thanksgiving.
Saturday (a.k.a. Spontaneiday)
After yet another lovely morning on the beach, little did we know we were to take part in a spontaneously fabulous afternoon and evening. When the rest of the girls went back outside after lunch, Erin, Amber, Patty, Sarah and I all stayed in to put on sunscreen. Somehow, between digestion and reapplication, we ended up dancing around our living room, screaming out Miley Cyrus songs, and putting sunscreen on our faces and making funny creations. Erin sported some football stripes, Amber had white lips, Patty had a mustache that resembled that of a conquistador, Sarah had a tribal stripe down her nose, and I supported Movember with a lovely sunscreen beard. After being very giggly gals and doing a mini photo shoot (who’s surprised), we spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach and took a great walk on the rough sand, enjoying (but mostly being uncomfortable during) the natural pedicures. Pizza and salad for dinner, and soon after a movie night it was off to bed for us exhausted girls!
Sunday (a.k.a. Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day)
Sunday was indeed a real-life Disney movie about a cartoon bear in a wind storm. We woke up and headed over to the “white beach,” as we called it, where the sand was soft and there was a large sculpture of a hand coming out of the sand. After doing yet another photo shoot with the sculpture and meeting an old men’s rugby team (total accident), we went on a hunt for snacks, after which we set up camp on the windy beach. After a few minutes too many of suffering the pain of being pelted with flying sand, Sarah, Patty, Erin and I decided to take a little walk down the beach. Not only did it keep us warm, but we also encountered a few extra adventures. One such adventure was The Attempted Rescue of Freddo the Fish. As we walked, we came upon a fish that was lying on the shore, gasping for air, or I guess, in his case, water. He was not dead, but his gills were flapping and he couldn’t have stayed along for much longer. As any spastic girl would do, we all started screaming, and as our maternal sides kicked in, we decided to attempt to save him. As I stood on the sidelines, pretending to delegate, but mostly just making noise, Erin was pouring water on our darling Freddo, as Patty grabbed an empty carton lying on the beach, and tried to push Freddo into the water. When that didn’t work, she filled it with water and poured it on him. Eventually, we managed to get him back into the water, where he remained limp for a while before disappearing. We decided that our valiant little friend had made it back into his home where he belongs.
After an eventful and exhausting day, we headed to Casapueblo, which is a house that was built by an artist on a hill that, we decided, was where Ireland and Greece met. Adventure’s not over yet! Patty, the free spirit that she is, led the group of us (the 5 of us plus Piper) in a small hike (or dangerous mountain climb, as I’d prefer to say) over the Uruguayan Cliffs of Moher (dramatic, I know). After some rock climbing, we explored the beautiful white house as the evening sun came down. We didn’t get to see the sunset because of the clouds, so we drove back to our lovely condo and spent some time there. After an enormous pasta dinner and some hanging out, soon it was almost midnight and we were craving ice cream. We hopped into the car that Sarah and Patty had rented, and Patty drove us (stick shift, ladies and gentlemen) to a gelato shop where we loaded up with 1/4 kilos (that’s right, per person) of delicious cold dessert and brought it back to the girls at the house. Since no normal person could go to bed after that, Amber, Erin, and I somehow managed to be awake until 3 am, when the house was silent and our eyes became droopy. A night of little sleep was not too good because of the next day’s events.
Monday (a.k.a. Welcome to the Big House)
Early morning, cleaning up, and by 9:30 am we were off to Montevideo! We got there by lunchtime and checked into our hostel, barely managing to scrounge up enough Uruguay pesos (20 to the US dollar) to pay for our hostel. The three of us went into our room, which was more like a jail cell, with its high ceilings, lack of furniture, and one high window that nobody could reach. We enjoyed a cold pasta salad and went off to explore the city. After about 30 minutes of “exploring,” during which the 3 of us all purchased beautiful glass mates, we sat for a little while in a plaza, people watching and trying to figure out how we could spend as little money as possible throughout the weekend. We headed back to the hostel, grabbed some snacks, and headed straight to the TV room, where we sat until around 8:45 pm, at which point we found our friend Sam, who had been waiting for us alone for the past 4 hours (sorry, bud!)! After a little while in the TV room, we headed to dinner, where Erin, Amber, and I tried chivito, an Uruguayan sandwich with meat. We also had dessert empanadas that were filled with manjar, a tricky little devil that thinks it is dulce de leche. After spending the rest of my Uruguayan pesos, we went back to the hostel and tucked in, ready for a day at the beach the next day.
Tuesday (a.k.a. The Awkward Uruguayo)
Gloomy morning weather and a few museums were a start to our day before Mr. Golden Sun came out to play and we grabbed lunch at a food truck and skipped off to the beach. Although the water was quite disgusting, we still enjoyed hanging out and loving the soft sand and beautiful weather (despite the wind and the sand in our ears, eyes, and mouths). After eating snacks, sand, and having some confused children ask us if we were Brazilian (to which we most obviously responded “¡Sí!”), we headed back to the prison (hostel). Now, we know that Argentines are quite obsessed with mate, but we all failed to realize how important it was to the daily lives of Uruguayans. We quickly noted a body position we like to refer to as the “awkward Uruguayo,” which consists of the Uruguayan holding a thermos in the crook of his/her arm, and the mate in his/her hand, and drinking it while either sitting, walking, riding the bus, talking on the phone, or even riding a bike (these were all witnessed). After soaking in the culture by noting this interesting body position, we took nice hot showers and cooked a carb-loaded dinner of rice and beans (with cumin) and pasta with peas and some butter snuck from the fridge. Nail night in our prison room concluded our long day, and we dozed off talking and hoping the fan would cool our hot room.
Wednesday (a.k.a. Starstruck)
And it was off to Colonia after waking up a bit too late! We were all in Colonia by 1 pm, and after storing our bags in the bus terminal, we spent a windy few hours exploring this Uruguayan town that still has traces of Portuguese influence (hello, ancestors!). We climbed up a lighthouse, did a few photo shoots, I slid down a hill (accidentally), and we whipped our hair back and forth (thanks to some assistance from the wind). As we sat down for a cheap lunch at a table on a sunny sidewalk, we noticed that the photo of the man in front of the store also happened to be the same man who was serving us our food. Obviously a whole host of sassy and hilarious conversation followed, including some creepy action as Amber attempted to grab a few snapshots of the celebrity cook we bought lunch from. After much more wandering, a search for alfajores, and our boat being pushed back an hour and a half, we were finally on the bumpy boat back to Buenos Aires (say that 5 times fast). I finally made it home in one piece and had a quick dinner with my host mom before finally collapsing into bed.
Lessons I learned from this trip:
1. ALWAYS bring your visa with you, even when people instruct you otherwise.
2. Sometimes emergency = idiocy
3. Bring a towel
4. Ping pong can be played with one hand instead of a paddle
5. Sometimes your wildest imagination can be surpassed with some generosity from a stranger (a huge thank you to Piper and Guillermo)
6. When you have nothing, the littlest things make the biggest difference
Today, Amber, Erin, and I met up to plan out the next few weeks in Buenos Aires. After planning out pretty much every hour of the rest of our days here, we went on a search for thermoses and ate too much cake (is there such a thing?).
Expect a blog on dulce de leche after I get back from Bariloche, which is in less than a week! The travel bug strikes again!