Thursday, December 31, 2009

Read This!

Want to find out about my Fulbright experience in a nutshell? Check out the article that I wrote for the Fulbright website by visiting this link:

(Thank you Mary for the opportunity to write it.)

It's difficult to sum up an experience of a life time. Writing this article got me reflecting about my time in Uruguay. What have I accomplished? What kind of impact have I left? What have I learned? What have gained? What have I lost? How have I changed? Where will the future lead?

In the midst of all those questions, I meant what I said at the end of the article. I know that a little part of my heart will always belong in Uruguay. Uruguay has has left some kind of impression on me and it will always be a part of my life.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Uruguay Elects a New President

There was quite a party Sunday night as thousands of Frente Amplio supporters took to the streets in Montevideo to celebrate the win of their presidential candidate, Pepe Mujica.

The results of the runoff followed pretty much just as the pre-election polls predicted. Mujica, the ex-guerilla fighter won 53 percent of the votes, beating out his opponent, Luis Lacalle.

Only minutes after Mujica was officially announced the winner of the election, a torrential downpour soaked the crowds gathered along the rambla. That didn't seem to bother anyone. In fact, soaking wet FA enthusiasts took to 18 de Julio (Montevideo's main street) celebrating the win of their party in a long victory march. Flags, fireworks, and Frente cheers abounding.

Mujica ended his short speech on election night with a phrase from Uruguay's national hero, Artigas, "ni vencedores ni vencidos"(There are neither victors nor those who have been defeated) in order to leave party differences aside and unite Uruguayans together under the new democratically elected leader.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Piriápolis, Uruguay

Piriápolis is a beautiful beach town in eastern Uruguay in the province of Maldonado. It is a great place to go to relax on the beach a catch a few rays of the hot Uruguayan sun without all the hustle and bustle of its more famous neighboring city, Punta del Este.

There's a great cable car (ski lift-like thing) you can ride on to the top of Cerro del Inglés where you can see a majestic vista of the whole coastal city. From the hill you can also see a glimpse of Montevideo on one side and Punta del Este on the other. There's also a the other cerros to climb including Cerro del Toro which features a statue of bull and natural spring water flowing out of his mouth. The cool water is all the more refreshing after the trek there.

There are also beautiful sunsets in Piriápolis. But that is nothing new. I'm firmly convinced Uruguay has the most beautiful sunsets in the whole world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Teaching English in Montevideo

I realize that many of my posts on this blog are about things unrelated to my work as an English Teaching Assistant and have decided to remedy that. Let me tell you about the work I have been doing this year in Montevideo.

I have been working in two places since arriving in Montevideo.

Instituto de Profesores Artigas (IPA)

I worked in many different classes, with all of the years and shifts, but mostly in Language, Literature, History, and Culture. The professors asked me what I was most interested in teaching and my answer was usually something related to discourse analysis. As such, I am confident my students are better able to develop quality criticism of the texts they encounter daily.

Inspeccion de Ingles for secondary schools

I give conversation circles every Tuesday and Thursday for teachers in distinct areas of the city. The idea was to reach those who may need English support and to provide a more relaxed atmosphere to speak in English. I also visited the classes of some of the teachers at their respective high schools.

I also work in the office of the inspeccion where I focus my time mostly on the design, research, organization, and distribution of the monthly Teaching English Newsletter.

Friday, November 27, 2009


My Thanksgiving this year was hardly traditional. I spent the morning and afternoon visiting a local private school with my mentor from IPA. This was the first time I stepped foot inside a private institution since arriving in Uruguay to work in the public education system. The difference was quite noticeable, even though many of the same teachers work in the both the public and private sector. I'm not sure whether to attribute this to management, funding, student background, or support. Clearly, Crandon, the school I visited, is getting it right.

I took advantage of my visit on Thursday to teach the students about Thanksgiving in the United States. I talked about the history, the idea of giving thanks, the time spent with family, the American football, and of course the turkey. But turkey is next to impossible to find in Uruguay! Nobody likes it! I was worried about celebrating Thanksgiving without a big fat juicy turkey, but then my problem was solved.

A friend of a friend us over to his house for big Thanksgiving feast that he spent two days preparing. And it showed. His food was delcious. And not to mention the view from his apartment was spectacular. People are very generous and caring here.

I am very thankful for my time spent in Uruguay and for the many great friends I have made.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dairy Farm

The English professors at CERP Florida were kind enough to organize a day trip for us to a nearby dairy farm. The visit was fascinating.

We learned about the milk cooperative, Conaprole, (Cooperativa Nacional de Productores de Leche) as it one of the largest dairy exporters in Latin America and has a unique history within Uruguay. Agricultural production remains as one of the cornerstones of the Uruguayan economy. At the farm we learned about milk production and maintenance of the cows. Who knew running a dairy farm could be so complex?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Punta del Este

Punta del Este is a beach resort in Eastern Uruguay known for its glitz and glam. Wealthy Brazilians and Argentinos flock to Punta del Este during the hot summer months to live it up.

The beaches are beautiful. The houses are beautiful. The people are beautiful. Everything is freakin' beautiful in Punta del Este.

Among the fancy restaurants, shops, cabanas, yachts, clubs, and casino is the famous hand sculpture on La Brava beach by Mario Irrazábal. It is supposed to look like fingers sweeping the sand, and it would--if it weren't for traces of the concrete base peeking up through the sand. Nonetheless, the sculpture is still cool. Imagine those fingers being very very tall. And just to let you know. I climbed the thumb.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Uruguay's Inferiority Complex

Uruguay is headed to the Copa Mundial (Soccer World Cup) in South Africa after this Wednesday's qualifying match. The entire country was on hold as Uruguay hosted Costa Rica in the Montevideo stadium. It is quite possible there wasn't a single person NOT watching the game. If there is one thing that Uruguayans take seriously, it's futbol.

When I ask people if they are proud of their country, futbol often has its way of making itself into the conversation. I want to get a sense of the nationalism (or lack thereof?) of the Uruguayan people, but of course, individuals vary greatly, and discussions with foreigners aren't always the best way to assess one's true sentiments about his or her country. That said, speaking from my observations, Uruguay has a bit of a inferiority complex. Nobody cares about us. Our neighbors are so big. Nobody even knows where Uruguay is on the map. Maybe we aren't very important after all. It's almost as if they imagined insignificance into being. But wake up Uruguay: you are awesome! and I could go on and on about why (just look at some of the other posts on this blog).

Despite the tendency to downplay perception of self in conversation, denying great love of country and identification as a unit, we can all agree that futbol is one example of unfledgling patriotism in Uruguay. The entire nation seemed to wear celeste (light blue, color of Uruguay's soccer jerseys) in a celebration of the Uruguay's last game to qualify for the Fifa World Cup. The signs suggest that Uruguayans really do love Uruguay.

Take, for example, the national anthem sung before the game mentioned above. It was performed in the version of a murga. See it here departing from its traditional style. There has been a lot of chatter recently of either strong aproval or disapproval for this new rendition, the "himno murguera." (I like it by the way.) When you speak of symbols of one's country, people are bound to passionately involved, heavily opinionated, and vocal about their convictions. All signs point to a type of nationalism that can't be easily defined.


Distinctly Uruguayan.
Extremely popular.

Photo courtesy of Marcos.

Basically male singing, acting, comedy groups. See this person's YouTube video for an example.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lobos Marinos

This weekend I visited Punta del Este in eastern Uruguay and got to see Uruguay's infamous sea lions or "sea wolves" as they call them in Spanish (lobos marinos).

Swimming about in the port of Punta del Este are a group of 8 or so enormous sea lions. They hang around the port alongside a flock of albatrosses where all the fishermen dump their leftover fish pieces.

You can get uber-close to these fascinating sea creatures and watch them swim around, playing, eating, and fighting with one another. This little boy in the picture enjoyed walking up and down the dock with a fish carcass while the lobos marinos greedily followed his every move.

"Feed me." You can almost hear the sea lions calling out to you. "Feed me. I'm going to sit on this rock here, and you throw me some tasty fish guts."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nike 10k

Bright yellow. No. Blinding fluorescent yellow. That was color of our jerseys for the Nike 10k in Montevideo. I don't suppose they could have picked a brighter color.

On Saturday Christie, Fede, and I ran in the Nike 10k, which is the equivalent of 6.2 miles. The race started at the Palacio Legislativo and ended along the rambla. I beat my goal (of 60 minutes) by a little more than 3 minutes so i was really happy. I'm pretty sure that if i had been in this race a year ago I could have barely crossed the finish line, but Uruguay has encouraged me to live a healthier lifestyle. I have to exercise everyday or I feel rather anxious. The rambla in Montevideo is perfect for running and the path along the Uruguay River in Salto was great for running too; and I visit my gym, Los Bohemios, 4-5 days a week. I have Uruguay to thank for encouraging healthy living. Everyone seems to be fit around here.

In the Nike race there were almost 8000 runners. Woah! That's a lot of yellow. Almost like a yellow streak. I came in 3424th. Haha. That sounds horrible I know. A little better, I came in 102 out of 367 in my gender and age category. For the second race of my life and first 10k one ever, I'm quite pleased.

English Symposium

I'm so proud of everyone who made our English Symposium: Students' Voices a great success!

One project I developed as an ETA was to create a space for my students at IPA to share their academic research with a larger audience. I was concerned that students did not have an outlet for their voices to be heard outside of the classroom, so therefore I got the English Department on board, and started organizing a culminating event. After months of planning and organizing, the symposium commenced in the last Friday in October. There were individual and group presentations by students and special guest speakers, a round table discussion, lunch social, book fair, and poster session. The day was exciting and thought provoking.

I am so proud of the hard work of everyone involved. A special thank you goes out to IPA students, IPA professors, guest speakers, the Uruguayan Fulbright office, my mentors, and the Department of Foreign Languages. Thank you to all of those who presented, attended, and contributed in any way to the event. YOU are the reason the first English Symposium was such a success!

And follow-up good news. There will be a journal publication coming out from the symposium that has been sent to the press and is in print.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birthday Celebrations in Uruguay

This past Saturday was my birthday, and I have to admit that it was perhaps one of the most fun ones I have ever had. Thank you to all of you who made it super special!

From facebook messages, emails, texts, presents, dinner, dancing, and dessert, it was a weekend to remember!

Beso muy grande a todos!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sifting through the Trash

It's not unusual to hear the clip clop of horse hooves below from our living room window. Some of the poorest people of Montevideo (who likely live in the suburbs) go around from garbage bin to garbage bin searching for trash to collect.

Sometimes it's men collecting garbage. Sometimes it's women. Sometimes it's teenagers. And sometimes it's children. I think it's heartbreaking to see a 5 year old child riding in a wagon, waiting for his big brother to finish diving in the big green dumpster nearby. What kind of future will these children have?

The quantity of horse drawn garbage collectors is surprisingly high for a modern day capital city. Haggard horses pulling rotting wooden carts trot by while cars zoom past them on 4 lane highways. They seem strangely out of place, yet many low income families have resorted to scavenging for trash as a primary source of income.

On the brighter side of things (if there is a brighter side), these trash-sifters take care of most of the city's recycling. For example, we don't have a means to recycle near our house, so we put all of our empty plastic containers in a seperate bag for garbage sorters to come through and collect them with greater ease. We feel this is the most likely way that our shampoo bottles and coca cola liters will get resold and reused. They provide an important public service in this regard.

The situation for the trash sifters isn't always completely bad (not to diminish the real hardships that come hand in hand with poverty). One of the most absurd things I've seen thus far is a man driving his horse and cart piled full of refuse while talking on his cell phone. His cell phone! The irony is striking.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Colonia, Uruguay

Colonia is a beautiful town in western Uruguay, just across the river from Buenos Aires, so there are a lot of tourists who visit this slice of history. My aunt and I hopped on a bus from Tres Cruces right to the terminal in Colonia without any problem whatsoever. When we arrived at our destination, found the tourist office, grabbed a map, and started touring around.

Colonia del Sacramento, as it is officially called, was a Portuguese settlement as evidence by the old houses and cobblestone streets in the historic district. The streets are well preserved and very peaceful. Colonia was declared UNESCO heritage site in 1995 to keep it that way.

As with almost all Uruguayan towns (in general) I recommend you climb up the lighthouse to get a nice view of the whole city. Beside roaming the streets and checking out the museums there are also an abundance of great places to eat and shop for crafts. Colonia is great place to visit.

Dia de los Muertos

Another federal holiday in Uruguay! Today is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The idea is to spend the day being respectful and honoring those who have passed away. The Uruguayans I've spoken to said they don't really take the day too seriously. It is more a day of relaxing without work.

They also said they don't really celebrate Halloween which was this weekend too, but I definitely saw some children out trick-or-treating...unless those skeletons and ghosts weren't really children in costumes. Hmmmm. For Halloween I attempted to have a little party for the teachers in my conversation class, but the only thing that turned out scary was my cooking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

El Milongón

When my aunt was in Montevideo visiting me, we went to a dinner show--El Milongón. Although it was as touristy as touristy can get, it was a nice overview of the musical styles of Uruguay.

There was folk dancing, candombe, tango, fire spinning, and gaucho stomping. For a show in Uruguay it was ridiculously pricey (about 21 US dollars), but for a comparable 1.5 hour show of live music and dancing in the US you couldn't even come close to the price.

Enjoy a short video from the evening:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Election Results

Excitement is in the air. Even though Uruguay's presidential elections were yesterday, we still don't know who will be president next year. None of the candidates won a majority (50 percent plus 1 vote) to win the first round of elections, which means there will be a "balotaje" (runoff) in November.

Pepe Mujica from the Frente Amplio got 47.5% of the votes, Luis Lacalle from Partido Nacional (or Blanco) got 28.5%, Pedro Bordaberry from the Colorados got 16.7%.

I happened to make it to both the Frente Amplio and Partido Nacional celebrations in Ciudad Vieja. Kudos to the Frente for more fun-ness. Their supporters were a bit more in number and animation. People were chanting, waving flags, jumping, painting faces, parading down the street, and watching fireworks. They expected a big win last night, and were slightly disappointed to have to wait till the runoff to vote Pepe again. The Colorado celebration was a little more low-key, largely reflective of their typical demographic. I'm excited to see if the November 29th election will be a close one or not.

As with the presidential vote, neither of the 2 referendums (to annul the amnesty law or to let Uruguayans living abroad vote) got a majority either which means neither of them will pass. I am actually really surprised that the amnesty law will remain intact. It seemed like public sentiment swayed toward repealling the law, yet it only received a 47.36% yes-vote. I suppose visibility isn't always the most accurate indicator of voting behavior. Seems like most Uruguayans want to keep the past in the past, even if it means leaving a few human rights violations go unpunished. If the law were repealed there would be a BIG mess to sort out. (A mess just as problematic as not repealing the law? We'll never know.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Election Day

Today is election day in Uruguay!

After months and months of campaigning, we shall finally see which party wins the election. Lately, there have been rallies all over Montevideo for each of the different political parties, and volunteers handing out brochures like crazy. I don't think I'll miss receiving 20 pamphlets after a short two-block walk down 18 de Julio.

It appears that there will be no clear winner in the election today. The race is largely between the two frontrunners, Pepe Mujica, former Tupamaros guerrilla fighter and part of the current ruling party, the Frente Amplio, and Luis Lacalle, former president and representative from the Partido Blanco. Elections in Uruguay are compulsory so everyone has to vote or face undesirable consequences.

In addition to selecting a president and a new legislature (through the system of a bunch of really long lists labeled with a number) Uruguayans will also vote on two "plebiscitos," namely whether to repeal the 1986 amnesty law and whether to allow Uruguayans living abroad to vote.

There have been many signs, graffiti, pins, shirts, posters, and whatnot encouraging people to vote "si" to annul the "Ley de Caducidad" which granted amnesty to those accused of human rights abuses during the dictatorship.

I am so excited to see the result of the election. The future of Uruguay will be decided today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Way Up in the Sky

The Torre de las Telecomunicaciones is the tallest building in Montevideo, and in all of Uruguay for that matter. It towers over the rest of city and can be seen from quite a distance. The tower belongs to ANTEL, the state-run national telecommunications company.

From the tower you can see a beautiful overview of the city, port, and river. Every so often they give free tours to the public and let you ride up the elevator to the 20th floor where you can look out the massive windows from to see Montevideo on all sides down below.

The windows often reflect light and, at some points, make it seem like you are walking into an optical illusion. It is well worth the visit if you come visit Uruguay.

In the adjacent building there is the Museo de las Telecomunicaciones y el Auditorio which more or less takes you on a tour of telephones throughout the ages. I wouldn't recommend the museum unless you are telecommunications junkie, but the tower is worthwhile.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday on the Golf Course

On Sunday, the Club de Golf de Uruguay opens its doors to the public--only not for golf.

The golf course is in the Punta Carretas neighborhood and you can see the Ciudad Vieja part of the Montevideo skyline from some of the greens and the beach as well. The course was impeccable, yet anyone (golfer or not) can visit on Sundays just to lounge around.

I could hardly believe it. At first I felt like I was desecrating holy ground by walking on a golf course with no golf clubs, no golf shoes, and no golf attire. But you don't need those things on Sundays! We came with only a bag full of bizcochos (bakery sweets) and yerba mate.

On Sundays families come to have picnics by the sand traps. Friends come to loaf around the greens. Students come to study in the grass. Nature enthusiasts come to spot newly hatched baby birds and watch bright green parrots fly from tree to tree.

I like the idea that an exclusive golf club lets people use their facilities like a park. It's a public good that just doesn't exist in the culture I come from.

Friday, October 16, 2009

86 kilos of meat

Seriously Uruguayans. How do you eat so much meat?

This article says the expected number of slaughtered cattle for this year will be around 2.21 million. Whoooah. That's a lot of cows. Further more:
Uruguay's beef consumption per capita in 2009 is expected to reach 58 kilos and 86 kilos of all types of meat according to the latest estimates from the National Meat Institute (INAC).
86 kilos of meat per capita??!!

No wonder why you can't walk into a restaurant around here and not find some form of beef on the menu. A lot of Uruguayans have told me they eat beef everyday of the week, and I'm not surprised after living here for 7 months. Apparently you can never have too much beef.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Alpargatas are the traditional shoe of the gauchos (cowboys) in Uruguay. The soles are made of jute and the uppers of canvas. I discovered (with the help of Google) that "alpargatas" are the Rioplatense way of saying "espadrilles." And as we all know, every fashion guru owns a pair of espadrilles.

I gave my students the assignment to create an advertisement for something typically Uruguayan based on all of the principles we've been discussing regarding discourse analysis. Their ads were great. Among others I got ads for dulce de leche, towns to visit in Uruguay, beer, sneakers, a hotline, and alpargatas. The two students who created the alpargatas advertisment, also gifted me a pair of these traditional shoes. Thanks guys!

Apparently you can't get alpargatas wet or they will become too stiff, and then they are basically useless. So now I'm nervous to wear them. How can you not get shoes wet? Puddles have a way of finding me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Uruguayan Sunsets

I've never seen sunsets anywhere in the world more beautiful than the sunsets I've seen in Uruguay, first in Salto then in Montevideo.

Here are two photos right from our living room window as the sun began to sink. Both were taken on different days. Sheer magnificence!


Chivitos (literally translated, little goats) are anything but little sandwiches that are 100% Uruguayan.

It's ungodly the amount of the stuff they put on these sandwiches. Ingredients usually include beef, tomato, lettuce, mayo, onion, bacon, egg, and olive; served with a side of papas fritas (french fries).


I've decided to dedicate an entire week to posting about Uruguayan food, so stick with me to find out what scrumptious foods Uruguayans typically eat. First thing on our menu is beef. But you probably knew Uruguayan beef already.

Uruguay is world-famous for it's delicious beef from free-range, grass-fed cattle. Almost every restaurant serves beef. And in particular, there are parrilladas (BBQ grills) on every corner. But if eating out isn't your style, no worries, there plenty of butcher shops around too.

Uruguayans eat all of the cow. And I'm not kidding. I stick to the few cuts of beef I know and like, but if you can find it in a cow, you can probably find it grilling on the parrilla too. I've found entrecot, asado, bife de lomo, vacio, and costilla all to be safe and tasty cuts of beef. If you order anything else you risk getting served intestines, tongue, rump, kidney, testicles, or who-knows-what else. Some people love the full asado parrilada experience, but as for me, I'll stick to the less adventuresome "normal" cuts of beef.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Escape from the City: Villa Serrana

The small little town of Villa Serrana is about as far from the hustle and bustle of the city as you can possibly get. Located 145 Km away from Montevideo in the Lavalleja Deparment--it's a great place to get back in touch with nature.

For Columbus day or "Dia de la Raza" we took a trip to itty bitty Villa Serrana. This was another one of those towns where the bus driver calls out the name of the town and you hop off on the side of the highway. Fortunately this time there were signs pointing to the village. It was about a 4 kilometer walk to even see any sign of civilization, and even then, we saw more animals than humans (Including ants, haha, but this time they weren't crawling on me but rather carrying blades of grass 3 times their body weight to who-knows-where).

We stopped by the Baño de la India, the observatory, and a few other points of interest, but mostly we just hiked around and breathed in the fresh air. Other than waiting forever for a bus to take us back to Montevideo and not having a seat for the 2.5 hour bus ride, the trip was great success.

One this is for sure: the Uruguayan countryside is breathtaking. cattle, horses, and sheep graze in open free-range pastures, gurgling springs trickle down green fields, rolling hills sweep along the horizon, and white clouds dot the brilliant blue skies. Villa Serrana is all nature.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thongs in Public

Yes, this post might be slightly scandalous.

I was at pool today and saw something that struck me as quite strange. Another girl came to swim laps the wearing a one piece thong bathing suit. Seriously? A thong one-piece? To swim laps at the gym? How impractical. It can neither be modest nor comfortable. Why would anyone even own such a swimsuit?

Furthermore, I've noticed that a lot of women wear thongs at the beach. Old and young. Fat or skinny. They aren't usually topless like I found in Spain, but still as scantily clad as possible. And women wear thongs to dance to carnaval music which often involves shaking your booty, if you will. It's the land of thongs over here!

I recognize this is just a cultural difference, but public displays of thong-covered rear ends make this stuffy American feel uncomfortable.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Uruguayan classic! A sweet or savory pastry filled with just about anything you could imagine. The most popular fillings tend to be ground beef and olives, chicken, ham and cheese, and of course dulce de leche for dessert. You can order them fried or baked. I prefer them al horno. Less grease please.

They have fast food empanada places, delivery empanada places, and gourmet empanada places for all your varying empanada needs. When you order them in (as Uruguayans often do) they come with strange holes poked in the end to tell the different flavors apart. More or less, it's impossible to distiguish little dots cut into pastry dough, so after spending an hour figuring out exactly what kinds to order, everybody ends up eating everybody else's empanada anyway.

(I find it amusing Uruguayans insist on washing these down with a Coca-Cola, even they don't have any in the house--that just simply means you have to run to the store. Immediately. And I suppose, in general, it's always prudent have to have a coca on hand to offer in case you have guests over, or you aren't going to be remembered for being a very polite host.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Bus Ride to Remember

Yesterday I rode the bus with spiderman. No really. I got on the bus. Sat down. Two stops later, none other than spiderman himself got on the bus, paid his fare, and stood there as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I pretended to text on my phone, but snapped a photo instead, because I knew no one would believe that I rode the bus with a super hero.

I think the strangest thing was that other people on the bus didn't seem to be fazed at all by the fact that Hombre Araña was riding the bus with us. I've come to expect peddlars, musicians, and beggars to board the bus, but not super heroes.

I've been on the bus with men playing tango music, children selling alfajores con dulce de leche, a man selling spot cleaner, women selling chocolate, a spanish rapper, numerous vendors, and now with spiderman too. Somehow riding the bus is always an experience.

And P.S. if you ever need to figure out how to get somewhere in Montevideo, will save your life, because the system is impossible to navigate with out this website. There are no schedules. And there are no routes printed at the bus stops. If you want to go somewhere in the city you either walk, take a taxi, ask somebody which bus to take, or find internet connection and check out this website. You click on your origin and it will tell you which buses you can take to get to your destination. Another piece of advice, which I had to learn the hard way, you have to hail the bus, even if you are at a marked bus stop it won't stop unless you stick out your hand and start waving. You also need to push a button to get off the bus at your stop, or once again, the driver will just keep on going. There are many unspoken rules of bus-riding here, and the only way to learn is to get on and go.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Mate Man-Purse

"Why are all of the men carrying man-purses?" my friend Emily asked me when she was visiting for a week.

"Ha, ha, ha, man-purses?" I laughed, "they aren't man-purses, they're materas (or mate bags). That is the container they use to carry their mate cup, straw, thermos, and yerba mate. Silly Emily. They are unisex carrying devices, not man-purses."

Ahhh, yes, but time would prove me wrong. We happened to befriend a few waiters at the Mercado Del Puerto who we met up with after they got off of work, and lo-and-behold eventually the conversation turned to Uruguay's favorite drink and pastime--mate." Our new friend said, "Oh well, I would let you try mate, but here in my mate bag I don't have mate."

"Oh really, you don't have mate in your mate bag? So what do you have in there?"

"Well, let me show you," he says as he opens up his leather bag strung over his shoulder. Gasp. Inside he had a gigantic bottle of hair gel, deodorant, cologne (ironically pronounced "perfume" in Spanish), and other beauty supplies.

One word: deception.

Now I know Uruguayan men, now I know what you carry in your mate bag man purse!