Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love from Home

I got something in the mail today. A box. A big box of goodies!

I was so excited when I saw it sitting on the table, I could hardly wait to open it. There were about 10 various stickers pasted all over the box. It likely had an interesting journey getting here, only taking 8 days to get from the Northeastern United States to Uruguay. Definitely sent Priority Mail.

Inside was lots of American junk food, including peanut butter! Mmmmmm. It all looks so tasty (although very bad for my diet). Looks like I'll have snacks to last me quite a long while.

Unfortunately, I do believe the package was a bit expensive (we're talking about 49 US dollars here!!!). Goodness. This might be the most expensive bunch of sweets I'll ever have in my entire life, so I shall have to snack treasuring each bite.

The package made my day. And my week. I certainly didn't expect it. Thank you parents and grandparents!!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flu and Fever Stay Away

Oh my. Swine flu. Dengue fever. I have subscribed to El Pais, the national newspaper of Uruguay on my GoogleReader. Everyday there are more stories about dengue fever and the swine flu spreading. I feel a bit paranoid about them. There haven't been any confirmed cases of either in Uruguay as of yet, but one suspected case of the swine flu and a few cases of dengue in Argentina. Dengue is trasmited through mosquito bites. I have looked up the symptoms several times, and it is also called "bonebreak" fever for the severe joint pain it causes. Fortunately I don't have anything like this, and the chances of getting dengue outside of the tropics is low. As for swine flu? Do we know anything about it yet? other than there is a world-wide scare about it going around? Scary.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hello, My Name is Yenifer

I decorated my room this weekend.

And I have the best wall decorations ever. Handmade posters. Cute little hand prints. Welcome to Salto. Thank you for coming to school. We are happy with you. And two of my favorites for the way they spelled my name. Welcome Jeniffer. Te queiro Yenifer. Awwwww.

I feel so loved every time I look at the wall.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do You Have a Boyfriend?

I find it amusing the types of questions I've been asked since arriving in Latin America. People tend to ask much more personal questions than we do in the States.

The first time I visited students in the schools they asked me things like: "How old are you?" "Do you like children?" "Do you have children?" ""What are your parent's names?" "How did you get to Uruguay?" "What's your favorite animal?" "What's your favorite color?" "Do you have a boyfriend?" They want to know everything; even things we consider improper to ask upon just meeting someone.

And it's not just the children who are inquisitive. The other day a fellow teacher asked me, "How much do you weigh?" I was taken aback. I actually said, um, you can't ask me that; but then I felt bad, because I realized it wasn't out of the ordinary for her to ask people that question. She proceeded to tell me how much she weighed and so forth.

Communication norms are different here. I generally live by the principle of very slow self-disclosure, revealing things about myself to others over a long period of time. In Uruguay, that process seems to be much faster, something that as a North American I struggle to get accustomed to.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Brazilian waxes. Oh la la.

Life never fails to be amusing.

Awhile back I was attempting to purchase a magazine from a kioske along the street. The magazines are kept behind the counter, so I told the man that I'd like to purchase "Ojala" (which means I wish or I hope in Spanish). I though Ojala was the title of the magazine that I spotted on the shelf. The man responded to me, Hola (hello in Spanish). I said hola, I would like to purchase Ojala. The man responded, Hola? Realizing he meant the name of the magazine, not hello there, I said, no, Ojala. He said Hola? I said no, Ojala. Hola? Ojala. Hola? Getting frustrated, I pointed to the magazine I wanted to buy. He handed it to me. Lo and behold, the magazine was not called Ojala, like I though it was, it's title was Oh la la which apparently sounds a lot like "hola" to my ears. Whoops. I just couldn't figure out why he kept saying hola to me...

In class last week a professor we are assisting was teaching his students a few English idioms and slang words like "to bad mouth" or ""no biggie." At one point he asked the class, "do you know what a Brazilian is?" A Brazilian? A Brazilian wax I thought? Why is he asking the class this? I was certain that's what he said, and I was afraid he was going to ask us to explain it to the students. All I could think was, I don't want to be the lucky person who has to explain this one. Then after a few minutes of confused stares, he repeated the word, and it turned out he was saying, "bazillion." As in the imaginary number we have created to signify a ginormous number. Whew. Narrow escape on that one.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vroom Vroom


I rode on a motorbike for my first time ever today. It was an, um, experience. I agreed to visit another school after teaching at the CERP in the morning but it is too far to walk to, so one of the other teachers offered to pick me up on her moto. Ahhh.

I put on the helmet as required by law, hopped on the back, and off we went to school. It was crazy. The girl I went with was a fine driver, but I couldn't help feeling like I was going to die to whole way there! There was virtually no protection between me and the cold hard pavement.

It seems like motor bike is the primary means of transportation here in the city of Salto. People of all ages zig zig through the streets on a moto. Personally, I'm not too eager to ride on one again, unless I am the one in the driver's seat. There's just something scary about not being in control.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Pope's Toilet

A very good Uruguayan Film: El Baño del Papa Written and directed by César Charlone and Enrique Fernández

English name: The Pope's Toilet. No, you are not reading wrong, that is the correct translation. The movie follows one man who smuggles goods from Brazil for a living. There are rumors that thousands of people are going to visit Melo, his hometown, because the Pope is planning a visit. He comes up with the brillant idea to build a private toilet to accomodate the visitors who are expected to arrive to the town, and to charge them to use it. Will he succeed? Will he be able to pull his family out of poverty?

It was a great movie. I would classify it as a low-budget drama with the classic independent foreign film feel. I liked it just about as much as I liked Slumdog Millionaire (and I really liked Slumdog Millionaire). The film was showcased at MoMA (New York City's Museum of Modern Art) last week, so the critics liked it too. There's a lot of imagery, symbolism, social commentary, and artistic development. It's one of those "make you think" types of movies that I could chatter about for hours.

If you watch it, we can discuss. Poverty? Religion? Capitalism? Relationships? Corruption? Morality? Greed? Hope? Media? Globalization? Sacred vs. Profane? This one's got it all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salto Grande

I went on a field trip yesterday with the sixth graders at my school. We went to Salto Grande, the dam shared by Argentina and Uruguay on the Rio Uruguay.

Next week I am going to give a presentation on the Hoover Dam in the United States so the students can work on using English comparatives and superlatives to describe the differences between the two dams. Hopefully they will be able to say things like: The Hoover Dam is bigger. The Salto Grande is prettier. The Hoover Dam is the largest. Salto Grande is the newest (or whatever adjective + er or + est).

I was probably just about as excited as the 6th graders to go on a field trip. Dams are impressive displays of human engineering to be able to harness the power of nature.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't Cry For Me Argentina

I forgot to mention the Recoleta Cemetery that we visited in Buenos Aires. It is perhaps the coolest place I've been where dead people are buried.

The Cemetery is situated in the fancy Recoleta neighborhood and is a large enclosure where hundreds of monuments are built to the honor the dead. The grounds were well-groomed yet still very creepy. Many visitors (and stray cats) milled about the grave sites.

The cemetery, or rather mausoleum, if we are being precise with our terms, boasts of the graves of many past Argentine presidents and of Eva Peron, the very person whom the play, Evita, is based upon. We had to do a little detective work to find her grave, which more or less involved us trailing two guys who were talking about finding her grave. I suppose that kind of made me feel like a spy...

I think the appeal of the cemetery lies in the fact that it is both somber yet commemorative, dark yet sunny, creepy yet beautiful, aging yet manicured, peaceful yet lively, old yet invigorating.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

José Pedro Varela

The other national hero of Uruguay is José Pedro Varela. He is famous for his contribution to the education system.

In my school there are two very large paintings in the cafeteria; one of Artigas and the other of Varela. These two men are the most praised in all the country.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Argentine Art

Here's a quick review a few more things I did in Argentina art related:

Visited Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA). A good traditional and modern art museum combined. I spent too long on the lower level and not enough on the upper one, but a good way to spend an afternoon. Famous European Artists below and Latin American artists above.

Visited Museo de Arte Latinoamercano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). A GREAT modern art museum. Loved it. Lots of funky pieces. Lots of fun.

Saw 2 live theater performances at the Cultural de la Cooperación Floreal Gorini for more or less $10 each (35 Argentine pesos). One very good, one very confusing. One I could follow, the other hopeless. One a story arc, the other crazy people on stage ranting about...well, I don't even know. El Tiempo y los Conway and Los Siete Locos

Saw a movie. Although a German film with Spanish subtitles, still very good. And Along Came Tourists

In review, if you plan on going to Buenos Aires you have to partake in the local art scene. Definitely go to a live performance and definitely pick a few of the art museums and visit the ones you think you'd like the most.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Discourse Analysis

Today was my first day teaching a Thursday morning class which just happens to be, get this, discourse analysis. Yay! Discourse analysis you ask? Isn't that just rhetoric by a different name? Why yes, yes it is. Imagine that; I get to teach the students at the Centro Regional de Profesores (CERP) what I love. It's so exciting. Officially the course is entitled linguistics, but there is a large component that involves the analysis of texts. Today we talked about what makes a text a text and I passed around several examples and had them defend whether or not they though the materials were pieces of discourse.

Whoo. I just thought I share some of joy with all of you. Hoorah for studying discourse. I can only wait until next Thursday...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


So what does one eat when they go to Argentina? Well, let me tell you. It's beef. That is what you order. In particular, parrillada. But, you have to be careful, parrillada can include some interesting cuts of meat. This site says: "In Argentina, the meat is often grilled at the table, and includes various cuts of steak, lamb, pork, sausages, sweetbreads, and internal organs not often found on US menus." Mmmhhhhmmm. Knowing what you are ordering is the name of the game. Stay away from the chorizos, kidneys, intestines, livers, udders, and sweetbreads. In my opinion, avoid being "adventurous" when it comes to strange words on the menu of a parilla restaurant.

I ordered a bife de costilla which is a t-bone. As you can see it turned out to be huge. I'm not the biggest red meat fan, but this steak was good. Yes, Argentina has good meat if you stick to costillas alone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Argentine Tango

My favorite thing we did in Buenos Aires was probably go to the Catedral de Tango where real Argentineans go to dance. It was no touristy tango spectacle, just a big, dimly lit, warehouse-like space with table on one side a dance floor on the other. There were different sorts of modern "art" on the walls and a big picture of Carlos Gardel, one of the most famous tango dancers ever (who by the way both Argentina and Uruguay claim as their own).

We got there at about 11:30 PM and the locals didn't start arriving until more like 1:30-2 AM. The dinner off the menu of the day was delicious--some sort of baked squash with cheese. I enjoyed sitting there listening to the beautiful tango music and occasionally sneaking peaks at the couples on the dance floor. We didn't end up leaving the catedral until about 4 in the morning, and apparently that was an early evening for most South Americans.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back from Buenos Aires

I just got back to Salto after a long week spent in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, the 3rd largest city in South America. I will spend a few posts telling you about my time in this wonderful place. It reminded me of a mixture between DC and NYC, (largely for its political and cultural significance), only with everything in Spanish. Ha ha.

This is a picture of the "Casa Rosada" or "Pink House" or more formally, the Casa de Gobierno where President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner works but does not live. It is situated right on the Edge of Plaza Mayor.

Buenos Aires also has an obelisk (which looks just like the Washington Monument if you ask me, but hey, who is?) located in the city center along Avenida Corrienties on which our $15 a night hostel was planted. The hostel, Rancho Urbano, was not bad at all, actually, quite nice as far as hostels go. Thank you hostelworld. I grew a bit attached to my free breakfast of medialunas (crossaints) and coffee. It just might have been nice if were farther up Corrientes so we didn't have to walk so far to get to the city center. There were also a few pretty little kitties running around that made me miss my last roommate's cats. Boooo.

The picture below is one of Puerto Madero, built up along the Rio de la Plata. It seemed to be located in a very nice area of the city where all the young working professionals go for lunch and relaxation.

Expect more posts to follow in the next few days about the City of Fair Winds.

Coca-Cola Light

In light of my post yesterday on Coca-Cola, I'd also like to point out another interesting tid-bit about the world's favorite brand. In countries outside of the US, they sell Coca-Cola Light which is yummy. I generally try to avoid the poison that is carbonated beverages, but Coca-Cola Light is actually tasty. And worth 0 calories.

However, Coca-Cola Light is different than Diet Coke because it is made with different types of sweeteners, the least of which is 30-50 times more sweet than sugar. According to Wikipedia: "Coca-Cola Light may be sweetened with a blend containing cyclamates, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium." If you are still confused, here is what Coke has to say about their different concoctions:
Coca-Cola Zero is sweetened with a blend of low-calorie sweeteners, while Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame. As for Coke/Coca-Cola light, in certain countries, the term "diet" is not used to describe low-calorie foods and beverages. In these countries, we offer Coke/Coca-Cola light. The sweetener blend used for Coke/Coca-Cola light is formulated for each country based on consumer preference.
Ha ha ha "consumer preference." Or in other words, cyclamates, which are used in Coca-Cola Light, were banned by the FDA in 1970. They don't market it the US, because they can't.

In South America however, bring on the Coca-Cola Light. Gurgle gurgle.


Let's begin our series of Ad-Wednesdays by talking about Coca-Cola, arguably THE largest and most successful brand in world. (Coca-Cola is consistantly ranked number one in terms of "brand power" by Interbrand every year. And after spending an entire semester researching Coca-Cola brand identity and globalization I would likely agree, although there are several other monster brands out there).

This photo is taken out of my window. Coca-Cola awning. Coca-Cola umbrellas. Coca-Cola chairs. Coca-Cola sign. Coca-Cola everything. This restaurant is considered "posh" here, where the cool cats come to dine, to see and be seen.

Coca-Cola is highly visible here. Coca-Cola has many large and prominent advertising spaces throughout the city. Just about every place that sells beverages, sells Coke.

What do people call "soda" or "pop" here? Coca. You want a glass of cola? Oh, you mean you want a Coca? It doesn't matter whether you will be getting Sprite, Pepsi, Pomelo, whatever, you will be ordering a coca. I think of this phenomenon similar to the "oh, I need a Kleenex" or "I have to Xerox this report" phenomenon in the US. When a brand name becomes a substitute for the actual product (respectively a tissue and paper copy from the examples above), that is when they have achieved far more success than any other competitor in their market-share.

Coca-Cola is big. Bigger than you can imagine.

Advertising Uruguayan Style

One of my major academic (and otherwise) interests is the rhetoric of advertising, so I thought it would be fun to comment on some of my observations of corporate marketing in Uruguay as it strikes me as unusual or even similar to the corporate advertising that is prominent in the United States.

My first post in this accord will be about Coca-Cola, but expect more interesting commentary in posts to follow throughout the year. I may even attempt to dedicate one day of every week to posting a web log on some aspect of advertising here, which will also help me parse out some ideas for my independent research project as well. Let's just say that every so often we will have an Ad-blog day.

Audio Admobiles

Arrrrrgh. The apartment we are renting is right off of the principle street of Salto, Calle Uruguay. While our location is ideal, it also comes with its drawbacks. Every morning, or afternoon, or evening, (really any time I happen to be in the apartment) there are these ridiculously annoying "Audio Admobiles" that run through the streets.

They are trucks that drive at a snail's pace through the streets with a radio BLASTING out advertisements. Never music, always an overindulgent male broadcaster's voice. They pass every 10-25 minutes throughout the day with no repose. I can't imagine why there are not some noise laws or zoning regulations againt these vehicles. People who live along Calle Uruguay must go crazy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Semana Santa

I am off to Argentina! Our apartment was already rented out for this coming week because of Semana Santa (Holy Week) also known as Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week) so we have to vacate. We chose to go to Buenos Aires because a week there is certain not to disappoint. I am very excited.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some photos of pretty Uruguayan naturaleza.

I find the ones with bright flower blossoms my favorite. We were walking to the bus station one day and I made us stop to take a photo of the flower trees and we looked up to discover a whole family watching us from the window. Whoops. I didn't mean to be a creeper.

The flowers are just so pretty. There also seems to be more interesting plant life by the river than anywhere else in the city. As you can see by the orangish-red exotic-flower looking thing above. I've asked what some of the names of these plants are but I can never catch the answer.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I've been feeling a bit under the weather. My head hurts. My throat feels like a few ninjas are down in there. Or perhaps a mini-forest is growing in my throat. I've been attempting to think of some good metaphors; it's harder than one might imagine. I probably caught some sort of infection from the kids at the primary school.

Anyway, my point is not to impress you with my fine metaphorical skills. It is to comment on a different health care system than the one I am used to. I stopped by the farmacia (pharmacy) and picked up some antibiotics. I like how you don't need a prescription to get most types of medicine in Uruguay. If I were in the States, I would have done nothing until I felt like I was really truly dying, because one, it's such a hassle to get an appointment at a doctor's office to go in there and wait all day long, and two, it would have cost me hefty co-pay to go to the doctor for a prescription I already knew I needed. The burden of care falls more heavily on the pharmacist here. Hopefully they are well-trained.

The medicine was also A LOT cheaper (about 70% cheaper) than than it would have been in the USA. Health care might not be as competitive (and there may be an increase of various risks with deregulated pharmacies), but I do think they know a thing or two about making health services more efficient and affordable for the public.

Now to see if this antibiotic was actually what I needed... I really can't afford to get sick this week.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pesky Mosquitos

Argh. My legs are itchy. And arms. And wrists. And feet. And neck. And ankles.

I have a million mosquitos bites all over my body. It looks like I have some sort of pox. Every morning I check to see what kind of damage the mosquitos gave me the night before. I conservatively counted 19 bites on my left leg.

I probably should've closed my window, but it was too hot to do so. I probably should've stayed under the covers at night, but it was too hot to do so. Fortunately, it seems to be cooling off.

I could really do without the mosquitos.