Today is my last day in La Unión and a week from today I will be touching ground in the US for the first time in nearly a year. As one would expect, I'm feeling a lot of different things; happiness, sadness and everything in between. But what I want to do right now is share a little bit about my trip to Uruguay and Buenos Aires. This past week has been very busy, I was working at the Winter English Camp with a group of High Schoolers. That was a really lovely way to bring my teaching experience here to a close. I met a great group of kids and had a lot of fun leading different activities. One day we went bowling which was funny as most of the kids had never bowled in their lives. We were all pretty terrible at it (myself included of course). It was a busy and tiring week, but very nice, now today I have to pack everything up, spend my last moments with the most wonderful host family in the world, and then sadly say goodbye. But before I get caught up in feeling sad about that, let me back track a little bit and think about the cool places I've seen.
Uruguay is a tiny little country with a population of only 3 million. Half of the country's inhabitants live in the capital city Montevideo. I spent two nights here. It's pretty small as far a cities go, and rather chill and quiet. This is not the place you would go if you are looking for a lively night life. Also, it's very expensive. Poverty seems to be almost non-existent in Uruguay, it's a fairly well off country, especially compared to the rest of South America.
1. We went to one of the biggest and best markets I've ever been to. I know I've made that claim before, but I think I really mean it this time. I never saw where this market started and ended and we walked around it for at least an hour of two. It just kept going and going in every direction. And they sold literally everything.
2. The people here are seriously obsessed with maté. I mean OBSESSED. Even though it is not that practical, everyone takes their maté with them everywhere they go. Driving, walking on the river path, shopping in the market, walking the dog, wherever; everyone you see has their thermos of hot water tucked under their arm with their maté in hand which they drink out of a gourd or something similar and sip with a metal straw.
3. Montevideo is a very nice, clean, and safe city. And they people are very calm and actually kind of quiet, although not all that friendly. This city feels much more like Europe than it does South America.
My friend Harry tossing a rock in the water.
The center of Montevideo.
Somewhere in the center of the city.
Along the river is a great walking path, kind of like the lake path in Chicago. We tried to count how many people were walking with their maté in hand while we walked along this path, it was definitely the majority.
Montevideo at night.
Colonia de Sacramento
1. Just a two hour bus ride from Monetvideo, we spent one night in this small touristy town before crossing the Río de la Plata in a boat to get to Buenos Aires. This town is small but very beautiful. It is the oldest city in Uruguay and was first colonized by the Portuguese, which is noted in the architecture and cobble stone streets.
2. Also very calm and clean and relaxing, but I think I liked Colonia better, it's just very beautiful. Lots of buildings of different colors and many cool little cafés and art stores. Also the weather here was great.
The beautiful cobble stone roads of Colonia.
We enjoyed the sunset over the Río de la Plata.
Loving my life.
The boat we took to Buenos Aires was huge and kind of like a cruise ship, complete with a restaurant, duty free store, a game room.
After crossing the river, we arrived to Argentina's capital, a very cosmopolitan and international city, a place that some call the Paris of South America. Of course I loved it. Buenos Aires was pretty much the opposite of everything in Uruguay. It's a huge, always busy and lively, noisy, and dirty city. This is the place where the nightlife doesn't really get started until 3 AM and goes strong until 9 in the morning. Some of my favorite things about this city:
1. Like I said, it's international. This is the first city I've been to in this continent that I really got such a worldly vibe. You see people from everywhere here, and they are not just tourists, but living here. That aspect is comparative to New York or Chicago.
2. The tango. Of course the sensual dance is what this city is known for, and it is everywhere. You can find people dancing in the streets in the touristy neighborhood La Boca. But the best tango I saw was in this warehouse converted into a tango dance club. We went there on a Tuesday night and still it was packed with Porteños (what people who live in the city are called) dancing just for themselves. It was so beautiful and sexy to watch. It's such a subtle, sensual, graceful, and intimate dance. I would really love to learn how to dance tango someday.
3. The MALBA, the modern art museum which features only Latino artists. It was probably one of my favorite art museums I've ever been to.
4. The cemetery La Recoleta, which I know I talked about in the last post.
5. It was really easy to find vegetarian food here, one day while spending hours walking around by myself, I stumbled upon a fantastic and cheap buffet of only vegetarian food owned by a Chinese family. I felt like I was in Chicago again, it was great. Also the gelato here is incredibly good.
6. The president lives in a pink house, La Casa Rosada. It's the funniest at night when it is lit by these bright pink spotlights. It's looks more like a party house than a place where important political decision are made. The design of the city in general is very chaotic and lively, very much like a party itself.
Plaza de Mayo, the city's main plaza.
In front of Teatro Colon, a very well known theater for it's extravagant decor inside. We wanted to see it, but you had to pay the equivalent of $15 just for a tour.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and I returned tired and happy. And like I said I've had a great last week hanging out with the high schoolers, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed working with this age group. They are easy to talk to since they are almost adults, but they are also funny because really in a lot of ways they are still kids.
Tomorrow I will be in Santiago and I will spend this last week visiting all my Tíos and Tías saying all my last goodbyes. Oh querida Chile mia, I will miss you so.