martes, 13 de marzo de 2012

I hardly ever have internet so here's a giant update:


     I'm living on a ranch about an hour from Montevideo. I've been here for two weeks and I'll be here for two more weeks. I’m doing a horse training internship through the Spanish school I studied at last month. Margo, the owner of the school, lives about 10 miles away and has two daughters that come riding often. Their names are Gaby and Rebecca. They’re both fun to hang out with and their English is pretty good (much better than my Spanish). Rebecca wants to be a large animal veterinarian so we’ve been teaching each other horse terms. The past two weeks, I've been living with Juliane, a girl from Germany. She was a lot of fun. The first day we got the two kittens that live on the ranch and brought them into our guest house and gave them liver pate and milk. They curled up and fell asleep purring. Now the kittens come every day. They have fleas and Juliane and I tried to get rid of the fleas by giving the kittens baths in apple cider vinegar. The kittens actually didn't freak out that much and quite a few fleas came off into the water. The kittens’ names are Simba and Spiderman (Spidey) because we were trying to teach them to eat spiders. Which leads me to my next topic...
     None of the creepy-crawlies in Uruguay are big, especially when compared to those in Hawaii. Spiders are the exception. I thought the cane spiders in Hawaii were big. Here, there are tarantulas. I saw my first tarantula one night when I was going to the fridge to search for something to eat. All of a sudden, I saw it on the wall next to the fridge. It was big and hairy with legs for miles. Kind of how you would imagine a supermodel truck driver. I jumped backward about five feet (or approx. two meters; we use meters here).
     "Juliane..." I said very calmly and rationally. "There's a spider."
     "A big one?"
     "Yeah. Yeah, a big one."
     Then there was the issue of how to get rid of it. We couldn't just shoo it out the door because it was in the kitchen and the door is in the bedroom. We decided we needed to kill it. But how? Both of us are wimps when it comes to spiders so neither of us would go up close to hit it with anything. I came up with the great idea of throwing hot water on it. We agreed that it was inhumane, but there was no other choice because no way in Hades were we going to let that spider crawl around in our house all night. So the plan was that I throw the hot water on it then when it falls on the floor, Juliane scoops it up with a dust pan and puts it in a bucket full of water to drown it, then to chop it in half with a 30-pound post hole digger that we just happened to have laying around, then put the bucket outside and lock the doors. Foolproof, right? Since there isn’t a microwave here, we fired up the gas stove and put on a kettle of water on. We had to wait for the water to heat up and we weren’t going to leave the spider unsupervised because we didn’t want it to hide. We just stood at the stove for the five minutes it took to warm up the water for our spider tea. When the water was hot, we took our places and prepared for battle.
     I threw on the water and it splashed everywhere (another great thing about living in the middle of nowhere – you can just pour water all over your kitchen and it’s fine). We both jumped away from the splashing water. As we were trying to locate the spider, it recovered from its shock much faster than we did and it ran under the shelving unit. Juliane poked at it with the broom handle until it started climbing up the wall again. I took the post hole digger and was going to attempt to chop it in half.  Now this thing was heavy.  I carefully picked it up and positioned it over the spider I chopped at it and, although the metal on the wood made a nice thunk, the spider had dodged death. Then I got the giggles. When I laugh my muscles stop working. I couldn’t hold up my weapon. It took me a minute to compose myself before I tried again. I tried two more times, and twice the spider managed to evade me. Then it ran behind the shelves again. By this time, after all the poking and prodding, we could see that the spider had a limp. But there were still 7 more legs that we had to deal with. I seriously feel bad for spider mobsters. I mean, if you’re going to break someone’s legs, you have to do all of them. One simple job could turn into an all-day ordeal. Seeing that it was maimed gave us the idea to maim it more. We figured spraying hairspray on it would be enough to demobilize it. Except neither of us had hairspray. We got the next best thing we could find, which was some deodorant/perfume spray that Juliane had. We sprayed liberally. I don’t think it actually did anything besides make the spider smell good, but we felt like it was too dazed to attack us. Eventually, after losing sight of it twice and freaking out because it was probably going to go hide in our beds, we got the spider into a corner. Juliane, the brave savior of humankind, stabbed it with the broom handle repeatedly until finally it was dead enough to put in the bucket of water. It had its legs all crossed over like dead bug-like things do, but we didn’t know if it was faking it so we still put the bucket outside and locked the door. Then, after half an hour of warfare, we could finally sleep.
          That was my first encounter with a tarantula, but not my first encounter with annoying little creatures. The first night in the campo (countryside) I was looking forward to sleeping great without the sound of cars, motorcycles, and drunk people fighting about soccer. But the mosquitos were horrible. I couldn’t fall asleep because they kept biting me. It was too hot to sleep with my blanket over my head. I got about 3 hours of sleep total that night. At one point I remember hiding under my blanket on the verge of tears wishing for dawn. The next day I had mosquito bites covering every part of my body that has been exposed. I looked like I had chicken pox. We went to the store that day and bought those green spirals that you burn for the smoke and some little rectangle things that repel bugs when you put them in an electronic heating thing that you plug into the wall. They helped tremendously with the mosquitos. But there were still the flies. They were so bad that I had trouble sleeping for siesta because they kept landing on me and waking me up. Siesta is pretty much naptime that everyone takes in the campo. Early afternoon is the hottest part of the day so you usually can’t get much done anyway, so everyone just sleeps. The store closest to the ranch is actually closed at siesta time because the owner is asleep. For the flies, we bought poison and fly strips. They’ve been working really well but there’s always more flies. With how many dead ones I’ve swept off the floor and dumped outside, I thought I probably got about half the flies in the world. It is a bit better than it was before though.
          As for what I do all day, every morning at about 8am, I go for a horse ride with Juliane and Ricardo (the gaucho). Sometimes Gaby and/or Becky ride with us. After the ride, I clean two stalls and put the bedding into two big piles in each stall. Usually when I’m finished with the riding and the cleaning, it’s about 10:30. Then there’s usually nothing to do until siesta.  I would usually watch a movie with Juliane (she has a bunch on an external harddrive). Afterward, we would sleep. We would wake up at 3:30 and I would get the horse stalls ready by spreading out the bedding. Every once in a while, we would ride horses again in the afternoon but it’s usually too hot. In the evenings, Juliane and I usually watched another movie or went to Atlántida, the town closest to the ranch. It’s a nice town and has two relatively big grocery stores. There’s an internet café and that’s where I get my internet usually. Atlántida is about 3 or 4 miles from the ranch which is about half an hour on bike or almost two hours walking. The first time I went to Atlántida was on bike with Juliane. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and I’m horribly out of shape. I made it but I was basically dead. We went to see the movie Warhorse (Caballo de Guerra). Most of the movies here are in English with Spanish subtitles. The British accents were so strong that sometimes I needed the subtitles. I made fun of Juliane because the Germans were the bad guys in the movie. She said she’s used to it because the Germans are always the bad guys. Afterward we biked home. We got home at 11:00-11:30 at night. I flopped into bed intending to sleep and not open my eyes until morning. But then I saw it. In the corner of the room, there was a tarantula. I said “Nooooo! Not tonight!” Unfortunately the spider didn’t listen and, rather than just leaving calmly, it kept sitting in the corner. There are always random people around the ranch and there happened to be a guy outside doing something (at 11:30 at night; people stay up late here). I figured this guy would be able to kill the spider better than Juliane or I would. I went up to him and, exhausted from the bike ride, I attempted to ask him (in Spanish) to kill the spider. My Spanish isn’t that great even on a good day. At that particular moment, I could hardly even function in English. I said “¡una araña! (A spider!) ¿Puedes… (Can you…)” At that point I realized I didn’t know the verbs for ‘to kill’ or ‘to squish’ or ‘to render into an impalpable pile of mush.’ I just rubbed my hands together like I was squishing a spider and made “Rrrrrr!” sounds. Surprisingly, he understood me (although he probably thought I was nuts). He walked in, pulled off his flip-flop, and threw it with deadly accuracy. The spider fell down, stupefied. It tried to regain its composure, but this gaucho was too fast for the spider. He grabbed his fallen flip-flop and started whacked the spider relentlessly. He delicately scraped it off the floor and, with a flick of the wrist, sent its dead body flying out the door. The mysterious man disappeared into the night, saying something about tarantulas being part of campo life (and probably something about girls being pathetic). I just watched him go, fascinated and inexplicably in love with a perfect stranger. This whole ordeal lasted about 30 seconds. Much shorter than the half hour it took me and Juliane to kill our spider.
     Since then I’ve only seen two more tarantulas. One was a baby (aka the size of a normal spider) and was crawling across the floor in my bedroom. Little spiders grow into big spiders which, in turn, make little spiders. I stopped the circle of life. I hit it with a shoe. The spider, not the circle. The other one I saw skulking around on the ground outside as I was going to saddle up my horse in the morning. I figured it probably would want to go into my bedroom someday so it had to be killed. I was ready to stomp on it, but I didn’t want to get tarantula gunk on my boot and I didn’t want to take the chance that I miss and it jumps up and eats my face off (Ricardo says they’re perfectly safe, but who’ll be laughing when he gets eaten by a herd of wild tarantulas? Not him. Because he’ll be dead.) I did what any logical person would do and I picked up a big brick and dropped it on the spider. Twice. Then I put the brick back (I wasn’t raised in a barn y’know) and poked the spider with a stick. When I was satisfied that it was dead, I stood up to continue on my merry way. That’s when I noticed Nancy, Ricardo’s wife, in the yard on her way to collect eggs. She was looking at me oddly. I said all important-like “una araña,” and pointed to the dead thing. Then I walked away really fast because she probably thought I was crazy. But hey, if I ever want to use them as a work reference, at least they’ll remember me. Hannah: the girl who dropped a brick on our yard. Twice. Then put it back (she wasn’t born in a barn y’know).
     But I digress.
All infestation problems aside, the ranch is really great. There are a bunch of dogs running around all the time, there’s always a horse or two right outside the house eating grass. Chickens go past all the time and I love watching the mother chickens with their cute little fluffy babies. Then there are the two kittens and the mother cat. The mother cat is pregnant and due this week. I can’t wait to see baby kittens! The thing I find weird about Uruguay is that no one spays or neuters their pets, but there aren’t a ton of stray animals. There are always dogs and cats wandering around in the streets or by the road, but they all have owners (who just don’t want to go with their dog on his walk).
     Mom, this story is for you (to make you appreciate your husband and children a bit more:
     Margo has a friend who recently had surgery. His wife doesn’t like horses, but he has a pony. He asked Gaby and Becky to take care of the pony while he was in the hospital. Of course, they said yes. Their friend’s house is a few miles from their house. The first few days, they rode over on their bikes every morning and afternoon to take care of the pony. After a couple days though, it got exhausting. They couldn’t make that trip twice every day. At this point, normal people would call up the friend and say that they couldn’t care for it. But Gaby and Becky had a better idea and, as they say, laziness is the mother of invention. Margo got a phone call.
     “Mom! We have a surprise for you!”
     She got home to discover that the garden, previously reserved for things like plants and people, was now home to a pony. One day shortly afterward, Margo was carrying out her daily ritual of eating breakfast on the porch. Like usual, she was drinking coffee and eating an apple. Contrary to the usual, as she was taking a sip of coffee, someone stuck their head over her shoulder and took a bite of her apple. That was the day the pony went back.
     Now they have a pet rabbit because the girls wanted to go ‘shopping’ and somehow came back with a rabbit.

See? It’s not only your family that brings home random animals. And WE never brought home a pony (unfortunately).
     Juliane left on Saturday to Montevideo and she’s leaving on Tuesday for Germany. Now it’s going to be quite lonely here and I’ll definitely miss going places with her and making up really weird things to do. Her Spanish is much better than mine so she could translate for me when I had no idea what Ricardo was saying. I’ll miss that too. But it’s okay. It’s just another challenge. And challenge means ADVENTURE! Woo!


I was about halfway through typing that blog post (I wrote it in my notebook two days ago) when I went back to my house. This is what I wrote last night after going back to my room:

     A pretty bad storm just went through. I was in Ricardo’s house using the internet. The wind was blowing really hard so I decided to finish up on the internet and close all the windows and the door that I had left open. I walked back to my casita (little house) with my laptop. The wind was really strong and the lightning was non-stop. I got to the casita and closed everything. Simba was waiting for me and gave me tons of love to make sure I wouldn’t throw him out into the storm. About 10 minutes later the rain started.
     Now let me tell you a little something about the house I’m staying in. There are four walls. It’s a rectangle. One wall has two windows that open from the living room/bedroom and show part of the horse pasture. Another wall has a door that’s not used and is nailed shut or something. The third wall has a window to the bathroom, the main door from the bedroom to outside, and a window to the kitchen (there isn’t glass, just a clear plastic tarp stapled there). When it rains, the wind is usually blowing too. During the first storm I experienced in this house, the wind was blowing toward the wall with the two main windows. This time it was blowing toward the front of the house and the side with ex-door. That means that this time, rather than waking up with a waterfall next to my bed from the closed window above me (like last time), the rain came in under the bottoms of the doors like blood from a horror movie and through the spots between the staples in the tarp-window. Regardless of which direction the wind comes from, the woodstove always leaks water too. It rains into the chimney, which goes into the stove, which goes all over the floor. So there’s basically water coming from everywhere. I’m glad there are so many random towels in this house. They’re all over the floor and all my expensive things are on a table in the middle of the house, where they’ll be safe unless the roof decides to leak. In an ironic twist, the part of the house that doesn’t leak is the bathroom. When the shower is on, the water splashes all over the bathroom floor so it’s usually always wet since the shower is used as a sink a lot because it’s slightly better than the sink for getting water. The bathroom window is right next to the shower so if it DID leak, all the water would just go down the drain. Even if it didn’t go down the drain, the only things in the bathroom are a sink, toilet, bidet, shower and two frogs that live there. If any of those things got wet it wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, the frogs might even like it. But no. The bathroom is absolutely dry.
     The power just went out for a second but it came back on. I hope it doesn’t go out for good. I enjoy having a fan because, although it’s windy and rainy, it’s somehow still hot.
     The rain stopped for a little while and I heard urgent meowing at the door. I opened it to see a slightly wet kitten with his tail all poofed up. I gave him a big hug and some milk. The kittens played for about half an hour, during which Simba ate one of the bathroom frogs. Now they’re falling asleep on my bed (they originally had their own beds that Juliane and I made, but they much preferred our beds). Usually the cats get put outside for the night, but I can’t put them out into a storm. Last time there was a storm we kept them in too. And that time, someone went to the bathroom on the floor. This time, I made a lovely litterbox filled with slightly damp dirt that I ran out in a thunderstorm to get. I really hope they use it. I’m going to sleep now. Tomorrow I’ll be going out to get my plastic table and chairs that blew away from their original spot on the dining room/porch.


     I think the kittens did end up using the litter box. I didn’t find any messes this morning and there were little paw-indents in the dirt.
     I’ve been having water issues lately. The water is kind of an issue in the first place. The shower isn’t a shower. It’s more like water falling. It’s like a faucet. There’s sort of just one stream of water that just…falls. And if you want water, you have to flip a switch next to the shower head. Then you have about 10 seconds of warm water before the water gets so hot that you can’t tolerate it anymore. Then you flip the switch back off and you get about 10 more seconds of nice water before it gets freezing cold. The trick is to take showers on the coldest days so the water in the catchment tank on top of the house is cold. Then, when you turn on the hot water, it takes about 15 seconds for it to get too hot. Back to the water issues...Yesterday the water stopped coming from the faucets. I thought maybe the catchment tank on top of the house was dry since it hadn’t rained in a while. I talked to Nancy and she turned on some water for a while, presumably to fill the tank. Then she came back and turned off the water. The water still wasn’t working. I went behind the house and saw that two hoses were disconnected and there was a nice sized puddle there. I tried to explain it to Ricardo and he did something and the water worked, but really weakly. Then today, it doesn’t work at all except a super tiny bit from the sink. I need a shower but it’s not possible and whenever I use the toilet, I need to haul water in a bucket. I checked behind the house and the pipes were half disconnected and there was some water spraying out. I put them back together but there wasn’t any more pressure. The floor is still trying from the torrent last night, yet I can hardly wash my hands. Oh the irony. I’ll have to ask again if I see Nancy or Ricardo outside. Otherwise I’ll learn how to wash myself with only a washcloth. Yay! Making things clean is considerably more difficult here, not just regarding personal hygiene. Your standards for cleanliness really lower when you hand-wash everything, use a fence for a clothesline and hope the horses don’t eat your clothes.
     It’s been raining most of the day today but there isn’t wind. That means that the water just sits on the roof where it soaks in and, coincidentally, drips right onto the table that I put all my stuff on.
     Yesterday I helped Ricardo put shoes on my horse, Tigre. In the process, I got stepped on a little bit on the side of my foot. It’s a little bruised and swollen, but hardly at all. After Tigre got his shoes on, he was able to be ridden on the street. Yesterday afternoon we went for a ride on the side of the road. There’s almost always someone riding along the side of the road (there’s like 20 feet of grass between the road and the beginning of peoples’ yards). There’s actually a well-worn path in the grass where all the horses go. Another thing that I think is cool here is that people put stakes out on the side of the road where there’s grass, tie their animals to the stakes and let them eat. There’s always sheep and cows and horses out grazing. During this ride, Ricardo waved to almost all the neighbors and about half the people that drove by on the highway. He knows everyone. The other day he had someone he knew (a teenage boy) come over to ride his horse Primesa. Primesa has a pretty rough canter and this kid is like a pro, so he cantered for a few rounds in the pasture (a few kilometers). Endurance training is pretty boring sometimes. We ride for a long time and usually only walking. But I get to go horse riding every day, so it’s pretty awesome. I get so sore sometimes though and after 6 kilometers I feel like dying. Riding is a workout for a lot of different body parts. My shoulders and back usually get sore and my legs too. And since I have no padding on my butt, I get bad bruises. It gets less painful every time though so that must mean I’m getting in shape! Combined with my bike-riding to Atlántida, I’m going to be in awesome shape when I get back. I also have a tank top tan. For normal people it isn’t tan, but for me it is. If I wear a swimsuit anytime soon, I think I’ll look kind of odd. My hair is also getting some nice natural highlights, which I haven’t seen since I started dying my hair a few years ago. Living here is pretty healthy I think. The air is good, I do work sometimes, and I’m living off of pasta, grapefruit, potatoes and anything that can be easily made with flour and eggs because, due to being lazy, I haven’t gone to Atlántida in a while. Whenever I go shopping I end up buying cookies. No leaving the house means no buying cookies. Of course, I still have a container of dulce de leche, but it’s almost gone.


     Today I found out how fun it is to peel a fly strip off of a cat.


     Today I went on a long horse ride with Ricardo, Gaby and Becky. We went on a rougher path where we had to go over uneven ground and through water that went up to the horses bellies. As we were going through the water, we stopped to let the horses drink. As my horse was drinking, he decided he wanted to lie down in the water. This would have been fine if I wasn’t on his back. I jumped off of his back into the water so he wouldn’t smush me. Everyone was laughing. All I could think to say was “¡¿Por qué?!” Luckily my riding boots went up to my knees and were waterproof. I made him stand up again and I got back on. Apparently he does that all the time when he’s in water. Last time they were riding on the beach, he laid in the water and, unbeknownst to him, a wave was coming. When it crashed over him, he got up pretty fast. But yet no one told me. I guess they thought it was funnier to watch me standing in the water.
     After riding, I went to Atlántida with Gaby and Becky. We met up with a friend of theirs. He was 15. When I talked in English with Gaby and Becky he would say (in Spanish) “I don’t speak English!” and make confused faces. Since he had had a few years of English in school, he knew a bit so he made comments in English. And of course, he knew a few bad words because that’s the first thing kids learn when they’re learning a different language. I taught him more bad words (because I’m a good influence) and he had fun yelling them out in public because no one could understand him. Gaby and Becky needed to go to Montevideo to meet their mom so they got on a bus and left, leaving me and this guy alone. I needed to do some shopping before I went back to the ranch. He said he would come with me and then help me get on the right bus afterward. We had fun in the store trying to find where everything was. After shopping, we walked to the bus stop. We had 40 minutes before the right bus would come, so we talked. It was a weird mix of Spanish and English. I discovered that he plays World of Warcraft so that was pretty awesome. We talked about that for a while and decided that if I start playing again, we’ll have to do some dungeons together.
     Gaby and Becky were thinking about having an asado here at the ranch with a few of their friends on Saturday since I’m leaving a few days after that. I hope it works out because it would be a lot of fun. They also have two guys that they want me to meet. One is a mechanic (which is good because I always break cars) and the other one is studying to be a veterinarian. The second one might not be able to make it though because this week is “the week of the gaucho” and in a town a few hours from here, there are rodeos and everything going on and he’s involved somehow. But Gaby and Becky are trying their best to be matchmakers.


     It’s been rainy here the last two days. Yesterday the morning was overcast but it wasn’t raining so we went riding. It was unnaturally hot though. It was the weirdest feeling with the sky dark and cloudy, the sun shining through casting an unnatural light and the intense heat. It was the sign of a storm. I needed to buy water (the tap water here is from a catchment tank and kind of dirty). I wanted to get to the store and back before the rain hit. There’s a store that’s a 15 minute walk from the ranch that has the basics (bread, milk, cookies, beer). When I got there it was already much darker than when I left. I bought water, soda, milk and peach yogurt (not as good as strawberry). Those things are all heavy so I was slowed down a bit. As I began to walk back, one of Ricardo’s daughter went by on a moped. She needed to buy something too I guess. On her way back, she picked me up and took me the rest of the way. As soon as we got back, it started raining. If I had walked the rest of the way, I would have been soaked. Whenever it storms, one of the first things to happen is that my table and chairs outside blow over. I got home with enough time to storm proof the house which means putting stuff from the table outside onto the ground, picking everything valuable up off the floor inside and putting it on the non-dripped-on side of the table and finding all my towels (which were under two kittens in a pile on the floor). As soon as my storm proofing was done, the chairs and table went flying. It was perfect timing.
     When Juliane left, she left some stuff behind. One of them being a gingerbread house. Her mom had sent it to her for Christmas but she had never gotten around to making it. When she left, she said I could have it. Yesterday after siesta I had nothing to do since it was raining. I made the gingerbread house and held it together with dulce de leche. I made it look like the house that I’m living in here (or as much as I could-gingerbread houses don’t allow for much artistic license). I made me, Juliane and Ricardo standing outside of the house.

Since the little sugar-people included were a witch with long red hair, a girl with long blond hair and a boy with short brown hair, it was difficult to make two blond people and a brunette. I made Ricardo the witch and put dulce de leche on his head to make him a brunette. The ear of the sugar-cat had broken off so I put it on top of his head to be his hat. It doesn’t exactly look like Ricardo’s signature beret, but it’s more symbolic than anything. I was obviously the blond girl in the pink dress because I wear pink dresses every day. Juliane has short hair so she had to be the boy. I tried to make her hair blonde but it wasn’t working very well so I ended up using mustard. That didn’t work very well either, but I tried. I put a meringue on top of the house to be the catchment tank. I took another meringue and cut off part of it so it looked kind of like a pot. It’s to represent the one pot we had. The pastry cream stuff is pasta. Or potatoes. Or something yellowy and fluffy. The sugar cat is to represent the two kittens we have here. I know there’s only one cat there and I know it black, not orange like my kittens, but the gingerbread house only came with one cat and I’m not a miracle worker, people! Anyway, the cat is on the roof of the porch (that’s what those white lines are, can’t you tell?) because the kittens like to sleep there. The green sprinkles are obviously grass. What does the grass represent? It represents me not being creative enough to come up with anything else.

Here are some random pictures:

A lovely sunset-in-progress:

My house:

Kitties! The one on my computer is Simba and the other one is Spidey:

Ricardo and Nancy:

Me with the dogs Lassie, Kuki and Taboo (no idea how to spell those):

The place for asados!:

My lovely clothesline. I'm resourceful.:

Tigre, my lovely horse:

He has South America on his nose!

The kittens, wanting me to let them inside:

Puss in boot! Gato con bota!:

Me riding:

Hola vaca:


Me, loving my job cleaning stalls. Also it's 8 in the morning.:

Baby cow! That little dude was seriously just born:


An example of groceries:

Juliane with happy cat Simba (this face) ^_^ :

Me and Juliane being awesome in the kitchen:

Here's me AT MCDONALDS! (it was much better than in the states):

domingo, 12 de febrero de 2012

The past weekend was definitely an interesting experience. I went to a little town in the east of Uruguay called Cabo Polonio. The bus ride from Montevideo was about 4 - 4 1/2 hours. Once we got off at the right bus stop, we had to take a 4x4 truck over the sand dunes to the actual town. These trucks are very interesting. You can fit A LOT of people on one truck. They have an interesting frame-thing on the truck with a ton of seats.

It was about a 20 minute ride. The town was very interesting. There aren't blocks like they have in most towns. There were houses just kind of stuck wherever. I arrived at the hostel and was showed to my room that I would share with three other people.

Small, but secure. See the door lock?

The town was awesome. Sitting in one of the hammocks at the hostel I saw a group of people on a horse ride on the beach.

Here's a cow eating some grass. This is in the middle of town.

And this is the sunset that closed my first night in Cabo Polonio:

It's not the most beautiful in the world, but the environment was so great. Everyone was relaxed and having a good time. Because you need a pretty tough truck to get to the town, there aren't cars. There's no traffic. It's quiet and peaceful and animals graze in the middle of the town. It was a really great place. I think it would be nice to visit for a week or maybe even a month every year, but to live there would be a little too much. It's a long way to get to any big place, things are expensive there, and there's NOTHING to do besides sit around at the beach. It was a really great getaway though and it was worth the 4 1/2 hour bus ride from Montevideo and the 4 1/2 hour bus ride back.

Let me tell you a little about my hostel. First off, Cabo Polonio is pretty much a hippie commune. And there's a water shortage. In the hostel if you used the bathroom, you didn't flush unless you needed to. If you deemed it necessary, you did a half-flush by pulling up the little plunger thing in the tank. If you wanted to take a shower, you would rinse yourself, turn off the water, put on shampoo and whatnot, rinse, turn off the shower, etc. Probably the most eco friendly shower I've ever taken. It was a great experience though and everyone was very friendly.

Thursday I went to Las Llamadas. It's a parade in Carnaval with a bunch of different groups of drums (candombes) and dancers. There can be 50 people drumming in one group. It's very loud. And very powerful. The energy is amazing. I didn't get very many good pictures. My phone can't handle movement.

This afternoon, I was making some food inside the school/my house and I heard candombes. I went outside and there was a group going past outside. They went right through the middle of the street. The cars went other ways or waited. It's pretty cool to see. They weren't in costume or anything, but it was still impressive.

Friday I went to a small street fair and bought tomatoes, carrots, garlic, potatoes, and onions. Today I went to the big street fair that I went to my first week here. It was pretty cool. I bought some cheese and cookies (they were cheaper than at the grocery store). There is seriously EVERYTHING for sale there. That's my life up til now. If anything else exciting happens, I'll let you know.

martes, 31 de enero de 2012

Hey there,

     I know I've been really bad at posting, but I've been so busy. The last week flew by but it seems like I've been here forever. On Thursday of last week, a lot of the students and I had a barbecue. We ate grilled meat, sweet potatoes, onions, corn, and a few different things. Friday night, I said goodbye to two friends who would be leaving in the morning. Saturday night I went out for pizza with Karin, a girl from Switzerland, Anssi (a guy from Finland), Jason (from South Africa, but has been living in Montevideo for a few years), and Mauricio (from Brazil). It was Mauricio's last night in Uruguay. We discussed everything from politics (very interesting to see the perspectives since everyone is from a different country) to pick up lines to jokes (difficult with the language barrier because some just don't translate). It was sad saying goodbye to Mauricio. He's hilarious and fun to hang out with. I hope I see him again someday. It's sad to think that when I say goodbye to people, I'll probably never see them again.
    On Friday I went a parade for Carnaval with everyone. Carnaval is an African celebration where people play "candombes," or drums. The parade was very interesting. There were a lot of guys dressed as girls, a lot of advertisements (especially for the beer Pilsen), and a lot of nearly naked women dancing. Kids sprayed foam all over and ran up and laid down when people carried banners so that the banners would go over them. It was like a game. There were also a lot of people selling stuff. The vendors walked right in the way when we were trying to watch the parade and there were people walking around the whole time so it was really difficult to get pictures or even to see well. It wasn't worth  it to pay for the seat. There were also huge gaps between floats. It started at 9 at night in Ciudad Vieja and we left at about 11. It was only about half over by then.
     Sunday I went to Punta del Este with Karin, Jan (from Germany), Stefani (from Germany) and Camilla (from Brazil). Punta del Este is a very touristy city. It's only busy in the winter. It was like a rich-peoples' version of Uruguay. Nice beachside houses with pools and tennis courts. A beautiful place in South America without having to see the poverty. It's very artificial. But the beaches are nice.
     I went horse riding twice so far. I love the ranch (estancia). It's gorgeous. The house and guest house (where I'll be living next month) are very rustic looking. The air is fresh. The countryside (el campo) is beautiful and there's a lot of room for riding. There are cows and sheep grazing everywhere. Yesterday I saw a baby calf that the cowboy (el gaucho) said was only four days old! It was so cute! It was drinking and had milk all around it's mouth. I think I'll like living and working there.
     Uruguay is really nice. Most people are very helpful when they realize that you don't speak Spanish well. They talk slow and explain things. I love how I can travel everywhere either on foot or in a bus. It gets tiring sometimes but I get good exercise and I have much more freedom when I don't have to buy gas or rely on someone with a car. Even if I'm in Atlantida where the estancia is, I can hop on a bus back to the city. And everyone here has a dog. If you go to the supermarket, there's always a dog or two parked outside. People don't clean up after their dogs though, so watch where you're walking when you're walking down the sidewalk. On a walk to the neighborhood supermarket, it's common to see 10-15 different dogs being walked or wandering around on their own. Uruguay is a great place to live if you don't expect everything to be perfect, clean and fancy. If you want to live in a happy bubble, go to Punta del Este. If anyone has any questions about Uruguay and/or my experiences or thoughts, feel free to ask. <3 Hannah

jueves, 26 de enero de 2012

When I first got to the school at about 9:30 at night, I was the only one there. The whole school was dark. All the other students were on an excursion for the weekend to a different part of the country. There's free wifi in the school, but I didn't know the password so I couldn't email my mom. I didn't want to go to sleep because it was a new place and I was all alone and freaking out a bit. Then I heard the door downstairs be unlocked and I heard people talking. I couldn't tell if they were speaking Spanish or English. I was too tired to talk in Spanish but I wanted to meet people. Eventually I decided to just go downstairs. Turns out, they all spoke English. All together, there was a guy and a girl from Germany, a guy from South Africa, and a guy from Brazil. There were really nice. They invited me to a bar with them. In Uruguay, things don't start until late. If you're going out to a bar, most of the time no one even gets there until at least one in the morning. We went out and we didn't get back to the school until 5:30 in the morning. I slept until noon, then I went to a big street market with the two people from Germany. The market was very interesting. I forgot to bring my camera because I'm a genius, but I'll go again sometime this month. They sold everything. Literally, everything. A lot of fruit and vegetables, but a lot of random things like cell phones, jewelry, clothes. I bought a metal container with a pretty red and white design on the sides. It was like a combinations flea market/farmer's market/garage sale. The food is good and very cheap. I'll make sure I take pictures next time I go. Monday I started classes. It's difficult to follow what the teacher is saying when she's speaking only in Spanish, but I got better quickly at having at least a small idea of what they were talking about. I like the classes because we just kind of go from subject to subject. If someone is eating an orange, we discuss fruit. If I'm talking about being lost or about riding horses, we'll discuss transportation terms and directions. I'm learning a lot and more importantly, I'm understanding a lot. That's just a quick update on what I've been doing, but I'll update more when I have time. Hasta pronto,


miércoles, 25 de enero de 2012

Excerpt from my travel journal:

"I'm flying about [sic] Washington DC suburbs! I'm so excited =) It's so uniform. And so organized. My OCD likes flying."

From my write-o, you can tell I was tired, but I was really excited to be in a place where I knew people. As I got on the plane away from Washington DC it hit be that it was the last time I would see people I know for the next two months.

As I was sitting in the airport in Buenos Aires, I overheard some kids. They were talking in British English and I think they were two of the very few people in that airport that spoke English.

Girl: "Suckers!"
Boy: "You're my sister! Sisters aren't supposed to say bad words!"

Here's my entry from Saturday the 21st:

"I'm finally on the plane to Montevideo. Somewhere between Washington DC and this plane, I realized that I'm crazy. Not only have I never been to South America before today, I'm going to be spending two months in Uruguay, a country that I've never been to. I can't speak Spanish nearly as well as I should and not everyone speaks English. And when they do, it's not very good or it's strongly accented. The next two months will definitely be an adventure."

Here are my first thoughts on my way to the school from the airport. This is my first impression of the country:

"So far I love it. I'm on my way to the school from the airport. It smells good. There are a lot of people walking around and it's almost 9 o'clock. There are people biking. I saw a few dogs outside already. Lots of dirtbike-type bikes (instead of mopeds). People don't use blinkers often. More dogs. I saw a gas station and there are a group of guys that check your tires and wash your windows. People sitting in a circle on the beach, one playing guitar. Street signs have sponsors? [The street signs all have a name and logo across the top of a business, which I'm guessing pays for advertising.] Seems like people just drive as fast as they feel is right. People with mate gourds. [Mate is a kind of tea that a lot of people drink. They walk around with a thermos under their arms that has hot water in it. They have a gourd that is full of the tea leaves. They pour the hot water over the leaves and they use a straw/strainer to drink it.] They don't let lines between the lanes hold them in. There are a lot of people out. Families, not just teenagers or anything. Guy standing in back of weird looking pickup truck thing in the middle of town. [Personal safety is not a huge issue.] A few nice cars, lots of clunkers. Environmentalists would have a fit. Lots of yield signs, hardly any stop signs. One stoplight just for foot traffic?"

I have class in 15 minutes so I have to do my homework quick, but I'll write about more of my adventures later.

lunes, 23 de enero de 2012

I'm in Uruguay now. It's been a rough journey. My flight was canceled so I had to leave early on friday morning. Through the whole day, planes were having trouble or needed to be de-iced and I was delayed a few hours for each flight. Eventually I got to Buenos Aires. A few of the people spoke English, but most didn't so I had a hard time there. First, they don't show the gate number until about an hour before the flight was scheduled to leave. This might not seem like a big deal, but I really didn't want to miss my flight and I would have liked to be there with enough time that I didn't need to worry. Then when they finally showed the gate number, I went there and they sent me to a different gate for some reason. I got to that gate and they had no idea why they would have sent me there so they sent me back. Once I got back to the original gate, they told me that I was in the right place and just had to wait there. On the plane, I sat next to a guy from Montevideo, the city I'm staying in. He spoke English so he helped me with my immigration form and we talked for a bit about Uruguay. It turns out he lives right around the school that I'm staying at. I'll tell you about my arrival and everything in the next blog post. My classes are beginning soon.