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.