Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Colonia and Buenos Aires

Last weekend we had our first group trip. We went to Buenos Aires by way of Colonia.


We got up early on Friday morning to head to Colonia. We stopped at a farm, Granja Arenas,  just before we got to Colonia. It is known for its World Record or Near World Record collections of key chains, pencils, perfume bottles, phone cards, among other collections. They also make and sell a variety of types of jams and jellies. We could try some of them... It was kind of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jelly... 

Part of the key chain collection

A few of the pencils, including one from ACU political science professor Mel Hailey's campaign.
Our second stop was at the ruins from an early 20th century bull-fighting stadium. (Bull-fighting was outlawed in Uruguay 8 days after it opened.) In the van,  I was sitting next to the van door.  When I started to open the door, it only opened a couple inches. Andres came around to let us out, and when he was opening the door, the back part of the door came off the track... (It's a sliding door.) Soooo... while we took pictures, Andres and Wimon tried to get the door fixed so we could keep going. :)

The Stadium

Wimon and Andres trying to rehang the van door.
When we got to Colonia, we had a picnic. Then while the students explored Historic Colonia, the Walkers and I sat outside in this cafe to enjoy coffee and the beautiful day and scenery.
View from the cafe

One of the quaint buildings in the historic part of Colonia.

 Buenos Aires

We took a ferry to Buenos Aires (BsAs), its really the only way to get there without flying in a decent amount of time. From Colonia to BsAs is about an hour on the "fast" ferry. Once we got settled in our hotel, the Walkers and I went to our first night in BsAs restaurant: Brocolino's for fantastic fresh pasta.

Saturday morning we got up and went on a tour of BsAs. Our stops included Casa Rosada, the building that houses the offices of the President of Argentina, The Cathedral of BsAs where the current Pope was Archbishop, La Boca a colorful neighborhood, the metal flower that is one of the symbols of BsAs, and Recoletta cemetery. It started raining on us while we were in Recoletta, so we didn't get to spend as much time as we normally do. Fortunately, our plans for the afternoon included going to the national art museum. 
Our group at the flower

Several of the girls bought paintings from this artist in La Boca. He does not have use of his hands, so he paints with his mouth.

This year we did not go as a whole group to a big tango show, because they are very expensive now. However, three of the girls and I went to a small show in one of the oldest coffee shops in BsAs. It was pretty funny, we felt like we were in the mob or something. Wimon had gotten us tickets in the morning. We went to the front door and a guy asked us if we had a ticket. As we walked through the main room, the guy asked where we were from. When I answered Texas, he, of course, asked the requisite questions of whether I had hat and a horse. Once he led us through the room, we handed our ticket to another guy, who took us through a door way into a dark intimate room with probably 10-12 tables and the stage. It felt very secretive. We ordered food, got teased by our waiter, and enjoyed the show. We also enjoyed watching the grandfather at the table in front of us play with his grandbaby.

The band... we had debates about who was our favorite... The funny piano player with the big mustache, or the grumpy looking base player, who would break into a huge smile whenever the singer would speak to him.

The dancers
Sunday morning we went to church. After services the students and I headed to Casa Rosada to go on a tour. Its a free tour and really pretty cool. We got to see the presidents office, the rooms where they do the press statements, Evita's desk, and walk out on the presidential balcony where Presidents give their address.
Casa Rosada

The view of Plaza de Mayo from the Presidential Balcony. (This is from where Madonna sings "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," I think, in Evita... its been a few years since I saw it.) 


The students at the President's entrance.
 After Casa Rosada we realized it was after 2 and we were all hungry... so we stopped to eat, which is never a quick process... but the food was good. Then we went to the artisans' market outside of Recoletta cemetery... I was a bit worried because I had built it up as one of my favorites, but the girls all really enjoyed it. (I'm not sure if Travis did, but he bought some stuff too, so it wasn't too bad.)  The Walkers and I went to a really good Indian restaurant in the evening.

Monday morning, Diana, Alyssa, and I went back to Recoletta cemetery to explore. It is really interesting to see all the different architecture and art work.

After the cemetery, we headed to meet Devin, Bethany, and Aubrey in La Boca for lunch. We enjoyed looking around. Several of us bought paintings. Then after being pestered by someone from every restaurant, we finally picked one. They had tango dancers. The girls all posed for pictures with the dancer. One of me with the dancer may or may not exist... but if it did it was on my camera and under my control.

Colorful buildings in La Boca

Diana and the Dancer
We then went back to the hotel. After being picked up at the hotel, we took the Buquebus ferry back to Colonia, then the Buquebus bus back to Montevideo. It was a good trip, but it was nice to be home in CasaACU.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Candombe Practice

One of the fun things about being a city in a foreign country is the random things that can happen that are good entertainment.  I was sitting in my apartment quietly reading my P-chem textbook getting ready for next Tuesday's lecture (I'm not usually this on top of things but we will be gone the next few days to Buenos Aires, its a rough life.)

Anyway... I was sitting here in my quiet apartment and start to hear drumming.  I don't think much about it at first... then I remember OH WAIT! Carnaval is coming up in a few months (after we leave) BUT they start practicing now. So one of the students and I ran out and sure enough... there were about 20-30 Candombe drummers and a few dancers doing a practice parade down the street. It was really quite cool. (Don't worry Stephen and Rachel, I was pretty sure it was Candombe drumming, if it was protest looking we'd have turned around.)

Now did I think to bring my camera, of course not, but here is a picture of a smaller group practicing in the daytime.

As I said we are off tomorrow for Buenos Aires. Hopefully I'll have some fun stories to report in a few days. If I have good internet access I may even report from BsAs.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tango and Rain

Those two don't really have much to do with each other except they are the most notable things from the past few days. I mentioned in my last post that it started raining when we left Expo Prado. It hasn't really stopped since. I was excited to see the rain at first... but I'll admit, its getting a bit old.

Rain does bring good things, especially Tortas Fritas. They are a fried bread that we put dulce de leche (caramel) or honey and cinnamon or whip cream and cinnamon on. So good. They are traditionally served in Uruguay on rainy days. So we've had them on Friday, Monday, and today. (We didn't have them over the weekend, because we don't know how to make them for ourselves.)

On Sunday, I went back to Raquel's church. It was drizzling on the trip over, which made it a bit more exciting to try to spot the bus stop. When I got to church, I greeted one of the girls who is 10 or so. She asked me how I was. I said fine... then she said, "You're wet." I did get good Spanish practice at church. I even surprised everyone (myself included) by making a comment during a discussion.

Last night was Tango lesson night at Casa. As women outnumber men 4:1 in CasaACU, and Rosalinda and I have done the lessons before, so we decided to sit the lessons out and just take pictures. Besides, I've already had pictures of me tangoing posted on a Chem/ Biochem bulletin board. It doesn't really need to happen again.  Here are a few pictures:

You must learn to walk before you dance.

Learning the first steps

Friday, September 13, 2013

Expo Prado and Things Here and There

Yesterday, we went to the Expo Prado. It's kind of like the State Fair for all of Uruguay. Its doesn't have many rides, but there are fried foods and lots of animals. We had a lot of fun seeing the animals and the gauchos, the cowboys, that were there with their animals.

It started to rain on us while we were there. Fortunately it stopped off and on. It wasn't raining on us when it was time to go. But it had turned dark. The two girls I was with and I decided to take a taxi rather than try to find the correct bus stop in the rain and dark... but its often hard to catch a cab when its raining. We saw several that were available, but they were always too far away. We did eventually get one. I sat in the front and practice my Spanish by talking to the driver. Taxi drivers are nice for practice. They are often chatty, used to talking to foreigners AND I'll probably never see them again, so if I embarrass myself, its not that big of a deal. :)

This weekend the weather is supposed to be cool again. It has been unusually hot. I think Tuesday may have been hotter than anytime I was here last time, including December which is the beginning of summer.

Here are some pictures from Expo Prado.

Baby Goats!

About to milk the cows... these poor girls needed it.

Chainsaw carving

Finished Carving
Gaucho, with the boots and beret

Hanging out with their cattle

Bethany bonding with a sheep.

Hanging out by the horse barn
 OK... I took a ridiculous number of pictures of strangers... but we love gaucho clothes.

Its funny... it doesn't matter that I've been a professor for 10 years. I still find myself acting like a student when I'm in class. For example, our Spanish teacher Cristina is AWESOME. Poor Cristina is sick today and had to cancel class. Now I SHOULD be really disappointed not to be learning... But I'm afraid I was mostly excited that I didn't need to finish my homework... I really need to grow up.

OH and just so you all know... I'm watching Gostbusters II in Spanish. Because well there isn't much on in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Woohoo Uruguay wins!

I was fortunate enough to go a couple Uruguayan national team matches when I was here before. We got to go on Tuesday night to see Uruguay play Colombia in a World Cup Qualifying match. Colombia was tied for first in the South American group. Uruguay was ranked 5th. The top four go to the World Cup. The fifth will go to a playoff with the 5th place Asian team.  ANYWAY... Uruguay was expected to lose, but instead they won 2-0.  This was particularly exciting because Uruguay was missing several of their best players because of injuries or yellow cards. The weather was really nice (almost hot) and we had a great time with the crowd and the win.

Our group, minus Travis, after the game.
Two of my favorites: Lugano, the team captain, and Forlan one of the best Uruguayo players ever couldn't play. Lugano because he received a second yellow card in the last match and Forlan because of injury.

Singing the national anthem

Start of the game.

As the second half started, I managed to catch Muslera, the Uruguayo goal keeper, pat the ref as he ran out.

Celebrating the first goal

Celebrating the second goal.

Celebrating the win.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Horny Goat Weed?

Well, we have now been here over a week. We've begun to settle into our classes and routines. I have classes every day. I teach 3 days a week: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and attend Spanish class every day except for Tuesday. I already can feel my Spanish getting better. The first few days were tough, but I'm starting to get into the flow of having conversation. A few of the girls go to aerobics with me most weeks night. The funniest by a lot so far has been Friday nights dance aerobics class. Let's say I was not born to dance... but it was fun.

Here are some highlights from the end of the week:

One of the fun things is going to markets and seeing funny/ nonsensical t-shirts. Here is one of the "best" examples I've ever seen. Don't ask me what it means... I have no idea. My guess is they send shirts on which the English doesn't make sense to non-English speaking countries.

I have no idea... don't ask me!
We have been blessed to have BEAUTIFUL weather since we've been here. Early last week was sunny but a little cold. Yesterday was our first day of rain, which for this time of year was pretty amazing. Usually it rains more. Still most of the girls and I went Puro Verso, a bookstore with a coffee shop, in Ciudad Vieja. I had a submarino... warm mild with a chocolate bar melted in. It was really fun.

In the afternoon, I got a television in my room and managed to watch a couple movies in Spanish. In the evening the students went and picked up pizza (which was an adventure for them). We ate pizza and watched "Pitch Perfect." It was a nice rainy Saturday night.

The Students eating lunch with Silvia, Adoracion, y Pablo
Today is another beautiful day. Bright and sunny with highs in the upper 60's. This morning we went to the other Church of Christ where Raquel, our cook extraordinaire attends. I have several friends there that it was really good to see. After the worship service, we shared lunch together. It was fun. Several commented on how my Spanish has improved since I was here last. Raquel said it has improved in the last week. The Walkers took us to church, but had to leave because they are going to Buenos Aires to represent ACU at a university fair. We managed to make it home all on our own.

Sarah and I went to the market and bought Uruguayan soccer jerseys to get ready for the game on Tuesday. I wasn't going to buy one if I couldn't find  Lugano, Cavani, or Abreu... but they had Lugano so... I have a new jersey. (Most jerseys are Forlan and Suarez. I have a Forlan, but stupidly left it at home.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Montevideo City Tour

This was my third tour begining of the semester tour of Montevideo. This is the first one however during which the weather was nice. Its quite brisk out today, but it was sunny. The first two times I've been here, it rained for the city tour, which makes for a not so great tour.

We mostly did quick stops to see some highlights that if people want to come back to and spend more time they can. Wimon did the tour guiding and did a good job.  Here are some of the highlights... or at least some of my favorite pictures.

Taking notes in the van

Our first stop was the Museo Blanes. It was good to see the paintings by Blanes and Figari again. It was also nice to go to the Japonese Gardens behind the Museo.
Japonese Gardens
After the Museo Blanes, we stopped by the Parque Prado. There is a monument there to the Charruas. They were the native people of Uruguay. Most were killed off soon after Uruguay became a country. A few (4, I believe) were sent to France to be in a circus.
The Charruas

After visiting the Charruas, we headed up to El Cerro, the hill that overlooks the city.

Our whole group and Montevideo behind us.
We took lots of pictures on top of El Cerro
 From El Cerro we headed to one of the local cemeteries where some presidents are buried. We weren't allowed to take pictures. The cemeteries here are fascinating with lots of sculpture. From there we went by the Stadium where the first world cup was held. It has been painted since I was last here. It looks much better. We then saw visited a monument to those that settled Uruguay.

This evening, Diana and I went back to the gym, which is fun as always.