>Uruguay was… amazing. But mostly I was just extremely stoked to see my sister after 16 month apart, so we could’ve been anywhere and it would have been sublime. With that said, Uruguay was not a bad setting for our reunion, to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Years!
I got into Montevideo, Uruguay after a 36 hour travel day that included four planes and 15 accumulated hours of layovers (I found that Lima, Peru is a great place to spend an eight hour layover, San Salvador, El Salvador is not). Landing in time to see a rosy fingered dawn creeping over the Atlantic ocean’s horizon, I bee-lined to the hostel where Emily was staying and convinced the guy working the front desk to let me wake her up. After peering in almost every bed in a twelve-person dorm room, I finally found her and promptly pounced on her and we erupted in a fit of hugs and giggles. The feeling akin to this that comes to mind is when Stephani and I discoved blowing bubbles into the sunrise and looking at them through rainbow glasses. Pure joy.
Within an hour we were on a bus heading North up the coast to Punto del Diablo, a picturesque little fishing villiage where we had rented cabañas along with 14 of my sis’ friend from Peace Corps Paraguay. This sleepy little town is like the antithesis of the popular resort-town-on-steroids that is Punto del Este. It is small and humble, filled mostly with Uruguayans who have vacation homes or actually live there. Colorful houses with thatched roofs, an array of even more colorful people, and as much fresh seafood as we could cook up greeted us upon our arrival. To give a quick idea, our first dinner was comprised of grilled fish, shrimp, vegetables, an oyster cream sauce, ribs, rice and this amazing fish stew with grilled veggies that was made out of a failed attempt at a bloody mary – with delicious results.
The most amazing thing about this town are the people. The first night we immediatley befriended Uruguayans who work in Punto seasonally during their summer (still wrapping my head around the concept of December being a summer month south of the equator). They went out of their way to make a feel welcome and we had a sweet crew for the remainder of our stay there. Uruguay is composed of 90% (or so…) people of European descent with almost no indigenous ethnicity or culture, granted they all have killer tans. This surprised me for some reason, I guess I was expecting something that appeared more indegenous but the people and architecture all are reminiscant of their European roots. Our friend Martín, who has a darker color tone due to his Italian heritage is called ‘el negro’ by his friends, to give an example of how common people of color are…
We spent our days swimming and lounging in hammocks, eating fabulous meals and strolling through this sweet little town. And drinking massive, massive amounts of maté and tereré. I mean, I sort of knew about this whole maté way of life down here but I didn’t really KNOW. Uruguayans drink maté throughout the day, carrying their hot water in thermoses and their guampas (the gourd, wooden, or metal cup) and bombillas (the metal straw) everywhere with them. Tereré (maté drunk with ice cold water) is unheard of outside of Paraguay but since I was rolling with a ultimately Paraguayan crew, we drank tereré throught the hot hours of the afternoon. And I’m totally smitten, I think it’s a fantastic way to live life, constantly pausing to join together with your friends and enjoy the slightly bitter but restorative herbal drink multiple times a day.
We celebrated Christmas with as much gusto as is possible in a subtropical climate. The day was greeted with matè and candy canes on the doorsteps of our cabañas. We collaborated to make this incredible Christmas breakfast complete with banana pancakes, french toast, potatoes, eggs, chorizo and, of course, mimosas. After leaving the appropriate amount of time for digestion (thanks, Ma) we played ultimate frisbee on the beach, went swimming and siesta’d before warming up for dinner. Chrsitmas dinner was a paella-off between the cabañas (ours won of course, thank you, Spain) and we feasted yet again, following dinner with a reading of ”Where the Wild Things Are.”
We departed from our beloved beach town with a final bonfire under a moonlit and star-studded sky. You can still see Orion fixed in the Milky Way down here but he’s positioned differently in the sky. And my beloved Flo constellation was no where to be seen. Not yet at least, I’ll be keeping my eye to the sky. I’m still fuzzy on how star-gazing is applied all over the world, I want someone to explain it to me with a grapefruit and some string or something. The universe can be a mind-boggling place.
In our little corner of the universe, we returned to Montevideo and stayed at this awesome hostel called ‘El Viajero.’ With a beautiful inner courtyard with a ceiling made of grapes, spacious kitchen, cozy living area and rooftop terrace, it felt like a mansion we were allowed to play in, except for the dorm bedrooms, that is. The ‘ciudad viejo’ of Montevideo is beautiful, with cobble-stone streets, colonial architecture, leafy plazas and aritsans selling their wares on tables and blankets. It’s a great city to explore by bicycle due to its relatively small size and a vehicle-free paseo that lines the peninsula that is Montevideo, ultimately leading to the beach. We spent New Years Eve day touring by bike, dodging water balloons and confetti-like shredded paper receipts and calandar pages that Montevideanos toss from rooftops. Here’s to the New Year and letting go…
New Years Eve was rung in on the rooftop. The night was illuminated by the rare full blue moon and huge fireworks that were let off all over the city. The American in me was concerned about fire safety but another glass of champagne and I got over it. Kisses from my sister and a lone star balloon that was let fly free and floated in my vision all over my corner of the sky were the higlights of this moment, this changing of the decade.
We celebrated the night away at ‘W loung’ THE premier night club in Montevideo, a sprawling place right on the beach with huge open air balconies and an open bar after paying a cover (about $15). The sun sent us to bed and we finally slept, waking up to a new day, a new year, a new decade and endless, endless possibilities.