Friday, February 11, 2011

You´re a What!?. . . URUGUAY!!

It started the second Meli, Liz and I got off the plane in Uruguay. It was the complete shock at how awesome the country is and how different it is than Paraguay, which, until then, had been my only experience of South America, and pretty much what I pictured all of South America to be like. I´ve taken the liberty of compiling a numbered list of just some of the things that are awesome about Uruguay.

On the plane, there was an article in the in-flight magazine all about how Uruguay is
(1) one of the world leaders in environmental issues. They are incredibly progressive with alternative power sources and the whole country is
(2)REALLY clean. And there are
(3) trashcans all over the place that were actually used! Then we got on the bus from the airport
(4) in an orderly fashion, meaning not having to elbow out old ladies and stepping over kids to get a seat (survival of the fittest in PY, I make no apologies), and they formed a LINE (!) and the bus was
(5) so clean, quiet, comfortable, and pleasant. Gliding silently over the
(6) shady streets, there was no black smoke spewing out the tailpipe, and there was a
(7) passenger limit that was obeyed (meaning no cramming people in like sardines until you can´t breath and having to be shoved into armpits and crotches whenever anyone needs to get off)! So in this extremely pleasant place, I was questioning the guy next to me about the country. How is Uruguay, I asked.
(8)Tranquilo, he said. And indeed, the entire time we were there, everyone we saw was super tranquilo,
(9) nice, super cool, and helpful. He also said that there was
(10) Public Healthcare and
(11) Free education through college. He said the worst thing was the
(12) weather because it got down to 2 degrees celsius sometimes in the winter (just to clarify, that´s at night, and still above freezing). He explained that it´s so cold like that since they´re
(13) on the ocean. Getting off the bus, we followed the
(14) correct directions to get to the hostel(yeah, they told the truth whether or not they know where something was), and then could explain it clearly in their
(15) correct Spanish with cool accents. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel (since there is
(16) tourism and culture, there are things like hostels), and walked around the city, amongst all the
(17) old architecture and pretty buildings. We passed lots of
(18) artisans selling handmade crafts and crossed streets in
(19) crosswalks, where the drivers waited because
(20) pedestrians have the right of way. (We never got used to this, so we kept hesitating at the curb, thinking they were going to run us down.) We passed lots and LOTS of
(21) hot guys, who
(22) didn´t catcall and yell about what they wanted to do to us, and lots of
(23) dads playing with and taking care of their kids.

Passengers standing Maximum 18
There was a Carnival parade while we were in Montevideo

This is the national dish of Uruguay, called Chivito, which I think means heart attack on a plate. It´s salad topped with potato salad, topped with french fries, topped with a burger, topped with ham, topped with cheese, topped with a fried egg, and of course mayo and garnishes. We ate many chivitos.
We did a lot of shopping. The things I bought here are spectacular.

After 2 days of that pleasantness, we decided to go to Punto del Diablo to visit some of the many
(24) beautiful beaches, where the
(25) sun was not too strong to stay out all day, but was still pleasant and warm, the sand was soft, and the cool water was shallow far out into to ocean, working on our
(26) tans (this concept does not exist in Paraguay, the slightest goldening of the skin is considered burnt), and watching people
(27) surfing. We hung out with some of the
(28) booming hippy population and they told us that
(29) pot is neither legal nor illegal in Uruguay, and that although
(30) everything seemed extremely orderly and controlled, the
(31) police were not jerks about stuff.

The houses at the beach had names. This means Armadillo in Guaraní...also vagina.
one of the many beaches

After 4 days of that, I met back up with Liz and Meli (they´d gone to Punta del Este for a day, and I wanted to stay longer) and we went to Colonial, which is really old because apparently some people figured out a long time ago how awesome Uruguay is , and for the entire week that I was there, I marvelled at how well
(32) everything just WORKS. It´s a
(33) population of 3.5 million
(34) diverse people that maintain their tranquility while also
(35) giving a shit, and it shows.

Gate to Colonial
People were really tiny back then
This city was huge on Tile
Meli, Liz and me

We took the last flight possible leaving because none of us wanted to go. Arriving in Asunción at almost 1 am, we took an
-overpriced cab to our hotel, which had
-lost our reservation (never wrote it down), and trudged up to our room where we found
-the electricity didn´t work. I never should have gone on vacation, I said, because now I´m gonna see all the bad things I hadn´t noticed before about Paraguay. Liz started to say something comforting and positive, but then
-the bed she sat down on collapsed. Ahh, Paraguay.

PS- The next day, I was reminded of all the reasons I heart PY, again, and felt better, but to be fair, the charms of this country do no lie in its functioning.


Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.