Change Yourself…Change The World.

Uruguay, Uruguay
October 23, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: Uruguay

Dear friends,

Writing from one of those hostel computers where the ´delete´ button doesnt work very well and the keyboard is in Spanish. Excuse the grammatical errors.

Uruguay… oh, Uruguay, what a strange experience. Before coming to Latin America, I hadn´t thought too much about Uruguay as a country. I imagined it as one of those South American countries out of ´Romancing the Stone´- Jungly, with destroyed buses lying abandoned in ravines, with soldiers head to toe in gear…
Once I actually got to South America, especially Paraguay, my impression of Uruguay immediately changed. I read books and notes about how Uruguay used to be one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America before their economy kind of fell apart for awhile. Reading ´Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring´told me that Montevideo, the main city, was this beautiful metropolitan area with artists and music and tango, with gorgeous beaches everywhere and seafood galore… Ohhh how my mouth watered while reading this, especially since I had been in Paraguay for a month, a landlocked country with no possible dreams of ever relaxing near a body of water while feasting on mussels, crab, shrimp, or maybe even lobster if I dared to dream it was cheap enough. All Uruguay seemed to be about was amazing music and art, the ocean, seafood, and horsebackriding. I imagined Montevideo as this gorgeous metropolis. It was like a wonderful dream….

…that was easily shattered as soon as I arrived into the city. My first impression was that this place was like Paraguay with a coastline. Plenty of rural areas to go around, a strange mix of flair followed by buildings in sore need of a good scrubbing, and once again, complete desertion. I arrived into Montevideo´s downtown to find it so devoid of people I was shocked. The sun was setting and it was quite beautiful, but there was almost no one outside to enjoy it. I didn´t quite understand what was going on, and where the people were. I walked down one of the main roads that so reminded me of Taksim Square in Turkey, watching hawkers packing up their wares as the few people that were actually out hurried by, as if there was this perfect storm coming and everyone was running for cover.

This is suc h a strange but interesting place, and I don´t know quite what to think about it so far. It feels a little bit like all of the bad parts of Panama City and the good parts of Paris mixed together, without any people in it. It is both beautiful but ugly, charming but devoid of flavor, interesting but lacking any actual spice. Looking outside at the antique buidings that lead down to the oceanfront makes my heart want to burst with sheer pleasure, but lurking behind it is SUCH a strong feeling of utter depression as to how dismal this place seems, that I just end up wildly confused.

Last night I tried to find a place called ´Kazbah´which was recommended by the Lonely Planet. It was supposedly this restaurant that had all kinds of mediterranean food, with also a bar that people apparentely liked to frequent to. This seemed like the perfect setting for me to go out to dinner, because I immediately imagined falafel, hookah, and hopefully at least a few traelers like me who had consulted the Lonely Planet that I could meet with. However, I searched all around the area to finally come to the conclusion that it must have been closed. This was the first time I had actually been let down by the Lonely Planet guide while I was in country. I know that their ´sleeping´guides are almost always out of date- just check out hostel world in any country you´re in versus their book and you´ll see that there are newer and better places that have popped up everywhere. But I had never been let down on a restaurant before. Sadness.
Instead, I went out to a place called ´Don Peperone,´which turned out to be QUITE a nice restaurant, even though I spent 5 dollars for a meal. I arrived at around 8 PM, which is usually a late dinner for me. The place was pretty deserted. I proceeded to hang out for about 2 hours, reading and enjoying a burrito (don´t judge. There was no seafood on the menu). The longer I waited around, the more people showed up, until finally when I asked for the bill at 10:30 PM, the place was SWARMING with people. Dinner at 10:30?? Maybe this is why Uruguay looked so deserted… maybe everyone naps until 9 or 10 PM and then only at late night does the life actually start.

Maybe it´s too soon to assume much about Montevideo. I DID arrive just as the sun was setting. Today is Friday. I have all day to explore Montevideo and the town center, the ocean, the markets, and of course, the seafood. Let´s see what happens today.

1 Comment so far
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Hi! we have dinner not before 9 p.m. here. Also, we drink mate just like in Paraguay, but we use hot (not boiling!) water instead of cold water. If you love drums, google a bit about candombe and comparsas…the candombe is an afroamerican rythm played with 3 or 4 kinds of drums, look at this:
or this:
or this:
or finally this:
There is a whole world hidden in every little corner of the map…scratch the surface!

Comment by mauri

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