Tuesday, 22 November 2011

IATTOUR November 13-20, 2011: Montevideo, Uruguay

Back to school
We arrived on Saturday evening and were met at the school by Juliana—a University student from Germany who works for the school and lives here.  After a long journey, it took no time to say hello, settle into our room and fall asleep.  

Juliana directed us to a supermarket and then a street market on Sunday where we were able to pick up all required food stuffs.   
This past week we settled into a new routine.  The Herradura language school has been incredibly interesting and fun.  There are 4 hours of classes each day (2 with 2 different teachers).  The school is based in a 3ish story stone townhouse in a bohemian district of Montevideo and caters to both live-in and live-out students.  We are living here for the 3 weeks and share the space with a varying numbers of housemates/students.

When we first arrived, there were 2 German girls, 1 American a Brazilian as well as ourselves.  Now it is 3 Americans, 3 Germans, 2 Swiss and 2 Canadians.  As if this mixture wasn't crazy enough, there are many other Spanish language students who come in from apartments, home-stays, pensions and even their own homes to the school every day.  They hang out and chat in at least 5 different languages (luckily English is the default for all but 1).  The young Swiss woman in our class is unilingual French, has just recently moved to Uruguay to be with her family, so is interesting with Elaine translating French to English for the benefits of all.
  Her father was one of the political prisoners in the 70’s who escaped to Europe (too much to put in the blog, but a great story).  It is the most amazing situation to be in. 

We benefit from their explorations in South America and have picked up a few tips for later.
  We are able to sign up for extracurricular group activities or make up our own.  So far, we have explored the old part of the city, walked along the beach, watched an intense international street bicycle race and visited a mall that resembles a North American one in its entire Christmas splendor.   

We tried Tango on Tuesday with 2 German girls and a Swiss guy (the instructors were exceedingly patient with us) and visited several museums.  The Guacho museum is chock full of riding paraphernalia, as the horse plays a large role in the development of this area (the Guacho is very revered in all of South America). 

The Contemporary Art Museum is really different.  Housed in an old prison in the interior of the city, it displays incredible pieces of interactive art—changed regularly.  A cross between Alcatraz and Emily Carr School of Design.  We spent about ½ hour making incredible graphic images with an interactive keyboard and then photographed decaying cell blocks.
Yesterday it was a group trip to the market with two other housemates to pick up ingredients for a group meal--shared between 7 of us.  Markets happen regularly in Montevideo streets and this was a lovely grocery market.  Many stalls of organic level produce, fish, cheese, baked goods and assorted random household items blockaded the street while vendors called out to shoppers and an old blind man played lovely sad Tango music on his accordion.    
Buying, cooking and conversation made for quite the evening. 
Tonight/Sunday night, we were out with 2 brothers from Germany to see Penerol play Nacional.  This was apparently the match to see, featuring the 2 main rival teams in Uruguay and held in “Estatios Centenal” (a stadium which can hold 70,000 fans).  Even the Germans, both great soccer fans, were taken aback by the passion of the crowd.   1 hour before the game, the stands were mostly full and the crowd was singing, waving banners and jeering the other team.  

Unfortunately, our section, Penerol, lost with a penalty kick on a handball, but it was highly entertaining. Afterwards everyone at the school asked if we got caught up in any after match skirmishes…but no…I think things were pretty well contained as there was quite a police presence everywhere. We ran off to dinner with Wolfgang and Martin and then followed a group of drummers through the streets to home.
We are planning to join another group of Uruguayan Tango Students with their guide and head out to Puenta Del Diablo next weekend.  Apparently it is in the edgy, undiscovered paradise for young travellers, artists and local hippies (early Saltspring?).  At least you can get there by bus—the next small town over (Cabo Polonia) requires an ATV or hitch-hiking! 

Although I wouldn't say our Spanish has improved greatly, we are much more comfortable in the market, in restaurants and when we speak to people who know a little English.   A small amount of progress and a great adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah! The soccer game was realy creat and the chivito for dinner too ;-)