Thursday, February 12, 2009


393 days ago

Here I am, in a city that reminds me of Bucharest and Constanta in Romania and some beach resorts nearby Lisbon in Portugal. Beautiful rundown buildings, from the neo-classical belle époque and the art nouveau/art déco period. A long ocean drive, about 18 kilometers. The estuary water is opaque and darkish, but when I swam in it seemed clean.

LAN Chile is an excellent airline and NYC airport services suck. That’s why my suitcases arrived 30 hours after me. At least nothing was missing.

The views from the plane were impressive: above Newark in NY (the Huston and the Atlantic), Santiago de Chile (the Andes) and Montevideo (Rio de la Plata estuary). I also stuck my nose to the shopwindows in the Santiago Airport: great crafts, I’m sure I’ll get something on the way back.

Ariel, the lawyer I was in touch with before coming, waited for me at the airport, took me to the house and invited me for dinner at their place afterwards. There were his wife, Martha and a friend: Jorge. All very kind, cultured and well travelled. The streets I saw reminded me of Bucharest and so did the furniture in their house, very 30’s looking. The house I’m in for now looks like some after-war home, with no phone or Internet, old, dirty and smelly, yuck! It was a tourist trap but I’ll move away for better. The area is beautiful though, with the huge Parque Batlle next door.

There are many palm trees and amazing blossoming hibiscus around and a sleepish ambiance due to the terrible heat. I have been told the ozone layer is thinner here and the sun rays far more dangerous. Days are very long, the sun sets after 9pm and people eat dinner extremely late (about 10 – 10:30pm). I’ve even seen a colibri and some small green parrots flying around. Cuuuuute!

On Friday I went to meet Rosana, a communications professor who has Romanian roots, Internet providence facilitated our encounter. Her in-laws house looks amazing too, with high ceilings, an Art Nouveau mosaic and a shadowed patio. I went out with her and Cristina, Spanish professor for foreigners, we had a great time. I arranged with Cristina to move over to her place for the same amount of money. She took me to the Pocitos beach the day after and afterwards to her place. Classy and cozy, with two green patios, two cats and one deaf old cute doggy: Ursula. So I’ll have to bear with this fox den for two more weeks only!

On Friday I also had lunch with Fernando Tetes, a journalist working a lot on the Carnival, quite a character, very nice and bubblying personality.

Saturday night – dinner at Rosana’s place, special guest: Gustavo V., who teaches various things at an American university and also wrote about Carnival, which he abhorres now. The whole gathering was quite fun and interesting actually, cultured and sarcastic, and nobody likes the murga! So far the intellectuals I’ve seen here are snobbing it for some reason, maybe I’ll discover why.

Sunday morning I broke the toilet floater about 10:00am while I was expecting Ana, her daughter lives in Montréal and send her a few things. She came right then, so she helped me tying the thing up as well as we could, to stop the water and put a note on the toilet cover. My “host” is out at the beaches, as mostly everyone is in January and I can’t be bothered, so I keep throwing in buckets of water and that’s about it. I spent the morning with Ana – same fine irony, bitter humour and culture I remarked with the other Uruguayans so far. She left me with Anabela and Fito, old time friends of a Montréal friend.

We had some lunch by Parque Rodo and the waiter heard us talking about murga, so he told me he was part of “Anti-murga BCG”, a very famous group that became a theater one now, no more Carnival. He will give me some contacts. Then we wandered around the Rambla, far and away, stopping every now and then to buy another big bottle of “Patricia” beer. Around 8 we arrived in the Old City – Plaza Zabala, in front of the Cathedral. All good and all closed…we just sit on a bench and a couple of other friends stopped by, so we ended up in an artsy looking apartment, in an amazingly renovated house, having beer, sausage and Colonia cheese. Alegria! We left about 11pm, slowly walking on the 18 de Julio boulevard. It was a very long day.

Monday I did pretty much nothing until 4pm, saw none, just went to the supermarket and made a salad, taking my time big time. Then I went for a long walk along 18 de Julio and deep inside the Ciudad Vieja, just looking around and having a great ice-cream from La Cigale. Men here are very Mediterranean, they look straight at you if they find you attractive and make you loud compliments. So far they were not vulgar, rather nice and even funny (May God keep you beautiful as you are now; There are people down the street keeping pretty women from going, you, they’ll never let you go!; Oh my, my friends, she’s the most beautiful thing passing by today, how will I survive?!).

So far so good then, only Montevideo is not as cheap as I thought, so I’ll better be careful with the small scholarship I have:(

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