Thursday, January 9, 2020

Laci in Uruguay!

   “¡Hola, me llamo Laci y soy de Los Estados Unidos!” is something I say a lot here, so it felt right to start with that. My name is Laci, my major is psychology, and I’m studying in Uruguay, a country that I have definitely fallen in love with. When I arrived with my fellow honors student from UNCG I was knocked off my feet from culture shock. Our flights lasted about 24 hours, our housing was not ready when we got here, and it was COLD! Cold in South America, who would have guessed that. The first day here was rough, I won’t lie, but it paved the way for me to come to appreciate everything that I would encounter in the next 5 months.

   My first few weeks at my university were exciting and a little overwhelming. At my orientation, I remember trying not to fall asleep because it was so difficult to understand what the directors were saying. I couldn’t find the library for at least a month which is sad because my school is basically one building, but it goes to show how nervous I was to ask where anything was. I felt like a visitor in someone else’s home. Now, I find myself wanting to hang out in La Cantina (our cafeteria) in my free time between classes or, something that is very common, buy a bizcocho (any sweet pastry) and lounge in the sun on the terrace. I am excited to eat lunch with my international friends and to practice speaking Spanish to strangers. Sometimes I find myself striking up conversations just to speak to someone new.

My friends and I taking in the sun at the beaches of Punta Del Este, with my dragon Chispa (spark!). 
Tango is a tradition that has very deep cultural roots in Uruguay and almost everyone knows the basic moves and rhythms of the dance. 

   Uruguay is truly a hidden gem in South America with plenty of beautiful places to travel and wonderful people to meet. A man asked me once, “
¿Cómo te gusta este paisito?” How do you like this little country? What a question. The answer: “Me encanta todo.” I love everything. The people are very active in fighting for social justice and want their voices to be heard. Everywhere I go I can find posters about human/animal rights plastered on the walls of buildings or signs promoting an upcoming march. I attended my first big LGBT+ pride march here, which was a beautiful experience. People filled the main road dressed head to toe in pride gear and chanted words of acceptance. Glitter bombs shot into the air. Friends hugged and kissed each other.

My view from on top of the lighthouse at Cabo Polonio, my absolute favorite secluded beach town in Uruguay. It’s one of Uruguay’s well-kept secrets. 

   Graffiti is huge here. So huge that I don’t think I have ever seen a building, other than government official buildings, without some kind of graffiti on it. Montevideo has to have some of the most talented artists in the world because some of the things I’ve seen I cannot believe! While graffiti is still illegal here, the law is not really enforced and I think the city is even proud of some of the artworks, legal or not. I often see open space art galleries of street art with pictures of different graffitis with the locations and artists’ names if they are available. I took a graffiti tour and learned of a lot of wonderful artists like David de la Mano and Alfafa, both of which have popular pieces in Montevideo.

A graffiti that I found on the streets of Montevideo. It’s fun to imagine the positions the artist had to be in to paint the piece.

   The culture itself is my favorite part. There is always time to do what you want and relaxing and watching the sunset is encouraged. My first trip with my international student group to Piriapolis, another city in Uruguay, we watch the sunset at a very touristic spot with other tourist groups and surely many Uruguayans. When the sun finally slipped behind the horizon along the ocean everyone clapped. It was really cute, like everyone was congratulating the sun on setting another day. On any given day, no matter the weather, you can find a bunch of Uruguayans drinking their mate (the most popular tea-like drink) and chatting with amigos by La Rambla, a sidewalk that spans a lot of the coast of Montevideo. I am going to miss being expected to take my time and enjoy the little things, like the sun setting yet another day.

One of the beautiful sunrises at Los Dedos. Spending time to watch time pass is a very important part of Uruguayan culture. 

   As I write this I only have 2 weeks left of class and 5 weeks left in South America. I probably talked to 6 or 7 different people that have been to Montevideo in preparation for this trip, but nobody warned me of the friendships that I would make here. I have met people from all around the world and each one of them has impacted my life. To think that I would have never met them if not for this paisito is crazy and I will forever be grateful to Uruguay for bringing such amazing people into my life.

My international friends and I ate dinner at Hard Rock Cafe so I could taste some American food. They don’t eat macaroni and cheese here!

   If your still here, thanks for taking the time to read a bit about my journey outside of the US for the first time. Viva celeste, besos, and ciao.