My Life in Uruguay: An Unforgettable Journey
Sometime around Spring semester of my Sophomore year of college I decided that I needed to improve my Spanish. It was lacking vocabulary, grammar, and a persuasive accent. The best option was to go be surrounded by the language and nothing else... I decided to move to Uruguay.
I found a wonderful hostel in the Carrasco district in Montevideo, UY. I didn't have enough money to do a study abroad so living in Uruguay was my "study abroad" and I believe that I learned more than I would have if I had been studying in the traditional manner.
The owner, Mercedes, provided me with free breakfast, lunch, and a bed in exchange for 4 hours of work per day.
My Spanish wasn't so great the first half of the trip so Mercedes had me doing all sorts of work around the hostel. I did yard work, dishes, cooked, painted, and laundry. As my Spanish progressed I ended up taking the job as the receptionist. I answered the phone and talked to travellers about the rooms, prices, and what's around the area all in Spanish.
The city of Montevideo was beautiful. However, since I was there during my summer, it was their winter. It wasn't too cold, but it rained quite a bit.
Uruguay, and especially Montevideo, has a lot of Italian descent. Most of my meals composed of Gnocchi with Pesto, Pasta, Milenasas, or Empanadas. An interesting fact that I learned while I was in Uruguay is that all of the palm trees are not native. They were planted and are more or less a status symbol.
Getting around the city was tough at first. There aren't any bus schedules or maps. My first day off I wanted to explore the city. So I hopped on a bus and hoped that it took me somewhere fun. After about a month I finally figured out the crazy bus system. You just have to ask the locals which bus goes where.
Yerba Mate: The Uruguayan Staple
When I first tasted Yerba Mate I thought it was disgusting. Bitter, powdery, and way too hot. I soon was taught the Uruguayan way of living and developed a taste bud for the delicious, body-enlightening Yerba Mate.
In Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina they drink Yerba Mate out of a gourd with a straw, in Spanish it's called a bombilla. Yerba Mate is actually the combined process of drinking the Mate. Yerba is the "tea-like" leaves. Mate comes from the Spanish verb matear, which means "to drink Yerba Mate".
In Uruguay, you can't have Yerba without the gourd and the bombilla (the Mate), and you can't have Mate without the Yerba.
2014 Word Cup
I had the luxury of experiencing the fútbol craze in a Spanish-speaking country. When Uruguay won the qualifying match to be eligible for the world cup the whole country went wild. I was in downtown Montevideo right after they won the game and people were going crazy in the streets. It was a wild party. It was true patriotism. I've never seen so many people wave their country's flag in celebration before.
During the World Cup I went to downtown Montevideo to watch the games with the rest of the city. Montevideo held watch parties all over the city and hundreds of people gathered around to watch Suárez and his team battle it out in Brazil.
Travelling the Country
For a week I travelled around Uruguay going far East to the first town across Brazil's boarder, and as far West to the lighthouse that has the view of Argentina.
This journey was the most life-changing experience I've had so far. I proved to myself that I can travel anywhere I please. Most people think it's crazy to get up and move to another country, but to me, I believe that it's a skill and once you do it, you can do anything.