Trip Start Jan 08, 2009
7Trip End Feb 09, 2009
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Where I stayed
marco's mom's apartment
montevideo is a lovely city quite different from anyplace else i've ever been. during a stroll around town you may see:
*lots of trees. montevideo is a very green city.
*little carts pulled by horses wearing hats driven by guys who are hunting for cardboard or plastic or other usable things in the trash. i especially enjoy when the horse has a porkpie hat, complete with earholes.
*people walking around sipping out of a gourd with a metal straw and a thermos under their arm. they are drinking "mate" which is an infusion of leaves that i find to be similar to green tea. people go loco for it here and many don't leave home without it even, say, to go to the supermarket where it's helpful to have full use of both hands. there are many rules when it comes to drinking mate.
1. don't even think about touching the metal straw [called "bombilla"] except to drink from it. the person who is serving the mate has strategically maneuvered the leaves, the straw and the water and why would you disrupt this masterpiece.
2. don't say gracias unless you don't want anymore. if you say gracias, you're cut out of the round because that's code for "i'm done".
3. don't stop drinking until the straw makes that slurpy sound when you get to the end of your drink that your mom usually yells at you for. don't you give that gourd back before you drink every ounce of liquid in there.
4. always hand the gourd back to the person serving the mate with the straw pointing towards them.
it takes a minute to get the hang of it and it still boggles me as to why you would make a metal straw to drink a very hot liquid from but it's a friendly and intriguing custom. there is mate paraphernalia everywhere and if you fancy, you can buy a mate gourd cased in a cow's hoof. no lie.
*weekly flea markets where people sell everything and anything from used shoes and antique candlesticks to local produce and live owls. there is a puppy corner where everyone and their mother whose dog has recently had babies sets up boxes of puppies and heckles passersby to come and hold their wares.
*people dancing the tango at around 7pm every evening in a particular square led by a really old lady jazzed out in fishnets and a fancy hat.
*cars from the 40's [literally] either as they were in their good old days [with a bit more rust/held together by the grace of god] or pimped out with flames on the doors and spoilers.
you may hear:
*the drumming of dozens of people gathered together practicing for the pre-carnival festivities at this time of year.
*vendors with raspy voices pushing their carts and croaking "caaaaalientitos los panchos!" [hot hotdogs] or "heeeelado! heeeelado!" [ice cream]
*the squawking of cotorras, little green parrots that have become pests here since the importation of eucalyptus trees which, being taller than indigenous uruguayan trees, have provided a nesting place safe from the reach of natural predators. these are also sold as pets in aforementioned flea markets and i hear they are quite chatty if you teach them.
you may taste:
*meat. really, if you're a vegetarian you are, if you will, shit outta luck here. although of course there are fruits and vegetables [which are fantastic], uruguay, as any proud uruguayan will be happy to tell you, is where meat was born. [any proud argentinean would vehemently disagree but that's another bedtime story]. the meat here is delicious, i won't lie, although i'm not used to eating such massive quantities of it. meat dishes include, but are not limited to:
- chivitos - a sandwich [which here they pronounce "sangwicheh" and cracks me up every time] that puts any big mac to shame in a corner with a dunce hat on. you have a layer of bacon under a thin steak under a layer of cheese under a layer of ham covered in sliced hard-boiled eggs and topped with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. [mayonnaise is the other staple food here...some people use it as salad dressing - momma no!]
- choripan - a chorizo [sausage] sandwich on different bread with egg, lettuce, tomato and (of course) mayo.
- asado - meat on the grill cooked with the embers of wood you have previously burned the hell out of. the meat used is technically a specific cut of ribs but often it turns into a barbecue with meat that can vary from your standard t-bone to chorizo to innards i prefer not to think about.
- morcilla - blood sausage with what i think may be pine nuts and raisins, which is actually quite good if you don't think about what it is that you're eating.
*paso de los toros grapefruit soda. unbelievably delicious. i don't know why it hasn't been exported to everywhere.
*biscochos - like mini-croissants and can be salty or sweet and which are usually eaten as a snack with mate.
*alfajores - individually sold double or triple-decker cookies with a million different flavors including, i think recently, oreo and chips ahoy.
i'll be less tourist guidebook next time but i just wanted to give an overview of what i've experienced. up next: time to play country mouse and visit marco's dad in the country.
hope you're all doing well in your part of the world...thanks for reading! J xoxox