Matt’s 2012 in Review

A Year of Uncertainty and Adventure

In January 2012, I left my job, sold almost all of my belongings, and said bye to family and friends to embark on a journey that I had no clue where it would take me.

In January 2013, I’m still on that journey, living on the opposite side of the world. This journey is transforming into a way of life, and different way of seeing the world.

We’re at a point in time that the internet allows us to create our own jobs, live anywhere in the world and work whoever we choose. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends and family online no matter where I’m at in the World. Skype, Google Hangout, social media, and this blog have been great at helping us keep in touch. PS: Thanks Randi for writing so much and pushing Asa and I to write a couple posts! 🙂

Here it is…

January was a month of getting rid of the last of my belongings (thanks to advice from Joshua and Ryan) and saying bye to friends, family, my job, most hobbies. Luckily, friends are always willing to throw a party, especially if it means it’s the last time they’ll see you in many months if not years.

bonvoyagecookiecake

Thanks for the yummy cookie cake Michelle

I moved down to Palermo, Uruguay with Asa and Randi. They were pretty much the main reason I’m doing this. If they didn’t decide it would be alright for me to join them, I might have never made the trip. Asa and Randi, I owe you guys the World. You guys freakin’ rock! I hope you will come visit one day!

This is a good hair day

This is a good hair day!

I became conversational in spanish down there. We could have probably been fluent in spanish in 3 months, but making fun of each other in English was so much fun.

I was bad at taking pictures in South America. I’m blaming it on the fact that I didn’t have a working camera most of the time since the lens’ dinner of choice was sand.

Carnival in Uruguay!!

carnival

Candle Festival in Montevideo, Uruguay. They send boats with candles, flowers, and decorations into the water for good luck.

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I met Carlos, JuanMa, and Maru in Palermo after finding out there was ultimate frisbee in Uruguay. Luckily they spoke enough English to communicate with us.

12-hour travel to play in the Bahia Blanca Beach hat tourney

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I sang karaoke with 4 others in front of hundreds (it was the US National Anthem)

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Champions!

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I wrestled an alligator (crocodile)

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Hey Mom! I’m a foreign TV star… in 2 countries!

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I played in 4 Ultimate Frisbee tournaments outside of the US

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In the voice of 300 Spartans… This is CIMARRON!

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The AFDC and Spin Ultimate made it possible to donate 80 discs and jerseys to help South America further Ultimate Frisbee as a sport

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I learned to salsa in Argentina at 4am. (I wouldn’t call it learning, more like drunken wobbling side to side)

dancedsalsa

We played fun tournament games

I learned how to play the piano… with my feet!

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I had another going away party. This time it was for leaving Uruguay.

despidiendoamatt

Viva Las Vegas!

I got back together with the family in Vegas. I went to my Sister’s and Blake’s (now brother-in-law!) wedding. It was a gorgeous and awesome wedding. It was a lot of fun. I lost money at poker (it was overdue) but had a blast with Derek, Blake’s family and my family! So many good times and fun things happened.

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Yum! In-N-Out Burger with a creeper in the background.

inandoutburgervegas

Ziplining with Dad in Vegas!

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Off to Puerto Galera

After too much excitement in Vegas, I headed out to Puerto Galera, Philippines to get together with a bunch of people from the DC and the TropicalMBA. Joining the DC was probably the biggest game changer this year as far as business is concerned. I won’t talk about that now.

In Puerto Galera, I caught some amazing sunrises, had a birthday applechicken with the crew at Badladz and tried to swim with Dolphins.

amazingsunrise

Birthday chicken apple lunch!!

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Taking a short break from work!

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Beautiful view of Puerto Galera from the top of the jungle trek

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Rented a villa with 2 friends for half a week in Puerto Galera. Our Dive master picked us up from our dock!

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Survived a water buffalo ride!

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The crew chillin on the beach

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Tuk tuk transportation

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Trying to swim with some dolphins

After this, I headed back to Manila for a few days to meet with some friends.

I slept on a boat in Manila

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Enjoyed the Manila Skyline at night

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Off to Bangkok, Thailand!

After the Philippines, I flew over to Bangkok for a big meetup of about 70-80 Dynamite Circle members from all around the World.

This was my view for three days in Bangkok.

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We met for three days in a convention center. I met people who hide from the public, well-known influencers, people just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, and established ballers who are all living the lifestyle of their choice from wherever they want around the World.

I was bad at taking pictures here.

In Chiang Mai

Posing at a temple

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Words of wisdom at a temple

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Met up with Joel within my first few weeks in Chiang Mai. I was introduce to Melina and Orn then, two awesome people. Robert was laughing so hard he forgot to open his eyes.

Sick mustache, Joel.

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Marvin was traveling through so we went to the sticky waters where you can climb them. We decided some sort of Yoga pose would be best.

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Cliff jumping in Chiang Mai.

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Lantern release – sending bad thoughts away. Bringing in good thoughts.

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Thousands of lanterns released at Yi Peng lantern festival during Loi Krathong. This moment was incredible. At one point in time, I couldn’t even see the sky there were so many lanterns right above my head.

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Celebrating Turkey day with Apple Pie Shots

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Temple in Chiang Mai

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Manila Spirits 2012

Cabs R Here losing the 3rd place game to Derek Ramsey in Rock-Paper-Scissors

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Was introduced through a Sam to Sam. Played with him in Manila

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Dancing with the Aussies and Canadian!

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Photobomb #1 – Beer me!

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Photobomb #2 – epic makeout scene

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Photobomb #3 – Like a Boss

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Surviving the Mayan Apocalypse in style!

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Taking pictures of myself… as always

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Cabs R Here!!!

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What the Deuce in Chiang Mai’s first ultimate frisbee league.

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Family sent me awesome christmas presents!!

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White elephant present – awesome Thailand Tshirt

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Meeting up with cousins Jimmy and Janie and friend Sandy after their domination runs in Chiang Mai.

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Coffee at Ristr8o with the #DCCM crew on Christmas day

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White elephant gift exchange

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Christmas day street food dinner with cousins Jimmy and Janie!

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Some lessons learned:

People all around you have a strong influence on who you are as a person. Surround yourself with people you look up.

Different cultures around the World can take a while to adapt to. By having a strong core, open eyes and ears, and the ability to see other’s points of view, you can go extremely far in life and be extremely successful (no matter what “success” means to you).

When you let yourself be open to opportunity, doors start showing up in front of you and you just have to choose which ones your going to open and which path your going to go down.

Learning a language is hard, but you’ll get a lot more respect and your stay will be easier if you learn some basic language and show you’re trying. You’ll also get good mental benefits from learning to speak a new language.

Leverage your hobbies to create strong and lasting friendships wherever you go.

There is something unique about Ultimate Frisbee and spirit of the game. If you play ultimate frisbee, make sure to look for ultimate everywhere you go. You will instantly create awesome friends and people all around. I have made so many friends this past year through ultimate and everyone is awesome in their own way. Whether I was partying in Uruguay at 6am with you, dancing/drinking in Argentina, surviving the Apocalypse with the Aussies in Manila, or playing league in Chiang Mai, you guys have been freaking awesome!

This journey would not be the same without ultimate and all the people I’ve met playing ultimate along the way. If there is anything I can ever do for you guys, you know where to contact me!

The same can be said for anyone in the DC. #DCCM, you guys rock! I’ve had a blast in Chiang Mai. Now, it’s time to move it to #DCPai and get more serious about health, fitness, work, and productivity.

It’s not as easy as it seems…

Going out and traveling sure does seem like fun, but there are a lot things that make it difficult. In the beginning, you have to give up on a lot of things like going out and drinking with friends a lot, skipping over to another country for fun, doing expensive dinners. You really have to be the boring friend sometimes who sits inside on a Friday evening and throughout the weekend getting the work done. Your good friends will understand, but most won’t.

Whatever you do, just make sure you follow Derek Sivers’ motto: it’s either “HELL Yeah! or no.”

Most people won’t understand what you do. They see the great pictures, the travel, the fun, but they don’t understand the struggles and the work you do.

Leaving friends is hard. Sure, I’ve made great friends along the way, but with everyday I make a new friend, that’s a day that’s passed that I haven’t seen an old friend from backhome.

The hardest part is probably leaving family. Luckily I can video chat and skype with my family back home, but it’s definitely hard celebrating birthdays, holidays, especially Christmas without the family. Technology doesn’t always work and frustrating times come along that. You just have to accept the fact that s#!@ happens sometimes and there will be another time to say hi!

You have to be like water in a stream, flowing over and around the rocks, the hard times. I think there’s a Chinese proverb about that.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned this whole trip, and it’s something I knew and learned from Mo, quality relationships are pretty much the most important things in life. Without trust, friendship, support, prodding, and pushing from peers, mentors, mentees, friends, family, others, life can be A LOT harder than it has to be.

Go out and create great relationships. Keep in touch, help others, and connect people when you can! Be good to others.

I could write this post about business stuff, finances, etc, but the most important thing to me is connecting, helping, and having fun with people.

2012 was a year of travel and creating incredible friendships. 

I’m looking forward to 2013 to be a year of creating and deepening relationships and fine tuning my habits and rituals to be more productive and grow my business efforts this year. 
Don’t worry, Mom! I’ll work on taking more and better pictures and keeping everyone updated!

2013 is a year for shipping. Get your work out! Go big or go home (going home isn’t an option here). Do something that matters and the world will reward you for it.

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My Journey to Cabo Polonio: A Magical Place Off the Grid

Voted as one of the best beach towns in the World for 2012, Cabo Polonio might not be here in 2013 if the Uruguayan Government has anything to do with it.

Cabo Polonio was founded by fisherman, hippies and squatters (now locals) and is located about 5 hours by bus outside of Montevideo, Uruguay. Many of the houses were built illegally and expanded illegally, adding a wall over a few months time, then 6 months later adding a roof, then adding another wall. Park Rangers actively tear down new improvements as they see them come up.

Now is the time to visit since the government is trying to demolish many of the houses and let big business come in and put up a resort.

A friend and co-worker sent me an article from a magazine that talked about Cabo Polonio being the best beach town in the World. Without that article, I’m not sure I would have visited Cabo or even know about it. Thanks, Doug!

I started asking friends in Montevideo how to get to Cabo Polonio and here are the two sets of directions that I received:

The first set of directions are:

  • Jump on a bus going out there
  • Get off at the stop near Cabo Polonio (Cabo for short)
  • Find a truck that will take you to Cabo
  • Pay them 100 pesos (about 5 US dollars) to take me to Cabo
  • Ask locals for the place I’m staying at and they will know since it’s small.

I had a friend who knows someone who owns a house in Cabo and helped me get in touch with her to stay at her place.

The second set of directions are:

  • Go to Punta del Diablo.
  • Walk four hours through the dunes to Cabo Polonio.
  • Ask for a hostel there.

Yeah, I wasn’t about to do that my first time there.

I decided to go with the first set of directions.

My worries about going to Cabo:

  • I was going by myself and didn’t speak much Spanish. I wasn’t confident I could communicate with people if I needed to.
  • I didn’t know where to get off the bus
  • I didn’t know how to find a truck to take me to cabo
  • Once in Cabo, I didn’t know how to get to the place I was staying
  • I had no clue how to deal with eating food or what to do

Other than those things, I was looking forward to having a great adventure.

Getting to Cabo Polonio

Cabo Polonio is past Punta del Este which is like the Hamptons of South America, past the small surfing villages of La Paloma and La Pedrera, and past the cement, cobblestone and dirt roads.  The journey starts by taking a bus from Montevideo or a car to where the dirt road ends. If you take a car, you have to leave it about 30 minutes away from Cabo Polonio.

Waiting out the rain under the bus stop looking at the trucks.

You have to jump in a giant truck for the 30 minute journey through a national park, over and around sand dunes, along large stretches of beach with waves crashing on the large tires of the truck.

Say goodbye to the city, electricity, running water, and hello to nature and a village off the grid with less than 100 inhabitants.

The trucks are almost monster trucks built to transport army personnel. I jumped on a truck with a large tarp over the back to keep dry from the rain. There were holes in the tarp and the back of it didn’t cover the whole seating area so me and the 5 other people that arrived when I did got wet. The ride took about 30 minutes.

Much nicer than the truck I rode in. It has a sponsor.

Tourists…

I made it to the place I was staying. All my clothes were soaked, especially my shoes and socks from stepping in big puddles of water and getting rained on.

It was one of the largest houses in the village. It was built and recycled glass bottles randomly placed throughout the wall as a way for light to shine through.

We had fun conversations mixing the little spanish I could talk and the little english they could talk. The lady I was staying with had a boyfriend who was the local surf instructor. He had surfed all over the world including California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia. We listened to Sublime and Jack Johnson while we played scrabble in spanish. I lost. I got lucky with a few words, but it was pretty difficult for me to play in a new language.

As I looked out the window the next morning, I noticed a completely different day. There was a bright blue sky, a couple white clouds creating a picture-perfect background for the light blue water crashing on the long stretch of beach.

Here’s the view from the side of the house. You can see the well for water.

View from the side of the house

Many of the little restaurants in the town were closed. The village seemed deserted at times.Because of the time of year, not many people were living there and there weren’t many visitors. I felt like I had the whole beach to myself.

I was able to get away from it all and enjoy nature. No cell phone, no computer, no electronics. There were 2 LEDs in the room I was staying in that were powered by solar power if I needed them at night.

The house had a large tank of water above it so we could shower. There was a propane tank with a burner to heat the water as it goes through a pipe to have warm water. To get warm water, we had to turn the water on, open the gas line, light it, then shower with a little warmer water than normal.

Besides the room I stayed in, most everything seemed to be lit by candle light at night. There were large plastic water jugs recycled with sand in them where you would place a candle and light it.

I met an awesome couple from the Netherlands and enjoying talking with them one night at the hostel they stayed at.

Candle light reading

Great conversation, drinks, and candle light

The nights in Cabo Polonio were amazing. After talking with a couple people who had hiked Patagonia and have been traveling for 1-year in South America. They said the night in Cabo Polonio was the best night they had seen anywhere.
I’ve never seen so many stars in the sky along with a gray-ish band of stars that was the Milky Way. It was incredible.

It put me at home when I used to go up to our cabin in the Mountains away from everything. If I were to have one place in the world that I absolutely loved, it would be at our land in the mountains under the stars next to a friends and family and a warm fire with S’mores in hand. Cabo Polonio reminded me of that place and gave me chill bumps when looking up and admiring the sky.

One night, I laid down for around an hour outside looking up at the stars letting thoughts pass through my mind and feeling completely relaxed.

I’ve tried describing the stars in the sky and how it looked in Cabo Polonio to people, but then everyone says, “Ohh, come out to the mountains,” or “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of stars in the sky outside of the city.”

I’ve seen those skies though. They aren’t the same. The closest picture I could find online was from a picture on earthsky.org here

Image that best resembled what I saw at night. This image is not from Cabo. http://en.es-static.us/upl/2012/01/milky_way.jpeg

There were no clouds in the sky and there was a light from a lighthouse passing by every 12 seconds in the distance. When walking around at night, I would walk a few steps, then wait for the lighthouse to shine around so I could see where to walk, then walk further and wait. It definitely kept me from falling down a 10ft sand dune into a large puddle.

At night, sea lions often join together in groups on the rocks around the lighthouse and you can hear them in the distance. I’d like to think they are telling knock-knock jokes all night to each other.

Where the sea lions hang out at night and tell knock-knock jokes

The weekend-long trip was just long enough to enjoy getting away from it all. Here are some more pictures from the village.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

A lively house

Beautiful night. Cool Graffiti

Local lawnmower

It’s easier than I thought to find a hostel

An old fishing boat enjoying the sun

Path to get to Cabo Polonio

A small windmill providing power for a house next to the power for the lighthouse

Flat dirt road just before I arrive to the bus stop to leave Cabo Polonio

Fun Fact about Cabo Polonio:

In 2011, there were 95 inhabitants but over 1,000 visitors in the summer months alone. There were so many people illegally camping in the National Forest area around Cabo Polonio this past summer, government officials would go around and kick people out an take tents. This led local hostel owners and house owners in Cabo to be able to charge up to $500 US Dollars per night to rent out a room/house (most houses are 1-2 rooms and a kitchen) because of the demand.

An Asado and Fireworks on a Birthday Cake

The easiest way to sum up the night of the Asado: rain, alcohol, darts, slippery floor, firework candle, grilled meat, fun time!

When we meet people and they find out we are vacationing in Uruguay, there is always a list of items they ask if we have done yet. Depending on the person, it might be culture related, nature related, clubbing related, or something based on there interested. In general though, there are 2-3 things that always come up no matter what the person likes to do.

The three main things that people ask us if we’ve done yet are:

  1. Tried maté
  2. Eaten a chivito
  3. Had an asado
We have tried matĂ©. We even bought everything to enjoy matĂ©. We also bought ceramic matĂ©’s to drink tea out of.

We LOVE Chivitos!

When we ask people about asados, they say it’s a very fun thing to do and it’s important we go to one. That sounds great to me!

Then, I ask what it is. I always get a similar response about cooking meat on a grill, having a get-together, and drinking beer.

My response is: “So, it sounds like grilling out at a barbecue? I like those. Count me in.” …But, it’s not like what I’m used to. When I describe an afternoon barbecue, they all say it’s way more important and extensive. It’s a special way of cooking, a celebration of something, and a get-together.

So an asado isn’t like grilling steaks on a grill at the house… After attending an Asado, here are the main differences I noticed:

  1. The meat is cooked over the coals of wood and not directly over the fire. Nicer Parrillas (grills) have a separate section to burn the wood
  2. You can raise and lower the meat as needed (raise to add and move coals around and lower to cook directly above the coals)
  3. It’s meant for get-togethers of people and not just grilling out with a friend.
  4. There is a large variety of meat. Different cuts of meat from sausage, steak, ribs, and other cuts that I didn’t know what they were, but tasted great.

I was invited to an Asado when I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the Ultimate Frisbee team that I was going to play with on Sunday.

The asado was a blast and more like a party. We had beer, wine, snacks, music playing, people sitting around talking, and darts. We played five person darts where everyone throws with their off-hand to get their number, then needs to hit their number three times to get three points before they can be a killer. If you’re a killer, every number you hit takes a point off of their score. If you hit your own number, you remove a point from your score. When you reach a negative number, you’re out of the game. When you are under 3 points, every number you hit adds a point to the score. The goal is to eliminate the other players.

Buenos Aires Asado with Darts

It was fun since it was raining so when it wasn’t my turn, I would be hiding under cover, but when it was my turn, I’d run outside, throw the darts and try not to slip and fall with the darts in my hand, and then throw the darts. A couple of times, people almost fell, which added a couple seconds of excitement to the situation.

The Asado grill (Parrilla) and meat

There is a special part of the grill that is only used to burn the wood. The coals fall down and you carefully spread them under the meat.

Here’s a picture of Maxi working with the wood on the left, while the meat cooks over the coals on the right.

Maxi creating some coals to cook on

The cooking lasted for about 2-3 hours while wood was continuously burning to create coals and meat was slowly cooking. Maxi would lower the meat as much as possible on the coals, then raise it when more coal was ready to put under the meat.

Maxi and the Asado Parilla

Iron Chef Maxi says, "Let's eat!"

Once there were enough coals and the first batch of meat was ready, everyone stopped playing darts and sat down around tables while Maxi brought food out in batches, letting some of the meat cook a little longer.

Maxi would grab a bite to eat, run out to move stuff around, and bring in the meat if it was ready.  Each piece of meat tasted really good. The ribs, chorizo sausage, steak, and some other cut of meat for asados were all good.

We all had a great time talking about different subjects, happenings, etc. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand when everyone is talking very quickly, but in general, I could pick up conversation and occasionally contribute.

I was able to chat a good amount about American Football and the Falcons so that was fun.

Fernando’s Birthday!

Fernando’s birthday was also on the same day as the asado. It was perfect timing!

After we were finishing eating and almost too stuffed to eat more, Fernando brought out two desserts for his birthday. One with dulce de leche layer in a thin cake and cheese cake with strawberries.

A large candle was used in the center of the cheese cake with strawberries. I thought it was an abnormally large candle.  It wasn’t just a candle, in fact, once lit, it shot a stream of sparks straight up about a foot higher than the cake. What a surprise! I didn’t expect it at all.

Fernando's Birthday in Buenos Aires

Pre birthday candle ignition

Sparkler on cake in Buenos Aires

Birthday Candle on Steroids

The funniest part of the night happened right after the firework display started. I’m sitting to the right of the camera in the picture with the sparks shooting up. Fernando is sitting in the gray shirt with green sleeves.

He goes to blow the large candle out, as anyone would do with their cake, and the sparks started to come my way. Instead of everyone around me jumping back, 3-4 people jumped in front of me, like they were the secret service diving to take a bullet for the President,  to shield me from the sparks. It was extremely funny and made for some hilarious conversation for the next 30 minutes.

I hope there is a picture or video of it!

The asado was a really fun event despite the rain. I really appreciate being invited and having a great time with the group from Disco Sur. I also really enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee with them on Sunday in their league games in Argentina.

To Disco Sur, thanks for letting me play with you guys Sunday. It was a lot of fun.

To Maxi, thanks for my first asado and everything else!

To Fernando, thanks for not killing me on your birthday with fireworks and thanks for the great hospitality!

TIMEBOMB! La Bomba De Tiempo

To me, traveling isn’t about seeing the super touristy stuff and leaving. It’s about experiencing the culture, meeting people, and having great adventures.

As part of my time in Buenos Aires, I was trying to find fun things to do that aren’t super touristy. I’m not a fan of going to look at a building, taking a picture, and then walking to the next one (it doesn’t mean I haven’t done that, but it doesn’t really excite me).

As I was looking for fun things to experience, a friend told me about this party/concert/rave every monday night with drums that was called “La Bomba de Tiempo” which means, Timebomb. Since I’m a drummer at heart and I love good rhythm and a funky beat, I thought it would be awesome and decided to do.

It was at this place called Konex. They play every Monday, but sometimes they play indoors and sometimes they play outdoors.

We went with a group from Couch Surfing that Matias, a local guys who plays Ultimate Frisbee puts together. We went to the meet up spot across the street and waited. Slowly, about 10 people showed up from Couch Surfing. They were from Brazil, USA, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, England and Argentina. When enough people showed up, we went inside. Tickets were $50 Argentina Pesos each (about US$12).

Once you were in, you can show them your ticket stub and get a pass for next week to be 50% off in case you want to go again.

The show started with some really cool solos and group drumming instructed by a few different people. About 30 minutes into the show, they invited two guitarists onto stage and played a lot of awesome rhythms behind the guitars and vocals. They started getting the crowd jumping around. Some songs, the crowd would chill out, stay planted and just sway side to side. Some songs would be so full of energy that the crowd would end up jumping up and down, clapping to the beat, and dancing around.

La Bomba de Tiempo Drummers

They look a little like Mario on stage in red and black outfits.

There were three distinct segments of the crowd:

  • The back. This is where the people were standing around drinking and socializing more than paying attention to the music
  • The front right (looking at the stage). This is where people were really only paying attention to the music, but a little too scared to let loose, jump around, and dance.
  • The front left (looking at the stage). This is where the party animals went. The people wanting to let loose, jump around, maybe form a mosh-pit, and go a little crazy. Just like any rock concert, this is where the crazies and the fun is at.

So where did we go?  We started at the front right and inched towards the front left. Near the very end, I made my way into the mosh-pit after being warned to guard my wallet and cell phone in my pockets…

 
 
Here comes the rant…

This seems like a normal thing in Buenos Aires. Nothing is safe. The general idea is that everyone, everywhere is trying to steal stuff from you. I’m all for being smart about where I am, how I dress, and what people see I have, but I couldn’t live in fear everyday. If you have a backpack on, you wear it in front of you. Not because it’s better for your back (is it?), but because people are going to open it and take your stuff in under 2 seconds.

You don’t speak english out loud at night when you’re not in large groups (it’s not so bad since there are a lot of tourists and expats in Buenos Aires). When you are out in public, you’re constantly observing everyone around you the whole time because you’re scared someone is watching you, waiting for you to let your guard down.

The whole time I was in Buenos Aires, people were trying to be nice and warn me, but it was always “watch your stuff”, “are you trying to stand out?”, “don’t walk near them”, etc…

Thanks for the advice, maybe I’ll just stay away from Buenos Aires and go somewhere else like Bali or the Philippines.

A lot of people say it’s not as bad everyone makes it out to seem, but I know two people that were robbed the week while I was in Buenos Aires. One on the subway and one in the busy streets at night.

I know there are problems everywhere, but even in Columbia, friends said the main cities there are safer than the main city of Buenos Aires.

…okok, I’m ending my rant about Buenos Aires. Back to the drums!

 
 

So, I worked my way towards the front left. Small steps turned into larger steps, larger steps turned into dancing with the people around me, and the dancing turned into jumping. Jumping/dancing, whatever you want to call it with cute girls from London and New Zealand.  The show was da bomb! Literally.

Here’s a video clip someone else took of them. I don’t feel like it does it justice because if they took this video on the night I went, most of the crowd in front of them would be going crazy.


 
 
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For more of Buenos Aires, check out Randi’s posts around the city: Walkabout Buenos Aires and Wandering Alone in a Huge City.
 

Stuck in Customs – In sight, but out of arms reach

I could see them!! 80 discs to help teach and spread Ultimate Frisbee throughout Latin America were shipped down from the United States in boxes on the other side of the counter. Customs agents weren’t letting me have them though…

The Atlanta Flying Disc Club donated 80 discs so that we can help spread Ultimate Frisbee in Uruguay and throughout South America. It took about three weeks for the discs to arrive. Once they arrived, we received a couple letters from customs at our door saying we needed to pick them up.

We had no clue where customs was. There was an address at the top of the letter, but nothing indicating where we needed to go or what we needed to do.

We asked various people from ultimate frisbee in Uruguay, Asa’s work, and neighbors but we received conflicting addresses. Great…

After making a decision to go to the address on the letter, I headed off on a journey like Indiana Jones, but without the whip (it might be slightly intimidating to the customs agents) and hopefully without the danger… So I guess it’s nothing like Indiana Jones.

The shipment was in Asa and Randi’s name so they signed over the paperwork because they had some things to do. I called Carlos, a friend that is fluent in Spanish and plays ultimate frisbee down here, to see if he could help. He was able to meet at 3:30pm to help out so we could go in and pick up the three packages.

I arrive at the post office and Carlos notified me that he was coming with two other friends. They were a little late due to waiting for a while for a bus. Since customs closes at 4pm so I went ahead and went in customs to figure it out before they closed. I was hoping that Carlos and friends would make it in time to help me out in case there were any issues.

As I went inside, I started mentally preparing for the random questions about pricing, why my friends aren’t here to pick them up with me, and anything else they might ask. There was an open waiting room with a few people standing at the counter getting packages and about twice as many workers behind the counters standing around.

I waited my turn to hand a worker the papers and waited as he went into the back to retrieve the boxes. This was a huge moment! We were waiting for the discs to come in and they were finally here. Once he came back with the boxes, I figured everything was a go and the discs would be given to us.

The worker only spoke Spanish. This was going to be difficult.

Right as the customs agent asked for the receipt, he saw the invoice attached to the box. He opened the little plastic package for the receipt to look at it. Right when he looked at the final price, he gave me a confused look and said he couldn’t give me the boxes.

I asked him why not and what the problem was, but he kept pointing to the price on the invoice. I was confused. I figured I’d have to pay some money (an import tax) and then I could have the discs. That wasn’t the case.

The company that the discs were from put on the invoice that it was for donation for a non-profit and not for resale, but that didn’t seem to matter to the customs agent.

After we talked for a few minutes and eventually got to a point where we couldn’t understand each other, he asked if I would rather talk in English. Ohh perfect! I said yes and he walked away. Great…

A minute later, someone came walking from the back and said that I needed a customs broker. He didn’t speak much English, but I did understand that I needed someone to fill out paperwork for me and pick up the packages on my behalf. This was because Uruguay has a law that any package over $100 US Dollars needs to have official paperwork completed by an independent broker and properly paid for.

They said there was nothing I could do without a customs broker. I was so confused. I don’t know where to find a customs broker, what they charge, how to talk to one, or anything about what to do next. Luckily, after being outside for a couple more minutes, Carlos, Chandro, and Maru came walking up. I told them what happened and what the customs people said and immediately, Chandro and Carlos were on the phone calling people. They both are great people and have great connections, but Chandro had a family friend who was a customs broker and agreed to meet us.

We walked about 10 blocks through the city towards the port and arrived at his office. He met with us and was extremely friendly and gracious offering his services for free and helping. Without the normal upcharge percentage added on for needing to use a customs broker, he showed us that the taxes were going to cost about $450, which was roughly 60% of the final price of the discs with shipping. I don’t even want to know how much it would have cost with his fees.

He said he would take care of it and for us to wait until next week. He was going to try and go through the donations and charity route, but worse case scenario, was going to get the discs for us and we would pay him whatever it costs.

I hate waiting… BUT… after a week and a half, Chandro sent me a message on facebook and let me know the discs had arrived and we could pick them up. This time, Randi joined us for the fun. We figured it would be easier since it was originally addressed to her. There was a slight worry they would be confused since the address said Randi and not Miranda.

We met up with Carlos and Chandro and walked to the office of the customs broker. He gave us the good news that we didn’t have to pay for anything.

No taxes. No fees. Nothing.

It was extremely exciting to hear, but there was still doubt since we didn’t have the discs in our hands.

One of the employees of the custom broker’s office came with us. We were instructed not to talk or do anything and to let him talk. He didn’t say much at customs and handed over the papers that I originally gave them. They came back with three boxes and asked for Randi’s signature and passport.

She signed the paperwork and the customs agent rolled the boxes around the counter for us. No fees or anything. When we left, the customs broker said bye, we thanked him a lot, and he went on his way.

It was like Christmas!!

I felt as if I was 8 years old, running downstairs right after I opened my eyes on Christmas day to see the presents under the Christmas tree. It was so exciting. We couldn’t wait to get the boxes home and check out the designs.

The discs arrived safely

Discs made it home safely

We took the boxes back by bus, got home, and opened them up. There were a lot of great designs, one from Kaimana Klassic, Emory University, Spin, VC, some that were glow-in-the-dark, different colors, and the majority were standard white discs with misprints.

Various Ultimate Discs

Sorting through ultimate discs

Exciting!

Asa, Randi, and I talked a little about how we were going to give them out and how to maximize them to help spread Ultimate in South America (mainly Uruguay and Argentina).

So far, we have given out about 35 discs to the locals in Uruguay and some in a small town in Argentina called Bahia Banca. On a daily basis, they are telling people about ultimate, teaching at schools, physical education programs, youth centers, and bringing many youngsters out to learn the game and enjoy it. The most important part of ultimate to them is Spirit of the Game.

Discs for teaching and spreading ultimate

VeC with their discs. They were extremely impressive with their efforts of teaching and helping the sport grow in Argentina.

While we’re down here, we’re trying to teach everything we know about Ultimate Frisbee. One of the biggest problems is that no company sells real discs (Discraft discs) and each one costs about $30 US Dollars to buy because of shipping and import taxes (Great business opportunity if someone wants to take the time to figure out how to get discs here cheap).

Without the discs that the AFDC so generously donated, kids down here wouldn’t be able to learn how to play with discs that fly. Some of the discs were duct-taped together. I don’t think you need me to tell you that they didn’t fly that well.

Different departments of the government were trying to help buy creating a custom mold to create discs for kids to play with. The discs they created were really just circles of plastic with a huge hole in the middle. They donate fields to play on and help out with tournaments. Ultimate is slowly becoming more well known with the physical education teachers and government officials. It’s really awesome to have teachers come up to us and say how impressed they are with the sport, attitudes, and willingness to help others learn.

Just recently, we were filmed at a practice for one of the largest news programs in Uruguay. We recorded it and are being sent a DVD from the program. If they give us permission, we’ll upload clips for all to see.

Immediately after the program, people started sending facebook messages to players of the team saying they saw it on TV and it looked great.

The sport is growing!

Beware USA and Japan, Uruguay might become the next great team to contend with at Worlds!

When in Uruguay, Drink MatĂ©

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When in Uruguay, do as the Uruguayans do… drink matĂ©.

MatĂ© is everywhere. It is similar to green tea. The taste is different, and takes a little getting used to, but it’s the same concept. Hot water with some amount of leaves or ground up foliage and a way to drink it without eating the foliage.

I’m a huge fan of green tea and matĂ© is a readily available drink close to green tea in Uruguay.

I didn’t want to drink matĂ© out of a regular glass or cup. I wanted to drink it like Uruguayans do. To do that, it requires the correct items and not one of the collectors glasses that we have from a whisky box set.

The different parts of a complete maté setup are:

Yerba maté, the tea

Maté gourd with yerba maté in it

Maté gourd (called maté)

Maté gourd and bombilla

Bombilla, the metal straw that looks like a spoon on one end with holes in it to act as a filter of the maté.

My shiny new bombilla

Thermos, to carry the hot water around since immediate access to hot water is very important.

Maté thermos

A maté gourd and thermos for all day yerba maté satisfaction

Matera, a leather satchel to carry everything around in.

Matera is used to carry a thermos, maté gourd, and yerba mate

Some people carry a matera around with them, but most people tuck their thermos under an arm and carry their gourd in the same hand of the arm with a thermos, leaving one hand free to do tasks.

Whenever we are outside, at least 1/4th of the people we see have a thermos tucked under one arm, while using the hand of that same arm to hold their maté gourd, full of yerba maté, hot water, and a bombilla.

 

And now, some maté information!

Appropriate times to drink matĂ©: all day. Seriously, there is never a bad time to drink matĂ©. You’re not cool if you’re not carrying around a thermos and matĂ©.

Appropriate places to drink maté at: Everywhere!

I saw a guy struggling with 5 full grocery bags on one arm leaving a store, thermos and matĂ© occupying the other while trying to take a sip without spilling or dropping anything.There is no way this guy would ever commit a party foul and spill a beer in hand, even if he fell down a flight of stairs. Hopefully he doesn’t fall down a flight of stairs though.

The most common places I see people with maté are:

  • The beach, even if it’s 100 degrees out, people are enjoying their super hot matĂ©.
  • The bus, if you sit next to someone with matĂ© on the bus and strike up a conversation, you might just get some matĂ©.
  • La Rambla, the numbers increase of people drinkin matĂ© at the La Rambla (street and large sidewalk next to the ocean/river). Seriously, it often gets close to 1 out of every 2 people have matĂ© in hand around 7-8pm. The ones without matĂ© are running or young children.
  • Walking on the streets, it seems important to never lose an opportunity to drink matĂ©.

In case you are out and run out of hot water, you can refill your thermos with the correct temperature water at many gas stations, restaurants, bars, and more.

We have a maté dispenser on the kitchen wall in our house.

Push the gourd into the pole at the bottom and maté falls into the cup.

With all this matĂ© going around, I’ve wanted to buy a matĂ© gourd, bombilla, and thermos since I’ve been down here.

When in Uruguay, do as the Uruguayans do and drink maté!

This past Sunday, we went to the local market at Parque Rodo and I saw some matĂ© gourds that I liked. After walking around to see what the market was about, I stopped and started talking to a very nice lady that was selling matĂ© gourds and bombillas. She didn’t speak english except for a few words such as horse, english, and United States, and I felt pretty comfortable understanding and talking with her about the matĂ© gourds.

Matt buying Maté

Buying a maté gourd and bombilla at the Parque Rodó market

About 10 minutes later, I walked away with my very own maté gourd and bombilla at a good price.

There were different sizes, different designs, and even gourds that were ceramic on the inside, but I chose to buy the traditional matĂ© gourd with a logo of Uruguay on it. I’m sure only tourists have Uruguay on their matĂ© gourd, but I liked it and figured people can pick out that I’m a tourist pretty quickly.

Preparing the Gourd

I was told that I needed to put cold water and maté in the gourd for 2 days to let it soak in and then lightly scrape the inside to remove the loose part of the gourd. This is supposed to take the bitterness out of the gourd. Everywhere online said to use hot water so I followed her directions and then the hot water directions.

So, here is my matĂ© gourd and bombilla. I’ll buy a thermos and take my matĂ© on adventures when I am more conversational in spanish. For now, I’m content with just drinking matĂ© in our house.

Matt's maté gourd and bombilla

 

Featured image credits here.

Getting Lost in Uruguay Twice to Play Ultimate Frisbee

When you’re trying to go somewhere, getting lost sucks. It’s no fun. Especially when it’s twice in one night

I decided to play Ultimate Frisbee with the local team here. They are a great group of guys/girls and I was trying to get in some more practice before the hat tournament in Monte Hermoso, Argentina. Asa and Randi had other things they wanted to catch up on so they didn’t go.

We bought cell phones and sim cards at a local store so left to buy those around 4pm and I planned on making the short walk from the cell phone store to the bus stop and ride from there.

Because we were leaving from a new location, I didn’t plan on getting on the same bus we rode to the last time we went to practice. I scribbled some notes on paper and knew I had to take bus 582 to Peñarol (about an hour away). I wrote down a few different streets that I needed to get off at and figured when I saw the streets that I wrote down, I would get off the bus.

That plan sounds like it should work. Ride the bus. Get off when I see the streets that I wrote down. It also should take about 50 minutes so I can time the ride and at least get off in the area of the practice field.

Simple enough, right?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Off I go. Asa and Randi made sure to wish me luck as I rode the bus to practice on my own for the first time.

THE BUS RIDE TO ULTIMATE FRISBEE

The bus ride was pretty uneventful. I was observing what we passed by and what was going on around me. At about 30 minutes on the ride, I started looking around at the different streets as we left the main city, Montevideo. The bus was still frequently stopping every few streets and turning here and there.

At around 40 minutes, I started seeing less streets and figured I was getting near. The bus was still occasionally stopping, but I noticed a trend of where it was stopping. A trend I didn’t want to see.

As I was looking at the corners of the streets. Slowly, it became more and more of a reality. There weren’t any street signs anymore.

It’s alright though, I remembered the corner we got off at last time (this bus stops there), what the roads look like, and that the youth center where the field is at would pass me on the left.

The 45 minute mark was approaching and I thought I started recognizing the area so I was prepared to get off when I saw the major road next to the bus stop that I wanted to get off at.

After about 5 minutes of not seeing where I needed to be, I noticed it was actually 10 minutes and I had been on the bus for 55 minutes. Hmm… Weird. I didn’t see the stop.

Although I hate asking for directions (not sure why, I guess it’s a man thing), I decieded to ask someone where the center is and where I need to get off. I figured giving up shame and asking for directions in a foreign country, where I had no clue where I was could be important to me returning home.

Just as I started to figure out how to ask about the place I was going, the bus driver gets to a stop. It wasn’t a normal stop though, he did something different this time.

Instead of just stopping with the foot brake, he reached down and slowly flipped a big black lever which was probably a gear box or air brakes or something. At about the same time, he said, “El fin” which means The End.

The End?!

Ohh crap!

What do I do now?!

Well, I couldn’t remember exactly how to pronounce the place, but I asked the bus driver in spanish, “donde está el Juvenil Salesiano?”

The bus driver didn’t understand me.

He asked where I was trying to go in spanish so I repeated myself.

Then he rambled off a few sentences with another question I didn’t understand. I told him that I didn’t understand spanish well and didn’t understand what he said.

Then he said it more simply, “A donde vas?” Which means, Where are you going?

Then I gave him the street I wanted to go, Avenida Sayago, and added to the Juvenil Salesiano.

His demeanor changed as he spoke more slowly with more confidence that he knew where I wanted to go. I could understand a lot of what he said this time.

He told me to walk in a direction he pointed with his hand, straight for many blocks, then take a right at the big street, which would intersect with Sayago, a block from the field.

Perfect! I said thanks and went on my way.

There weren’t any sidewalks in this part of town. There were dirt paths next to the road which were formed from enough people trudged next to the road.

While observing everything around me, I finally found out where the horses go! Something I had been questioning since I arrived here.

There were a few horses tied up in a yard at a few houses with carts near them. Throughout the day, there are a couple groups of people who ride a horse and carriage around going from dumpster to dumpster picking out what people threw away and keeping what they want and can sell. There will be a post later on this when we can get a good picture. I just always wondered where the horses stayed at.

For now, he’s a picture of a horse with trash carriage at the youth center where we play Ultimate.

Working Horse that picks up trash

…okay, back to me being lost.

About 10 minutes into walking, I was getting worried again and I saw a small shop on the corner of a street with someone working inside of it. In spanish, I asked the elder gentleman where the youth center was and that I was looking for Avenida Sayago.

He didn’t understand it at first, so I said it again, focusing on the youth center – Juvenil Salesiano. I think I actually said, “Salesano Juvenil”

I didn’t remember the exact pronunciation or spelling so I did my best. The elder man corrected me with, “Centro Juvenil Salesiano?” I told him that’s it!

He proceeded to tell me that I am about 8-10 blocks away and that the blocks were very long blocks. He told me to go straight for many blocks and I’ll run into Sayago. But, right before I left after thanking him, he corrected himself and started to say go straight, but follow the road the to right when it turns.

So I did that. I started walking again. After 10 blocks, I realized I wasn’t at the street and hadn’t passed it yet, but I saw a stop light two blocks ahead of me. Once I reached the stop light, I realized it was the big street that most of the buses take and the street I was looking for, Avenida Sayago, crossed it. I suddently felt a slight chill of relief as I vaguely knew where I was and figured worse case scenario, I get a taxi back home. On the previous streets, I didn’t see any taxis.

This led to my next decision, Left or Right? Which way do I walk?

I had no clue if I was North of South of the place. I looked around, didn’t notice anything. I looked up to find the North Star and was blinded by the Sun for a few seconds… So much for that idea…

After I regained my vision, I decided right was the smart choice. I didn’t think the bus went north of where I wanted to go, so I started heading to the right. After walking for about 10 minutes with many buses passing me, people driving around, and others walking, I saw a small shop on a corner. I headed straight there to ask a lady where el Centro Juvenil Salesiano was in spanish.

She knew exactly what I was talking about! Looks like I improved since asking the last person for directions!

She started counting and mentioned many blocks. She pointed up the street in the direction I was going and said, “Dericho, dericho dericho! Muchas Cuadras.” Which means straight, straight, straight, many blocks. I asked her for an approximate guess and she guessed,twenty or thirty.

Wow! I went from 8-10 blocks at the second guy to 30 blocks. I’m guessing the bus driver had no clue and thought I meant somewhere else.

So, I thanked her and went on my way.

She was right. It was about 25 blocks and I arrived at where I thought.

No worries, it’s just the gringo arriving a little late.

Everyone was still throwing and about to start playing. I made it in time.

I didn’t know how to say that I got lost in spanish so I walked straight to the guys who understand some english and laughed while I told them I got lost and just walked for about 30 minutes after missing my bus stop.

They laughed, told the others, and it was funny.

Then we played Ultimate until it was too dark to keep playing.

The Long Journey Home

We started to set out on our ways. I didn’t want to try a new bus on the way back home so I waited for bus 145, which we took before. I knew I would recognize street signs and be able to get around just fine once I was in the city near our house.

Bus 145 shows, up, I take the bus with 4 other guys from playing and we walk to the back. It was fun talking with them. A couple understand a little english and could help me with understanding and talking. We talked about Ultimate Frisbee, who the best player is, favorite teams, etc.

As they get off at their stop, they ask if I know how to get home. I said yes since I did and they left.

Unfortunately, I thought I knew where I was going.

There’s a slight, but key difference there. Knowing where I was going and thinking that I knew where I was going are two different things. I expected the bus to keep going down a route, but at one stop, the bus driver flipped that large black level and said, “El Fin.”

Lost Again

Ohh Crap! Not again…

This time I was at least in some part of the city. There were buildings around, a ton of people, and a McDonalds. I couldn’t see anything that let me know where I was at so I started walking. I headed straight down a road that led to more people.

I debated getting on a taxi, which would have been simple and fast, but I would have had to pay for it and the night was beautiful. I decided to figure it out on my own and get more exercise in addition to playing Ultimate for three hours.

After about 15 minutes of walking, I found a sign that said La Rambla and pointed to the left with an arrow. Right when I saw that sign, I had a big feeling of relief as I could make it home. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but I was going to make it.

La Rambla is a road that follows the coast line. Much like Pacific Coast Highway in California. I knew if I could make it there, I would eventually get back home. I’ll put the water on my left and start walking.

After about 5 minutes of walking, I saw something that I realized, Buceo. I knew it was pretty far away, but the temperature was perfect for shorts and a t-shirt, the sky was shining full of stars, and I finally felt relaxed knowing that I knew my way home.

There was a small gas station on my left and I decided to buy a coke to drink on the way home.

I noticed a couple in the mid-forties trying to take a picture of themselves so I offered them a hand, took a quick picture for them and went on my way. They both had big smiles on their faces and were enjoying the night.

I also passed a small outdoor skating rink that is near our house. A lot of people seem to hang out there with their children until very late at night.

Outdoor skating rink in Uruguay

Whether it’s talking to random strangers, talking to the cashier at the local grocery store, or navigating my way to and from places when I get lost in a language that I can barely speak, the more time that I spend in Montevideo pushing my fears, I seem to feel more comfortable in doing it again. I don’t plan on getting lost again though, but I feel more comfortable if I did.

Here is my route:

Bus ride out there: 1 hour

Walking to practice: 30 minutes

Bus ride home: 50 minutes

Walking home: 1.5 hours

Total travel time to play ultimate frisbee: about 3 hours, 50 minutes.

Getting Lost in Uruguay

Lessons Learned

1. Make sure you remember exactly where to get off of the bus.

2. Make sure you can pronounce where you are going correctly.

3. Make sure the bus number AND name are correct. Bus 145 can end up in different places depending on it’s name.

4. Always be prepared to laugh at the situation. If I had my Life’s a Flip Flop shirt on, a picture would have been perfect!

Life Lesson Learned

At the beginning of the story, I said that getting lost sucks. I realized something else while walking for over an hour straight trying to find my way home.

Getting lost doesn’t always suck. It might not be fun, but it most always will lead to a time of growth. The real fun is realizing where you’re at and where the destination is, then taking the steps necesarry to get to the destination.