Entertainment on the Bus

You may think that riding public transportation is boring. Well, not in Montevideo or Buenos Aires.

Here in Montevideo, people are allowed on the bus, free of charge, if they are trying to raise money for a cause, trying to sell something, or offer some kind of entertainment.

The most common causes for trying to raise money seem to be religious, but every so often a group holds a fundraising event throughout the entire city. For example, a couple weekends ago, a group very similar to Habitat for Humanity did a fundraising event. They had hundreds of people out in the city, on street corners, on the buses, and in the squares asking for donations.

People also try to sell just about everything on buses. We have seen people selling socks, pens and pencils, and stickers. I have even seen someone get on a bus selling candy. He had a piece of cardboard about 3x3ft that had every kind of candy imaginable attached to it. It took him almost 5 min to list out all the different types he had. A common technique of people selling things on buses is to walk down the aisle placing their wares in the laps of the passengers, then pick them up on the way back to the front of the bus hoping that someone wants to buy something. Sometimes this can be a little disconcerting, but from our experience, completely harmless.

The best entertainment on the bus is when someone gets on that actually wants to entertain the crowd. This will include musicians, magicians, and comedians. The people of Montevideo seem to reward the hard work of these entertainers and rarely do they leave the buses empty-handed. Some of these entertainers are very talented and they make the bus ride much better than if they were not present. The best show that we have seen occurred on the Buenos Aires subway. A magician got in and proceeded to do a variety of magic tricks with scarves, cards, and making things disappear and reappear. It was a very well done magic show and lasted for almost 15 minutes. He definitely deserved the bundle of change that he was rewarded with.

Every couple of weeks we encounter people playing the guitar and singing on the bus. Some are better than others, but none of them (so far) have really sucked. Matt was rewarded with probably the best singer/guitar player that we’ve heard on the bus on the last day he was here.

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Journey Along the Ramblas

On Friday’s long run I decided to take photos to document my adventure and show you guys where I run every day. It was a bit chilly with a temp of about 48 to start with and the wind was blowing about 15-20 mph.

The “Before” Picture

I decided to head towards the airport and away from the city on my long run. At the point is the end of Pocitos and there is a little park there.

Park at the point.

On the other side of the point is a bus depot. This is where buses go to rest and get cleaned. (mile 1)

I’m not quite sure what this is, but my guess is some kind of waterway 🙂

This is the Buceo yacht club and marina.

There is a nice grassy area to run on instead of the pavement. In the distance you can almost see one of the only “hills” on the route.

Yet another deserted little beach (gotta remember that it’s probably about 50 degrees and a little cold for beach going).

View of the Buceo marina from the top of the “hill”.

Looking the other way down the “hill”. I can’t decide whether these paths are made solely by people or also by mowers.

This is an oceanographic museum that I haven’t been to yet. (mile 2)

Around the corner from the museum is yet another beach (Buceo Beach) and more paths to run on.

Looking back at the museum.

Top of the second “hill” on the route and there’s a little playground.

This is the “Nautical Club”, another small yacht club.

This is the view coming up on Malvin beach. Tons of high-rises lining the road. (mile 3)

Malvin beach. We played ultimate out at that point once. Yep, still windy!

This is the view from Malvin Beach looking back at Pocitos. Just to the left of the museum is a wide building. To the left of that is Pocitos, or I should say, home.

The point at Malvin beach. There is some exercise equipment here that anyone strolling along the Ramblas can use.

Yet another beach awaited me as I rounded the corner. Honda Beach.

Turnaround point at Honda Beach. (mile 4)

This is zoomed in a little so that you can see the buildings in the background. That’s home. So far from home. I passed all the same landmarks on the way home. The only difference, I had the wind in my face. Yuck!

Yep, I made it back home and really the only evidence I have are the sweat stains on my very pink hat!

Here’s the google maps version of my run if you’re interested!

Buenos Aires Public Transportation

This past weekend we found ourselves in Buenos Aires again. There was a small ultimate tournament there that Matt and Asa both played in. Asa and I booked a hotel in the downtown area of Buenos Aires because we didn’t know the field location until two days before the tournament. Luckily for us, the public transportation in Buenos Aires is very extensive and includes buses, subways, and trains.

Buenos Aires is full of buses and anyone can take them for a small fee of about $0.25 US, and they go everywhere in the city. The following are a couple of problems with taking the bus.

1. Figuring out which bus to take. There are more than 100 different bus routes throughout the city. Luckily there is a nice website that can be used to find the correct route, that is, once you figure out how to use the website!

2. Finding change. There is a coin shortage in Argentina and the buses only take change. Stores will ask repeatedly if you have correct change and will sneer at you when you don’t. There are several card payment systems that have been installed in all realms of public transport in the last 5 years. On our last visit we obtained a SUBE card which helped us on our way.

3. If you’re in a hurry, forget it. Take a taxi! Traffic can be really bad in the city and the buses take forever.

The subway in Buenos Aires is fairly easy to take, but it is sometimes very crowded, only goes to certain locations, and can be a mecca for thieves who work together to target tourists. When my parents visited us in Buenos Aires their camera got stolen on the subway, despite being very vigilant.

Knowing these things, we decided that we would investigate train options this time around. We took the train the last time we were in the city and thought it was nice. Upon investigation, we discovered that there are not one, but three different train lines servicing parts of the city. Only one of these lines is included in the website (above) that shows the bus routes. We found the line that stopped near our destination and could get there and back for about $0.30 US each. Trains left every 15 minutes all day long and we could arrive at our destination in 11 minutes. The equivalent bus ride would have taken upwards of 45 minutes.

The train station at our destination

The three train stations are next to each other. Lining the streets outside the stations are vendors selling everything from donuts to alarm clocks to shoes. Beyond the vendors, in the street, is one of the most extensive bus stops I have ever seen. There were more than 5 lanes that buses could enter, which each had approximately 20 stops arranged adjacent to each other. It took up almost two whole blocks.

Only a small portion of the bus stop. Each covered area is the stop for a different bus line.

Here’s to public transportation making our lives easier and relatively hassle free!

 

A collection of travel experiences

After the tournament, Randi and I took a trip with her parents to Iguazu Falls. We took a taxi straight from the fields to the airport.  After Randi prompted the driver, I had a great conversation with him for the 30 minute ride to the airport. We talked about everything from Ultimate, to the global recession’s affect on the US, to the area we were driving through and the history of it. It turned out he was a long distance cyclist; he competed in a number of century races. As we approached the airport, he also told us that the entire area the airport is on was filled in from the river. It was a really interesting cab ride and a great start to the trip!

After getting to the airport, we checked in quickly and got through security line very quickly. Security here was about like pre-9/11 levels in the US. It was nice to be in a place where people aren’t subject to so much Security Theatre. When we boarded the plane there were no boarding zones everyone just makes lines up and files in. Since there’s no charge for checking a bag you don’t find people battling for overhead compartments with their overstuffed bags. Although we boarded about 10 minutes before departure, everyone was comfortably seated and we pulled back from the gate right on time. Randi and I slept through the whole trip but apparently for the quick 1:45 minute flight they handed out little meal boxes with a sandwich and some snacks. The flight on the way back from Iguazu, connected in Buenos Aires on the way to Montevideo. Most of the travel was a very similar experience with the quick, efficient security lines and boarding.

We had one little hiccup on the way home. We got in the wrong security line in Buenos Aires. A little explanation is due. There are two airports in Buenos Aires and we flew through the small one, serving mostly regional flights. There are 14 gates with one line for 1-12 and another for 13-14. There’s no signage that we saw saying what the difference is and flights don’t get gate assignments until they are close to boarding. So, when we saw a long line for 1-12 we just followed the crowd. That’s also the line we went through on the way to Iguazu so it was familiar if quite a bit longer. Even with over 150 people ahead of us in line (Dick counted), it only took about 15 minutes to make it to the front. Once there, the ticket checker let us know that since we were taking an international flight we would be leaving out of 13-14. Oops. There was absolutely no line through customs on the other side of the airport and Buquebus had already filled out our exit paperwork so Randi and I quickly made it through the checkpoint. Followed closely by her parents, we navigated the duty free shop and waited for the last leg of our journey. Again the plane boarded in about 10 minutes with very empty overhead bins. When we touched down in Montevideo, I had an unexpected sensation of arriving home. I guess I’m beginning to settle in here.

A trip across the river

Yesterday, Randi and I traveled to Buenos Aires ahead for an ultimate tournament here this coming weekend. We came early to spend some time in the city and see a bit without the time commitments of an ultimate schedule and the constraints of having meals that make 20 people happy.

We started the day yesterday with a leisurely departure time from the port at noon (right next to our vaccination destination). By the way, this is the way to travel. We spend a lot of time focusing on getting to a place so we can have time to do stuff once we’re there. Deciding to take a later boat so we could enjoy the travel and have a relaxing morning was nice. I digress. As with any international mass transit, the beginning of our Buquebus voyage was a game of shuffling from one line to another. The time spent at the desk at the end of each line was brief but there are a lot of people to serve. We waited for a while to check-in and get our ticket, then to get our passports stamped and finally a hot couple minutes waiting for boarding. I suppose they decided not to air condition the gate so that people would spend more time in the duty free shops below.

Buquebus Ferry

We were sitting in the middle of the bottom level of windows.

We traveled tourist class and once we got on the boat we realized the seating arrangement was some cross between an airline and an auditorium where everyone is arranged to watch various hungry patrons sate themselves on vastly overpriced consumables. I had envisioned some sort of boat with room for standing outdoors and wooden benches indoors so the reality was simultaneously an improvement and disappointment on my dreams. The seating was quite comfortable but there was no way to feel the breeze in my hair.

Buquebus Interior

A constant reminder of the delicious things we could be eating if only we would kindly come to the front.

Along the way we had plenty of time to talk and listen and felt an odd sense of relief hearing English from the family in front of us. We later heard them speak Spanish and felt a flash of pride at our relative mastery of the language. We eventually broke down and got some sandwiches and a brownie for more than we typically spend on food in a day.

When we got in there was a similar set of lines as everyone left the boat, collected their checked luggage went through more security and then waited for taxis, private drivers, buses, friends and family. We had selected a hotel on a whim which turned out, very conveniently, to be an easy walk from the ferry terminal. Between that and not checking any luggage we walked past all the long lines which is always very satisfying.

Our check-in at the Dazzler Tower Maipu was entirely in Spanish though we discovered later that the front desk employees speak fluent English. I guess our Spanish is getting good enough that for simple transactions people have decided that it’s generally easier to speak to us in Spanish that English. The more times we give it a shot the easier it is for us, too. Who’d have thought…

We got in early enough to explore the city in the evening after we settled in but that’s a story for another time.

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.

Getting Around Town: The Bus Edition

Not a lot of people in Montevideo own cars. The majority of people either walk or take the bus to get around town. This results in a couple of things:

1. There aren’t a whole lot of cars on the road. But beware, cars have the right-of-way here unless there is a stoplight or a crosswalk painted with white diagonals. This can be a pain in the butt at a busy street, but jay-walking is a common occurrence.

2. There are a whole lot of people on the bus. There are many stops (“paradas”) and many different routes that take people to all corners of the city and the suburbs. The buses don’t have air conditioning. It would be pointless with all the people and all the stops; the windows just stay open.

We all took our first trip on the bus yesterday to the frisbee fields in town. Luckily we had the help of a new-found ultimate frisbee friend who came to our house to get us. He showed us which bus to take and how to actually do it. We were all a little worried, as we had seen tons of buses but couldn’t figure out how one would actually pay to ride. The bus costs $19 pesos, about $1US, for each ride. You can purchase a more expensive 2 hour ticket if you want, which allows you to ride as many different buses for that amount of time, but I think that’s still a bit advanced for us.

Our friend showed us where the nearest bus stop was to our house and which bus to take. In every bus there is a driver and a ticket seller. The ticket seller sits on one side of the bus and will take your money and give you a ticket in exchange. He will also give you change if you need it. After you have gotten your ticket you either find a seat (rare during peak hours), or you hoof it as far back as you can in the bus and try not to fall over.

We got to see a lot of the city during the hour long ride to the fields. Not all rides take this long, but the fields that the City of Montevideo has given the ultimate team to play on are in the suburbs. We are told that there’s not a shorter way to get to the fields unless you want to pay for a taxi. Ah well, sometimes time seems to have a different meaning here anyway.