The World of Nations Celebration

Last weekend Asa and I and Asa’s mom, Merrill, went to the World of Nations Celebration here in Jacksonville. The festival has been in existence for a good 20 years and is a great place to go and experience some 30 different international cultures. Each country was set up in their own tent where they displayed crafts and doo-dads for sale, sold authentic (for the most part) food, and stamped passport documents given to each visitor. A main stage central to all the countries exhibited entertainment and ceremonies from each country and local stages had live bands or dancing.



Each year the World of Nations Celebration is open on thursday and friday for elementary and middle school students to come learn about different cultures. Asa fondly remembers going to the celebration when he was a little tyke.

We had a great time wandering around, sampling local cuisine, and people watching. We even got to sample some empanadas from Colombia which were very different from the ones we had in Uruguay.


Some fun facts we learned:

– The Ethiopian calendar follows the Julian calendar which has 12 months of thirty days each and a 13th month of 5 days. The calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Western calendar.

– The Taj Mahal only took 17 years to build with workmen working every single day.


– Nollywood is what Nigeria’s booming film industry is called.

– The South Korean flag has a representation of yin and yang surrounded by depictions of the four elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.


– Angel Falls in Venezuela is 19 times the height of Niagara Falls.



“An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Latin America,Southern Europe, and parts of Southeast Asia.” – Wikipedia

Here in Montevideo all the empanadas we have run across have been baked instead of fried. Across the river in Buenos Aires they have baked empanadas that they call “salteñas”. Empanadas are available at a variety of venues in Montevideo. At the supermarket they can be found near the bakery items. Empanadas can commonly be found at rotiserías that also sell fresh pasta and torts, and occupy little hole-in-the-wall stores that are hardly big enough to display their food. Empanadas can also be found at empanada specific restaurants or delivery centers.

At supermarkets and the small rotiserias the fillings are fairly limited and usually include carne (beef), pollo (chicken), acetuna (olives), jamón y queso (ham and cheese), and espinaca (spinach). At empanada restaurants and delivery centers there is much more variety, including dessert empanadas. El Taberna del Diablo (a restaurant and delivery center near our house) has 46 different kinds of empanadas.

One of the confusing things about buying empanadas, especially if you get different varieties, is coming home to a collection of stuffed pastries that all look alike. On closer inspection, each type of filling is shown on the outside using a unique marking. Small rotiserías will sometimes use pieces of dough to make shapes on the tops that correspond to their filling. Large delivery centers will use a combination of small holes punched in the edges and folded corners to distinguish the fillings. Though, without a guide map to the markings, the only thing to do is take a bite. Things could be worse!

Empanadas are so prevalent in the culinary sphere of Montevideo that most supermarkets carry pre-made empanada dough disks. All one needs to do is buy them, stuff them, and bake them to have a delicious snack or entire meal.

So, that’s exactly what we did! I made two types of empanadas, beef and apple. Below are the recipes that I created:

Beef Empanadas (recipe makes about 30 empanadas)


3 tbsp olive oil

1 med onion chopped fine

1 large green bell pepper chopped fine

1 tbsp garlic chopped fine

2 peppers chopped (don’t know what kind, they call them “picante” here but jalapeños would work great)

1 tomato chopped

1.5 lbs ground beef

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp black ground pepper

0.5 tsp salt


1. Saute onions, garlic, bell pepper and hot pepper in olive oil until just browned and soft.

2. Add meat, tomatoes and seasonings. Cook until meat is browned and broken into very small pieces.

3. Cool mixture in the fridge for 1 hour, then add one spoonful to the center of a dough disk. Wet the edges of the disk with your finger and then fold over and seal. There are lots of different ways to seal empanadas including with a fork or with a braid. This video shows how to do it using the different techniques.

4. Brush the tops with egg yolk to help brown them in the oven. Since the oven here is a bit funky… I’ll just suggest that at home you bake the empanadas at 350 F for about 15 min.


Apple Empanadas (recipe makes about 15 empanadas):

3 large granny smith apples chopped

2 tbsp margarine

0.5 cups sugar

0.25 cups dulce de leche (like caramel)

1 tbsp flour


1. Place the apples, margarine, and sugar in a pan and sauté over low heat. When the apples are soft, add the flour to thicken the mixture. Off heat add the dulce de leche and mix.

2. Place in the fridge for an hour and then fill the empanada disks with goodness! Use the same cooking instructions as above. Enjoy!


Birthday Party!!

Carlos turned 22 and had a big celebration yesterday! Happy Birthday Buddy!

It is fairly common here to be able to rent out a space with some kind of kitchen facilities for parties or meetings. This is what the board gaming group does and what I assume Carlos’ family did last night.

We had our directions; the corner of Blvd. something Artigas and Colorado… Go past the fields and ask for Glorieta. So we walked down the street to catch the bus. We managed to get off a couple stops too early, but I guess that’s better than too late. We walked, we saw the fields, we saw a gate, we saw the guy in camo gear guarding the gate, and we kept walking. We got to the corner of Blvd. something Artigas and Colorado and knew we missed something. We called Carlos. He sent his brother Juanma and friend Ale to come and collect us.

Apparently we were suppose to stop at the gate and ask the camo guy about Glorieta. Turns out Glorieta is NOT a person. It’s the name of the little building where the party was. Go figure!

The party was great. I imagine there were about 40 people including friends and family. There were lots of snacks, along with beer and coke (both staples in Uruguayan dining). Some of the snacks we hadn’t seen before… Faína, which is a garbanzo flatbread that is sometimes placed atop pizza (called pizza al caballo). Maní, which are peanuts, but these had some kind of hard salty outer coating on them which reminded me of a corn nut.

When the majority of people arrived (probably around 10:30 pm) Carlos started the karaoke singing. It was very apparent that this might just be his favorite thing to do other than play ultimate, but unfortunately I haven’t gotten any good pictures of him doing either. I must say that karaoke in spanish was much more enjoyable in english, but that could have been the beer talking!

Matt and Juanma singing "We are the Champions" by Queen... Reminiscing about their recent win at a beach tournament in Monte Hermoso.

Juanma and some of the other frisbee boys enjoying themselves.

In the middle of karaoke there were hamburgers served. Then there were games. I guess the TV show “Minute to Win it” has gained some popularity here, so we played a variety of minute to win it games. These included: stacking bolts into a tower using a skewer, balancing a tower of 5 apples, bouncing a spoon into a cup, and moving  a cookie from your eye to your mouth without any hands. Asa and Matt both succeeded in making bolt towers and I dropped my cookie on the floor.

Asa and Carlos playing a "Minute to Win it" game.

Maru trying to out-balance her opponent in another "Minute to Win it" game.

We were taught (sort of) how to play Truco, an uruguayan card game. It uses a special deck of cards numbered 1-12 and may be one of the few fun purchases we make while we’re here. That is if we can actually figure out how to play.

We were just getting ready to leave when Carlos informed us that there was dessert. We sung happy birthday and ate delicious moosey cake with dulce de leche (sort of like caramel). Special thanks to Carlos and his family for organizing everything and creating a lovely evening for everyone.

Street Market

The street markets are definitely where it’s at! They have fresh and yummy tasting produce out the wazoo, and it’s cheaper than the supermarket. There are no barriers closing the street from traffic, but there isn’t really room for cars to pass. Every once in a while a motorcycle rides through slowly and people just get out of the way.

At one end of the market there are people who display wares for sale. For example, today I saw that someone had a pair of jeans to sell, while someone else had some trinkets. I didn’t see anyone actually buying anything and it seems like the people might be set up there on the off chance that someone saw something they just “had to have”. It reminded me of a garage sale, but on a much smaller scale.

The produce stalls make up the majority of the market. All of the stalls seem to have very fresh produce and a much wider variety than in the supermercado. At the majority of produce stalls the sellers will hand you a plastic bag or you grab one yourself and place what you want in it; each type of item in a separate bag. They then weigh the bags; writing each total on a slip of paper to be added at the end. There was one produce stall that stumped us; the biggest one. I guess we just weren’t paying enough attention, but we walked behind the stall to the second row of veggies and grabbed what we wanted. Little did we know, but at this stall everyone is suppose to take a number and then when your number is called you tell the sellers what you want and they put them in plastic bags and weigh them. The seller didn’t seem angry when I handed him the bag with our two bell peppers and said “es todo”. I was prepared to tell him that we didn’t understand and I was sorry, but he didn’t seem to care.

Just one of the many produce stalls!

There were two trucks that opened up to sell goods out of their sides. One was a cheese truck and the other was the local fish truck. We have been told that the fish is very good, but we were a bit too timid to try it today.

The fish man. Maybe next time we'll have the courage to try some of the fish.

The cheese truck also has an add-on of an egg-man. He sells individual eggs if you want them or in a dozen (“una docena”) and wraps them in newspaper for you to take home.

Eggs for sale! He had both brown and white eggs. We got the brown ones. The brown ones were a bit more expensive, but we figured that must mean that they're better!

All the produce is for sale in kilograms and is remarkably cheap. We got potatoes, garlic, apples, bananas, nectarines, carrots, bell peppers, onions, and eggs for $174 pesos which is about $8US.

Our Spoils!

Pets Adjust To Their New Home

I know a lot of pet lovers out there that worry about their pets. Sometimes pets seem like children. We worry about them; we want them to be well taken care of. We don’t want them to be sad or to miss us while we’re gone regardless of the time-span. So traveling for long periods of time can be stressful for pet owners.

The first thing to think about is who you trust with your pets and who would want to keep your pets for the length of your traveling. For us there was only one option: parents! I mean really, what other suckers will take in a dog (Cattle Dog) and cat (Crazy Cat) for 6 months and love them as they would their own. Luckily, we have been able to stay with my parents for more than a month to help with the adjustment.

This brings me to the zoo. My parents already have a dog (Big White Dog) and a cat (Old Man Cat). Bringing our pets into the mix has resulted in quite a few changes around the house.

1. The house erupts in barking whenever anyone thinks about walking near the house, a dog hears a strange noise, or someone knocks on the door. Cattle Dog isn’t used to barking at people outside windows, but she very willingly joins in the ruckus.

2. The cat food can no longer be kept on the floor. The Big White Dog is terrified of clanking sounds that dishes make, so it was safe to keep the Old Man Cat food in a little bowl on the tile floor. Big White Dog wouldn’t go within 5 feet of it. Cattle Dog, the newcomer, doesn’t have any qualms about noise so the food had to be moved.

3. Exercise needs to be coordinated. People cannot be outnumbered by dogs, especially not these dogs. Cattle Dog is a born herding dog. She will herd other dogs, people, bicycles, horses, cats, and really anything else that moves in an effort to exhibit how good her genetics are. She needs to be watched with at least two eyes.

4. Food no longer flows from the table into the Big White Dog’s mouth (much to her disappointment). Cattle Dog doesn’t get much human food and the small scraps she does get come from the kitchen. This has been the hardest adjustment for the parents. We keep telling them that those big brown eyes are lying.

5. Big White Dog has become much more active (although part of this might be the 20+ glucosamine pills she found on the floor, care of Crazy Cat knocking them off the shelf). The two dogs have become playmates; they may even become besties while we’re gone.

6. Old Man Cat is angry. He is set in his ways and doesn’t appreciate Cattle Dog’s herding efforts. He has taken up residence under the parents’ bed and sneaks outside under the cover of darkness. Hopefully he’ll join the rest of the family soon.

Here are some pictures to sum up the dogs’ behavior. Big White Dog sits and watches while Cattle Dog wants to play (always!).