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.

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!

Montevideo Botanical Gardens

Yet another adventure to blog about while my parents were here! We decided that it would be nice to take the bus up to the area around the Prado. This is apparently an old and affluent neighborhood in Montevideo that boasts a very nice and large park, rose garden, and the botanical gardens.

We hopped on the bus and rode the 20 minutes up to the botanical gardens. The botanical gardens is yet another Montevideo attraction that is free to enter. The day was a little cloudy, but the temperature was nice.

The gardens are nicely arranged into areas of flora from certain parts of the world and specialty areas. Our tour took us around the outside of the gardens. Our first stop was the greenhouse that housed numerous potted tropical plants. The pots and their plants were so uniform that I wondered if they raised them in the greenhouse and sold them at the local markets once they were big enough.

Next we walked through some of the different regions of the world including: Africa, Uruguay, and Japan. The gardens have signs for most of the flora, but the writing on the signs near the walking paths were either worn away or scratched off (one of the downsides of free entry). We found a nice climbing tree, which Asa made short use of.

We then found ourselves wandering through a collection of medicinal and “utility” plants, which included aloe, rosemary, oregano, and lavender. The lavender was especially attractive because of the butterflies.

They also had a section for water plants, which contained some cattails and some very beautiful black and neon orange koi. The fish were clearly used to someone feeding them, as they followed us when we wandered by.

There is also a museum on the grounds, but it was closed for renovations. After we made our way back to the entrance, we relaxed on some benches and enjoyed the relative quiet. The botanical gardens would make a great place for a picnic, or just a nice walk on a sunny day!

Montevideo Museum Day

When my parents were visiting we decided to check out some of the museums that Montevideo had to offer. We started off the day by walking down 18 de Julio, the major street heading towards Ciudad Vieja (old town). The street hits Plaza Independencia, which contains the mausoleum of General José Artigas topped by a magnificent statue of him on a horse.

Palacio Salvo on one corner of Plaza Independencia

Statue of General José Artigas in the middle of Plaza Independencia.

From the plaza we took Sarandi Street, a pedestrian walkway, and wandered into the heart of Ciudad Vieja. Sarandi is full of shops, restaurants, and people selling things from stands. We made our way to 25 de Mayo which is apparently a street of museums.

Our first stop was the  MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino e IndĂ­gena) ,which contained precolombian and indigenous art from South and Latin America. The collection that was open was fairly small, but well taken care of. The building in which the collection is housed was beautiful with a marble stairway leading up to the second floor and skylights in the ceiling. It appeared that the museum’s collection was much larger than what was on display and that they were renovating the second floor to house the rest of the collection. Thoughts: Small, but educational, cost = $30 pesos.

Our second stop was Museo de Artes Decorativas at the Palacio Taranco. This collection is housed in a beautiful mansion that was constructed in 1907 by the Taranco family. It was converted into a museum in 1972, and in 1975 was declared a historic monument. The collection was composed of numerous paintings and sculptures, furniture, tapestries, and musical instruments mostly of a french style. Another part of the museum is a fine collection of classical art and archeology in the basement. The specific exhibit contained artifacts involved in the making and storing of perfumes. Thoughts: Lavish, free.

Our third stop was Museo Romántico housed in yet another old house. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but once you go through the doorway it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. The museum (or at least the accessible parts) are in the upstairs living quarters. The collection is very lavish and has a couple of things I was not expecting including: an old opened music box, an old toiletry kit for traveling, and some nice pieces of furniture with inlayed wood. Thoughts: Small, free.

Our fourth stop brought us back to Sarandi street and the Museo Torres GarcĂ­a. Torres GarcĂ­a is one of Uruguay’s most famous artists. Born in Montevideo, he and his family moved to Spain where he settled for a time in Barcelona and attended art school. He moved to New York for a period of time and eventually came back to Montevideo. He wrote numerous books about art theory. For more information on Torres GarcĂ­a, check out wikipedia. The museum had a great collection of his sketches, water colors, paintings, and toys spread out over three floors. Thoughts: Interesting, bigger, cost = $60 pesos.

One of Torres GarcĂ­a's most famous drawings.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and we were exhausted and happily museum-ed out. There are many more museums in Montevideo that we’ll hopefully be able to experience before we leave.

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.

Living in a land with no name

Raul stopped by for a bit earlier this week. For those not in the know, Raul is our landlord. He does sound production for movies all over the place and is currently working in Mexico. He was in town and called to see if he could stop by and check on The Little House. He came over and we hung out on the patio for a while. Among many other bits of knowledge and wisdom to be covered in other posts, he told us a bit about the land in which we live.

“You know that Uruguay isn’t the name of the country, right?”

I guess we all looked a little dumbfounded, he took that as his cue to educate us. He proceeded to tell us that the official name of the country is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. Now, to the uneducated (that would be us), this sounded like a perfectly reasonable country name. As it turns out, as this name is further analyzed, it’s really just a description of a geographical region. Oriental meaning of or to the east. Republic.. pretty obvious a country with elected representatives. Uruguay is apparently the name of the river running by us here in the indigenous tongue. So, we’re actually just in the country to the east of the river.

To compound this he continued, “Well the city you’re living in doesn’t also has no name.”

Raul informed us that Montevideo can actually be broken down into Monte VI-D-E-O. Which was the Spanish Navigational Shorthand for Monte VI de Este a Oeste, meaning the sixth mountain from east to west. Saying anything around here is a mountain is a bit generous but we’ll let that slide.

All together now! We’re living near the sixth mountain from east to west in the country to the east of the river. It may be a bit overly dramatic to say we’re living in a land without a name, but etymology is always interesting.