We Say Goodbye To Matt

Matt made his exit from Montevideo on Thursday night. The days coming up to his departure were full of seeing people and fun activities.

Saturday night a couple of friends were gracious enough to host a “Despedida” (going away party) for Matt at someone’s house. There were drinks, food, and good conversations. There was also some gift giving and some challenges to drink beer out of a frisbee. For those of you that don’t know, it is possible to fit an entire pitcher of beer within a frisbee. Many people don’t believe this and do stupid things to prove that it is false (like trying to drink an entire frisbee full of beer within 20 seconds… good luck with that one).

The majority of the ultimate team here in Uruguay. They made Matt a poster collage of photos from his time in Montevideo.

Sunday was a great day of frisbee out at the beach. After finishing up, Matt did a great job practicing his minimalist lifestyle by giving away a bunch of his ultimate jerseys to the players here in Montevideo. The people here will greatly appreciate nice jerseys, and Matt has about a billion of them. At this point, Juanma can dress completely in clothes given to him by Matt (including cleats). It’s like a South American version of Matt!

Juanma, Matt, and Carlos at the beach.

Tuesday was dinner with our good friend Paco at La Lupita. We have been here once before, and yes, the margaritas were just as potent as the first time!

Wednesday, Matt’s last night in town, we went to a parilla (grill) so that Matt could eat one last steak. Chandro was gracious enough to come with us. The restaurant was great! Chandro had a traditional asado, Matt had a cut of steak, and Asa and I split some chicken and veggie skewers. The boys ordered caipirinha’s, a Brazilian cocktail. It is made from a Brazilian liquor called cachaça, which is similar to rum but made from cane sugar.

Thursday Matt and I took a trip downtown with the quest of finding gifts for his family that they would actually use and enjoy. The day was a little gloomy and once it actually started to rain all the vendors quickly packed up their wares. Matt was left with only the small magnet he had purchased. It’s probably for the best because his family probably didn’t really want bracelets or little wire figurines anyway. I imagine they’ll be happy enough just to see him again!

Matt managed to pack everything up, including the 5 bottles of grapamiel (a local liquor that I’ll talk about in another post) he had saved to take back to the states. He headed to the airport with plenty of time, as they had delayed the flight by almost an hour. Unknown if the delay was caused by weather here in Montevideo (it was rainy) or by weather in Miami (from TS Debby).

Based on our intelligence, Matt made it to Las Vegas for his sister’s wedding, but only after being detained by US customs for about 45 minutes in Miami. They apparently found his story about quitting his job and moving to Uruguay a little fishy. He missed his direct flight to Vegas and had to be re-routed through Los Angeles. Hopefully he’ll get on the blog and tell everyone about his experience.

So what are we doing now? Well Asa and I are going to enjoy our last four weeks in Montevideo. We have already taken over Matt’s room. Just kidding! We don’t really have a bucket list of things to do before we leave. We’ve already done most of the things to do in the city and the ones that we haven’t done don’t sound that interesting. So I think we’re just going to enjoy immersing ourselves in the Montevideo culture for another couple weeks and call it good!

Matt is in Vegas for about a week and then he is headed to the Philippines for a two week internet business program being held at some resort right on the beach. Poor Matt! He’ll be there two weeks beforehand and probably two weeks after. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess (including himself) what he’ll do. I tell you all this so that you won’t wonder why Matt fell off the grid for so long, but we’ll get him to come back to the blog when he’s got some time! We wish Matt good luck in his travels and know we’ll see him sometime in the future!


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.

Desfile de Las Llamadas

Translated as the Parade of Calls. This is one of the main events of the carnival season in Montevideo and happens every February. It consists of two nights (last thurs and fri) in which candombe drum groups parade down one of the main streets in Palermo (our neighborhood) from 9 pm until about 3 am. People from all over the city converge on a 10 block area, carrying with them bottles of beer and boxes of wine. The candombe drum tradition originates from an african migrant call to gather, and sometimes uses a complex call and response pattern of drumming.

The Little House is located about 2 blocks from the end of the parade route which means that we were really close when we wanted to go check stuff out, but we were also really close when we just wanted things to be quiet. In the weeks leading up to the parade, various candombe groups would practice their routines by marching through the neighborhood in the evening (usually starting around 10 pm… still haven’t figured out when Uruguyans sleep).

We decided to party it up and went out for chivitos (yummy sandwich of sorts… more on those later) before heading up to see the parade. We got there a little early (i.e. the parade had already started, but the crowds hadn’t arrived) and found a spot right up against the guard rail dividing the street from the sidewalk, and the performers from the spectators. We were at the very end of the parade route which facilitated our arrival and departure.

Some general information about the parade… We were told there were approximately 30 groups walking each night, for a total of about 60-70 groups. The groups with better costumes, prettier girls, and better drumming walk on the second night. Each group is some sort of club, with the better ones having sponsors.

Each group is lead down the street by their banner and a carried coat of arms of sorts. This is followed by various people in costume waving large flags. It seems the thing to do is to fly the flag over the spectators’ heads, allowing them to touch the silky fabric. The children, who inevitably end up in the street with the performers particularly like to play with the flags.

The flags are followed quickly by one or a couple sets of scantily-clad dancers exhibiting various levels of happiness. Having just danced their way down 10 blocks in heels, I understood some of the unhappy faces I saw. If I had to pick two words to describe the dancers I would choose “flashy” and “feathers”. They had feathers in their hair, feathers attached to their shoulders, and sequins everywhere.

Following the dancers were a couple of pairs of old “geezers”; a men and women who are suppose to represent the eldest of the community. The men usually carried canes and wore fake beards and top hats, while the women wore long skirts with petticoats underneath to make them fluff up. All the while they danced and twirled down the street. One group that we saw on thursday night had replaced their old geezer with a young geezer who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. He still looked the part; sporting a cane, beard and top hat.

Dancing around and through the old geezers and into the candombe drums were two or three girls in more elaborate costumes. Supposedly the prettiest girls in the group were awarded this honor.

Then came the drums. Deafening, you could hear them coming from blocks away. The sounds from separate groups never  mingled because the one closest was so loud it overshadowed any other sound. The ground vibrated a bit. Each group had 60-80 drummers, almost exclusively men, each playing their own drum painted in the groups’ colors. Not all drums are created equal, as some are larger or smaller and produce deeper or higher pitched sounds. The large drums seem to stick to a 4/4 rhythm while the small ones beat to a different rhythm, maybe a 7/8. It was hard to catch the beat and dance, but it was obvious that was my own unique problem.

Some of the groups would continue playing until they were well off the end of the parade route and on to the next street block. They would be followed by their family and friends and inevitably someone carrying a broken drum.

A broken candombe being pushed along the parade route in a baby stroller.

This went on and on, with groups following each other by a few minutes, until the full hours of the morning. Between groups people would come along selling things… carnival masks, light up toys, cotton candy, popcorn, and of course apples on sticks!

For more pictures, see Asa’s Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cadburynaught/sets/72157629307021283/