A Break in Uruguay
The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.
We woke up early to catch an hour-long ferry ride to Colonia del Sacramento, a quiet town on the banks of Rio de la Plata. The ferry ride was quick and, in the blink of an eye, we had passed through customs and I had a new passport stamp. We went to the house of our program director, which is also a B&B situated in the middle of a lemon farm. We got to relax there for most of the day, enjoying a delicious meal of asado for most and a pasta dish for me and any other vegetarian or kosher students. Then we hung about by the pool or at the river. It was nice to sit and chat with the other people in the program – to gauge how we were all feeling and to meet people I hadn’t had a chance to talk to yet.
That night we went into town to learn about Colonia, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Historic neighborhood is gorgeous and has elements of both Spanish and Portugese architecture from when it was colonized. The streets have maintained a historic façade, but the residents need to modernize might cause them to lose tourism. A stray antenna could mean the removal of their UNESCO status.
The next day we drove to Montevideo for a tour of the nation’s capital. The weekend meant lots of markets, with people selling tourist trinkets, antiques, or jewelry. We had lunch, spent ten minutes on a beach, and then were on our way to Punta del Este. We got there just in time for a few of us to make it to the beach to catch the sunset.
In the morning, I learned that I had only visited one of two beaches. Punta del Este is a peninsula with one side to the Atlantic Ocean (Playa Brava – or brave beach) and the other to Rio de la Plata (Playa Mansa – calm beach). A group of us did an over five mile walk around the peninsula. We saw the famous hand sculpture created by Mario Irarrázabal, then the massive waves against the rocky outcroppings of the Atlantic side. There was a stop to take pictures where the two bodies of water met and another with a gigantic Uruguayan flag. Then we got to see the ports of the peaceful side and I spent the rest of the day lying on the beach there.
After another great meal and one more night we were on our way back to Argentina. Unlike most of the group, who took well needed naps, I couldn’t sleep. I kept my eyes open as we drove to Colonia. I want to see every bit of the places I visit down here. I don’t care if it’s a brilliant landscape, city streets, or even boring fields that I could see back home – I don’t think I can close my eyes here.
The ferry ride back wasn’t as calm this time. The waves were choppy and I felt on edge the whole way there. I know things will be serious now and I’m ready for that experience to start.