Uruguay🇺🇾🇺🇾

Until I came here I can’t say I’d ever heard much about Uruguay. Infact until today I couldn´t have picked the right flag emoji to put in the title. I’ve never heard the words ‘Oh I really want to go to Uruguay’ or the answer to the question of where someone wants to travel be ‘ Well, Uruguay is at the top of my bucket list!’ Which is a shame because this place is so cool!! I guess it must just get swallowed up in South America a bit, it’s a country half the size of New Zealand smothered between Brazil and Argentina, 2 of the largest countries in the world. Having only been here one night I guess I can’t have too much of a say about the entire country and the things to do outside of Colonia but what I have seen so far is the most beautiful town, full of amazing buildings and cobblestone streets and people that follow the road rules unlike some other countries (I’m looking at you Argentina!) Its so nice being able to cross a road without the imenent fear of death every time you do so. Here, if you cross at the corner, the cars stop and wait for you to cross! It doesn’t even have to be on a pedestrian crossing!

The cobblestone streets and colonial architecture are so amazing and make you feel like you’ve been sucked back in time. With different colour buildings decorating the streets and plumes of vibrant flowers on the trees. Interestingly Colonia was actaully a portuguese colony before it was taken over by the Spanish so there are a lot of portuguese style buildgins too. I learnt that on the tour we did, and it was pretty much the only thing I did learn because the tour was in Spanish. It´s so hard to concentrate on someone talking in Spanish for a full 2 hours and if I zoned out for even a second I´d loose the meaning of the entire bit of infomation!

Another thing I found super interesting here was how the people are even more obssesed with Mate than they are in Argentina, they carry it around on the streets while they´re walking- with a thermas full of hot water under on arm and Mate in the other.

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Stella

Mar Del Plata

*This was originally 2 posts but I thought it would make more sense to just combine them. Hope you enjoy!*

A dream come true:

So I’m on my way to Mar del Plata currently on a bus. The bus ride was supposed to take about 5 hours and it’s been 5 hours and we’re about 2 thirds of the way there because of traffic. I’m sitting on the bus bored. Annoyed at the traffic. Questioning my decision to travel on Easter weekend when I take a step back. I look out the window and think wow. Not cause of the view because it’s just been dry grass since we left Buenos Aires but because I’m in Argentina, travelling. It’s been my dream to travel when I left school for so long and since I came to South America last time it’s been my dream to return and explore more. And I am.

I’m so proud of myself. Like I didn’t put it in the too hard box or say ‘when I’m older’. As we were sitting in the 5km line for the toll box I was thinking what a waste of my day but that’s not even true. It about the journey not the destination right? Like yes I would love to get some food and be at the beach right about now but the very fact that I’m able to be on this bus heading on an adventure is something amazing.

It’s just a little reminder to myself that it’s all about perspective and a positive attitude can work wonders.

Mar del Plata:

Its really hard to capture the essence of an experience within words. No matter how you describe it, it’s difficult to express ‘the vibe’ I guess. This weekend was amazing.

From walking 16km in one day in order to see as much of the city as possible to touch games on Argentinian beaches, it was just one adventure after another.

Argentinians that I had spoken to about Mar del Plata seemed to not have high hopes for our weekend. They just recited about how crowded the beaches are and how at this time of the year the water is freezing. How the city beaches aren’t very nice, not natural. And this was true. The beaches were crowded, but not as crowded as during summer! However for us this was such a cool experience in itself, to have only one square of sand for our space and to be surrounded by other people was very different from what we’re used to back in New Zealand. It gives the place such a good vibe! Everyone is just relaxing, chatting or kicking a football around. I’m not saying I’d like to have this every day but it’s amazing to just be able to see a different way of doing things. In terms of the water being freezing- it wasn’t haha. New Zealand is a little further south than Mar del Plata and therefore we’re used to water even colder. The beaches themselves seemed man made, I’m not sure of the history around them but I might look into it. They were also very commercialised and touristy with umbrellas set out and chairs and little beach couches which was interesting.

The CHURROS!!! So I thought I’d had churros before but I hadn’t. These were churros. Crispy on the outside, light on the inside and filled with he most delicious array of different fillings-chocolate, cream and dulce de leche. Everyone had told us to go to Manolo churros and I’m glad we did. It was especially amazing sitting there eating them on the side of a hill overlooking the sea, having walked for an hour to get there.

The most amazing moment for me however was when we brought a bit of kiwi to Argentina. Having carried a rugby ball through a bus station(cause we didn’t already look enough like tourists haha) it was necessary that we put that rugby ball to use. We brought it down to the beach and were throwing it around but then decided to have a little game of touch so went over to the neighbouring little bay with less people and played as the tide came in, which resulted in soaked clothes, the ball floating on the waves as they surged into shore rather than sitting on the ground and a lot of fun. As we were already soaking we just went for another swim as the sun set and it was so magical. It really hit me just how much my home has shaped me and how it will always be part of me no matter where I am in the world. Also that no matter the differences between places there are always little similarities. For me this evening was a classic ‘New Zealand’ evening. Touch on the beach and swims as the sun sets. You may be far away, may be swimming in a different ocean and be surrounded by a different language but there will always be commonalities as long as you realise home is from within.

Stella

Time and Communication

It is said that time is subjective but I’ve never realised just how true that is before these past 2 and half weeks. If I think about 2 and half weeks during the school year- when I have a routine and each day is the same as the next, possibly with a slight variation in what sport I have on after school or the quantity of homework I have to do- I would think it’s a reasonably short amount of time. However these past 2 and half weeks have felt more like 2 and half months. I guess that’s what happens when you’re constantly learning, constantly having new experiences and most notably constantly concentrating!!

Back in Christchurch I’d come home from a long day and just relax, have a conversation with my brothers, or mum and dad. However now when I come home the challenges are just beginning. At school, here in Argentina, I’m speaking English for a large amount of the day, except with the little kids when I have to explain things in Spanish, however when I get home I speak with my host family in Spanish. Now, this is challenging! Sometimes I find myself listening to what someone says how I would if I was listening to some speaking in English before realising that I didn’t understand a single thing! I can understand however it just takes a lot of concentration and sometimes I just can’t Spanish!

Recently I realised something, that I’ve been saying I know ‘un poquito’ (a little) Spanish for about 3 years now. It’s not that I haven’t improved, it’s just that the more I learn the more I realise I don’t know. I think I’ve graduated from knowing just a little now, but still I prefer to keep people’s expectations low so they don’t come at me with some rapid fire Castellano. When I have time I’ve just started saying ‘yo puedo entender pero es más difícil para hablar’- I can understand but it’s more difficult to speak. Because that’s the truth of it!! Never judge someone’s ability to understand a language by the amount they can speak!

Another thing I’ve come to realise about languages while I’ve been here is how inpatient and rude some New Zelanders can be to non-english speakers! I’ve maybe encountered one person, serving at McDonald’s who spoke to me super fast and then got annoyed when I couldn’t understand but the majority of people are so incredibly patient and helpful. They want me to learn their language and know that I’m not stupid I just don’t speak Spanish fluently. However sometimes they don’t realise that I could in fact understand the words if they just spoke slowly! I guess that brings me to my next point- how incredibly kind and friendly everyone is!

This is a culture full of hugs, kisses and saying hello to strangers(not in a creepy way). Every time you great someone it’s with a kiss on the cheek, no matter how many people there are everyone will welcome and farewell everyone that way. For example, at the end of the school day at the primary school the principal stands at the door and kisses every single student on the cheek! Well, there are only 130 of them but still. Also the other day I went to the shop and every time someone would walk in they’d say hi, not only to the person at the counter but also to all the customers lined up to pay and the same when someone left! I’ve been told that this is more the culture of Lobos and that it would not be the case in the city however all the same it’s just so lovely.

Also the other day I started volleyball(known as Volley here). I was so nervous because, well, I didn’t know anyone, I don’t speak the language that well and I didn’t even know how to play volleyball. However, it was the only sport here I could play cause apparently girls only have the option of hockey and volleyball and insurance rules out hockey so Volleyball it was. Anyway, I was standing there for maybe 1 minute before a girl comes up to me and starts talking to me and asking me questions and they were all like that! So friendly and didn’t even care that I didn’t understand half of what they were saying, they were just so happy to teach me how to play and ask me questions about New Zealand. I was actually pretty decent at it thankfully.

This is already pretty long so I think I’ll write a different post on the food here, my typical day and where I live!

Thanks for reading x

Stella