Monday, April 15, 2013

Amigos Nuevos and Montevideo

Day 163 (March 28, 2013)
Rosario, Uruguay to Montevideo, Uruguay
Day's Ride: 83 Miles

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After sleeping in at Damian's house, we took our time starting the day. Germain arrived a little later carrying a big box of donuts and we all sat around talking, sharing a gourd of matte, and eating sugary pastries. Passing the matte gourd around is a big part of the culture down here, especially in Uruguay.

Germain eventually took off and headed back to Montevideo and his family while Damian and I jumped on the little Yamaha and headed over to his garage to pick up our bikes.

We got the bikes and went back to Damian's house where we spent some time cleaning them and doing a little routing maintenance. Damian's mom came by a little later and brought us some lunch; breaded chicken and rice with hardboiled eggs. It was delicious! We all sat around and in Damian's backyard and talked for a while and shared some more matte.

Damian and his mother gave me a very thorough explanation of Uruguayan culture and the prevailing customs. They talk with the same accent as the Argentinos so I was concentrating extremely hard to catch everything they said. Even then, I think I only understood about 70% of what was said; I had to pick up the rest by context.

In Spanish, the double "L" is pronounced with a "y" sound as in "yell". So, a word like "amarillo" (yellow) is pronounced "am-a-ree-yo". However, for some reason the Argentinians and Uruguayans pronounce the "y" sound as "sha" (as in "sham" or "shackle"). So, "amarillo" becomes "am-a-ree-show". For example, when I first arrived in Argentina and asked for a towel (in Spanish "toalla", pronounced "twa-ya") they didn't know what I was saying. Eventually, it dawned on them that I wanted a towel and they told me that it was pronounced "twa-sha". You would be amazed at how that simple change between "ya" and "sha" makes it so difficult to understand people. Add to that the fact that they have tons of slang and expressions, and it can be almost impossible to figure out what people are saying. I find myself having to ask everyone I talk to to repeat themselves.

A couple of Damian's friends stopped by after lunch and I was amazed to see one of them wearing a USMC shirt.

Turns out that he is a Sergeant in the Uruguayan Marines. He has done some peacekeeping missions in Haiti and was very interested to hear about my experiences in Afghanistan.

Throughout my time with Damian, he kept refusing to allow me to repay him for his hospitality. So, while he was busy talking to his friends, I snuck around the corner to a little tienda and bought him a bottle of wine that he could share with his girlfriend. I made some incomprehensible scribbles on the back:

When I gave him the wine he was super excited; this set off a whole new wave of generosity and he ended up giving me a matte gourd on which he wrote in english "for my friend Bryce". The generosity of complete strangers continues to amaze me.

Eventually, Damian and I got our stuff together and set off for Montevideo. He was heading to the city to see his girlfriend and so we rode together.

We got to the city and I had Damian sign my tank:

What a cool guy! I told him that when he comes to the States, he needs to look me up so I can let him stay at my house (assuming I have one).

I got settled into my hostel then went down the street to find a market that was still open. It's "Semana Santa" or Holy Week right now and everything is closed. Downtown Montevideo was like a ghost town. I finally found a tiny tienda that was still open and bought some food. As I was leaving, I saw a sight that totally exemplifies Uruguayan culture:

This guy was sipping matte out of his gourd with one hand and holding onto his "termo" (thermos) with the other, all while kicking a soccer ball against the wall. I had a good laugh and snuck this picture. In case I haven't explained it, Matte is a drink. You take a bunch of matte leaves, pack them down into a hollowed out gourd, insert a steel straw, add hot water from a thermos, and then sip it until it's time to refill the water. It's very caffeinated and has a bitter taste. I actually like it quite a bit; however, the fact that you have to carry a thermos everywhere kind of keeps me from getting too crazy about it. However, the Uruguayans, and to a lesser extent the Argentinians, are crazy about it and it's rare to see someone not sipping matte as they walk down the street with a thermos tucked under their arm.

Before cooking dinner, I decided to get a little exercise and went for a run down on the rambla. The Montevideoans were out in force drinking matte, fishing, and generally having a good time.

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