Got off the bus at the main terminal in Montevideo called Tres Cruces. The city bus website wasn't working for me so per my hosts suggestion, I took an Uber to my apartment for about 110 UP or about $4. My host is a very talented woman. She makes jewelry and is internationally recognized having won several awards for her pieces. She showed me some and indeed they were extremely impressive. Beautiful. She also shared with me with three books concerning Uruguayan artisans who won national honors for their crafts. She won honors each year. I asked to see some items she had for sale. She came over the day I was leaving and pulled out some special pieces, one of which I bought. I had to mix some USD to have enough cash to buy it. It's so original. Picture included. Amethyst.
On my first full day I joined the free walking tour at Plaza Independencia and, of course, the tour guide was complete with Mate cup and thermos in hand. Very interesting tour. According to the guide, who was quite funny, the people of Uruguay are not religious and welcome any immigrants as they are looking to increase their population. Marijuana is essentially legal here as one tour participant entered a "grow shop" and purchased some. Locals just go to the farmacia. According to the guide everyone here is very chill. They're sociable, but don't care much about social diplomacies. This is evident. Unlike some countries I've visited no one gives a shit that I'm wearing shorts when it's 65 degrees out. Or wearing shorts at all for that matter. They could care less what other people are doing but are friendly and helpful when needed. Also according to the guide, the reason for the Mate obsession is threefold. First, it's a way of being individual and sharing. Each person in some way individualizes his blend of Mate and is proud to share it with close friends. Second, it is an indicator of whether you are suitable as a parent - measured by how many times you drop your thermos. Finally, Uruguayans need it to help them go to the bathroom (relieve constipation) due to the fact that the average Uruguayan eats about 150 pounds of beef per year. Hahaha. Probably true!
The Teatro Solis is a beautiful historic theater in the ciudad vieja. The Teatro Nacional is a modern theater also in the old town. Both are owned and run by the government for the benefit of all people - residents and visitors. They are trying to get young people interested more in the arts so young people can go free once per week. I attended a concert by the symphony, four soloists and a huge choral group for the huge sum of 200 UP which is about $7 USD. Such a deal! The concert was great. On Saturday I toured the Teatro Solis. Shakespeare's Otelo was playing (600 UP for the best seats in the house) but I decided not to go. Shakespeare is hard enough to understand in English. In Uruguayan fast Spanish I doubt I'd be able to follow.
I've decided I could make a career (or at least write a book) about how to take local city busses. Once again, a different system here. On some of the busses you just pay the driver. On others, there is "cobrador" sitting two seats back who takes your money. It's 33UP to take the bus to wherever. Although there is a website, it wasn't user friendly with my iPhone so I pretty much winged it figuring out where I was going and which bus to take. A few times I asked some people at the busstop. On Saturday afternoon I went to the Punta Carretas area which had a flea market near the beautiful beach and coastal area. The costanera was lined with a never ending number of large apartment buildings looking out to the river. Keep in mind that the Rio de la Plata is brown not because it's dirty but because of the silt.
Once again, even though I'm pretty much eternally lost, I seem to be someone who appears to know the area because a never ending sea of people keep coming up to me and rattling off some question about where something is. My standard answer is now, "Soy una tourista y no se nada!" Translated: I'm a tourist and I don't know anything! And then we all laugh. Sometimes I add: "y estoy perdida". Translated: and I'm lost. Hahahahaha.
I've decided that so far Uruguay is one of my favorite places. I love the older buildings, the beach areas, the inexpensive and abundant theatrical and music performances, the cheap and pervasive bus system so a car is not necessary, the never ending supply of beef and leather, the cheap wine, and the fact that people here aren't so concerned about all the shit that just doesn't matter. They aren't pretentious. They're not worried about political correctness. I figure if people can walk around with a cup and a thermos in one arm and hand, then I could walk around with a wine bottle and wine glass the same way. How's it any different? I wonder if anyone would really notice. Social experiment? OH! And I almost forgot. This is the only country I know of where you get a 20% discount at restaurants when you use your credit card! That right there is gold!!
Tomorrow, I go to Punta Del Este which is apparently quite a hot spot during the summer season as its beaches attracts throngs of visitors. We shall see. Punta Del Este is the last stop of my international journey. Sad face. I only have three more nights in Uruguay and then I return to the states. But I will not be going back to work at my regular duty station at the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles. I have a one year detail in General Counsels office at the Executive Office in Washingon DC where I am to report to work on January 7th. So I will be leaving California before Xmas for the drive with Bear back to DC. I'm very excited to be returning to DC and to work with my former coworkers! And for those of you who never visited me there before, be sure to come for a visit this time!!!