Reconnecting With a Recent New Zealand Travel Friend in Uruguay

by Brian Carroll on November 14, 2012

Post image for Reconnecting With a Recent New Zealand Travel Friend in Uruguay Earlier this year, when I was traveling in New Zealand, I met a girl from Uruguay randomly at a food stand. She didn't speak much English and while I could speak Spanish, it was marginal at best, making communication between the two of us a bit difficult (In fact her first words to me after I said hello were, "I'm sorry, I no speak English..." ). At that time, I was traveling with another friend from Spain who essentially bridged that gap because she was fluent in Spanish and pretty good in English.  As a result, among the three of us, we ended up traveling to Queenstown, NZ and had a great few days together. At that time, I had mentioned that I planned on continuing on to South America and my new Uruguayan friend, Mariella, had made the offer to show me around Montevideo, Uruguay should I make it there. Fast forward four months and what was once just a small possibility was now a much more tangible reality - I found myself in South America, making plans to go to Uruguay and visit my friend Mariella, all the result of an initial chance meeting. We would end up checking out Montevideo and taking a weekend trip with some friends of hers to the coastal vacation town of Punta del Este. Language Barriers: Up until now, I'd been able to get by more or less through Peru and Argentina with my existing Spanish skills. My time out in Uruguay proved to be a bit more difficult as my friend spoke much faster than I was used to and often times I'd have to reply with "No entiendo (I don't understand)" or "Mas despacio por favor (talk slower please)." It was more difficult than I anticipated and there were multiple times in which I felt like I was on another planet, unable to communicate with the people next to me – it made me appreciate the value of sharing language with someone and the isolation it creates otherwise when it isn't shared. Despite all this, I had a great time and toward the end of my time there, I was picking up on more and able to have more regular conversations among Mariella and her friendly roommate Juan. The Beaches & Matte:

Famous hand statue in Punta del Este

On my first day in Montevideo, I spent one afternoon checking out the beach on an ideal spring day as Mariella showed me around and introduced me to her friends. While on the beach or quite frankly anywhere else in Uruguay (or much of South America for that matter), most people will bring with them what is known as "Matte." Basically, it is some sort of herbal like tea that is filled in a cup, followed by adding hot water. People essentially walk around with a unique cup used to hold the herbs and a big canister of hot water everywhere they go – seemed a bit cumbersome but who am I to say. In addition to the beach in Montevideo, we spent a weekend out in Punta del Este. Similar to other beachfront, resort towns, it was a very pretty place with a nice boardwalk, pleasant beaches (though no volleyball in site...) and your typical touristy restaurants. Mariella had a friend who had a place out there (Nacho), who we stayed with for the weekend, along with one of her additional friends. It was great to get a locals viewpoint of both Montevideo and Punta del Este. Getting Out on the Town:

What does this teach me? The less I can communicate with the opposite sex the better??

As I was there on the weekend, I had a chance to go out with Mariella and her friends – translation – me and 7 or so girls...rough, I know. It was cool to check out some places that were not touristy or backpacker hangouts, but rather local Uruguayan bars that I'd never stumble upon on my own. I think we were out to 5am which is normal in South America but for an American used to a bar kicking you out at 1:30am, staying out until the sun began to rise was a bit tiring for me – I don't know how they do it. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun and I got to practice my Spanish more which was nice (I swear it gets better after a couple beers).

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