I thought I'd check in with some news and notes (Peter Gammons style) before I head off for a weekend in Cabo Polonio:
- I have more pictures up in my Montevideo album.
- This week I was given the assignment to give a presentation on the topic of my choosing. I elected to explain the game of baseball to my teacher, Claudia, who came into things knowing literally nothing about the sport. I've had this conversation with my brother before, but you really have no idea how complicated a game baseball is until you try to explain it to someone who's never seen it. What was supposed to be a ten-minute presentation turned into a three-day seminar, at about 20 minutes per day. By the end of the first day, I hadn't even gotten to such basic things as "how runs score." At this point, however, Claudia seems to have at least some sense of the game, to the point that I was able to show her a video of a pretty sick curveball, and she understood what was going on. Now I'm trying to hunt down video of Mookie Wilson's ten-pitch at bat in Game 6, just to fully demonstrate the game within a game that is the pitcher-batter interaction. Man, I miss having a good Mets team to root for.
- Mullets are extremely popular in the Rio de la Plata region. I have no good explanation for this. It is probably the most common hairstyle for men. I would try to grow one, but given my looming male-pattern baldness, I would look like a washed-up guitar teacher.
- One think I've noticed about studying the language is just how much easier it is to have a conversation with another non-native speaker. Native Spanish speakers breeze through words and sentences at a speed that often makes it difficult to pick up. If you think of the way you might speak English in the middle of an excited conversation, that's fairly analogous. Add in the fact that words sometimes get so strung together as to be indistinguishable, and it makes it pretty tough. So, as a result, my best Spanish conversations have been with people from Switzerland and Brazil, for the most part.
- Another funny thing about languages is the little idiosyncrasies that show up, in particular as it relates to names for things. For example, I was extremely excited when someone told me about the marine wolves at Cabo Polonio. Yes. Marine wolves. Badass right? It turns out that's just what they call sea lions. What amuses me is that the exact same conversation could happen in reverse with a Spanish speaker learning English--"you mean there are lions that swim in the water?!" It turns out that this isn't the only example of this issue. It seems to just be a problem when an animal doesn't have its own name, but rather a variation on the name of another animal (e.g. a sea lion is called a type of lion, even though it's not). This issue came up again when our tour guide last weekend brought us to her friend's apartment at the top of Palacio Salvo to see the view. She said she'd never brought a group there, so we would be her little Indian rabbits, or "conejitos Indios." It's about as indirect a translation of "guinea pig" as can exist, but, as a name for the creature, it makes at least as much sense.
- The internet here is really slow. Uruguay ranks 152nd in the world in download speed, well below every other country I'm visiting on this trip.
- The people here are just incredibly friendly. Last night on the way back from a bar, I got into a conversation with the cab driver about politics. He was telling me about how deeply passionate the entire country is, when it comes to political issues. As we arrived at our destination, he gave me his phone number, and said that if I was interested in meeting a Uruguayan senator, he'd be happy too take me--the senators are obligated to take meetings with constituents.