Saturday, April 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!


Wish I could be with you on your special day. Miss and love you! - Todd

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Regional Enhancement Seminar

A highlight of my experience so far was the opportunity to meet almost 40 other Fulbright Scholars doing research throughout the Southern Cone. In early April, we all spent a week in Buenos Aires presenting our research topics and getting to know the Argentine capital. The visit also coincided with my birthday, as well as that of a fellow researcher and free spirit Anne, and so a good deal of celebration ensued.

Here I am with the other research grantees in Uruguay, Josh (left) and Ben (middle). Below is Florencia, an fan of the Uruguay trio and employee of the Fulbright Commission in Argentina.

Here are all the researchers representing the Southern Cone (that's Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay)

Anne and I hit it off in a big way even before we knew we shared a birthday. I'll be seeing her in Sao Paulo at the end of May.

A picture of me presenting my research. While some grantees attending the conference were wrapping up their research, I was one of the many just getting started. In order to compete with other grantees presenting their doctoral dissertations, I resorted to snappy attire and technicolor graphics. 

Finally, a few photos from my adventures in Buenos Aires, which has been for almost 5 years now my favorite city in the world.

The Casa Rosada, the seat of Argentina's executive power, and the place where President Christina Kirchner goes to work between fancy meals and spa treatments (this, according to most of the Argentines I met up with).


An Argentine in his natural habitat - a steakhouse.

We went to an estancia (ranch) outside Buenos Aires for one day to ride horses and relax. Here I am learning circus moves from a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil who is doing a documentary on the Brazilian circus.

OK, this next picture sums up a lot about zany Buenos Aires in my opinion. It is about 3am in the morning, in the middle of the workweek, and this overproduced middle-aged woman (who I'm told is a mother of three) is dancing up a storm. And yes, she is balancing a drink on her head. And I thought my mom was a free spirit.

The next two pictures are from one of the most bizarre and entertaining places I have ever been. It is called Tierra Santa, and it is a religious theme park in Buenos Aires, which features over-the-top anamatronic re-enactments of the Creation, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, etc. 

This first one is of Adam and Eve. The green lasers were so intense and awe-inspiring that I really felt as if I were witnessing the Creation of the universe.

The most memorable moment was watching the Resurrection as a 40-foot statue of Jesus rose from a mountain to the tune of Handel's Messiah. After rising completely, Jesus rotates, cocks his head back, and opens and shuts his eyes. The Resurrection takes place every hour.

This last picture is not from Argentina, but the smoke you see is. Farmers in Argentina, upset over the decision of the government to increase export taxes on soy, have set fire to patches of forest north of Buenos Aires, and the smoke has carried all the way to Montevideo. This is a very real example of how Argentina's economic turbulence inevitably has its negative effects on poor little Uruguay.

A new home in Montevideo

Hi everyone. Here are some photos of my new home: Montevideo, Uruguay. Often described as Latin America's most laid-back capital city, Montevideo has eclectic architecture, a beautiful riverfront Rambla, fantastic food, and about 1.5 million very welcoming inhabitants. 

With a population about ten times larger and the glitz, bustle, and attitude commensurately larger, Buenos Aires steals away most of the attention from Montevideo (as well as a large chunk of the population as well). However, Montevideo came out on top in a recent "quality of life" ranking.

Below is the Palacio Salvo, Montevideo's most recognizable building.

Below are a few photos of my home in the Pocitos neighborhood.

The entrance to my building

The farmers market that takes place every Friday on my street

My top-floor balcony - the main reason for my apartment selection

Uruguay's beautiful beaches are near and dear to every Uruguayan heart, it seems. And many Uruguayans will remind you that when it comes to beaches, Argentina doesn't even come close.

Here is a picture of some friends enjoying the last days of summer at a beach two hours east of Montevideo.

The next photo is of my favorite thing in Montevideo: the beachfront "rambla" (promenade), only two blocks from my apartment.

And the following photos are of particular interest to my research on secularism and religious participation in Uruguay.

A large cross that sits at a major intersection in Montevideo. It was erected in 1989 to welcome Pope John Paul II to the country, and the government allowed it to stay there permanently - a remarkable shift for a country that about 80 years earlier banned the display of the crucifix in public hospitals.

Some graffiti I found in Montevideo that speaks to my topic of research. The translation in English would be "Separation of Church and state, legalize abortion."

On April 19th I was able to take part in the largest Catholic pilgrimage in Uruguay to the shrine of the Virgin of Verdun, located near Minas (a city 2 hours from Montevideo in the interior). Based on the large turnout, religious life seems to be surprisingly vibrant in what is traditionally Latin America's most secular nation.