Sunday, August 31, 2008
Second semester begins
In August, I entered the second half of my research experience with plenty of work ahead of me. In my final 3 1/2 months I'll be busy with classes, interviews, readings, volunteer work, hosting out-of-town guests, and a Portuguese classes on the side.
But one of the things keeping me pretty stress-free in Uruguay is the wonderful "rambla" (waterfront promenade), where the Uruguayans and I go to unwind. Now that the days are longer and the cold isn't quite as bitter, the city seems to be coming out of its hibernation, and the rambla is starting to have a lively buzz, as you can see below.
And after about 6 months in my current apartment I'm continuing to be charmed by the neighborhood I live in, Pocitos. Nowadays it is one of Montevideo's high-rent areas, but historically is was one of the neighborhoods where all swaths of Uruguay's large and dominant middle class could live (from the milkman to the doctor, according to some friendly octogenarian neighbors). Pocitos is dotted with gorgeous homes from the early 1900's that suggest obvious wealth (the fact that they have garages is one clue, given their age), but are modest in size and not overstated, compared to the palaces found in Buenos Aires.
I began to notice that one of the things many of the most beautiful homes had in common was a plaque reading "Bello y Reborati." After a little research I found out they were the city's most famous and prolific team of architects in the early 1900's, building dozens and dozens of homes that look like little Italian villas adapted to an urban setting. Here's an example below.
And one of the highlights of August was a visit from three of my good friends from Curitiba in Brazil. I hadn't seen them since São Paulo in May, and I am looking forward to spending a little more time with them next summer in Brazil. Here's a picture of Italo explaining viticulture to Osvaldo during a visit to Bouzá, one of Uruguay's best-known wineries.
The Brazilians had a great trip, but did not become huge fans of Uruguay's acidic Tannat wine or Montevideo's nightlife. The highlight of the trip was definitely the leisurely Saturday we spent in the Old City, where the weekly antiques fair was buzzing and where there was plenty of meat to be eaten at the Mercado del Puerto. Here's a picture of antique's fair, and the vintage car and bus in the background are kitschy enough they look like they should be for sale too.
And the last few pictures are of a quick weekend trip I took with a friend to the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, right across the border from Uruguay. The state in the far south is somewhat similar to the "Wild West" of the US, populated late in the colonial game by rugged ranchers who created a thriving cattle industry. I've been very interesting in the state for a while now due to its progressive politics (participatory budgeting and same-sex civil unions) and its extraordinarily high per-capita rate of supermodels.
Here I am with Facundo and the statue of the Laçador - a symbol of the rugged and independent "gaucho" spirit of Rio Grande do Sul. Nowadays, residents of the state are called "gauchos" due to this heritage.
Rio Grande do Sul stands out in Brazil for its remarkably high literacy rates and more equal distribution of wealth. In this sense, it resembles Uruguay in many ways (but also due to the ubiquitous consumption of maté in both places). But one difference is that Rio Grande do Sul was blessed with a much more stunning and varied landscape then Uruguay. Here's an example of of of the state's natural attractions, the Cascata do Caracol.
And last, here I am in the town of Gramado, in the mountains of Rio Grande do Sul, which proudly and perhaps flamboyantly shows off its Alpine heritage. Our visit coincided (and not coincidentally) with the town's annual Film Festival, described by many as Brazil's Sundance. We had a blast joining in among the star-struck Brazilians who were screaming alongside the red carpet at the festival's closing ceremony.
Celebrity sightings included the Barbara Borges, Leandra Leal, and Daniel de Oliveira (who inspired particularly loud and high-pitched screams by the teenage girls standing next to me).