Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cooling off...

Winter has arrived in Uruguay. No frost or snow, just pervasive cold, wind, fog, and an energy crunch that's making it very pricey to keep my apartment as warm as I'd like. But the lessened appeal of spending time outdoors made June a productive month of research in the library.

Below is a picture of the historic center of Montevideo, taken from the plane on my way back from Brazil. The city was founded in the early 1700's as a military and commercial outpost to ward off the Portuguese. This was very late in the game, considering Buenos Aires was permanently established about 150 years earlier. 

Because the cold weather does not really make the beach or leisurely days at the part an attractive option in the winter, it is a great time to take advantage of some of Montevideo's indoor attractions. One of the highlights of the past month was seeing Uruguayan singer (and Oscar winner) Jorge Drexler at Montevideo's historic Teatro Solis. Here's the theater before the concert.

And below is a picture of Drexler in action. As you can tell, the concert was low-key and intimate. I thought it was a fantastic show, and I'd recommend his music to anyone who enjoys calm, thoughtful music. With creative metaphors and smart references, his lyrics read like poetry and are a nice change of pace from the "en mi corazon" simplicity that characterizes the bulk of the Spanish music I recall from airwaves in the U.S.

One funy little trip I made in Montevideo was to the Edificio Liberaij, where in 1965 a group of bandits from Argentina who were hiding in Uruguay after a bank robbery engaged in a deadly shootout. Two of the bandits were said to be lovers, and the incident is captured in the steamy Argentina film Plata Quemada, a great movie to check out for a glimpse at romantic 1960's Montevideo.

One highlight of June was a trip to one of the poor communities on the periphery of Montevideo, where Catholic priest Gonzalo Aemilius directs the Juan Pablo II school providing elementary education to the community's youth. I hope to interact more with Gonzalo in the future. When I told him about my research project, he joked that he was a big fan of Uruguayan secularism because it meant he didn't have to dress up in traditional religious garb. Here I am with Gonzalo and the other Fulbright research scholars. 

One of the perks of being abroad on a government-sponsored program is the chance to mingle with important people at embassy events. Here's a picture of the embassy's Fourth of July party, which took place at US Ambassador Frank Baxter's beautiful residence in the middle of Montevideo. Cotton candy, doughnuts and other junk food were on hand  and made us feel right at home.

And last, the definite highlight of June was a visit for long-time friends Kay (from Denver) and Andrea (from Michigan). They took a detour from their travels in Argentina to spend some time getting to know Uruguay. We had a great time, in large part due to large consumption of many pastries, steaks, ice cream and pizzas. Here I am with Kay outside Cake's, where we enjoyed a fantastically satisfying end to our carbohydrate binge.