Thursday, October 27, 2011

#13 Interview in Spanish

...So I talked to the manager about the job in my bumbling Spanish(Somehow didn't get hung up on) and got an interview at 5 o'clock that afternoon. Oh yea where was this mysterious interview(Well ... I knew, all I knew was it was downtown). That was in 8 hours and I hadn't even prepared cue! Well guess what I discovered I am a recovering perfectionist(I was in high school) and I've had a few relapses here.(maybe there is a Perfectionist Anonymous I could go to). I tend to overprepare(a lot) when I'm nervous. So what did I do knowing this, as little as I could(Fellow Perfectionist:"What!?! you're crazy"). Oh sure I picked out my outfit, showered, and looked at common interview questions (in Spanish since I had finally gotten my Spanish brain working).

However, all I really did before I left for the interview was practice my Spanish.An interview in Spanish is a "leeeetle beet" (as Juan Pedro would say) difficult if you don't know the language. I listened to Cuarteto de Nos(Uruguayan pop rock band and really puts you in a good mood) and talked to Juan Pedro's brother who had been in Madrid for five years. Guess what? I was still way overprepared(Of course).

I left the house freaking out a bit with the pre-race jitters(They are the same as pre-interview). I needed to do something to calm me down. I got on the bus(Hey at least I'm not retarded) and I got off at the right stop(Oh I actually do know where I am going now). The runner in me calms down when I go for a walk althought it doesn't inflate my ego to the god-among-men level a good, hard run would. (Oh I feel good now), but then pre-race cottonmouth decided to rear its ugly serpent head. I saw one of the tiny little convenience stores(They don't seem to need a gas station to exist unlike home) across the street. As I proceeded to buy a bottle of water, the clerk asked me where I was from and what I was doing. I told her about the interview and she said Suerte(Good Luck for you Shankees)(Holy $^&# Uruguayans are so nice).

Ok the interview was easy really easy. My Spanish flowed fine I understood the manager perfectly it was pretty chill. I thought I did great. The next day I thought about and realized I had just made about every error in the book. My problem was what I said not my level of Spanish. Live and Learn.

Update: I've had two since one in english and one in Spanish they have gone a lot better.

What do you think about job interivews? What has been your experience? Please Comment Below.

#12 Get an Interview

I woke up feeling much better than the night before (when I had been so stressed I had forgot Spanish for about the third time). I decided to figure out how to listen to my voicemails on my phone. "Oh that doesn't sound that hard" (Well trying doing that with a phone that was state-of-the-art in 2000). Anyways I listened to the voicemail and it didn't sound like one of the oh-so-many(3) people that I had talked to on my phone. Since my morning spanish isn't top notch I listened to it about 4 times and discovered it was interview! I was giddier(Its a word now, deal with it) than a school girl. Without even knowing it I had an opportunity to interview yesterday(right as I was thinking maybe I shouldn't be here.)

After another 5 times listening to it(Seriously speaking another language in the morning is tough)I wrote down the name & number, but I couldn't make out the name of the hostel. Well living with a family of Uruguayans has it perks and one of them is they know Spanish(No Way!) which is hella(also a word now) useful. I went to get said-Spanish-speaking-Uruguayan which is "really hard" to find here. "Luckily" I found one I gave him my phone and he called the voicemail. He told me I had no new messages. I thought no way, but I called and sure enough nothing...absolutely nothing(But I repeat myself). I thought(Put your favorite four-letter word here)->#$@#!. Para mis amigos que hablen español (Pone allá su favorito maldigo español)->#$$%^%$%$#%$#$#%$%%. If your American and a little confused right now Spanish Speakers have much more ummm... colorful expressions of frustration.

Well just like Twisted Sister I wasn't going to take it anymore. I was going to get that interview. Small problem, I had to call her back and my phone Spanish was about as comprehensible as a drunk(Grandma, don't ask me how I know that), but I had to do it. Well being nervous as hell I asked Monica(Mom always knows what to do) what to say. Thank god she stepped me through the basics like "Hi" and "I got your message"(Yes nerves completely destroys your understanding of Spanish). However, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up so I grew some ummm...well you know...and went to my room and called her.
(Hint: read the next post if you want to know what happened)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#17 Make your own Mate/Become a Mate Pro

I was tired, I needed something to wake-up, I needed Mate!

Well today I couldn't wait to use my new mate. So being the maverick I am(No not like Sarah Palin!) I tried to make some mate. I had a rough idea of how to do it(make a little mountain on one side, add hot water, repeat as necessary), but was pretty much just winging it. Since no one was around I had no choice and then da-da-da Super Mate Man(Juan Pedro) walked in the door and saved the day. He added a heaping amount of mate to what I thought was plenty. Then added the near-boiling water to my mate. With mate you have to be careful or you will end up with a burned mouth.

Ok I thought I had the hang of it, I tried again another day. Nope! Gabi saved my mate. Ok surely now I got it, no Mechi saved my @$$ again. I like to think I am fairly intelligent, so let me tell you why it is so complicated.

Step 1:
Clean out Mate with Bombilla

Step 2:

Fill with Yerba(Tricky because if you don't put the right amount the next steps are harder)

Step 3: While tilting mate so yerba is on one side put in a little bit of cold water(With a faucet that doesn't shut off right away quite tricky)

Step 4:

Let cold water soak in

Step 5:

Form the montanita(little mountain) on one side of the mate and put bombilla in like a shovel so it is at the bottom (This is harder than it sounds with the dry mate avalanching if there is not enough wet mate to hold it up(seriously an engineering degree should be required).)

Step 6:

Fill with hot water(I assume you already boiled it) to just below top of montanita and let sit for a few minutes(so mate get's used little by little and doesn't lose flavor when it is it is called mate lavado(washed))

Step 7:

Enjoy 3-4 sips of mate until there is no water left

Step 8:

Use bombilla to reconstruct montanita(without spilling) and put bombilla in bottom with shovel motion.

Step 9:

Repeat until mate is lavado.

Next level maneuver make mate while standing or walking around like these pros:

If you can do this you are a mate pro.

#16 Try Maté

I believe I have officially achieved at least honorary Uruguayan status by trying maté for the first time and not spitting it out. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it (unlike another Shankee's(Uruguayan for American) experience I read about where he described it as tasting like ditch water). As I later discovered I had tried mate amargo(bitter) which is for those tough-gaucho(Uruguayan cowboy)types like John Wayne who are tougher than tough.

However, being unitiated into the maté culture at the time I was the equivalent of little girl. Later, one of the sisters in the house asked me if I wanted some mate. Being the oh-so-polite person that I am. I took a sip and loved it. Why? It was mate dulce(sweet).

And so began the Great Mate War of Casa Del Campo. The Dulces(women) and Amargos(men) fought for my mate soul. The Dulces started off strong they shared their mate with me until I was only drinking mate dulce. They told the Amargos, "He likes mate dulce"(I do). To which the amargos countered, "He is a man he likes mate amargo"(Heck yes I'm a man). However, the Dulces clearly had the advantage as they shared their mate dulce until I had forgotten the taste of mate amargo.

But while the war waged on I wanted one of my own, so the next day I went out and looked at mates just to get an idea of the price. Well then I realized I have no job at the moment so that means I'd have to wait until I got one before I could even think about buying one. Learn to share it is. That night I was resting in my room when I heard Monica(the mom in the house) come out.

I came out of my room to be social and say hi. Then she said I have a present for you. I was completely surprised by her kindness. I looked inside it was a complete mate set thermos, mate, bombilla and all. I was so happy I was grinning from ear to ear. I think Perico must have told her about our conversation. Well that or they can read my mind in which case I need to start thinking in English instead of Spanish.

Later that night, I asked an Amargo(Chule) how to cure my mate. He showed me and said that if I used mate dulce it would be absorbed by my mate(gourd) and I could never have a truely amargo mate again, so I couldn't switch between them. I had to choose one or the other. I knew mate was an acquired taste like fine wine(or "goooood vine" as Juan Pedro would say). I believed I would acquire the taste for mate amargo. The Great Mate War had ended the Amargos had miraculously yanked victory from the jaws of defeat. I am now an Amargo ¡Viva los Amargos!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

#15 Go to Graduation...Again

Now I didn't epically fail the graduation process and have to redo it. I went to the graduation of Perico(the oldest of the three sons in the house). He graduated from the Universidad de la Republica(largest university in Uruguay and only public one) with a degree in software engineering. So now let's have fun comparing.

When we graduate:
-He is near 30 about to get married and already has a job.
-I/average American college student are 20-23 without a job.

Two things I want to touch on here. Bad: It took him so long because classes are hard to get into at the public university. Good: He didn't pay a cent.

How long it takes:
Here: Average engineer 5-6 years minimum
States: 4-5 years but usually because you are doing a minor or double major.

I don't know, but it seems likely that their school is a little more challenging to graduate from, but either way being an engineer is hard.

Number of Graduates:
Universidad de la Republica: Between all engineers ~120
ISU: My estimate is there were aboutt 500 in my year.

Obviously Uruguay is smaller than the States, so that might be a factor. However, it is close enough in size to Iowa and is a well-educated country in case you were thinking that might be the difference. Plus Iowa has 2 major universities. So why the difference. My guess it is harder to graduate i.e. classes are harder, there are more requirements, etc.

Opinion time: These are both public universities so the idea is that anyone or almost anyone should be able to get in(Agree). However, that doesn't mean anyone should be able to graduate and get that piece of paper called a diploma. I believe that in trying to get everyone to go to college and be better off we have made it worse. Yea more people are graduating, but what about the quality of people that are graduating. I think at some point the push to get more in college(well-intentioned) ended up lowering standards.

Why, you ask? I have seem some people that are so dumb they shouldn't be allowed outside by themselves and they are in college. This is a problem for the U.S. and more importantly it's graduates. These idiots are graduating just like the smart people so now my essentially worthless diploma is becoming even more worthless because now anyone can graduate.

To support this a few years ago you only needed a Bachelor's to get into the State Dept. because they knew you were prepared. Now a Master's is practically a requirement because that hasn't been watered down like Bachelor's degrees and you do actually have to know what you are doing to graduate. Also I graduated in three years with a double major double minor. I didn't do that much more work than others and I changed majors after my first semester making that worthless credit-wise and only took 12 hours in Spain. It shouldn't have been that easy and graduate school isn't. However, then I would have to fork over fistful's of cash for the privilege, No thanks!

Graduation Ceremony
ISU: Elaborate, very formal, robes, long speeches, and music(see below)
Uruguay: 3 five-minute speeches, hand out diploma, casual dress

I feel like appearances have become more important than substance. Outside of a few classes and my experience in Spain I feel cheated it should have been harder.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#10 Kiss a Dude

Yea that got your attention didn't it.
No I'm not gay, this isn't some post where I come out of the closet.
In Uruguay the normal greeting is a beso(kiss) on the right cheek. Even between guys although it does depend on the guy and how well you know them.

In my opinion if you already know the person it is a lot more personal or heartfelt hi than a high-five or handshake like in the States.
I've noticed after watching the family and other Uruguayans that we(Americans) are generally more standoffish(probably due to our heavy British and German heritages in some of us).
The way I like to describe the Brits is they act like they have a stick in their...

So how to put this in practice.

Do greet people who are not part of the family(who you don't live with) everytime you come into their house.

Do greet everyone

Don't greet people you don't know on the street

Do say goodbye to everyone with at the very least a handshake(you may wave if there are a bunch and you are younger)

Now you are ready to meet people in Uruguay although you should probably know some Spanish too.(It helps a little bit)

What do you think about greetings around the world? Please Comment Below.

#11 Make Your First CV in Spanish

The idea of a CV is perfection you have to show an employer just how perfect you are, so they will think you are the best person for the job and hire you. Well guess what I'm not perfect and I hate pretending to be perfect. Then try to do that in a language that is not your own. Good luck you can't do it on your own unless you have mastered the language. You need to ask for help you need to have someone help you make it better.

Most of us struggle with this idea we want to make it perfect, so there is nothing wrong with it, but in the end it is actually worse. You try too hard to make yourself seem perfect that you fear being perceived as human. We all are human we all aren't perfect.

I wrote my first CV today. Oh of course I had done the practice ones you do in that college-prep or orientation classes, but with those you can make up what you think you will do like I will be so perfect I will get that internship I will do research in the field I will learn everything I possibly need to know to do that. No you won't. You will likely do some of it if you really like what your doing, but if you don't know what you want to do, like most of us, you won't. You probably will take the classes do a little bit here and there that prepares you, but if you don't love it you won't do it.

Now writing one for real you will have to use your actual facts you can't lie you aren't perfect. You have to use what you have done. To get a job at a hotel here I know what they want. They want someone that speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and English fluently. They want someone that is great with people. They want someone who will always work hard. Someone who will be able to do everything they ask them to and more.

Well I'm not that guy it would silly for me to try to be I just need to show off what I can do what I will do for the company. I can speak English better than any Uruguayan. I have a year of experience in hotels. I learn systems quicker than most. that is what I can do.

When you use your real information don't try to be perfect or you'll be too afraid to apply anywhere because you will always see what is wrong with your resumé, but guess what I left a little bit of shadow in my picture, when I tried to erase it I only made it worse. Don't be perfect be you and the rest will fall into place. That's what I learned and I have gotten 3 interviews and expect a few more, but we'll see...

Here's how it turned out

What do you think about looking for a job? What has been your experience? Please Comment Below.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Montevideo Geography

Ok so I know most of you aren't the geography nerd I am, so knowing where the island country of Palau is might not be your strong suit. Therefore, I am going to give a brief geography lesson on Montevideo. I will put a map up, but it really sucks so if you want play with Google maps a little and it might make more sense.

Ok so first Montevideo is divided into Barrios or neighborhoods that have their own distinct characteristics. As you can see there is a peninsula to the west and one to the south. Ok the one to the west is called Ciudad Vieja(Old City). It is where the city was in the 1800's before it expanded due to heavy immigration from Spain and Italy. This is where the port is(north side) and a lot of the tourist attractions.(I will explain them and put pictures up in another post).To the east of that is the downtown called Centro. This the main business district an it follows the main street Avenida 18 de Julio(the big one that goes east-west from the western peninsula).

To the south of this main street are the barrios of Palermo and Barrio Sur. They are historically a little poorer and home to the few Africans here in Uruguay. However, the are also the home of candombe(a popular style of music here that is seen at Carnaval. Interesting fact: Montevideo has the longest Carnaval in the world like 40 some days. Anyways you can see that there is a split in the Main Streets. The one going northeast ends at Parque Battle(one of three huge city parks) which is home to Estadio Centenario the national soccer stadium that was built for the 1st World Cup and at the time State-of-the-Art. A little to the West of that is Tres Cruces(3 crosses because three major streets(Avenida Italia, Avenida 18 de Julio, and Avenida General Artigas)intersect there). There is the bus terminal for long distance buses and a small mall.

Now follow the largest street(Avenida General Artigas) from Parque Battle to the tip of the Southern peninsula. Those barrios are called Pocitos and Punta Carretas and are the richest neighborhoods that are in the center of the city. All the new bars and restaurants are being built there and it is a very very nice area.On the west side of the peninsula you can see a golf course and Parque Rodo(smaller than Battle but still nice). Now see the road running along the coast that is called the Rambla. It has different names like Rambla Sur or Rambla President Wilson(near the U.S. embassy) but it runs for 22km(~13mi.) along the coast with an expansive sidewalk for joggers, couples, and whoever else wants to walk near the ocean(Actually it is the mouth of the Rio de la Plata translated River Plate, but it actually means Silver(Money) River). Anyways there is a beach to the south of it by Pocitos.

Now of course the city extends farther northwards and eastwards(along the coast). Generally the farther east you go the bigger the houses get especially barrios like Buceo and Carrasco, but I won't be living there so really not important. However, to the north and west a little bit is Parque Prado(It isn't on the map, but google it). Anyways this is a park similar in size to Battle. It has lots of botanical gardens a very nice Hotel and a stream(disgusting, but still water) running through it. I am currently living on the north side of the Park with a family (near Camino Castro and Avenida Millan if you want to know).

This neighborhood is very ritzy as well. Think Uruguay's version of Leawood or West Des Moines. In fact the president of Uruguay's house is a short walk away. I found that out when I asked why one house had so much security(probably won't take pictures of it, no need for charges of spying or something). Also many ambassadors and very important people in Montevideo live here. It is more old money from what I can tell whereas Carrasco is new money. Anyways this area was built by the British when they were here during the 1800's so parts of it have a very English feel.

Ok now you should know Montevideo better than the average person that doesn't live here. Next Lesson will be Geography of Uruguay. Class dismissed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#6 Move to a Country that doesn't Speak English

When I got to Montevideo after 30+ hours of travelling I was exhausted and re-learning Spanish, which I have hardly used for a year and a half, was the last thing I wanted to do, but it was my choice. So Challenge #1 become fluent or at least be able to understand and talk to people. I had clearly underestimated how much you forget in a year and a half of not speaking a foreign language.

The first 2 days I couldn't really speak or understand Spanish, by that I mean I couldn't. A word here a phrase there was it. Oh and forget about being able to talk and be understood that wasn't happening. To say I hated being the equivalent of a dumb and mute idiot the family shuns is putting it exceptionally mildly. So that said, the third day in Montevideo the Spanish slowed down, so I could tell the difference between words even if i didn't know exactly what they were saying. I still couldn't speak Spanish well, so I was more like a kid first learning how to talk, but it was progress. The next day I was so fed up with not being able to talk I left the house and went for a walk detailed in this post(#7 Walk at Night by Yourself).

Somehow when I got back I understood them perfectly, well except words I never knew, and I could talk! Best feeling ever! I've never felt so frustrated or stupid, but now finally I could show them the family I wasn't retarded. If that hadn't of happened I'm fairly sure I would have been on the next plane out because there is no way I could of survived without the level of Spanish I know now. My Spanish isn't near perfect, but now I can communicate and people understand me and I can understand almost everything except slang. They never teach that in Spanish Class, probably because they don't want us speaking Spanish like a sailor.

As a result I believe that in the endless debate of what makes humans different than animals I would put Communication(Oral and written). Sure some animals can make short noises or mimic what they hear, but I doubt at anything near human level. In Spanish I could do roughly the equivalent the first few days a word here and there, but I couldn't actually develop thoughts. I think that is something that makes us human. What do you think about this? Please Comment below.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

#8 Ride the Bus(Part 1)

Ok so far I have pretty much bashed American beliefs and culture. Well I am only really picking on some things I see as problems, but overall it is a great country to live in. So I am going to the United States a little credit before I lay into a problem we have. Cyride buses work much better than those here in Montevideo.

Instead of pulling a wire to get off there is a tiny button above the back door you have to push to get off, not fun trying to do that in a crowded bus. Also they don't stop at every stop you have to do the taxi wave to have a bus stop otherwise it will blow right by you. As a result there really is no reliable schedule.

There is another oddity that has some good and bad parts to it. There is a driver and cashier on each bus. It seems unnecessary to have two people when most people just slide their cards across a yellow box to pay for the bus. Then again it probably keeps people off the streets here so that is useful and the driver can get to the whole driving part much quicker.

Ok, so now to destroy the United States transportation system(evil laugh). Cyride is the exception not the rule. If we put it in every city then I would give the U.S. an edge, but we don't. I realize the East Coast probably has better public transport than the Midwest(minus Chicago), but it is very ummm sketch. The Chicago EL train and the New York subway system are A. Disgusting B. Sometimes Dangerous C. Overcrowded.

Their buses also don't have a great reputation, but they might be better I don't know. The buses here are safe clean and very much like Cyride. Oh and long distance public transport in the U.S., no thanks. Greyhound is so so sketchy and poorly run with few stops near a city center. I rode it once from Ames to KC and back, never again. What about Amtrak? Nice, clean, and safe. However, what normally is a 4 hour car ride from KC to St. Louis was 7 hours because we got stuck behind freight.NEVER AGAIN.

That being said if the U.S. had an efficient, clean, and relatively safe public transportation in the large cities I believe we would be better off. Now I understand because the country is so huge it would be very expensive to build the infrastructure, but taxes aren't all for useless crap despite the belief of some. Also in Montevideo the bus companies are private(not communists who want to kill you ;) ) yet they still provide a public service for a very low price.

However, Americans are attached to their cars and I believe because we like staying away from others in general. Yes people here have cars and those that can afford them use them. However, the U.S. is by far the cheapest place to own a car in the world. If we stopped bailing out GM and Chrysler(Go Ford!) and put the money into infrastructure for public transport I think we would be better off, but it is expensive and people hate the government taking money for any reason so oh well.

Here is a Cutsca(most common) city bus:

What do you think about public transportation in the United States? What is it like in you city? Please Comment Below.

#9 Play a Sport You Suck At

I haven't played soccer since 3rd grade. The only people in the U.S. that I know who played soccer played it in high school. Yes at my school it was only offered in the fall and I was too busy with cross country. Soccer is so important here that if you like sports and want to play one there is no easier one to play than soccer. They do pick-up games with their friends which is usually soccer 5(10 total) because finding 22 people that have free time is almost impossible.

Play is normal soccer rules with goalies rotating every 5 minutes so everyone gets some rest from the constant running that is soccer. You will be dead tired by the end of the game! Convenient since bed time is right after.

They play on a smaller field which makes for a much more fast paced game. Kind of like the difference between normal football rules and ultimate football. However, they only have time to play at night after work or school or whatever else they need to do during the day. Also they play on private(canchas).

My normal group plays every Monday. The prices vary from about 60 pesos to 90 pesos($3-5) per person per hour. We don't always go to the same field, but most of the fields have similar characteristics. They are turf the old school turf with a fine grain sand on top which I assume is to make the ball travel faster. They don't have the space we are accustomed to in the Midwest where there are public fields that anyone can play on. They play on private fields. There is no standard field which would drive most Americans crazy they will play anywhere on a basketball court or on turf both outside or inside or a very hard dirt in poorer areas.

This field is actually for one of the pro teams in Montevideo. It would be like playing pickup football in Bergstrom or the Chiefs practice field and paying $2 per person.

They just want to play they just want to have a good time with friends. They don't need to win of course they want to, but they don't need to like we do in the United States. There isn't this culture of "if you aren't first your last"-Ricky Bobby, it is just to have fun, enjoy time with friends and relax. Tranquilo that is Uruguay. To play well you need to be calm there isn't a rush there never is. You play better when you are calm and take a breath and relax. Moreover you play on a team you play together. Yes, everyone wants to be the next Ronaldinho(one of the best soccer players of all time), but the best teams play as a team they play together they play with each other. Something I think because of the individualistic nature of American sports football, basketball, and baseball this is sometimes forgotten. In soccer no one really has only one job they are all utility players that specialize in doing certain things.

Ok so my experience of learning soccer. It wasn't/isn't easy and many times frustrating being the worst on the field, but it is fun.

1st game: I could barely stop the ball let alone kick it where I wanted, I had no idea where to be on the field either.

2nd game: I knew where I needed to be on the field, but my ball skills were none(kinda still are)
I missed an easy goal, whiffed it completely, the kind of whiff youtube videos are made of.

3rd-5th game: I could sort of pass the ball where it needed to be and I knew where I should be on the field. As goalie I actually made a few saves. However, dribbling was still a terrible idea as I had no control.

6th game: I finally broke through the wall it was 5 v. 4, but regardless I scored 3-5 goals can't really remember. Our side won! (Also injured my self, so I could barely walk the next week and had to sit out and take pictures like this)

7th game: This was tough, this group was good, we were playing the uncle living with us who is a former professional and now a sports analyst on TV. Managed to not screw up too bad and scored a goal. Both sides were really good and my side won by 1, definitely not by my goal.

8th game: You know the 3 man weave you play in basketball,. Turns out that is really useful in soccer as our team used it quite successfully on the way to a 14-10 win. I could move the ball where I wanted it to. I missed some passes and goals bad. However, that 3 man weave set up 2 goals for me. Thanks Jacho/Jorge/Coque!

To infinity: Depends game by game, but other than improving ball skills I'm at about where I am going to be.

What sports do you play with your friends? What do you like about it? Please Comment Below.

#7 Walk at Night By Yourself

As detailed in this post (#6 Move to a Country that doesn't Speak English). I went for a walk after 2-3 days of being a mute idiot as far as my level of Spanish was concerned. When everyone else speaks Spanish and some English, though very hard to understand with their accent, it is not fun to not understand. I finally decided to go outside and explore even though I was a little bit scared since I had not been outside the house/yard yet. Anyways I was going to walk around this big park, Parque Prado. Think city park, but not Forest Park in St. Louis, Central Park in New York, or Grant Park in Chicago size, but more like those in a small city.

Anyways, I immediately took a wrong turn but I found my way to the Park after going around it once I wanted to explore more. At this point I started daydreaming in a way. It's something I do while running, but basically my mind was on auto-pilot and I was thinking in Spanish. I was trying to sort out everything that had happened in the last 2 days. I had been completely bombarded by new things that I had no idea what to do first. Anyways I only knew one major street was close to the house Avenida Millan. I started walking around trying to find the house, I knew it was by a Liceo(High School), but I couldn't find it. It got dark which made things infinitely harder. I walked around for two hours in the dark trying this, trying that, I've seen this street before. I knew I was close, but I couldn't find it.

However, during that whole time I never felt unsafe. Now opinion time. I don't understand why people are so afraid of going out in the dark. Yes in the inner city in seedy areas you shouldn't, but out in nice suburbs like Bridgeton, Ames, Cáceres, Johnson County as long as there are lights no problem. I've been out multiple times at night by myself in all of these and I felt just as safe when I was lost at night in Montevideo. I understand my gender plays a role, but still. I walked near the main train station in Rome(apparently a dangerous part) at night, no problem. Yes it could have been different. However, if you exercise street smarts like looking like you know where you're going and don't appear lost as well as blending in a bit it seems unlikely the stuff we hear on the news will happen. I may be naive, but I don't want to be scared of the world. In my experience it is always safer than anything I've read or heard in the news.

Ok back to what happened. Well I have this intuition that is really useful in that I generally know where I am in relation to where I need to go. I knew I was close to the house, but after a couple of hours I was tired. I called the house and one of the oldest picked me up. I found out I was only five blocks away and had walked right past it about 2 hours earlier. I had forgotten what the gate to the house had looked like not where it was. What I believe was due to me thinking in Spanish and letting my mind wander somehow in an instant I could speak and understand Spanish like I had just been in Cáceres, Spain yesterday.

What do you think about going out at night in cities? What is your city/town like after dark? Women how is it different for you than for men? Pleae Comment Below.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#5 Stay with People You've Never Met

In the Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo I met the mom in the family I would be staying with. One e-mail had been our previous correspondence. I met the mom at the airport and gave her a besito(kiss...sort of) on the right cheek (it is how they greet). She drove me around parts of the city showed me one of her daughter's house and told me about each one of her twelve kids. Yep 12 not a typo. The 12 includes 7 daughters and five sons with the youngest a typical 17 year old boy and the oldest has 5 kids with the oldest being 11.

Quite a change from my family of about 15 including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Here they live with their parents until they get married, so there are 6 in house now, 4 guys and 2 girls. I had never met any of them and my Spanish was the time, but they made me feel welcome and tried to include me. I asked them how long I could stay they said until you feel comfortable(obviously there are limits to this), but they couldn't be nicer. They've included me in their family functions such as a Sunday barbecue(Asado in Uruguay) and I've played soccer many times with some of the guys in the family and their friends.

However, in the U.S. I never would have done this. Maybe it is just me, but I would guess most of us wouldn't stay at someone's home that we had never met. The media tells us to fear everything like your kid being kidnapped or murdered or something. Stranger Danger is taught to kids early, so they won't talk to people on the street. However, was the "safety" we gained really worth losing the sense of community that used to exist or at least I heard existed, maybe it was just made-up.

Another observation being from the United States we expect countries in the Third World/Developing World to be poor with lower standards of living than here. I didn't know what to expect with the family's living situation, but I guestimated it would probably be a little less than what I was used to. However, when I got to the family's house it was huge with 5 or 6 bedrooms at least 4 bathrooms spacious dining room and living room. They have a yard of nearly 1/3 of an acre with another building where they do asados(barbecue) on the weekends. Admittedly I wasn't expecting this, but then again their dad is the head surgeon at an accidents ward at a hospital, so you get the idea.

Now yes I do realize this is obviously a very wealthy family and more the exception than the rule. However, after having walked around I see no more beggars on the street or those less-well-off than I would in Iowa, Downtown KC, St. Louis, or Chicago. Actually I've seen less. One interesting thing here is that poor and rich can live right next to each other unlike the "white flight" that many Midwestern cities have, which can lead to some major problems. At the extreme end you got cities like Cleveland and Detroit. I was born in Detroit, but you couldn't pay me to go back and live there.

Montevideo also has less violent crime than any downtown Midwestern city. On the other hand, there are "bad" spots like the barrio(neighborhood) 40 Semanas(40 weeks) which is close to the ritzier barrio I'm living in (Prado). This barrio is in the suburbs along a stream where the government built what are essentially projects. They are parts where little education and opportunity make violent youth and drugs more popular. However, I don't believe KC or St. Louis could feel they're any better. I mean the KC and St. Louis school districts are failing and crime is up in KC at least. I've talked with the family and they think Uruguay is third world, but in some ways this beats the heck out of many parts of America.

What is crime like in your area? What do you think about crime in America? The Media's portrayal of it? Please Comment Below.

#3 Move to a Country You Have NEVER Visited on a Continent You Have NEVER Visited

Let me preface this one by saying that I have been abroad. I studied abroad in Cáceres, Spain for 3 months spring semester in 2010. You can read about my experience here

October 5th I got on a plane leaving Kansas City, my home for almost my whole life, with a one-way ticket to Montevideo, Uruguay. Leaving home has never been a problem for me, but knowing I was leaving for up to 5 years was much harder than I expected. Never been one to miss people too much, but I'm glad I gave my parents that extra hug. I arrived in the airport in Sao Paulo (That airport is tiny considering how big the city is). Smaller than KCI and my best guess is similar in size to Des Moines.

I was without any form of contacting somebody because of how useless my U.S. cellphone was(not GSM) and the lack of free/cheap Wi-fi. I couldn't understand spoken Portuguese nor speak it. All I can do is read a little of it because of its similarity to Spanish. I had to guess my way to the right terminal for my flight from Montevideo by eavesdropping on bits of conversations who was going where and hoping I had understood the Portuguese I was told by the airline worker. I couldn't sit still and I asked about five different people the same question just to quintiple-check I wouldn't end up in Sao Paulo rather than Montevideo. I overheard a rather old fellow say Montevideo. I didn't let him leave my sight because I knew if I followed him I would make the right plane.

Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport

On the plane I met a Spaniard named Guille who spoke perfect English(Thank God!) and we exchanged contact information. That's 1 person I know in Montevideo. When I arrived in Montevideo everything was so easy it was crazy. I went through customs without playing the game of 20 questions that I'm used to in the United States, actually even without talking. Security didn't even look at my bags as they went through the scanner. When I got past that, all I knew was that the mom of a Uruguayan I met at Iowa State was supposed to pick me up from the airport*. Never met them, only e-mailed his mom once.

Carrasco (Montevideo) International Airport

Seeing a sign with my name was probably the biggest relief ever. I could have gone to a hostel and paid $15-20 a night while looking for a job, but this family was kind enough to let me into their home.

*The Story of How I Met this Uruguayan: I had decided to go for a walk around Ames with no particular route in mind. I was going to go down Ross Road when I decided, on a whim, to cut through Emma McCarthy Lee park. I was walking by the water fountain. When I saw some guys wearing Argentina soccer jersey's. I can't really explain it, but I knew I should go talk to them and the normally shy me walked up to them and started asking them why they were here and what they were studying. I told them I was planning on going to Argentina or Uruguay in October. They said they had just finished playing soccer with some Uruguayans and introduced me. One of them around my age gave me his e-mail and we met up a few times in Ames before I left. I don't know if that was luck, fate, intuition, or divine intervention, but I do know I'm very glad to have met him.

What was your first experience leaving home? How long did you leave for? What was going through your head?

#4 Move to a Country with a Lower Standard of Living

It seems ingrained in American culture that getting rich is the goal of life. The American Dream(or more likely the outdated American Dream) is to work your way up until you can live a house in the suburbs with the white-picket fence, a nice car, and a bunch of other unnecessary stuff. When I was a kid(in the 90's) we had more or less won the Cold War, decimated the Iraqi army in Desert Storm, and the economy was soaring. The U.S. was at the top no question about it. Those that could afford it bought new cars, new computers, new TV's, new EVERYTHING. Everyone was better off in the country poor to rich. And then it happened... September 11th.

In the span of a few hours that fateful day everything started to change. No one knew what was going to happen. There were reports gas would skyrocket to $5 a gallon. After that security was increased to near schizophrenic levels, we invaded Afghanistan(yes we were actually there first and with a legitimate just war reason), then Iraq. We didn't win quickly this wasn't like before this was different. Mired in two costly wars the housing bubble burst and banks started failing.

The Great Recession(which is rather clever because if it was called a Depression people would panic and make it worse)had come. Despite this in general Americans haven't changed their ways. They are still buying the newest gadgets, cars, and houses because that will fix the economy. Sure it will in the short run, but deeper issues exist(I'll get to them later). Therefore, I believe that the "Great" American Economy is based entirely on consumerism the more Americans buy the better the economy. It is ingrained in our culture as even the government does it. Each Christmas people buy more, more food is better(talking to you Sam's Club), it's always more.

Since this culture of stuff exists Americans as a whole think of countries outside Western Europe as places undesirable to live. They call it the third-world like it is some place you should never go. Third-world actually is dated and means the countries that were neither Communist(Soviet Union influenced) nor Capitalist(United States influenced). Developing is a better way to contrast and although I generally hate political correctness this one is actually useful. However, what most Americans seem not to understand is that standard of living is not equal to quality of life.*

I can say money doesn't bring happiness a thousand times and people would agree, but then they'd go to work 60 hours a week at a job they hate. I know this isn't everyone, but more and more are like this. In my opinion people are the most important thing in life they make it more fun, more worth living. I've seen people in dire poverty in Juarez, Mexico that didn't like their situation in life, but were happier than most Americans because at least they had each other. Thus, although Uruguay has a lower standard of living than the U.S. it doesn't mean that it is worse off. Other factors such as closer-knit families, more relaxed living, healthier food, etc. shows that it might actually have a higher quality of life.

*I believe that money you have v. how happy you are put on a graph follows a bell curve. As you get more and more money you becoming happier up to a point where you have plenty and more actually makes you unhappier as it creates problems such as over-working or social separation.

What do you think about the difference between standard of living and quality of life? Please Comment Below.

#2 Move to a Country without a Job

Every time I told someone I was going to Uruguay they proceed to ask "Why?". I have many reasons: I love traveling, I'm not ready to work in an office for the rest of my life, the people are very nice, the weather is great, I like the food there, it's ridiculously easy to get residency and later citizenship, etc. I didn't want to explain that to some of them because they really didn't care, so I didn't care to answer. Also they never really understood why I would ever want to leave the United States. I think among other reasons; as a country the United States is very insular. There are various reasons for this. There is plenty to see and do in the U.S., we are currently the most powerful country in the world(with English the most used language), and, I think most importantly, we fear the world outside the U.S. because people want to kill us, steal from us, etc.

Obviously there are exceptions Europe is romanticized, but for good reason, cruises in the Caribbean are becoming more popular, and other English-speaking countries are popular destinations as well. However, most people travel, for lack of better term, Americanly. We generally stay separated by car, bus, ship, or whatever from the country. If we do walk around around we have a checklist of sights to see or things to do or if your young illegal things to try. The American who actually wants to know about another culture is a rare breed. Even the American who lives abroad, (expatriate/expat) usually carries with them the American mindset and lives separate from the locals.

The next thing almost everyone I talked to said was "I couldn't do that". I have a friend who has been to Spain at least 5 times working, living, studying there and she said the same. I've only been to one other country outside the U.S. (Spain) for more than a week, traveled on my own to two (Italy and Vatican City)...Ok that is really only one, and been to a handful of others for a weekend or less (Mexico, Canada, Portugal, and many in the Caribbean). I'm in a country with a different language that I speak ok without a job and little experience. How come someone that has lived a little longer and speaks the language as well or better than me thinks they couldn't find a job? I don't get why going anywhere without a job is so hard for some. I know Americans tend to define themselves by their career.

However, a job/career doesn't tell you much for certain about me except approximately how much money I have. Some like their job some don't, some are more intelligent/competent some aren't. I think as a culture we need to relax. In the rest of the world people work hard, but they make time for family, friends, and enjoying life in general.

I got strange looks for choosing to do something I want rather than for money. The way I perceived is why would someone not want more money...

What do you think about the work culture in America? What is it like in your country? Please Comment Below.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Uruguay...NOT Paraguay

I decided I wanted to move abroad August or September of the year was going to graduate college. I had already looked at graduate school and going into the State Department, but at 20(at the time) I didn't really want to go to grad school or enter the bureaucracy of government just yet. I wanted to travel, but the question was how to pay for it? Simple answer I couldn't, at least not in a way I felt comfortable. Well I wanted to live abroad, but if I didn't work in the State Department, How? I found a rare breed on blogs that move to other countries and work there, live there for a while.

Next question where did I want to go. Spain (bad economy), Italy(I don't speak Italian...yet), hmmm what is like Spain(European) and easier to go to. Answer Argentina. Why are they so similar? Well Argentina is primarily made up of Spanish and Italian immigrants with little to no native population in existence.

That's when I read this blog it inspired me to do something different with my life. He did it in Buenos Aires, so I started there. Well Buenos Aires is the capital and probably the easiest to get to from the U.S.. However, Buenos Aires is a city of 13 million and for a person like me that hasn't really lived in a big city or outside the Midwest that is intimidating. On top of that because of the U.S. government's "lovely" good-luck-coming-to-America-if-your-not-from-the-"developed"-world policy there are major hurdles to entering Argentina visa wise. Well from geography class in 4th grade probably; I remembered that Montevideo is pretty close to Buenos Aires. I began comparing:

-Oh Montevideo is way smaller 1.5 million a lot easier adjustment.
-Uruguay's safer than any other country in Latin America(probably due to it's low poverty rates). Violent crime is rare and theft is the biggest problem.
-Uruguay is a lot like the Midwest more specifically Kansas/Iowa(It is one big city and a lot of flat grassy land)
-It is one of the most democratic countries in Latin America(Chile is similar) and definitely has much more stable politics than those of it's neighbors(Argentina & Brazil)
-It has a highly educated populace
-Uruguayos are known for being tranquilo(calm) and nice people. Buenos Aires is known for being more like Hollywood Latin America(I can't stand how fake some celebrities are i.e. Jersey Shore).

In other words Uruguay is not what Americans normally think of when they hear Uruguay. It's not full of crime and drugs as a result of poverty and poor education like parts of Mexico, Central America, and the northern part of South America. The Southern Cone is different it is It's government isn't as corrupt as others. In other words it isn't like Paraguay which is more like what most Americans about Latin America. Since Uruguay isn't a place where peace and unicorns exist, there is a downside to it and that is it is hard to find a job that pays well, but I'll get to that later...

What do you think about American geography knowledge? What do/did you think of when you hear Latin America? Please Comment Below.