Saturday, December 31, 2011

Try the Local Drink: (Wine)

After beer probably the most popular alcoholic drink around the world. It is most definitely the most popular drink throughout all of history. It comes in so many variations that it can be mind boggling for someone to try to find the best wines. Basically the best wines are produced by these countries(and in my opinion this order) Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, France, South Africa, United States(California), Australia, and Germany.

Notice two of those Chile and Argentina are fairly close to Uruguay. Well they both produce excellent wines Argentina is known for Malbecs and Chile for white wines(although the reds there are excellent). However, in Uruguay a different grape, Tannat, is starting to make splashes as Uruguay has increased wine production every year. An interesting test would be to buy a Malbec and Tannat wine and see which you like if neither find the blended version.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My $.02 on a $200,000 Education

This is going to be long, but if you are in college/about to graduate you should read this or at least the links I have added to this post if you disagree with my view.

I have touched this subject before when speaking of my experience of graduating from Average American University aka ISU.

I stumbled upon an article about the value of college through a link shared by one of my college friends on Facebook. It got me thinking about if college is really worth it? Many would say yes. Some would say no. I would say it depends.

People who should go to college:
-You are smart you score in the 90th percentile or higher on everything and you did very well in school. You get some sort of scholarship that helps take the edge off the sting of an expensive education. You don't know what you want to do yet, but you have an idea.
-You are an athlete who is very good at your chosen sport and you are attending for college for free or are actually getting paid(illegal but we know it happens) and you choose a major your interested in that will lead to a career that is not on the playing field, court, track, etc.
-You are a ridiculously insanely good athlete who is going to college and there is no question you will be pro it is just a matter of when
-You are a minority, foreigner, woman, poor, or a first generation college student who is receiving a scholarship that pays a good chunk of your costs.
-You have taken college classes in high school for a reduced price and can easily graduate in 4 years or less.
-Your parents are paying for everything and will continue to do so. You will never need to work a day in your life.(Personal aside: I'd rather have you slightly educated than be an uneducated socialite)
-Your parents/grandparents have saved money for you to go to college that will help pay a significant amount of the cost

People who shouldn't go to college:
-You are average to below-average intelligence and getting into a college was difficult. You are going to be paying full-sticker price and you will need a bunch of loans.
-Your parents aren't/can't pay a cent and the government and scholarships cover little to nothing.
-You have no idea what you want in life and you are going to college to find out.
-You are going to college just for athletics you might be able to go pro, but it is far from certain and you don't really like school.
-You are practically a genius you know exactly what you want to do and have a rough idea of how to do it. Why would you waste your time?
-You routinely get made fun of from being stupid(not doing or saying something stupid once or twice) Take the hint. Not everyone can go to college find something else your good at that isn't school.

So what is the main takeaway from this in case you missed it. Only go to college if you can greatly reduce the highly-inflated cost. It is not worth it to rack up tens of thousands of dollars of debt. In my opinion debt of anything less than $10000-$15000 is acceptable, but this depends on your finances, family finances, and job prospects/pay in your chosen field. In line with this spending 5 years in college isn't worth it unless you are going to be an engineer or anything else that has to do with computers that is super-in-demand and pays well Doctors and lawyers go to law/med school and I have no idea if that is worth the sticker price.

Second don't go to college because you think it is the only way to make more money. It isn't. I wish employers didn't need qualifications before they could consider anyone a worthy job candidate. I personally tend to pick up things much quicker than most people I meet. I can't quantify that and other people who think they can and can't make me saying it meaningless(If you have any ideas how to market this comment below or tell me skills you have that aren't quantifiable). Those super-rich people that do Silicon Valley start-ups are a good example of this.

Third, to be frank if your stupid don't waste your time and money as well as others. You can probably do something else that doesn't require much school smarts that you actually like.

Fourth, this only applies if you can't fund your studies and you are only of average intelligence or less(not everybody is book smart).

Here is what to do instead of college for the same price or less. I like one of those a lot.

Oh and if you do go to college pick a major you really like rather than one where you will be able to make lots of money.

I talked to a guy the other night that is 22 owns his own import-export business and by most marks is successful. He has met billionaires that are the Forbes 100 richest list. He is headed to Harvard shortly for his MBA. All of these impress most people, but what impressed me most is what he told me. I want people in college to listen to this because I think it is so true. He was the youngest person(age 19) in an American corporation ever to rise to a very high-level position(not sure exactly). He was working 12 hours a day or to put it succinctly working his ass off. You know what they wanted they wanted him to work 15 hours. They wanted him to do more despite he did more than anyone else ever had.

Are you F***ing Kidding Me? Rightly so he gave them the metaphorical finger. A rough quote of what he said, "I want to enjoy life I am too young to be working that much maybe later, but right now I want to enjoy life." I have seen this happen personally with people in my own life. American Corporations want to suck you dry and spit you out with nothing. Just like BBQ ribs they'll pick everything off you and leave you as a bone to be thrown away in the garbage. Why wouldn't they? They can just find another sucker to replace you if you quit. College graduates beware! Many of my friends are graduating this year or next I hope they read this and at least give this some thought.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Try the Local Food: Dulce de Leche

If from the alfajores post you didn't learn enough about dulce de leche there is more or so much creamy deliciousness more to be had. Dulce de leche is basically a caramel flavor sticky substance. You may have tried it in Mexico or other Latin American countries. Believe me it is way more popular here. A dessert without dulce de leche is just fruit or bread. Seriously they make every dessert with dulce de leche. Ice Cream Check. Cake Check. Pastries Check. Flan Check. I might have forgot something, but I almost guarantee it has dulce de leche in it. You can also just grab a spoon and serve yourself a heaping pile of dulce de leche(recommended). If you don't like it then the Uruguayan dessert table looks quite empty to you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Try the Local Food: Bizcochos

Need something for merienda(afternoon snack similar to English tea custom) or something for Sunday afternoon snacks. You need some Bizcochos. Bizcochos are basically crescent rolls that are filled with either savory(ham & cheese usually) fillings or sweet(jams)ones. The sweet ones also might be dusted with sugar. Where do you find these? The local bizcocheria which is located in every neighborhood(usually with the panderia(bread)). Pick a few up and enjoy a delicious snack while walking around you won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Try the Local Food: Alfajores

Oreo on steroids. Dulce de Leche Heaven. Puts Little Debbie to shame. The famous alfajores. It depends on the brand, but basically what you'll get is dulce de leche piled high between sugar cookies or a thin layer between cake(similar to Hostess) and then covered in you favorite flavor of chocolate. They are amazingly creamy and rich, but some companies get carried away and make them gigantic. I couldn't finish them because they were just too rich. If your in Uruguay and looking for something sweet pick up some alfajores. Also don't go cheap spend that 10 or so extra pesos you'll get much better quality. I had no idea what these were when I got here now I am wondering why I haven't seen them anywhere else. Someone should start an alfajores import-export business.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#26 Go Underground

I didn't mean to. It happened quite on accident. I found myself in an industrial part of Montevideo; the kind of place where everything is corrugated metal and a shade of grey. Where during the day you would hear machines cutting and welding and creating things from metal, wood, whatever is around to create something new or more likely fix whatever is broken. At night it is vacant and foreboding.

We were led to this place by a tiny kid from Mozambique(I know A. Where the hell is that? B. Who has ever met anyone from Mozambique outside Africa?). He was a ball of energy that everyone in the group was drawn to. Who wouldn't be? He had an infectious charisma and the turban-style headdress he was wearing pegged him as exotic(really interesting). We followed him out to this concert that he was going to. After a walking for about 20 minutes the Are We There Yet? question got quite popular. "Only two more blocks", he would say, but five minutes later it was another two blocks. This continued for about 5 more times, but it was obvious we weren't going to stop. We had enough beer in the tank to make walking 2+ miles not seem that bad.

Groups of 2-4 of what seemed like high-school aged people sat around smoking/drinking/talking. We could hear the force of the electric guitar pulsing through the door around which the groups were congregated. It was nothing fancy in fact it seemed like it tried hard rather hard not to be. This is the Underground. There were goths and hipsters, rock guys and hippies, and then there was us a little more mainstream(at least I am). We entered the door as a band screamed in Uruguayan English(It sounds very whiny) Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. They played well, but the singing was not my favorite they should stick to Spanish. Quickly I grew tired and we soon after left with the stamp the only mark that we had been there.

I had met a Uruguayan in the Plaza de la Independencia on the Day of the Dead while watching the Zombie Walk(that seems to be becoming increasingly common). We talked later on Facebook and she gave me her band's demo CD. Surprisingly it was actually good and reminds me a little bit of Nirvana. However, their sound is way more complicated than that. I still am trying to figure out how to describe it while I play it over and over on iTunes. Although their name Contraste (Contrast, yea I know obvious) so they try to combine different styles, which creates a completely new something I can't describe. Anyways the night after going Underground for the first time I was going to their concert. I checked Facebook that morning for the location. I looked down at my arm. Decibelios stared back at me on my pale outstretched arm. Facebook confirmed I was bound there again.

I got off work at 11 and rushed to the bus and got off in the industrial Cordón. The concert was supposed to start at 11; I got there at 11:45 nothing was happening. This is Uruguay I should have guessed. I met the Uruguayan and she introduced me around her circle of friends. Smoke wafted around as other groups smoked around us...waiting. We passed a bottle of Pilsen around...waiting. Finally the doors were opened and we joined the mass of humanity waiting(catch the theme here) to get in. Upon arriving I was greeted by a tribute to John Lennon that was actually well done and of course featured his best songs and my favorite "Imagine". After that a break between bands or as I saw it a good time to grab a couple liter bottles of Pilsen to pass around the group.

We ducked back inside and with clever label swapping brought Pilsen into a Patricia bar and continued the bottle passing as we enjoyed the pounding drums, the twang of the electric guitar, and the echoing bass. The lead singer twisted his face and body as he scream/sang the Spanish(much better than English for Uruguayans)lyrics. A great concert really.

We filed outside grabbed more bottles of Pilsen to pass around and talked animatedly outside the door that the music pulsed out of. More people arrived; discussions became about more than the usual small talk/surface topics. People who knew English arrived. Language was discussed then politics then anything that seem really interesting. It got really philosophical and it was 5AM. I love these discussions and was somewhat surprised they happen in the Underground.

The music pulsing, the bottles circling the group, the philosophical discussions, the jokes thrown in every now and then. This is the Underground. It doesn't matter the place(although it helps), it doesn't matter what you dress like or where you come from, and it doesn't matter what language you speak. We're all people and we all appreciate good music this is why you go to the Underground. This why I love the Underground. Why didn't I go there sooner?

Check out Contraste Uy on Facebook here

Or their demo here.

What do you think about the Underground music scene? What do you like about it? Where do you go to find the Underground? Please Comment Below.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Try the Local Drink: (Whiskola)

I haven't been to Scotland, but that probably is the only place in the world more obsessed with Whiskey than Uruguay. Drinking whiskey is the liquid version of their love affair with all things beef. Seriously it is everywhere and everyone drinks its. I have had whiskey every day/night for the last 4 days. Yep even ladies are throwing back whiskey with the gents. Bring a bottle of Chivas Regal and you are in with Uruguayans.
Uruguayans other obsession Coca-Cola. They love it here because it isn't as common as in the States. In fact one Uruguayan joked(I think) that a baby's first word after mom or dad is coca(Coke). Mix these two obsessions you have the prized whiskola. Yes whiskola is all over the world(for example Jack and Coke), but here it enjoys an incredible popularity.
Oh you think I am kidding. See that Ford Ranger pickup bed loaded with boxes? That back row is 60 bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label for a wedding(post about that will be up in the next couple of days). The other ones are wine also will get to that later.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

#25 Get a Job

So if you already my interview in Spanish post you know what happened.

However, I had another one with Berlitz. I came in speaking Spanish and then the interviewer said "Hello". Oh right English, wait how do you use that again?". So I changed gears rapidly to my best English. The interview consisted of talking about the job in English. All I had to do was prove I could speak English well. Yes!! I can do that.

Berlitz is a language-instruction institute that teaches by immersion. Basically you do what I did in reverse(Spanish to English). Students listen to me speak English and bit by bit pick it up. Also it has some great benefits I can get free language instruction or discounted private sessions. Portuguese, yes please. Other reasons to be excited are the flexible hours and working at home on the Berlitz Virtual Classroom platform.

I signed papers with my training class the 29th, which was interesting since everything was in Spanish. Along with that I received four huge instructor's manuals. My training class was really cool and the people in the company are really helpful and fun, so definitely excited. Plus we recently had the end of the year party which was good to meet everybody in the company face to face.

Monday, December 12, 2011

#24 Ride the Lux Bus

I try to watch what I spend and so that means taking the normal bus. However, sometimes that just isn't going to happen:

I had just finished talking to immigration after waiting for about an hour for the privilege to make an appointment that was not even made because their system was down. Then had gone and likely got ripped off by FedEx when I sent a letter a letter to the FBI and it cost me over $50. As I was leaving the downpour began while the wind howled. I ran for cover to the nearest bus stop.

The 148 Aviacion appeared from behind the line of buses after a very long 30 minutes that only served to put me in a worse mood. However, I wasn't at one of the official stops. I chased 148 in the rain, but the driver wouldn't open the doors and to me it was the equivalent of giving me the finger. Yes technically he wasn't supposed to stop there, but it was raining and the wasn't moving with bus after bus slowly crawling in front of 148.

Well he continued and I knew a shortcut through the Plaza Independencia to a SANCTIONED stop. As I ran through the needle like rain and tornado-like winds my papers from immigration flew out from under my jacket and across the street into a little river the rain had created. I waited for traffic picked up the sopping wet papers that were still salvageable, but barely. I dashed for the bus stop and arrived at the street to see the 148 bus just leaving. Cue middle finger now.

Technically it wasn't his fault, but my patience was gone after dealing with the infamous Uruguayan bureaucracy, likely getting ripped off, and torrential rain coupled with winds that would make Dorothy think tornadoes aren't that bad. Oh I hate the 148 it takes forever and they usually use the old uncomfortable buses and then that hijo de Puta! I waited at the sanctioned stop under cover of a quite inadequate overhang as the rain continued it's steady soaking of the city. Another 20 minutes and the other bus arrived the D5(ahhh ahhhh).

It costs an extra 7 pesos or about 40 cents, but today I needed it. What do I get for that extra few pesos. Bus seats that are cushioned and feel like they are holding you(soooo comfy) rather than the hard plastic covered with a thin cushion. It isn't nearly as commonly used, so you almost never have to stand unlike almost every regular bus I take. Also it skips some of the stops, so it is much faster. Some days you just need to treat yourself. Especially when your dangerously close to your limit.

Note: The 148 somewhat redeemed itself by picking me up at 5AM at an unsanctioned stop, but I guarantee if it hadn't I would have wished eternal damnation upon the 148.

#22 Get Residency: Part 1 Carnet de Salud(Part 2)

The next day I related my story of failing to get my Carnet de Salud. Monica gave me the "Ï'm sorry" look and started pulling out her phone. Despite my insistence that I could do it later she told me she had a friend that used to work in the clinic run by the Ministry of Public Health. She chatted with her friend which she apparently hadn't talked to since I had arrived in Uruguay. This inside connection set-up an appointment which meant I was going again the next day, so I had to endure another 12 hour fast.
I got to Ministry of Public Health about 7:45 and there was already a bunch of people waiting. I know how this works in other Uruguayan government offices...slowly. Luckily a lady came out that my connection had talked to and asked for my passport shortly after I arrived. I got fast tracked to be the first person through. Well after paying a painfully high 1600 pesos($80) because it was for residency. The non-residency one could be free, but at most was 250 pesos. They had an assembly line of doors set-up to get every bit of information they needed from you.

1. Pay(as detailed above)
2. Photo and entering information
3. Height and Weight(Since my homeland is not a metric fan I have no idea what the measurements meant, but I'm somewhere around 150 cm and weight 70kg)
4. Eye Test(Left eye perfect: right eye can't see the top line without contact, apparently this is sufficiently concerning I have to redo it to get a two-year Carnet de Salud)
5. Blood & Urine Sample(Time to give away bodily fluids and really nice people at this station, which is a nice trait in people that are about to stab me.)
6. Tetanus Vaccination(Yea I don't use my left shoulder too much and now I have proof that I've had this vaccine)

7. I am guy I got to skip this step.
8. Dentist(Thankfully only a quick look at my teeth not an actual checkup of scraping my teeth to death)
22. General Physical (minus the awkward turn your head and cough part) I don't know why so many numbers were skipped

Assembly Line(Sorry it is so blurry)

This took about 30 minutes in total. I went to pick-up my Carnet de Salud the next Tuesday(I went there Friday.) Again some waiting in the rows of chairs that government offices are so fond of, but I finally had it.
P.S. I have to retest my right eye to get it for 2 years rather than six months.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Try the Local Drink: Patricia

After having a wealth of experience with this last night I feel now is a perfect time to introduce you to Uruguay's other beer. In this Beer drink Beer world Patricia stands as the lone challenger to the aforementioned Pilsen. It comes in liter bottles making it ideal for sharing with friends (or at least you should). No need to brown bag it here. Just grab some friends, head to the store, grab a couple bottles, walk along the Rambla or wherever you want in the city, and pass the bottle around for a good night. You can also grab a bottle and freestyle rap with your buddy(see below). Patricia is a decent beer nowhere near my favorites, but again it beats just about any light beer I've ever had. Also even after quite a bit it doesn't seem as likely to lead to hangovers.*

*Amount imbibed means your results may very

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Try the Local Food: Ñoquis

You might know them as gnocchis, but the Southern Cone(Argentina, Uruguay, Chile) has it's own take. They are made out of potatoes and are absolutely delicious. Very much texturally similar to dumplings they are like eating a more solid and sticky form of mashed potatoes. Unfortunately these little balls of deliciousness(snicker, snicker) are very heavy or pesado and the plate you see left me stuffed. I craved more, but my stomach had reached its expansion limit.

Normally ñoquis are eaten at the end of the month which traditionally is the 29th. The reason is they were traditionally cheap and by the end of the month families were running out of money while waiting for the next paycheck. Nowadays it isn't the case for as many, but the tradition lives on. In the house I am staying in ñoquis are given to the people that come by asking for spare food. Not everyone in the world is so well-off and here this is the best way to help them without risking it being used for pasta base(regional brand of cocaine).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Try the Local Drink:(Homemade Limoncello)

Again technically not Uruguayan, but since Uruguayans are of Italian descent and this is HOMEMADE it counts. Everyone loves the idea of making your own booze, so here is a rough guide on how to make your own limoncello(and drink it). First, find some distilled alcohol. Then add a bunch of lemon rinds and sugar to taste. Let it sit to absorb flavors(experiment with this) and then put it in large bottle for storage. Limoncello is best when chilled. So put limoncello in a smaller bottle and put in freezer, remember alcohol has a low freezing point, so it won't freeze.(Your beer did because it is water. Stop drinking Keystone or Natty!). When friends or family want some limoncello take it out of freezer and pour in shot glasses. Hey you stop! Yes you Mr./Ms. Joe/Jane College kid. Don't drink it like a shot. Limoncello is meant to be sipped to enjoy fully its deliciousness. Also first do a toast Salud! or Cheers! work great. No need for sappy stories about how you met your current companions at least not until you've had 10 or so. Buen Provecho!(Enjoy!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

#23 Be a Vendido

Make unpopular decisions and you will hear it here in Uruguay as with anywhere. A lot. Almost constantly you will hear it. I might as well be Benedict Arnold in the family for my choice to be Carbonero. There is one other guy in the house for Peñarol, I understand his pain. Every day it is thrown in your face. They call me a Vendido because they thought I had said I was for Nacional. Just like in politics words get twisted and people disagree strongly.

However, being the deft political scientist(at least I think I am) I said nothing that definitively said I was for one or the other until I saw the game. Of course I was kind to Nacional because it would be stupid not to be in a family of Nacional before I had actually investigated both teams. Something different here that I rarely see in the States outside my mom and a select few of my friends is I catch as much if not more flak from the girls in the family for my decision. Extra-Vendido to them.

Then again I also made an unpopular maté decision in their eyes. The girls like maté dulce and as stated in my Maté post I drank it to start. Now I am an Amargo and I attract lots of flak for that as well. Oh well the cost of being an individual. I am fairly used to this as most of my ideas are different from everyone else at least from my point of view.

Picture above: Maté Dulce or Mierda(broma/joking)

I sleep like a baby at night because I am happy with my decisions. Unlike certain politicians(Cough Bachman Cough)who wouldn't pick a side in a rivalry because they are afraid to lose votes. Of course other castrated politicians do this to which is probably why currently one party has yet to declare a favorite for their candidacy for president. My ego likes to equate my individual nature with being like Artigas (founding father of Uruguay) or Washington, but I realize that is a big( and very self-indulgent) thought. Unlike Mr. Glenn Beck, I try(sometimes unsuccessfully, but at least I am trying) to contain my ego, so I don't become self-absorbed like the celebrities(or Sarah Palin) I despise. I think a lot of young adults/teens struggle with their individuality.

Picture Above: Artigas

My advice to them is to be who you are and stop giving a f*#$ what others think of you. Addendum to that: Don't call them idiots or treat others bad because the have different views. Respectful discourse and playful jabbing are all in good fun, but don't make it personal. So yes to them I am a Vendido, to me I am being true to myself not others. Trying to be liked by everyone usually gets you liked by few. If you grow a pair make a decision usually those who disagree will respect you unless they are Bill O'Reilly types. However, you shouldn't care what they think anyways.

Do you think I got it right? Or I am just a Vendido? Tell me what you think about being an individual or your experiences. SERIOUSLY IF NONE OF THE THINGS I SAID DIDN'T TICK SOMEBODY OFF I HAVE FAILED IN THIS ARTICLE. Please Comment Below.

P.S. Here is what I came home to when Nacional won the Torneo Aperatura(well besides the jokes):