Uruguayans are not Argentinians.

I’m in Montevideo, Uruguay! I woke up on Monday, threw my clothes in my backpack, and scrambled to catch my 9:30 Buquebus ferry to Colonia. Colonia is a charming and quaint UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was an important Portuguese colony and now the downtown mainly caters to tourists. Visiting on a weekday left the town enjoyably empty. The colors and architecture in the town are incredible.

I walked by a restaurant where a couple was enjoying a meal that appeared especially delicious, so I sat down and copied their order. They found this intriguing and we struck a conversation. Howard and Lina are retired British expatriates that settled in Toronto. Howard worked in international trade, and in particular helping multinational companies secure natural resources. I really enjoyed speaking with him.

After over an hour of conversation, a German lady was served a massive steak and wanted mustard, but couldn’t find the word mostaza. We helped her gather the proper condiments and she joined our conversation. She is a professor at NYU of all things German. Howard and Lina left and I continued to speak with this German lady, whose name I can’t recall. She informed me of interesting demographic shifts with regards to kids taking German.  She has seen an increase from close to 0% to 15% of the proportion of students in German classes being Indians. There has also been massively increased enrollment. This all makes perfect sense as a result of how much Europe’s economy is driven by German growth, and she said that Germany has revamped their visa processes, making it easier for Indian’s to secure employment.

Looking at how demagraphics shift in language classes is probably an interesting leading indicator for global economic trends, probably somewhere on the order of 10 to 20 years. If enrollment in a particular language increases dramatically at top world universities, that countries economy is bound to be affected — either because these kids correctly identified a developing trend or because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once these kids invest the time learning this language, they are going to want to get something out of it, have better understanding of the country, develop study-abroad and expatriate communities, etc. It’s similar to the experiences I have had at Stanford, talking to talented kids and seeing where they want to work after graduation.

I walked out hostel viajero’s door at 19:00 in an attempt to go for a jog, but got sucked into a developing street-drum-performance session — I think it was called campande? It was incredible and was discovered so spontaneously. The march was led by two flag holders — one bizarrely bearing a skull and cross bones. The flag bearers were followed by a few lines of dancing ladies, who were succeded by a core of male drummers. They slowly paraded through Colonia’s 400 year-old streets. It was electric.  I have lot’s of pictures and I will upload them when I get the chance.

After an hour of gawking, I went for a light jog along the coast and to the north. Leaving downtown left me in the midst of one of the most unique, yet strangely familiar cultures I have witnessed. There were hundreds of groups of young people sitting in circles above the ocean bluffs, drinking matte and chilling. The people were by far the lightest and most European looking I have seen thus far in South America. Half the people were wearing Quiksilver, and there were many elements of their behavior and outlook that screamed Kauaiian island fever. Anyways, it was an impossible blend of European, South American and surf cultures. Spending a prolonged period of time in Colonia would drive me insane, but there were elements I absolutely loved and would recommend a quick visit to anyone.

This morning, I took the 2.5 hour bus ride to Montevideo. Hostel Red is incredible. It’s highly recommended for any youth visiting Montevideo. I spent the afternoon walking around the historic, ancient and dilapidated downtown. I wasn’t nearly as impressed as I thought I would be. However, I love Uruguayans. Despite their proximaty and shared history, they are the antithesis of Argentinians. Relaxed, humorous and humble. I can’t quite place why, but I love this country and feel attracted to it. They are barbecuing, parilla style, tonight at my hostel, so I’m going to eat here and likely gorge myself on dozens of types of meat.

Tomorrow, I’m going to explore and try to get visas for Paraguay and Bolivia.


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